2019, Historical, Historical Fashion, History, romance novels

The Lady Wore

This portrait of Madame de Senonnes is my second favorite work of art. It is also painted by Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres (who painted our previous historical fashion post).

Before our sitter was Madame de Senonnes, this lady was Marie-Genevieve-Marguerite Marcoz. Marie was born to a wealthy family and in 1802, she married a merchant draper named Jean Marcoz. In 1803, the couple moved to the eternal city, Rome and had a daughter that same year.

But the marriage was an unhappy one and by 1809, the couple separated. During this time, Marie mixed in artistic circles and she met Alexandre de la Motte-Barace, Viscount of Senonne. They married in 1815 and returned to France.

In France, the Bourbon Restoration had occurred first in 1814 when Napoleon was defeated in Russia and the Peninsular War. Even though in June 1815, Napoleon had escaped from Elba and again, raised an army. He was defeated at Waterloo and exiled to the island of St. Helena where Louis XVIII of France once again claimed the French throne.

This time period was experiencing a Romantic movement as well as a Neoclassical one. Both influences are very much on display in this portrait. The Grecian style dress silhouette and hairstyles were fashionable until the mid-1820s. But the romantic movement that was at its height and can be seen in the gown’s details.

Before we deconstruct her gown, let’s determine what she has underneath it all. Beneath her gown, she would be wearing garments that every woman would have don. First she would have put on her chemise. That garment would have be constructed of linen or cotton. Then she would have had put on stays. This undergarment would have been stiffened to support her breast. And she would have slipped on her stockings (not seen in the portrait). These could have been of silk or wool and held up by a garter.

The Romantic movement looked to the past especially the middle ages and the renaissance. Madame de Senonnes is wearing an afternoon dress. This is determined by the lower neckline with long sleeves and made of silk or fancier fabric than a morning dress would have been made of.

Madame de Senonnes’ dress is made of red or maroon velvet. It has long sleeves with attached dove blue silk slashes to simulate the historical Renaissance fashion of the sixteenth century. In 1815, the fashion was for heavier fabrics than a couple of years before. The silhouette of the garment would have had a flatter front and would be fuller in back of skirts (that cannot be seen in portrait). Another style choice of the romantic movement is the white lace cuff that imitates the ruffs of the sixteenth century. Her neckline is square and constructed of fine white sheer fabric and finished with a three tier lace neck ruff. Her high-waisted gown has a matching dove blue silk or satin sash.

Madame de Senonnes accents her gown with her accessories. She has donned numerous gold necklaces with charms that include a cross and another that resembles a hourglass. She has a brooch of jade and perhaps ruby pinned just below the sash. She is wearing stacked jeweled rings on four fingers while the middle finger of the right hand has one ring. Clutched In her hand is a white handkerchief. On her ears, she is wearing ruby earring that might be silver or white gold. And tucked in her twisted up hair is a hair comb made of gold and red jewels most likely rubies. These accessories reflect an afternoon style through in a portrait the sitter would wear their best garments and jewels.

Another accessory that I just love is her shawl that drapes behind her and wraps around her to the left of her. It’s is made of ivory cashmere with a wide embroidered edge. The designs reminds me of something found in an illuminated manuscript from medieval times or a design from India or another foreign country whose styles centers on a natural design. The embriodery is of a red, blue and mustardy-yellow floral print and accented with scrolls.

Madame de Senonnes died in 1828. This is what remains of her.

2018, fashion, Highlander, Historical, Historical Fashion, Medieval, Scottish romance, The Laird's Right

Dressing a 13th Century Historical Romance Heroine

You may not know this but I love fashion especially historical costume. I studied fashion design at the Fashion Institute of Technology so it is natural that I blend my two passions together: Writing and fashion.

In my medieval Highlander Romance, The Laird’s Right, my heroine Portia de Mowbray is an English woman who finds herself kidnapped by Laird Alec Cameron. Portia may be surrounded by Highlanders but she sticks to her English styled garments. The Laird's Right Cover A Medieval Scottish Romance

During the medieval times, the style is different from our modern day style but both function and fashion play an important part. After all, that is what clothing must do.

For Portia, she would be wearing numerous items both under and outer garments. First off, our tough Portia would have worn hose and garters with fancy buckles to hold them up (after all there was no elastic) and a chemise with long sleeves and a high neckline. The chemise would have been constructed of linen. And she would not be donning any underwear. No panties or bra for Portia.

Now Portia would slip her côte over her head. The côte was a wide garment. It was wide at the shoulder and narrowed at the wrist. It’s the image we all have the medieval princess that is plastered around us. The natural waist was usually belted. Portia would have worn two layers one made of a linen then a wool or silk one even a velvet one to show off her status.

She’s not finished getting dressed yet.

Of course, Portia isn’t walking away yet because she needs shoes. In the 1250s, her shoes would be a soft shoe with more of a pointed toe that could have been embroidered in a floral motif or scrolls. Anything that she thought was fashionable or like. Back then, there was no right or left foot shoe so it would look odd to our eyes. Also it would have been constructed of leather.

Now she would choose some accessories. A belt for her côte, one made of silver or gold even with jewels, depending on what she might afford. Portia could put on a brooch or a jeweled collar or pendant to add a little flash. She might have taken gloves and her drawstring purse and dirk that may have jewels on the hilt.

Now with Portia dressed, she must do something with her hair. Perhaps, she has better skills than me or her maid does better than Portia. Her long blonde hair would be parted in the center and plaited. She might have her braids twisted into a bun since she is a widow. Her head would be covered with a coif, wimple or barbette even a gold or silver chaplet to give her that romantic look.

So, Portia is ready to face the day but if it was a chilly one, she would have had a cloak, which would have been a long mantle trailing on the ground and fastened in the front with a brooch. That too would have reflected her status and her fashion choices. It would have been wool or velvet. It could have been trimmed in fur and even fur-lined.

Maciejowski_Bible_Woman
The most basic of what Portia may have looked it once dressed. Though, with more flair as she has a bit more coin.

 

To your modern eyes and sensibilities, would you don these garments? Sounds pretty comfortable to me.