HSM 2016: Challenge 12 - Special Occasion

December Challenge 12 - Special Occasion: make something for a special event or a specific occasion, or that would have been worn to special event or specific occasion historically.

Most of time in history people usually wore their regular clothes. Newer and fashionable in public and as their "Sunday best", old and ragged for dirty work. But in everyone´s life were few occasions when special dress was required. First one was christening - welcoming baby to the church and community.

Christening robe from silk interwoven with silver, decorated with fly-fringe, ca 1710:

The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Christening dresses tends to be fair (for white is color associated with innocence) and pretty long, falling down over baby´s feet.

Embroidered cotton, no specific date given, but supposedly 19th century:

Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Some dresses are made from such delicate fabric, that it is hard to believe any baby could wear them longer then few hours during ceremony. But even such fine garments passed from infant to infant, from generation to generation.

Cotton, embroidery, early 20th century:

The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Along with dresses, tiny infant caps were used.

Cotton muslin, embroidery and bobbin lace, 1854:

Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Not all christening sets were white - this crocheted or knitted cap from first half 19th century is embroidered with colorful glass beads:

The Metropolitan Museum of Art

During 18th and first half 19th century were decorative pincushions with many pins to fasten babys clothing popular gift for mother of newborn baby.

Linen pincushion, pattern created with pins, late 18th century:

Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Following important event in life of small boy was receiving his first breeches instead of unisex gown.

Jean Greuze´s study of boy in stays and breeches, 1765 - 1769:

The State Hermitage Museum

Wedding has crutial role in couples lives. Even if bride and groom didn´t have special garments made for ceremony, they at least had new and fancy ones. Note fair but not white colors on couple dresses on detail of Hogarth´s painting from 1729:

The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Wedding gowns followed fashionable lines of period dresses, being both plain or rich decorated.

Cotton, 1837:

The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Silk, 1856 - 1859:

The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Silk, 1880:

The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Silk, 1926:

The Metropolitan Museum of Art

During 19th century white dresses become clearly predominant, but still other colors were used - in this case black.

Silk, 1879:

The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Accessories included matching shoes, veils, bonnets or at least flower wreathes.

Silk, 1857:

The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Detail of veil made from Honiton lace, 1865:

Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Bonnet from silk tulle, crepe, and imitation orange blossom, 1845:

Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Wreath with wax flower buds, 1935:

Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Not only brides were finely dressed for wedding, but grooms too. This embroidery on wedding shirt from 1848 is described as "good luck and longevity symbol" but for sure it also has fertility and masculine meaning:

Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Not all events were happy. After death, bodies were washed and dressed to look peacefully and clean.

Portrait of a dead child wearing a mourning wreath around its head (detail), by Jan Jansz. de Stomme, 1654:

Kinderlijkje Groninger Museum

Beside paintings there are also effigies that can tell us what people wore to the coffins.

Drawing of tomb effigies of John Harington and his wife Elizabeth Courtenay, 15th century:

Drawn by Roscoe Gibb, published in Rogers, W.H.H., Strife of the Roses, Exeter, 1890, pp.48-9.

Due to good conditions in permafrost, bogs or even thumbs some of clothing lasted for centuries.

Funeral gown of bohemian noblewomen Markéta Františka Lobkowicz, who died in 1617:

Muzeum Mikulov

Not only corpses, but also members of families dressed up in mourning clothing. At least for funeral, but mostly for longer period.

Sir Thomas Aston at the deathbed of his first wife, painted by John Souch, 1635:

Manchester Art Gallery

Both black and white were mourning colors.

Mary Queen of Scots in white mourning veil, ca 1560:

Wallace Collection

Silk and wool, 1903:

The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Mourning jewells (sometimes containing hair) with motives of skulls, skeletons, mourning relatives and - eyes were quite popular in the past.

Gold and enamel, early 19th century.

The British Museum

One of most exciting moment in ones life was attending king´s or queen´s coronation. Important part of this ceremony was dressing up, often into very traditional set of clothes.

Coronation of Charles V king of France in 1364:

Coronation Book of Charles V in British Library

Besides antique coronation robes, monarchs also wore other dresses during coronation. Maria Theresia was painted as painted as Queen of Hungary in 1741. She wore gown inspired by hungarian national costume - with strings of pearls on bodice and lace apron:

When couple was coronated together, they could have matching robes - like Napoleon Bonaparte and his wife in 1804:

Louvre Museum

There could been less splendid moments too. Convicts sometimes wore clothing connected with their crime - pregnant unmaried girls had to put on black caps when cleaning streets in 18th century Bohemia and Jan Hus burned to death in 1415 had feet tall paper cap with three devils and inscription stating that he is a heretic:

Martinická bible, Knihovna Akademie věd ČR

Besides events associated with life cycle there are also other possibilities how to fulfill challenge. The simplest way is to make somethink for event you are planing to attend. During this time of year, it could be ball or picnic (depending on hemisphere you are living in) and carnivale and masquerade.

Marie-Hortense Racot de Grandval in oriental masquerade costume, 18th century:

People seldom wore special attire on Christmas, but it could been excuse for making new dress. This paper doll from 1929 is advertising commercial pattern:


Another option is to make garment intended for special activity. Dresses for various sports (first hunting and horse riding, then also cycling, playing tenis or swimming) were very popular.

Giacomo Ceruti,Ritratto di Giulio Gregorio Orsini, 1755:

Robilant+Voena Auction

Cycling suit, wool, silk and leather, 1896:

The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Other ladies prefered social occasions and purchased simple walking suits or traveling dresses, sometimes called jesuits.

George Urlaub, Portrait of wife of Johann Kaspar Enslin in jesuit, ca 1788:

Duesseldorfer Auction

America and Europe During 18th Century - main page
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