Thursday, September 06, 2012

Fabric in Paintings of the Victorian Era

The Ramparts, Walmer Castle
(Please click on the picture for a detailed view. I like the background scenery in this painting.)

A few years ago I posted some sewing inspired by paintings of the Victorian era, (Painting-inspired dressing and painting-inspired sewing)  and I am looking again at paintings to get ideas of the fabrics and designs. Click on the pictures and get a closer view of the lovely fabrics, the ruffles, the trims, and also have a look at the hair styles. If you will click on the link and go to the painting, clicking it on again and then using the magnifier, it shows a pretty good up-close idea of what the ruffles and tucks and fabrics look like. 

(click on the picture for a closer view and then use the magnifer)
(and another scenic background)

(Click on the picture for a larger view.)

The fabric of this dress looks exactly like some that is sold in fabric stores today.


Anonymous said...

The way skilled painters are able to capture the look of various fabrics amazes me. Really, it does. The warmth & depth of velvet, the light-reflecting quality of silks...all of it, & it's so beautiful.


Anonymous said...

I love the painting of "Kate". The artist has captured the stateliness and softness of her facial features, the richness of her thick beautiful hair and the richness and brilliance of the brocade fabric of her dress.

The painting is as beautiful to day as it was the day it was painted and it inspires me to make a similar dress.

I find it such a blessing and so restful to gaze on such paintings. To see the results of the skill the Master has put in the artist's hand.

Thank you for sharing. Your blog is a real blessing Lydia. It brings, culture, encouragement and joy to whomever reads it.


Anonymous said...

I wish i could have said it all as well as Mrs. J did....thank you Mrs. J...and Mrs. Sherman!

Anonymous said...

Not only are these fabrics so lovely, but the faces as well. Do you notice the composure and serene expressions on all of them? How often do we see such faces today...except perhaps Lady Lydia's happy face? This would be a good 'project' for have a restful, loving expression as often as we can.

Anonymous said...

Why do you suppose the pictures of women in that time frame are all so serene? Is it just because they were posing for a picture? Was life calmer back then? Or, were women so much more valued, respected (and respectful themselves), and cared for that it affected their whole demeanor? I'm sure they had at least as much work to do as we do now. They didn't have some of the modern conveniences we have. I often wonder where we have gone wrong. Now, I understand about the feminist agenda and so many other agendas. But what about those of us who are at home teaching and training our own children and trying to live honorably and Biblically. I often feel tired and frazzled and I'm sure my children see me frowning and frustrated much more than I would care for them to.

Lydia said...

Their sports(in photos and paintings) look more relaxing, re=creating and renewing than women's exercise today.
Their outdoor activities embraced a lot of things that were not just for the body, but for the mind and the countenance. Their leisure activities (which include needlework and embroidery and are often made fun of today) provided peace of mind. Books were important to them and so was letter writing. Since you are homeschooling, you might research their lives a bit more (try "The Benevolence of Manners" a book which records some of their daily lives) and you could try re-enacting the life of someone in that era for one day, including food, hairstyle, clothing, types of communication. I suspect our communications make us nervous and filling the washing machine all day can make us tired. Try hand washing just a few items and hanging them on the line one day. Victorian women took time to brush their hair and coil it up at night, read the bible, painted little pictures, swept a floor, enjoyed a little garden.But they may not have enjoyed this all in one day or every day. We think we can do so much more and that might be tiring. Our travel is so fast our minds barely have time to catch up with it.

I have much more to say about homeschooling and how, sadly, we try to do as much as public school and how the public school does not have to do all the things we do at home, hence more time on each subject. Yet women who slow down and just spend onlyu about 10 percent of the day schooling, still come out way ahead of the public school, in more way than one. So, God definitely has his hand in that.

Anonymous said...


You have raised a very interesting point in your comments here re the restfulness of handcrafts. this morning on the radio (ABC 702 Sydney), the commentator was speaking to a caller from Rural Australia re the 90th anniversary celebrations of the CWA (Country Womens' Association) in which he commented about visiting a group or gallery where indigenous women were spinning and weaving, and how calming and soothing merely watching them at their crafts made him feel. the knitters here will surely attest to this, as will the spinners - i haven't sat down at the wheel for years now (in truth, it needs a major overhaul) but know deeply the peace of it - the ladies (and odd few gentlemen) at the spinning and weaving group i used to attend around 10 years ago now were some of the calmest and most serene people I'd ever met - even when things were going wrong in their lives. there was no gossiping and only one then elderly lady whom one may call 'busy body', but the gentleness of the group deflected her thunderclouds and absorbed them, always managing to soften her nature by the end of the day = crafts, weaving, knitting, cookery, jam making for open days, dying days (wonderful fun)...with young and old from all walks of life - everyone from retired pastors to scientists and everything in between...Lydia, you'd have felt right at home with this group, because whatever the background of its individual members, an ethos similar to your own was at the heart of things.

we're coming into Spring down here and I've just swapped wardrobes - it was so lovely to put on a light floral dress and waistcoat for Church this morning...just sitting down to a cup of tea and then I'll be trying a new biscuit recipe (this is what we in aus, NZ, and the UK call 'cookies') - I'll let you know how it goes.

many thanks once again and God's blessings to you.

Anonymous said...

Years ago I used to go to the Philadelphia Museum of Art and copy the dress styles from the paintings such a you have on your site. Those paintings were indeed a great inspiration!

Katrinka said...

I think it can be challenging to live a serene life today because of the difference in the expectations of those around us, and even because of the advantages we have today. If no one had a computer or telephone today, we wouldn't be expected to be available to all people at all times the way we are. People expect us to be accessible nearly 24 hours a day and to not do so requires purposeful living and explanations we don't always want to have to go into. It can be hard work to be serene!

I feel the same with homeschooling. I feel I would have homeschooled differently if we hadn't continually felt the pressure to live up to the expectations of critics who did not have our child's best interest as their focus. Just simply being allowed to do what's best for ourselves, our homes, and our families is a real blessing.

As I look back over the years of homeschooling, I think there are some things I would have done differently, maybe not been so intense about, but at the time we were breaking out of a mindset and launching into a desperate life of trying to regain the hearts, souls, and minds of our children, with no roadmap. It seemed we were constantly having to reinvent things and start from scratch and we got pretty dogmatic about some things It's difficult to explain to our children sometimes why some small things seemed so important when they were younger! :)

So I think we can find ourselves at the end of the day feeling a little frazzled because we are going against a culture that doesn't usually see the value of a serene spirit and certainly may not see the value of all the things a wife and mother does each day. What we see valued today are women who 'get things done' and I don't mean around the house. If we are serene we are seen as not doing enough, because if we were really pulling our share of the load we would be exhausted and frazzled and eating take out like everyone else!

I am enjoying a lot of freedom and serenity in my life now, mostly free from criticism and expectation of others because of a situation that requires my emphasis to be totally home focused and home based and nearly everyone who knows me knows this. Even though I'm sad about the reason I live the life I live now, I love my life and the freedom I have to do what needs to be done to run my home and care for those I love. If I were subjected to the expectations and pressures placed on even older women today, I don' think I would be very serene.

On a related note, I had some very interesting thoughts when I read of the teachers in the Chicago school district going on strike this morning. The reasoning of why they are striking, the reactions of the parents, and the fate of the children during this strike gave me a lot to think about.

In support of female serenity today, I think I'll hand wash a few things to hang on the line and work on blessing my family with a serene wife and mother today. It really makes a difference to our families how we feel about our lives!

Thank you, Lydia, for such encouraging posts!

Anonymous said...

Katrinka inspired me to keep on keeping on towards personal serenity at home and 'abroad'....thank you too Katrinka for those things to think about even more.

Cathy and Steve said...


The detail in these paintings is amazing. My husband and I are vintage dancers and I make most of my own costumes. I never guessed I would get such wonderful ideas and detailed images from paintings and I thank you so much for sharing.

That yellow gown in Portrait of a Lady is lovely and one I'd like to try my hand at, only in green. The detailing on those sleeves is exquisite.

You can see some of our costumes on our regency blog as well as our gardening blog.

Thanks again! Cathy