Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Initial Research

Ase gave us images of the designs she wanted us to reproduce. These were engravings reproduced from advertisements of the period. Being advertisements  - often for tailors and outfitters - the engravings are extremely stylised. The men they show are very broad in the chest, with extremely narrow trouser legs. I assume that the narrowness in the leg is meant to exagerrate the broadness in the chest - created with canvases inside the suit - and emphasise masculinity, as it was perceived in the 1890s.

I wasn't totally satisfied with the proportions displayed by these engravings and set off to find more realistic representations via photographs. It was very difficult to find photos clearly displaying the trousers since in the 19th Century, with the beginnings of photography and all that, the occasion for a portrait was a formal one. This means that
a) lounge suits are a bit too informal to be worn in such circumstances and
b) furthermore, the jackets were totally done up and legs were not really on full display!

However I moved away from books on Victorian photography, and luckily managed to find an image in Victorian dress in photographs (Ginsburg, 1988) of a man sitting in a chair wearing his lounge jacket unbuttoned! This clearly showed the high cut of the waistcoat at the waistline, and moreover displayed the trousers! Indeed they were not as narrow as the engravings described (which surely are more like today's skinny jeans - denim infused with lyrca) which makes total sense really because
a) lack of elasticated waistbands and
b) more pertinently, the cloth used was heavy, certainly heavier than today's more common suiting fabrics. It was also a relatively loose weave (relaxed) and therefore if the trousers were really tight it would cause tension in the cloth, pulling on the seams and warping and damaging the cloth.

All in all a good lesson learnt in finding multiple sources. I'm making a lounge suit, which is really pretty generic, so it's good to look at a pool of images to try and understand the cut.Of course there are many variations, but ultimately I should choose reliable sources and use my own judgement.

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