CDV: End of the ’50s

End of the '50s

CDV: End of the '50s

Backmark: None

Date: c. 1858

Subject: Woman

Location: Unknown

Dress: The dress is made from heavy watered silk, with three rows of gathered ruffles at the hem.  The ruffles may be of the same fabric or a coordinating fabric; from their more wrinkled texture, my guess is that they are a taffeta.  The ruffles are finished with a large (about 3/4″ wide) scallop, which was a popular edging at the time.

The woman wears a wide (about 3″) flat collar with some texture, indicating that it is lace or embroidered, and a slightly ruffled edge.  Note how she has placed the collar on top of her wrap.  She also wears full undersleeves, though details are not visible.  The dark spot below where her collar meets in front may be a brooch, but because it is much lower than most brooches, I think it is probably a button.  It may also be the hanging portion of a brooch.

Outerwear: She wears a mantle, which is in a style that was popular throughout the 1850s and into the 1860s.  (In fact, it survived in some form for most of the Victorian era).  This style mantle is characterized by opening in front, being slightly fitted over the shoulders, shorter in length over the arms, long tabs in the front, and a full back designed to flow over the full skirt.  The back of the mantle could range from just below waist-length to almost the knees.

This mantle also has a ruffled edges extending from the very elongated shoulder-line to her waist, where she holds it in place.  The fabric of the mantle is difficult to discern.  Some texture on her left arm appears to be lace (likely Chantilly lace, which was wildly popular).  Although most chantilly lace was worn as a simple triangular shawl, there are plenty of extant examples of cut-and-sewn garments from the lace to make it possible that this is one.

Hair: Her hair center-parted and arranged in several loose, curl-like rolls towards her face.  Her hair is at its widest between her temples and chin, which was the fashionable shape throughout the 1850s.  She is wearing some sort of headdress, with chenille or tassels of some other material hanging stylishly at the side.

2 Responses to “CDV: End of the ’50s”

  1. I luv your blog! I’m not to fond of this lady’s “mantle”. It may look nicer in person but it appears to look like a rag draped over her.
    How nice it would be to see her dress. Which brings me to my question: Why is she wearing it at all for this portrait? Does she look like she may be “with child”? She has a very small torso, head and hands but she has a (possible) “baby bump” under her mantle and her hand is resting on it as well.

    • This unfitted style of outerwear was common (ubiquitous, really) until the 1860s, and even then it remained popular alongside newer fitted styles. I read somewhere that a fitted coat would have looked clumsy.

      Personally, when I first started looking at the mid 19th c. I thought the enormous-triangle silhouette extremely unflattering, but after I trained my eye a bit I really enjoy this line. It looks voluptuous, and no doubt would have been splendidly imposing, seen floating down the street.

      as for her being pregnant, it is impossible for us to know, but rested hands on the hips or belly was common – whether pregnant or not. It is something I found myself doing naturally when I was a reenactor. I suspect that belly-consciousness as we feel it didn’t exist until the early 20th c.

      Also, her hand serves a practical purpose there, as it gracefully holds the mantle closed.

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