View Full Version : Dating/IDing 19th Century Regional Dress?

05-13-2011, 09:53 AM
I've come across a couple of old photographs online of the same girl, with no information, and the costume's not one I've ever seen before.

This is the clearest of them. (http://27.media.tumblr.com/tumblr_lksv3po6Zt1qzjmo0o1_500.jpg)

Both the photos are obviously the same shoot (One as above, the other is a slightly longer shot with her and another girl who's dressed all in white, so her outfit is very hard to make out) and one of them was attributed to a photographer called 'Hanfstaeng' who, some fairly intensive googling has concluded, is not famous and I can't even get a definite ID on which country he/she is from - and that's of course assuming that information was correct. I've got no dates and I'm rubbish at ID'ing still stock by eye, so I tentatively think it might be 1890 - 1910 but it could easily be a little earlier or much later, especially if (As I'm guessing) this is a regional costume and thus they're out in the sticks somewhere. The weight of the fabrics and something of the style indicates Northern Europe to me, but it could well be as far south as the Italian or Spanish Alps so... not so helpful.

I'd really like to make something similar to this, because I love the design, but I have no clue where to start to find more references. Finding good information on regional costumes alone is hard, let alone in times gone by. If anyone has any leads, I'd really appreciate it!

05-13-2011, 10:08 PM
I'm almost certain that's a party/festival/masquerade costume that draws on historical themes. The hair and flower wreath are very springtime, which could mean any of a variety of festivities. The dress itself, especially regarding the shape of the bodice and the split oversleeves, looks like a loose interpretation of some Tudor elements (http://www.uvm.edu/~hag/sca/tudor/) to me.

Originally, I wondered if it might be Russian, specifically a boyarina (http://www.costumes.org/history/100Pages/1903ball.htm)-type (http://julia-mindovermatter.blogspot.com/2009/10/thursday-thirteen-130-13-costumes-id.html) outfit (http://www.cgsculptor.com/costume_purple.htm), but those are much more a-line and usually have a heavily ornamented mantle.

05-14-2011, 06:42 AM
Yeah, despite the Muscovite sleeves I'd semi-ruled out Russian, although I only know court clothing in the Victorian era, because of the closed front on the bodice and the absence of a kokoshinik or any recognisable Russian headdress.

I considered that it might just be a fancy dress costume, but that doesn't quite sit right in my head. Out of my collection of Victorian fancy dress photos, I don't have ANY that have A. a plain background, B. such a plain outfit (Good lordy the sequins), C. don't seem to match the general silhouette of the time at all (Providing, of course, I've ID'd the stock right and this is late Victorian rather than crinoline era, which is what shape it looks like, I could be wrong, but I don't think fancy dress was quite as popular at that time) AND C. no record of who was wearing it. I mean, it's still possible that this is just a really rare example - the other girl's costume is white with flowers and very long sleeves, I wish I had a digital copy here but it's on the other computer at uni still, and she looks more like she could be dressing up - but in that case, it's a costume of something. I don't buy Tudor at all, I'm afraid - I've never seen the Victorians do Tudor without going to TOWN with ruffs and gables and silly hats.

05-14-2011, 03:41 PM
If it's a costume trying to recreate an earlier period or such, I keep leaning toward late medieval/early rennaissance. Not quite into the period when ruffs and farthingales had become commonplace. Lol, maybe it's an early example of innacurate historical costumes? (It makes me think of something your typical ren-fest girl would throw on and call "Historical"...)

05-14-2011, 07:27 PM
Those Russian sleeves keep tugging me, but the ornaments do have a N. Europe/Scandinavian look, so I thought--where do Russia and northern Europe overlap? FINLAND. :D And I felt very clever.

I'm still trying to find some images of historic Finn fancy-dress, because with those pearls on it I shan't be dissuaded that it's meant for a special occasion. No luck yet though.

05-15-2011, 02:09 AM
It says "theatrical/fancy dress costume" to me.

Her hair is down, and she has flowers in her hair instead of a tiara. Maybe she had some reason to be exceptionally proud of her hair, but otherwise pictures in court dress were very formal, and hair down is not which says theatre to me more than anything else.

Royals went to fancy-dress balls, too :

http://www.staylace.com/gallery/gallery05/maud/022206.jpg , http://www.staylace.com/gallery/gallery05/queenalexandra/princessalexandra_in_costume.jpg

and so did not-so-royal people who still came up with some pretty cool things. There's a rare picture of Oscar Wilde in a pretty decent Tudor costume, from the 70s or 80s. I think it was when he was in college (and not rich, famous, or anything like that) - so it seems like even fairly normal people went to such parties.

My book of fashion plates had a couple pages of plate of fancy dress. Some were really wacky (one chick was seriously "a garden"), but not all. In that new Phantom of the Opera movie, some of the costumes in the "Masquerade" sequence are replicas of actual Victorian costumes.

The adornment of the dress itself is rather big and plain, too - which again says "stage" to me.

05-15-2011, 02:14 AM
I would date the photo to the early 1860s going by the lighting, backrops and a few fitting aspects of her outfit.

Definitely a costume, but hard to tell the context from just her. If you could link to the photo with the other girl that might help. Also his name is Franz Hanfstaengl, the l is important ;) Once I got that to was easy to find the source of this image:

And I was right about the date. Woot. That's what comes of staring at images for years and years and years ;)

During this time there are some definite costume tropes. Marguerite in Faust wears a dress that is vaguely german Renaissance, Juliet has a certain style etc. But it appears she is representative of a painting. I'm just not sure which.

05-15-2011, 03:26 AM
Oh it's German, that explains a lot. All my Victorian fancy dress references are (I think...) British, French or colonies, and date pretty exclusively from 1880 onwards - I always forget the Germans were off in their own little world. This is probably why I shouldn't try dating stills until I can ID origins.

The link Satine pulled up of the original auction (15K!? No wonder it's such high quality, too, it's a MASSIVE albumen!) puts this concretely in Munich, February of 1862 - which should just about do the trick, lets see if I can find any archives of German Victorian fashion magazines or tailor's manuals - and my German is appalling, but doesn't 'Marchen' mean fairy tales? I wonder what fairy tale she was trying to do?

For the curious, the other photo - which shows her full length and the other girl, who I suppose might be dressed as a nature spirit or a fairy godmother or... I don't even know, German fairy tales are weird and I don't even know that it's a German one - is also accessible via that link, albeit in a smaller format. There are also some quite nice princesses, not to mention a hedgehog and a hare, and a Georgian king.

Mmmm, and now I know it's an albumen I can get a closer match on the colours :D