Friday 22 March 2024

March Fashion Friday

 This month we have an interesting book found at the Internet Archive.

by De Valcourt, Robert
Publication date 1866 
"If a woman fancies that she looks better or
feels better in men's clothes, there is no reason
why she may not indulge in so harmless a fancy. It
is done freely and frequently on the continent of
Europe. The author of Consuelo, for years, wore
a masculine dress in the streets and cafes of Paris,
whenever she chose to do so. Miss Weber, an ex-
cellent and highly accomplished woman, in Belgium,
in all societies wears no other. Some American
ladies of late have done the same, in defiance of the
laws. We do not see that any moral or proper
legal question is involved in this ; or, if the dress is
neat and becoming, convenient to the wearer, and
pleasant to others, that it is a breach of good man-
ners. It is a simple question of good and evil. If
the amount of happiness, immediate or ultimate, is
increased by any costume, it is right to wear it."

The Publishers  of  the  "Illustrated
Book  of  Manners  "  have  much  satis-
faction in  offering  the  following  pages
to  the  public  inspection.

They  ask  more  than  a  cursory
glance  at  head  lines  and  engravings;
for  it  is  a  work  of  a  higher  use  and  greater  importance
than  any  one  would  be  likely  to  suspect,  from  a  slight
and  superficial  examination.

It  treats  of  a  subject  of  universal  interest  and  utility.
Every  man,  woman  and  child,  ought  to  know  how  to
dress,  act,  converse  and  respond  to  the  varied  demands
of  our  social  relations,  in  the  best  possible  manner.  Our
whole  life  and  society  needs  re-forming,  educating,  re-
fining, and  polishing,  to  bring  out  its  highest  use  and

Life  is  made  up  of  little  things;  little  acts,  little
courtesies,  little  enjoyments.  He  who  has  most  of  these,
gives  most  pleasure  to  others,  and  secures  most  happiness
to  himself.

Do  not  say,  these  things  are  trifles,  and  of  no  import-
ance.  It  is  worth  every  man's  study  and  effort  to  be  a
gentleman;  and  every  woman  should  try  to  be  a  lady,
particularly  in  a  country  where  public  gallantry  accords
to  every  one  that  designation.  The  many  things  which
combine  to  form  the  manners  and  guide  the  deportment
of  the  lady  and  gentleman,  greatly  increase  the  sum  of
human  happiness.

The  author  of  this  work  has  earnestly  endeavored  to
make  it  a  great  public  teacher,  and  reformer,  in  all  the
outward  decencies,  proprieties,  graces,  and  accomplish-
ments, which  fit  men  and  women  for  the  enjoyment  of
social  life;  and  as  society  is  a  natural  want  of  humanity,
and  the  source  of  all  his  most  exquisite  pleasures,  sure-
ly it  is  right  that  he  should  carefully  avoid  every  thing
that  will  interfere  with  social  happiness,  and  eagerly
cultivate  every  talent  and  accomplishment,  that  will
enhance  its  pleasures.

The  illustrations  have  been  selected  from  the  works  of
various  artists;  and  are  intended  to  contrast  grac*e  and
elegance,  with  awkwardness  and  deformity.  In  many
cases,  the  advice  of  the  text  is  enforced  by  a  picture  in
ludicrous  contrast;  and  the  intention  of  the  engravings
can  only  be  understood  by  the  careful  reader.  It  would
have  been  easy  to  fill  a  book  with  beautiful  designs,  but
these  would  not  have  taught  the  lessons  of  life,  which
it  was  our  intention  to  impress  vividly  on  the  mind  of
the  reader.

This  book  is  intended  to  be  read,  and  even  carefully
studied,  in  course,  from  the  first  chapter  to  the  last.
Some  chapters  may  be  more  worthful  than  others,  but
each  one  contains  its  Life  Lesson,  and  all  combine  in  one
harmonious  whole,  in  their  influence  upon  the  character
and  actions.  The  author  has  endeavored,  everywhere,
"  To  make  the  useful  pleasant,  and  the  pleasant  useful."

Tuesday 5 March 2024

March Book Tuesday

This month we highlight a fascinating look into Victorian history through a collection of fabric samples kept by a Victorian Lady.

H/T Penny Young on the Victorian/Edwardian Aficionados group on Facebook.

The Victorian Society of Alberta

The Dress Diary of Mrs Anne Sykes: Secrets from a Victorian Woman's Wardrobe
by Kate Strasdin

The hidden fabric of a Victorian woman's life - from family and friends to industry and Empire - told through her unique textile scrapbook.

The Times

'The story of a singular woman... Kate Strasdin's forensic detective work has finally let Mrs Sykes - and her book - speak again' JUDITH FLANDERS

In 1838, a young woman was given a diary on her wedding day. Collecting snippets of fabric from a range of garments she carefully annotated each one, creating a unique record of her life and times. Her name was Mrs Anne Sykes.

Nearly two hundred years later, the diary fell into the hands of Kate Strasdin, a fashion historian and museum curator. Strasdin spent the next six years unravelling the secrets contained within the album's pages.

Piece by piece, she charts Anne's journey from the mills of Lancashire to the port of Singapore before tracing her return to England in later years. Fragments of cloth become windows into Victorian life: pirates in Borneo, the complicated etiquette of mourning, poisonous dyes, the British Empire in full swing, rioting over working conditions and the terrible human cost of Britain's cotton industry.

This is life writing that celebrates ordinary people: the hidden figures, the participants in everyday life. Through the evidence of waistcoats, ball gowns and mourning outfits, Strasdin lays bare the whole of human experience in the most intimate of mediums: the clothes we choose to wear.

'An extraordinarily rich record of middle-class Victorian life.. [a] fascinating book' Guardian