Saturday, October 29, 2011

Very Rare Eighteenth Century Paste Wristletts...

I wish there would have been photography in the 18th century~ don't you? If there was, just think of the wealth of knowledge that could be gleaned from looking beyond the focus of the everyday things sitting beyond on a table or in a windowsill. It is sometimes hard to remember that early paintings were almost as accurate as a photograph, but they were.
If we see a ladye, such as Maria Christina, above~ painted by Johann Zoffany in 1776, wearing these jewels, we can most definitely count on the fact that they did exist and she was wearing or not she actually owned them or not is another story, but we need not get into that here and now. Wouldn't it be grand, to see what , say, her bracelets could have actually looked the flesh?

Well, Dear readers, you are in for a special treat today~ and early Hallowe'en T*R*E*A*T!

Look at this beautiful shagreen case. It in itself is worthy of a post of its own~ Shagreen is a type of treatment of leather made from a type of shark skin or ray skin, that is covered with weensie tiny bumps~ little calcifications~ and it is colored from the underneath, usually a very dark green

Just a peek of what is within... Imagine yourself now, a Ladye of much means, with a beaux of even more, wanting to show his romantic intentions with a trifle of affection....

I don't know about you, but I would be sucking in a big gasp about now.....

For within the beautifully fitted, silk lined double case, is a gorgeous, all original set of paste buckles. But yet, these are no ordinary buckles. intended for shoes, these were for the wrists. They test sterling, with 18k gold tooled middle banding, and each is set with 72 huge, luscious heavy paste stones. Even the elite wore past jewels in the 18th c~ there were more paste jewelers and more paste jewels sold in London than Diamonds and precious gems. If the paste was of high quality, such as these, with high lead content, they really did sparkle just as much as diamonds.

On the back, looking on the chape, you can see "1380" stamped into the silver~ this is the patent number

On the reverse of the chape is stamped "Stedman Patent". Most exciting! Both buckles are marked, and made by John Stedman in London, 1783. We know that John Stedman took out Patent number 1350 on 13 Jan 1783 for a certain type shoe buckle....and on 19 Dec 1783 for patent number this pair most definitely dates to 1783.

John Stedman was a jeweler and patent buckle maker who worked and lived in London~ he has documented residence at No 2 Prince Street, Leicester Fields, Middle Temple Lane and 36 New Bond Street among others. What is so very interesting, and most likely the patent feature of this set, is the placement of the prongs~ see above here~ where my fingers are, the prongs are actually attached to the back side of the buckle itself, and not the center of the chape

They are absolutely gorgeous in person, the amount of paste stones is mesmerizing~ imagine how these looked in candlelight~ nothing less than spectacular to be sure.

Buckles such as these would have been worn on a ribbon around the wrists. The ribbon could easily be interchanged to suit M'Lady's wardrobe or even time of day. Simply put, a length of ribbon would have a slit at one end, and a set of 2 little holes at the other for the prongs to catch in. The chape is slipped thru the slit in the ribbon, and turned to make the catch as you see above~ this is actually very secure

The ribbon is then brought around the wrist, thru the hole in the chape, and the prongs on the back side of the buckle catch the ribbon, as above

Here is one of them as would have been worn.

**I must thank Mr Clive Taylor for his most generous help in assisting me with information on John Stedman**

I wish you all could see these in person~ the sparkle is just devine~ I couldn't help but make a little video for you~ I hope you enjoy~

Monday, October 24, 2011

Dolly's help with 18th c undersleeves.......

The Museum was really blessed earlier this year with the opportunity to acquire an entire trunk of early clothing, all from a single, Pennsylvania family. I was both amazed and elated that when it arrived, it was a virtual time capsule of mid to late 18th every day common working folks wear~ both ladies & gentlemans, and I am super excited to share it with you all, little by little over the coming winter months :)

Included in the trunk were several, 5 if I remember correctly, pair of undersleeves. I love undersleeves~ and have several pair, but they all date from the 1820s to 50s, so was a bit puzzled, just at a glance, as to why they were included when everything else was in the 1740-60 era dating. There was so much to go thru, I set them aside and came back to them...and whoa what gems they are indeed!

The above is just one of several pair, but the only ones still connected at their tops. They have been tacked together with linen threads, most likely for washing, as they most definitely have been worn.

This is yet another pair. All are constructed basically the same, a tube of cloth, gathered both top and bottom~ the top bands wider with tabs for pinning to the bodice sleeves, these of which always numbered in weensie cross stitch numbers. The cuff edge is narrower, with 2 button holes for sleeve links, and these are shaped~ the same shape that bodice sleeves of the period are cut with. The sleeve on the left is showing the back facing up, and the sleeve on the right shows the inner arm up, note the curve to allow for the bent position of the elbow

All measure the same, apx 10" from top to bottom of the elbow cuff

All are stitched by hand in fine cotton, which, actually was a sign of wealth this early in the 18th c~ linen was more readily available. The cotton gin had not yet been invented, and cotton was very expensive to produce and procure. This picture shows nicely the cuff shape

Very finely gathered into the cuff end, with 2 button holes for sleeve links

The top bands are wider, and all are marked in cross stitch with matching numbers~ the ones in this collection are numbered up to 12, so we know Mary Wistar had at least 12 different pair of undersleeves in her wardrobe at one time

I was elated to find on a couple pair, that they still retained their original "sleeve links". Sleeve links were common on mens shirts to fasten the sleeve cuffs, which are two buttons stitched together ~ like the cuff links we think of today that are metal and decorative. These are 2 mother of pearl buttons sewn together with linen thread.

So now you ask, how did dollye help me? Well, you all know I love early wooden dolls, and just so happened to have a photo of a c1750 Queen Anne in the Strong Museum's collection~ and look what she wears there, peeking out under her bodice sleeve....

click on the picture to enlarge it if you need to~ but yes, as part of her original wardrobe, she too wears a set of these undersleeves. This is a perfect example of why original period dress should always be kept with our early dolls, and also illustrates the fact that these dolls not only taught little ones the correct way and order of dressing, they have indeed helped us today in doing the very same thing

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

I am a Bedstead..... Humble, yet strong.


to rest your weary head,

I wait the day long.

from babies to children to young adults they grow~

my pofsts stand worn & weary with every jump & throw~


To the attic I am sent,

now to wait the days, tired & spent.


Until the most noble of sacrifice is asked.....

for it, a pofst is granted a most honorable task~

Monday, October 03, 2011

For tread the Circle thrice about~ keep unwelcome spirits out.

To bind the spell well every time, let the spell be said in rhyme.

Elder is the Lady's tree burn it not or cursed you'll be......