Recession Themed Robe à la Anglais in White and Green with Pouf à la Bailout

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So, my husband and I live in Michigan, more specifically in Ann Arbor, one of the cities surrounding Detroit. On the good side, it’s almost spring and there’s nothing like the University of Michigan campus when everything is blooming and the students come out of hiding to play Frisbee by the Diag. On the bad side, the unemployment rate is 11% and our poor state is national shorthand for a grim future. Now, if I was a more diligent, self-promoting kind of artist, instead of the flighty, self-doubting, unambitious dabbler that I am, I would be taking advantage of the sad state of American finances, pitching books, putting out press releases, writing up guest posts for other blogs and who knows what else. Why’s this? Because paper dolls are the perfect toy for the modern recession.

Think of it: Iris and Sylvia can wear anything I draw, so it’s not like a regular old book with a limited number of outfits, and you can print this crazy gown for just as much money as it takes to print this subtle shift. Barbie can’t seamlessly transform into a mermaid or a ninja near as well as my girls do, and I doubt her people would let her dress up in anything too creepy. And you know what else? No Barbie doll, no other paper doll out there, no one in the world period, has a terrifying cross between one of Marie Antoinette’s court gowns and the symbols of American financial catastrophe. Yes, this may be a slightly strange toy, but that’s OK: for those that don’t yet see the tumbling Dow in the skirt, print out this pretty princess instead. We who see the humor of the pink slip petticoat and pouf à la bailout will play princesses of a more desperate time and space. Pass the cake.

Yes, I’m reading Queen of Fashion: What Marie Antoinette Wore To The Revolution and loving it. (thanks RLC for the recommendation!) See, I’ve always thought of 1800s fashions as beautiful and elegant (and OK, maybe at worst endearingly funny-looking) but I never could get into 1700s fashions, with the goofy hair and panniers and all. But this bias is probably because so many classic books I’ve read are set in the 1800s: the Austen books, of course, but also Vanity Fair, Little Women, Sherlock Holmes, the Anne series, Gone With The Wind, Edith Wharton novels, Jane Eyre, Anna Karenina — anyways, I can go on and on, but the point is that reading / watching movies based on / paperdolling these books gave me a vague idea of the 1800s in European / American women’s costume. However, I don’t have a similar basis for the 18th century. The only ones I can think of offhand are the Three Musketeers, A Tale of Two Cities and the Scarlet Pimpernel series, and Evelina which I just finished. Somehow, looking at all the robes a la polonaise for Evelina flipped a switch somewhere, and now I’m intrigued by that same goofy hair and panniers. I’d like to get more into fiction from the 1700s or set in the 1700s. Can anyone recommend anything for me? I’d love to have some 18th century audiobooks from Librivox, but I’ll also go the old fashioned way.

The hairpiece will sort of fit both dolls, but there’s one part of Iris’ hair that you would have to bend back. My next series of dolls will be bald.

1780s White Chemise à la Reine with Blue Silk Sash and Flower Ornament

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Well, now, it looks like the readers of this blog have what you could call a slight preference for The Duchess’ costumes (a lovely gallery of which can be found at the Costumer’s Guide to Movie Costumes); as I write this it’s garnered 66% of the vote, with the other four neatly splitting the remainder. Not much of a surprise, we do like our fancy gowns around this joint after all. The possible list of leaked Oscar winners would be against us, preferring Benjamin Button instead, but that has all the authenticity of, well, a random list on the Internet.

I didn’t see The Duchess, or, sadly, any of the other Best Costume nominees, but I wanted to draw something inspired by its main character, Georgiana Cavendish, not the least because I recently discovered the The Duchess of Devonshire’s Gossip Guide to the 18th Century (and its counterpart concerned with Marie Antoinette) and since I’ve never been much into 1700s fashion before (I love the 1800s, everything before that I’m real vague on) I’ve been enjoying it. Well, lo and behold there is a style of dress that Marie Antoinette started and Georgiana introduced to England, so that seemed to be the right thing to draw tonight. It’s called the chemise à la reine, and it was quite scandalous when it was introduced in the mid-1780s because it was essentially like wearing one’s underwear out in public, not what one expects from one’s queen. A very simple garment, it was really the precursor of the Regency gowns as the waistline inched upwards.

Don’t forget — livedolling the Oscars here, tomorrow! Stick around the comments section and help me decide what to draw. I’ll be looking frantically for streaming video of the red carpet show (more interesting than reloading Getty Images all the time), let me know if you know where to find it.

1778 Light Blue Robe a la Polonaise with Rose and Flower Trim Inspired by Fanny Burney’s Evelina

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So I recently finished listening to the Librivox recording of Evelina by Fanny Burney, which is not a book I knew of before browsing the Librivox catalog but I’m quite glad I put in the sixteen hours necessary to listen to it. I don’t recall Evelina being referenced in any of the Jane Austen novels, but I believe a couple of Fanny Burney’s other novels are mentioned in Northanger Abbey. Certainly Austen would have read Evelina, and her characters might have secretly wished for a Lord Orville like everyone seems to wish for a Mr. Darcy these days. It’s about a timid and innocent girl, who is overly both, I think, for modern sensibilities, but still a sympathetic main character. Her situation was so precarious (she has a “mysterious” background and no powerful friends looking out for her interests) and she always seemed to be getting into so many misunderstandings that I had to look the ending up on Wikipedia to make myself less nervous about the possibility of her being deceived by a rake or exposed to ridicule in a way that would destroy her reputation forever. (Having recently come off of The Age of Innocence, and having abandoned Ruth after skimming its Wikipedia page and finding out that things didn’t end well, I couldn’t sink hours into listening to another depressing novel.) I think, though, that it’s a very fun novel even if I fretted over the heroine and her perils. Sir Clement Willoughby is a tremendous bounder and it’s quite satisfying to despise him, and Evelina’s family and acquaintances are all colorful even if they’re mortifying to her. It might remind a modern reader of Austen, but the feeling that something is always about to go wrong makes it more salacious. Elizabeth Bennett was never caught by Mr. Darcy in the company of disreputable women, that’s for sure.

The book was published in 1778, and there aren’t any time references inside the book that meant anything to me, so I’m just going to go with what its readers might have worn although the book perhaps was set a couple years earlier. Corbis has, for some reason, a great number of fashion plates from 1778 (just search “1778 dress”) and I was struck by how different many of them appeared from what I think of from the late 1700s, the robe á la française and the robe à l’anglaise. The style that struck me is apparently the robe à la Polonaise, and even if perhaps Evelina is supposed to be set a couple years earlier than 1778, I will comfort myself with the thought of her wearing many of these dresses after the novel ends. Don’t ask me about the hat. It didn’t quite work out, but the first draft ended up with antennae and a windmill so this is sort of an improvement.

Incidentally, I was a little surprised to find Evelina mentioned in a recent article about the movie Confessions of a Shopaholic, as it boasts “literature’s first shopping spree”. Yeah, I’m probably not going to see that movie, even if it has clothes like this unholy concoction of neon ribbon and dalmatian fur that beg for paperdolling. I was reading an article a while back (couldn’t find it, sadly) talking about how in this economic climate, over-the-top chick flicks like Shopaholic might be edited so that the protagonists learn a couple convenient lessons before the end, which made me think, yeah, I’d probably fork over $8 to watch a movie like “Confessions of a Shopaholic” if the main character ended up like Lily Bart.

By the way, mark your calendars for the 22nd, a week from now: I’m going to be liveblogging (livedrawing?) the Oscars. I don’t know precisely how that will work, but it’s going to be fun.

Halloween Costume Series Day 20: Halloween Themed 1700s French Court Dress with Orange Bows and Spider Lace

Click for larger version; click for the list of dolls.

Now, I actually don’t believe in ghosts, but if Marie Antoinette walks the earth still, I like to think she has something like this to comfort her. It would certainly comfort me, not that I intend to become a ghost. Just think, if one was a ghost and wearing panniers one wouldn’t have to turn sideways to go through a door anymore! Thanks to Antoinette’s Closet for inspiration.

In any case, thank you everyone for following my costume month. My goal was to do one a day, and I got 20 done (plus one Hinawa, and a couple of Boutique posts) which isn’t bad. I hope those of you who aren’t really all that into Halloween didn’t get too bored, and I hope that those of you who do enjoy Halloween liked some of my costumes and are enjoying yourself in some fashion tonight.

So, now I want to know which one was everyone’s favorite. We’ll do this in four parts, with part 1 today and closing in two days…