9 thoughts on “Diary of a Chambermaid Depresses, Confuses, & Delights Me

  1. Hi! I have a problem with your comparision dating, the novel was published in 1900, so why do you show fashion plates 2-3 years ahead??? The dresses, the un-pigeonbreast shirtwaists are spot-on for 1898-’99, probably the years when the novel was imagined and built up to be ready to the 1900s publishment. Also the jacket’s realy high Valois or Stuart collar (as they called it back then) is accurate to the gay ’90s but disappeared at the turn of the century. And I have one problem with the flick costumes; namely the emerald green tarveling dress from taffeta, 100% inaccurate to travel (especially for a maid), but 100% accurate to visit or promenade. Traveling dresses were made from strudy fabrics (cheviot, loden, alpaca or other “English” suitings) with minimal trimmings in grey or drab colors. Otherwise, saw the movie lately, my hubby who has little-to-no interest in historical costuming, also loved the dresses, especially the high collars :)

    1. I do have to agree – the green taffeta, while gorgeous, is not really suitable for travelling – almost all the other costumes here would have been more appropriate to travel in. The taffeta is gorgeous but I would think it was her Sunday best/going out dress.

      You also don’t really see the exaggerated pouter pigeon/pouched bosom silhouette for a year or two after 1900, so I don’t miss it here.

      What does also bug me is that the employer’s “fashion forward” dress is SO fashion forward that it’s actually more like a 1908-10 dress than a 1900 dress, particularly with the long tight sleeves, round-necked tabard style over-bodice styling, and chemisette. Late 1890s sleeves are still puffed, with at least a little kick at the shoulders, or puffed quite closely to the arm (not exaggeratedly gigot like they were a few years earlier),

      Here is a dress (I wrote about it for the V&A’s Wedding Dresses book) that was actually made and worn by a lady’s maid in 1899 – albeit a London one rather than a French one, but it is as close as you’ll get to seeing exactly what a smart, fashion-conscious woman in that kind of situation (with presumably a similar income) would choose to make for her best dress. http://collections.vam.ac.uk/item/O353681/wedding-dress-sams-harriett-nee/

      So I have no problem with the character actually having a beautiful green silk taffeta dress, particularly if she’s bought the embroidered collar ready-worked and the lace is inexpensive machine lace. As Harriett Joyce shows, it’s perfectly possible for a servant to make herself a really fashionable, smart looking, swishy silk dress with swanky satin and lace trimming, but yeah, you wouldn’t really travel in it. Also, note that there’s no pouter bosom in Harriett’s dress, yet, but plenty of ruching/draping in front – it’s just not yet happening, but give it a couple of years and every lady’s rocking the drapey floopy front.

        1. I agree with most of the comments (especially the travelling suit) but I don’t agree that the high, flared collar had disappeared by 1900. I have seen it extremely commonly through 1902 in various sources, and in the 1902 Sear’s & Roebuck almost every winter jacket or cloak has a collar like this one. I’ve even seen it as late as 1904 in the Delineator Magazine (for an evening cloak), though it was certainly much less common by then. I love it! It’s such an iconic look for the period.

  2. Very interesting article ! I liked how you compared the movie’s costume with the actual ones. That gives us perspective. And now I want a high collar coat for this winter too :-P

  3. The only other thing I’d add to the above comments is that the tea gown isn’t really behind-the-times either. Teagowns were a slightly different animal from other fashions and the Watteau-back, full-sleeved ones were still being worn at the turn of the century and almost until 1910.

    The comparison with the Manet painting is a great point! It’s actually what I immediately thought of, too as soon as I saw that still – and then I looked slightly down and saw the painting! Lol

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: