Williamsburg Rose

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First Floor - Front Parlor

Victorian Fashions

Elegant to a fault, the Double Parlors of the La Porte House typify the suite of 'public rooms' so frequently found in upper-class 19th century architecture.

Decorated with period woodwork and a breathtaking ornamental painted ceiling (Done by an itinerant painter) the rooms house a collectin of period furniture including two early fortepianos.

With their pair of huge Pocket doors, which can just be seen to the right of the picture, the Front and Back Parlors could be joined or separated as the occassion demanded, for smaller or larger parties, receptions, or even function as a small ballroom.
Daytime clothing for a couple at home during the mid-century is featured here.

Accessories include a crocheted silk hairnet, grey moire hairbow,
necklace and "busywork" of needlepoint.



By 1836 the sleeve reached it most exaggerated width, and reaching this, collapsed - and fashion turned towards a new feminine shape. Small-waisted, small-shouldered, and ideally, small-footed (though to see a lady's foot, let alone be aware of its size, was unthinkable!) - with floating, full skirts, the 'look' of the woman of the times was one we often think of as "Victorian". Although fashion now called for a small sleeve silhouette, style concious (and frugal) ladies adapted their favorite full-sleeved dresses - gone unfashionable literally overnight - by gathering the fullness of the upper arms, and making the shirring a fashion feature, known as bouillonnè.

This clever style is shown in this summer daydress of lavender floral print cotton. It has a close fitting bodice, with a moderately low, rounded neckline, and double darts descending into a slightly pointed waist, and a back closing of hooks and bars. A deep berthe, also called a drapè en coeur, of folded self-fabric covers the neckline and shoulders - a fashion feature often seen in both day and evening dresses.

The long sleeves are moderately full, with multiple rows of gathering and an applied decorative band set upon the upper sleeve. The lower sleeve is gathered into a cuff with functioning triple buttons. Dark purple fabric is used for contrast piping on the ornamental armbands, the cuffs, the center strip of the berthe and for all buttons. Natural-color, delicate antique bobbin-lace finishes the neckline and wrist edges.



Women's clothes change noticeably at least each decade. Men's clothing from the mid to late 19th century changes but much more slowly, and in subtle stages. By the 18th century, the 3-piece suit had been defined: coat, vest (or waistcoat) and trousers. These have remained the basic components of a man's wardrobe until today.

This typical daytime ensemble is suited for the spring or summer. The frock coat is made of a brown, cream, and light blue suiting material in a wool and silk mixture. The coat lapels, front edge and the turn-back cuffs are bound with a dark brown braided edging, and the upper collar is done in chocolate-brown velvet.
The trousers are made of a grey suiting material, as light colored trousers and coats were frequently worn in the warmer seasons of the year. The trousers have shaped leg seams, a "broadfall" waist closing, and would be worn with "braces" or suspenders. Over a white broadcloth shirt, the gentleman has donned the requisite vest, or "waistcoat". This example is single-breasted, and made in a floral brocade which co-ordinates with the suit. It has a low V-neckline and moderate size lapels.
A variety of accessories could accent the gentleman's ensemble. In this more formal era, no man would consider going out without his hat. A blue silk cravat is worn about the neck, secured by a pearl stickpin.




Bodice detail showing pleated berthe, bouillonnè upper sleeve and piped ornamental sleeve band.


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