Thursday, June 9, 2011

Cries of London--Strawberries and Clothing Breakdown

I've mentioned before that I love the Cries of London print series. A quick and dirty background on these--they're a set of prints created by artist Francis Wheatley in the early 1790s. Fascinated by London street culture, he created this series of street vendors plying their trades.

"Strawberries" is one of my favorites. Mainly? For the clothes. It's not that the girl here is wearing anything particularly noteworthy--in fact, it's that her clothes are so ordinary and banal that I love this depiction so much. It's a wonderful snapshot of a lower-class, likely rural woman's dress--something we rarely get from period artwork. So--for one, it's a great lesson on basic late 18th century clothing. A quick breakdown, shall we?
Our young lady is wearing the requisite shift, with the loose sleeves rolled up just past her elbows. She also wears a boned, sleeveless garment of some kind--the verbal ambiguity of clothing terms has me at a loss as to whether to call it a bodice or to assume it's a pair of jumps, but regardless--a sleeveless, boned garment. With the shoulders covered, I can't tell if it has straps or not, but the high back and the way it disappears behind her arm suggest to me that it might have straps. This is significant to me as a researcher, because a common "ism" of reenactors is that women "never" appeared in public wearing only stays, and that there were no other sleeveless garments. Clearly, that's not the case--and though she is a lower-class woman, she is not a slattern (professional nor hobbyist), either. (Of course, the practical question becomes how, exactly, to properly recreate and--even more difficult--wear a sleeveless outer garment.)

She also wears a lightweight white kercheif tucked into the front of the garment. This is useful for three reasons. One, it prevents too much sun exposure (I've saved myself many a sunburn using a kercheif.) Two, it keeps one from being too revealing. And three--doesn't it look fetching?

Her hat ensemble is worth noting--she wears a white, ruffled cap and what looks to be a worn, droopy felt hat over it. Felt hats could be made very fashionably, with stiff broad brims like a straw hat. However, get them wet too often, and they start to...drroooop. Which is what I assume has happened to this young lady, or that she's come by her hat second-hand.

She's wearing one visible petticoat--she may be wearing another that we can't see. She also wears her apron, a simple large workaday piece pleated onto what looks like a tape tie, rucked up. I was so pleased to find this particular print, because I love wearing my apron this way and it was nice to see that it's documentable that they did, too! Plus simple buckled shoes and basic stockings.

Something I learned while finding this print? The cute little cone-shaped basket she's holding is called a pottle, and was a measuring device. Though most fruits and vegetables were sold by the pound, strawberries were sold by the pottle. Which makes sense. Because strawberries, the girl selling them, the measuring basket itself, and the word "pottle" are all very, very adorable.


Miss Rosemary said...

Very interesting! Thanks for the breakdown. I'm thinking of writing a story from this period and this will come in very very helpful :)

Katy Rose said...

There are sleeveless bodices in the !8th c. They are quilted wasitcoats, which were informal, but I can see the working class adopting them.

Rowenna said...

Thanks, Rosemary!

Katy--you're 100% right on the quilted waistcoats--and my research is turning up that they're not the only examples of sleeveless outerwear (I keep running into the "only used for warmth under gowns" argument with the quilted waistcoats--but I'm not buying it ;) )

Isis said...

There are a lot of sleeveless bodices extant in Sweden. Most seems to be lightly bones and more or less look like stays, but were worn as an outer garment, mostly in rural areas. Here are links to some:

Of course, this may be a peculiar Swedish fenomen, but they are undeniable prrof og sleeleless outer garments. :)

The painting is absolutely lovely and my guess is that her bodice is made of leather.

anachronist said...

Lovely post and breakdown. What kind of bodice might be called a stomacher? Is there any distinction?

Rowenna said...

Isis--thanks for the links! I had wondered if the stays/bodice was leather--at first I was convinced of it and then I was unsure after seeing another version of the picture. Regardless--I love the ensemble!

Anachronist--a stomacher is actually a part of a bodice, jacket or gown--it's the triangular bit that the garment is laced over, often elaborately decorated.

The Dreamstress said...

What idjit says that women never wore stays as outerwear!?! I've found so many sources and original documents that state that they do! And there are so many prints showing working class women wearing just stays to do their work.

Thanks for the excellent breakdown and the interesting print.