One of my Christmas presents this year was 18th Century Embroidery Techniques by Gail Marsh. I’ve wanted this book for a long time and it exceeded my expectations. I was expecting something informative but dull with black and white drawings but 18th Century Embroidery Techniques is a beautiful and entertaining book in full colour with many photos in addition to all the hand drawn diagrams. It explains many 18th century embroidery techniques along with a presentation of all the tools used. There’s also a glossary that was very useful to someone like me who’s completely new to embroidery.
Fashion and culture from the 1700s.
Posted Jun 18, 2012 at 18:54 CEST in Books.
I was contacted by the publishers of this book what must have been at least a couple of years ago, and asked if I wanted a copy to review for the blog. At the time I was busy with university and said I had no time to read it, but they still sent the book!
My main period of interest has always been the 1770s to early 1790s, but lately my interest for the mid and early 18th century has grown, I’m even tempted to make a mid 18th century outfit! This is what made me pick up this book and finally read it. The Courtiers by Lucy Worsley is a book about the court at Kensington Palace during the reigns of George I and George II, and it was a fun introduction to this period. The author presents all the interesting people at the court, and we get to follow them through their lives, and hear all the court gossip.
It’s not exactly an in-depth book and very much written as entertainment, which for me made it a great and easy to read introduction to earlier 18th century court life in England. I think it started out very interesting and fun but lost some of its momentum towards the end, which I suppose is natural since at the beginning all the characters are young and at their social peak with tons of things happening around them and at the end everyone is growing old and things are slowing down. Definitely recommended if you want to learn about the Georgian court!
This is definitely a new favourite book of mine. It’s very thorough, covering everything from the facade, interiors, furniture and various collections inside to the restorations made, the court life at “Kina”, 18th century chinoiserie in general and the Swedish East India Company. The chapters are written by different authors and everything is incredibly interesting. It’s also an absolutely beautiful book filled with big wonderful photos and also plans and drawings. I can’t recommend this book enough, it’s great.
The book is part of a set called De kungliga slotten (the royal palaces) and I can’t wait to read some of the other volumes. As far as I know they’re only available in Swedish.
Authentic Decor: The Domestic Interior 1620 - 1920 by Peter Thornton is a book about historical interior decoration and architecture.
If you want to learn about historical interiors this book is amazing. Each chapter starts with a longer text about the stylistic period in question and the rest of the chapter is all paintings, drawings and plans of interiors and architecture, everything with in depth captions. There are so many beautiful pictures and I find it very easy to learn when you actually have a visual example right next to the text.
Unfortunately this book is no longer in print but I think it’s pretty easy to find second hand.
The Private Realm of Marie Antoinette by Marie-France Boyer is a wonderful book about the more or less private spaces of Marie Antoinette, at Versailles, Rambouillet and Fontainebleau. It’s filled with interesting information and the pictures are beautiful and plentiful. It’s very easy to read and I think even someone with just a a casual interest in the 18th century will find this book entertaining.
17th and 18th-Century Costume in Detail by Avril Hart and Susan North contains big detail photos of garments from the Victoria and Albert Museum. There are no photos of the entire garments, instead there are detailed drawings. While these are great for understanding the construction, a small photo of the entire garment besides the drawings would have made it even better. We now only get to see a small part of the fabric and colours used. Most drawings show both front and back of the garment but a few show only one side, which I thought was a bit strange.
Each picture is accompanied by a short but informative text about the garment depicted. I wouldn’t have minded longer texts, but it’s a great book as is. This book is excellent for closeups on different trimmings and other decorations like embroidery, both for costumers and people who just like to look at pretty pictures.
Mordet på Gustav III by Lars Ericson Wolke is a tiny little book about (obviously) the murder of Gustav III. It’s very entertainingly written and gives us the facts about both Gustav, his murderer and the whole conspiracy and events leading up to the murder. It’s a quick and interesting read and there are quite a lot of pictures as well.
It’s only available in Swedish as far as I know.
Skönhetens mask by Carolina Brown is a book about the history of beauty ideals, with the main focus on the 18th century. It talks about both general ideals and specific details about such things as make-up and hair. There are not a lot of specific things about clothing though.
It’s not a big book, but what’s in it is very interesting. It has lots of pictures, although most of them are in black and white. I’m afraid I can’t find this book for sale anywhere but I found it at the library. It only exists in Swedish as far as I know.
A few years ago I attended a course by the same name at the Gotland University that used this book (and others) as literature.
Gunnebo och andra sommarnöjen från 1700-talet kring Göteborg by Lars Sjöberg and Staffan Johansson is a book mostly about Gunnebo, a late 18th century summer house near Göteborg. The book has plenty of information about the history of the building and the architecture and interior, accompanied by many photos and pictures of the original plans. At the back of the book there are a few shorter chapters about other 18th century summer houses in the Göteborg area.
I love this book and recommend it. The photos are gorgeous and there are many of them, and the text is interesting and fun to read. As far as I know this book is only available in Swedish.
(By the way, I just added a “buildings and interiors” category to the right.)
Kvinnligt mode under två sekel by Britta Hammar and Pernilla Rasmussen (the same people who wrote Underkläder: En kulturhistoria) is the best and most informative book on 18th century fashion that I’ve read. It only exists in Swedish as far as I know and it covers women’s fashion in the 18th and 19th centuries.
The first section is a general history of fashion, with many pictures and fashion plates. The second part has examples of garments (from the collection of Kulturen in Lund) presented in great detail with photos and thorough information on the construction of each garment. The final part of the book contains many examples of different sewing methods and stitches used in clothing from these two centuries, and finally there are patterns of every garment presented in the book!
The only bad thing about this book is that it seems impossible to buy. I borrowed it at the library but I can’t find it for sale anywhere. If anyone knows where you can find it please let me know!
Underkläder: En kulturhistoria is a Swedish book about the history of undergarments. A surprisingly large part is dedicated to the 18th century, and it’s a very interesting read. There’s quite a lot of pictures, and the text is very entertaining with lots of interesting quotes.
There’s a quote from the 1760s, from a fictional letter in a magazine, that I think gives a lot of insight to the question whether garters were bound above or under the knee. I’ve always figured both things must have been practiced while some people seem to strongly believe they were tied under the knee. From the quote it definitely seems like both were practiced, above the knee being the desired style, and under the knee the most practical. My translation from Swedish:
He reminded me, that beautiful legs are spoilt if the garter is tied under the knee.
Dangerous Liaisons: Fashion and Furniture in the Eighteenth Century is an exhibition catalogue accompanying an exhibition at the Metropolitan museum in 2004. It displays 18th century fashions and furniture in different 18th century interiors. The clothes are displayed on dolls arranged in scenes.
The book contains lots of big beautiful photos, most of them filling an entire page or spread, and also some 18th century paintings. The text talks about the different displays and the theme of it all seems to be that fashion and furniture during the 18th century was all designed for seduction, both actual and some kind of “social seduction”. I think they may be exaggerating the seduction thing a bit, but it’s both fun and interesting reading.
The text might be slightly confusing since you sometimes don’t know what picture they’re describing. You might think they’re taking about a painting next to the text, when they’re actually talking about a display a few pages ahead. But maybe that’s just me. Apart from the confusion it’s a beautiful book filled with amazing clothes. I definitely recommend it.
Divided Affections, The Extraordinary Life of Maria Cosway by Carol Burnell
I was very kindly given this book months ago to review, but university plus myself being a slow reader resulted in me not finishing it until yesterday.
I had been wanting to learn more about Maria Cosway so I was very happy to receive the book. I was happily surprised to find that it was such a beautiful book, with many pictures and a beautiful layout. Pictures are a huge plus for me so I liked this book right away.
It’s a biography about Maria Cosway, with some parts written in a dramatized dialogue. The parts that are “made up” are in italics so you can clearly tell them from the rest which I think was a nice touch. Maria Cosway had a very interesting life and the book is very entertainingly written, not boring at all. It really made you feel like you were there, and I just really liked it. I have yet to read all the notes at the back of the book but there are lots of them and they look very interesting.
A great book and highly recommended to anyone interested in Maria Cosway or fashionable 18th century ladies in general.
(As a lover of 18th century fashion I have to point out a tiny fashion-related error. At one place in the book a dress is described which is clearly a so called chemise dress, also known as a gaulle or chemise à la Reine, but in the book it’s called a robe à l’ Anglaise.)
Slott och salar i Sverige by Massimo Listri and Daniel Rey
This is a book about Swedish castles and mansions and mentions several from the 18th century. The photos in the book are really beautiful, but other than that I was pretty disappointed with this book. Every castle or mansion gets a chapter, but there is very little real information. There are mostly anecdotes and speculations and pretty much nothing about historical architecture or interior decorating. Another big problem with the book is that there are no captions, nothing is told about the beautiful rooms and buildings in the pictures. I’m glad I have the book because of the photos, but I would not recommend it if you actually want to learn something.
The book is published in both Swedish, English and Italian. In English as Great Houses in Sweden and in italian as Interni di Svezia.
Sofia Magdalenas brudklänning i tidens smak by AnneMarie Dahlberg
This is a tiny little book sold at the Swedish museum Livrustkammaren. It’s about the wedding dress of Sofia Magdalena who later became queen of Sweden. It tells of the wedding and of the construction of the dress, and contains x-rays of the dress bodice. A few other dresses and objects are also shown. There are no actual descriptions on how to go about making the dress, but it’s still useful if you’re interested in making 18th century clothes. It’s an interesting little book with many pictures, and it’s very cheap. if you’re ever at Livrustkammaren I recommend picking it up.
Another Livrustkammaren tip is the pattern of Gustav III:s wedding suit also sold in the museum shop.