Monday, September 5, 2016

Before Labor Day, of course - Women in White - 19C & 20C Britain, Europe, & Beyond

Michael Peter Ancher (Danish artist, 1849–1927) Artist's wife Anna Ancher

Ernest-Joseph Laurent (French artist, 1859-1929) Sous les banches

Alfred Stevens (Belgian artist, 1828-1906) Portrait of a Woman in White

Henri Edmond Cross (French artist, 1856-1910) Corner of the Garden in Monaco

Anna Ancher (Danish artist, 1859–1935) Ung pige mellem valmuer

Ernest-Joseph Laurent (French artist, 1859-1929) The Straw Hat

John Lavery (Irish painter, 1856-1941) Spring

Lucien Lévy-Dhurmer (French artist, 1865-1953) Portrait of Mlle Carlier 1910

Frederic Leighton (English Classicist Painter and Sculptor, 1830-1896)The Countess Brownlow 1879

Alfred Émile Stevens (Belgian painter, 1823-1906) Woman Wearing a Bracelet

Viktor Vasnetsov (Rusian painter, 1848-1926) Портрет Веры Саввишны Мамонтовой 1896

Jane Sutherland (Australian artist, 1853-1928) Daydream 1895

Frederic Leighton (English Classicist Painter and Sculptor, 1830-1896) Eucharis - A Girl with a Basket of Fruit 1863

Albert Edelfelt (Finnish artist, 1854-1905) Summer 1883

Frank Dicksee (English Pre-Raphaelite Painter, 1853-1928) Young Woman and her Pet

William Adolphe Bouguereau (French academic painter, 1825–1905) The Laurel Branch 1900

Edward Robert Hughes [English Pre-Raphaelite Painter, 1851-1917] Lucy Celia Ashton (neé Dunn-Gardiner) later Countess of Scarbrough

William Adolphe Bouguereau (French academic painter, 1825–1905) Earrings 1891

Lucien Lévy-Dhurmer (French artist, 1865-1953)

Edward Robert Hughes [English Pre-Raphaelite Painter, 1851-1917] The Debutante

The American dictum that women shouldn't wear white clothing before Memorial Day & after Labor Day has been around at least since the Civil War. The wives of the super-rich dominated high society after the Civil War. As more & more people became financially successful, though, it was difficult to tell the difference between "old money" in elite families & those who only had "new money." By the 1880s, in order to tell who was "acceptable" & who wasn’t, some elite women felt it necessary to create fashion "rules," that everyone "in the know" knew to follow. Not wearing white outside the summer months was one of these rules. In the non-air-conditioned early 20C, the summer "season" was defined by Memorial Day & Labor Day, when those-who-could flocked from town house to seaside "cottage" or mountain "cabin" to escape the oppressive summer heat. City clothes were left behind in exchange for lighter, whiter, summer costumes. Come fall, as well-to-do families returned to the city, more formal, darker city clothes were donned once more. And many in the large cities heated their environs with coal. The soot from the coal spread through the heated indoor spaces & coal dust quickly would stain light garbs. So folks changed to a darker wardrobe around Labor Day. This coincided with the growth of fashion magazines available to all levels of society. The magazines reflected the no white after Labor Day rule in the glossy, seductive pages of Harper's Bazaar & Vogue, which set the fashion tone for the country. This practice progressed from tradition, into rule, & finally into an identifiable cultural faux pas for decades into the 20C.