Archive for January, 2012

It’s time for Museum Monday! In keeping with our look into cold weather gear, this week we’ll take a look at a few examples of hand-warming muffs.
These tube-like accessories were incredibly popular – for both men and women – and were used for keeping the hands warm, but also as an important fashion accessory. As we will see, muffs were made out of a variety of materials and in a variety of sizes. They were usually padded for extra warmth, and sometimes had strings attached to the “tube” to tie around the wrists.
Last week’s MM post showed a beautiful fur muff from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, but we know 18th century muffs weren’t limited to this medium. Take a look at this beautiful and ultra-modern looking example of a muff from the late 1700s:
This muff is British in origin and is made out of red feathers. This beauty is also a part of The Met’s collection.
Not all muffs were oversized either. This example from the collections of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston shows a more subdued size, but in no way a subdued design.
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This muff is described as “Green-yellow silk satin with appliquéd white satin central mezzotint portrait medallion of young woman. Wreath embroidered with silver yarns and spangles and red foil leaves. White silk lining. Filled with batting and paper.” Dated simply “18th century” this example is thought to be of French origins.
Similarly, here is an English example from the MFA, dated 1785-1800:
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For those with a more understated style, there is this example of finery from 18th Century Italy – also from MFA:
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This muff is “Blue satin ground with a powder of white dots. The muff is lined with pink silk and faced with pink satin.”
Or, this silk with metallic thread embroidery from 1780, courtesy of the Met:
But, the fur muff was very, very popular. It was also incredibly fashionable for your accessory to be oversized. So, let’s look again at that gorgeous example from the Met:

Even like today, there was a tendency for fashionistas in the 18th century to take their “haute couture” too far…as shown in this caricature from Henry Kingsbury in 1787:
The Muff
Which one is your favorite?


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Into the History
by Johnna McEntee
Hidden Dirk Mercantile – 18th century clothing reproductions

18th Century Cloaks – Part III

(continued from 18th century cloaks – Part II

Cloaks were generally made of  what was considered in the 18th century to be wool broadcloth, which was very tightly woven to that it would hold its edge well and be water-resistant.  Lower class cloaks would almost always be unlined, and may or may not have included a hood, while more fashionable cloaks could be lined with fur or thick wadding.  

Cloak hoods were cut generously to accommodate tall hairstyles, caps or hats and were sometimes adjusted with a drawstring. In many upper class cloaks the hoods would either be fully lined with silk, or lined partially on the outer edges where the hood interior would show. Some lower and middle class cloaks achieved a similar effect by trimming the outside edge of the hood with a silk binding. 

Some cloaks had both a small cape and a hood attached to the neckline, where the collar could lay on the outside of the hood (as seen on the garment pictured right from the Metropolitan Museum of Art) or the inside of the hood and would be turned up against the neck for added warmth. Again, upper class examples show collars with the side that would be touching the skin made of silk.

Whether your cloak is short or long, wool or silk, red or gray, one of ours or one you make yourself – we hope you stay toasty warm this winter in a fashionable 18th century cloak of your own!

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Into the History
by Johnna McEntee
Hidden Dirk Mercantile – 18th century clothing reproductions

18th Century Cloaks – Part II

(continued from 18th century cloaks – Part I)

It might surprise us 21st centurions, but based on primary sources and extent garments, red or scarlet wool seemed to be the most commonly used fabric for cloaks, especially for women’s cloaks. In 1748, a botanists visiting England from Sweden noted that “when English women in the country are going to pay their compliments to each other, they commonly wear a red cloak.” Some historians note the reason for the popularity of this color is due to its cheery brightness and its high-contrast to the bleak dull colors of winter. Our ancestors just wanted some pleasant color to get them through the long, cold months!

The red cloak spanned a large socio-economic range as well. The wealthy aristocrat Madame du Bocage wrote in 1750 when she was visiting the Oxfordshire country that “the poorest country girls…(have) scarlet cloaks upon their shoulders.”

Picture caption: The Watercress Girl (oil on canvas), Zoffany, Johann (1733-1810)

Though red was the most popular color for 18th century cloaks, extant examples and primary sources show that the Irish preferred blue, gray, or black cloaks. Blue seemed to be very popular with the Welsh as well – though this could also be because the Irish and Welsh were generally less wealthy, as the Statistical Survey of the County of Tyrone  notes in 1802 that “the cloak is generally of some cheap shop-cloth, often gray, though they affect scarlet when they can afford the price.” 

-Tomorrow in the last of the three part series, we’ll look at the basic cloth and construction of the 18th century cloak-

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Into the History
by Johnna McEntee

18th Century Cloaks – Part I

According to weather experts, a “Little Ice Age” was taking place from about the 16th-19th centuries, making winters even colder for our counterparts in the past. We’ve all seen the painting of George Washington crossing the Delaware on Christmas of 1776 with icy chunks bashing against his boat—the General looks stoic, but you can see that it’s cold. In the winter of 1780, New York Harbor froze over so completely that people could walk back and forth from Staten Island to Manhattan. That’s cold.

Picture Caption: Washington Crossing the Delaware, Leutze, Emanuel (1851)

For those who have participated in winter camps, you know there is no escaping it – no matter how close you sit to the fire or how much you stoke the stove, some part of you is always, somehow, still frozen.

Enter the 18th century cloak: cold weather gear sturdy enough to brave even the most bitter New England winter.

In the 18th century, a “cloak” was the name for the outer-garment, which could be a shorter, hip-length garment or a longer, full-length version. A “cape” in the 18th century was the name for the modern-day collar, or a smaller, shorter piece of fabric over the longer layer that covered the shoulders (see General Washington’s cloak for an example of an attached cape in the painting above) . As cloaks became shorter and shorter and multiple layers of capes were added to the garment, the terms “cloak” and “cape” came to be synonymous.

-Part II of this short, three-part series, will look more into cloak color popularity.-

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18th Century Cloak by Hidden Dirk Mercantile

Yesterday we looked at some of the goregeous surviving samples of cloaks at Colonial Williamsburg and the Met.  Today we’re looking at one a little more recent…our very own Hidden Dirk Mercantile cloak! 🙂

Please excuse us while we take a brief moment to shamelessly self-promote. We have based our cloak off of various extant examples and writings from industry leading experts, and are really happy with the results.  Like most garments at Hidden Dirk Mercantile, your choices for customization abound! 

Our cloaks are available in long or short versions (or any length in between based on your desired measurements).   You can have a hood, a cape (collar) or a combination of the two – as seen in the Met sample from yesterday. Our cloak pictured here has the collar on the inside to flip-up around the neck for extra warmth, but the collar can be on the outside of the hood if preferred.  The front can fasten with a clasp or ribbon closure or large hook and eye (perfect for men’s cloaks). 

Currently we offer our cloak in wool with a basic cotton lining – though you could choose to upgrade to a printed cotton, linen or silk lining if you prefer.  Though red was “the” color for wool cloaks at the time, a Hidden Dirk cloak is also available in navy blue, lighter blue, green, gray, brown and black. 


You can shop our cloaks, along with our full line of 18th century and Regency clothing for ladies, chidren and men at www.hiddendirk.com.

Trade Fair Season – Sons of Liberty Trade Fair in Jackson, OH

Wanted to take a moment in this post to give a wrap-up of the Sons of Liberty Trade Fair that occured over the past weekend in Jackson, OH.   We were afraid we’d get caught by forecasted nasty weather on our trip down to Canter’s Cave 4-H Camp – but were fortunate enough to miss it.  However, it stormed like crazy over Friday night and we woke up to a thick layer of ice and a level 3 emergancy for Jackson County!  Even the weather didn’t deter the loyal, determined shoppers for the day and we ended up with more than expected guests.  Sunday brought out a nice sized crowd along with slightly warmer weather and “mostly” melted ice.

We were so happy to meet all of those of you who were able to stop by and say hello!  We had a wonderful time, caught up with good pals we hadn’t seen since fall and meet many more new friends.

Almost as the cherry on top of a great weekend – awaiting us when we came home was the unbelievably gorgeous peice of artwork pictured below by one of our patrons, Aalia Zaman of aaliazaman Designs in Chicago.  The photograph doesn’t do it justice and I have no words to truly describe how beautiful it is in person.  Currently, we proudly have it hanging in our office/sewing room…though don’t be surprised to see it at future events!

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With January usually comes the thought of cold winter days and frigid nights here in the Midwest.  However, as I sit here writing this, it’s a balmy 53 and a thunderstorm is rolling through!  Extremely odd January weather for us here in Ohio. Regardless – I have my mind on cloaks this week and we will be viewing a few wonderful extant examples from both the Metropolitan Museum of Art and Colonial Williamsburg for today’s Museum Monday.  We will also be looking at Johnna McEntee’s article on cloaks from her “Into the History” series through  Hidden Dirk Mercantile, 18th Century Clothing Reproductions.

Cloaks were worn by men, women and children in all stations of life – though the materials used and construction could vary dramatically.  Today, we’ll be looking at some of the surviving garments in the collections of Colonial Williamsburg and The Met.  You can see more details from the respective museums descriptions by clicking the links above each picture.

The men’s cloak below is date between 1775-1790 of heavy red wool cloth.

Colonial Williamsburg Cloak – Mens

The short child’s cloak below is date between 1780-1800 made of silk with linen bobbin lace. Notice the little tie at the top of the hood to adjust the fit…almost like a little hoodie!  So precious!

Williamsburg Children’s Cloak

This ladies cloak is dated 1750-1810 made of red wool broadcloth and probably had a silk lining (much like the current replacement).  This garment also mentions a drawstring around the front edge of the hood to draw it closer to the face.

Colonial Williamsburg Ladies Cloak

Although most visions of 18th century cloaks were of a scarlet wool (which were extremely, if not the most, popular) – as evidenced by the above child’s cloak and the sample below, they were also made of a variety of other materials in various colors.  Lace cloaks, like the one below, were particularly popular to wear over silk gowns.

Black lace ladies cloak dated 1760-1775 made of sheer silk gauze.  Listed as a “hooded shoulder mantle”

Colonial Williamsburg Ladies Black Lace Cloak

Though the description through the Met’s website is rather sparse, they date this wool cloak to the last third of the 18th century.  You can see in this example the use of both a collar and hood on the same garment.  How can we ignore the beautiful oversized fur muff as well – instant elegance!

MetMuseum Ladies Cloak and Muff

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Straying a bit from our regular education posts to let you know that we’ll be at the Sons of Liberty Trade Fair this weekend – January 21-22 at the Canter’s Cave 4-H camp in Jackson, OH.

For many of us in the midwest, this will be the first event/trade fair of the year.  For those of you in the South or who are able to travel, you may be currently enjoying the Alafia rendezvous in Florida.  That’s an event that we hope one day to attend! 
If you happen to be near the southwest Ohio area or don’t mind a little drive, we encourage you to stop by the Sons of Liberty Trade Fair.  It’s a smaller fair in the scope of some of the others that we attend, but it has wonderful vendors in a beautiful setting — it’s a great way to start the year! Pre-1840s items including heavily researched and very historically accurate tinware by our friends Kelly and Shay at Hot Dip Tin, guns and accoutrements, native american flutes by Ghost Owl Flutes, stunning glassware from Bushnell Bottles and much more – including our items from Hidden Dirk!  We’ll have some in-stock clothing, beauty items, toys, games, handcrafts and beautiful works of art from Wheeler Woodworking including bible boxes, jewelry and notions boxes.
This starts off our calendar as one of almost 15 events we’ll be attending this year, and we are so excited to get the trade fair season started…that means outdoor rendezvous season is just around the corner for us!  You can view the full list of events that we will be participating in during 2012 here.
We’ll do a brief follow-up on Monday along with our Museum Monday post.  Are you heading to Jackson this weekend? Leave us a comment and let us know, or stop by and visit with us at Canter’s Cave. We certainly hope to see you there!

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