Sunday, January 8, 2012

Mansfield Snark plus Ambitions of the Sewing Sort

I do not profess to be a hard-core Austenite like many of my esteemed comrades in the Chicks Writin' About Historical Fashion Club, but I like the lady. Truthfully, I had not read the entirety of a Jane Austen novel until a year ago. But rest assured, the gates of Heaven opened, rays of sunlight fell upon my face and a chorus of Angels droned enthusiastically in refrain when I finally did my duty and read Northanger Abbey.

And WHAT a great book! I have been utterly conquered. Love of La Austen delivered me to the many movie adaptations in addition to the novels themselves. While the hardest to watch is a dead heat between Persuasion (2007) and Mansfield Park (Billie Piper, 2007), I have to say that in general, Mansfield Park seems to make a more wretched movie. Most of the adaptations of that novel are awkward and the heroines vacillate between insipid and unlikable. Internet consensus among the blogs and websites I've trolled seems to agree.

Billie Piper: Freakiest Maw in Show Business. Here, she seems to be thinking "What IS this that's going on with my teeth??" Photo courtesy of Wiki.

Naturally I assumed that I'd hate Mansfield Park the book as much as I failed to enjoy the films. When presented with the opportunity to do a semester-long project on the book for an English class this past semester, I agreed. It was perhaps the only way that I'd get around to reading the book. And read it I did. Over, and over and over again. (Oh, how I do NOT miss you, Lit. Theory)

But shockingly, I liked it. And not only did I enjoy the book, I really liked Fanny Price. Sure, she's no quirky little Catherine Morland, but she is a powerful character. She's funny, sweet and she has a sharp wit when needed. The most common assault on Fanny seems to relate to her inability to think for herself, yet more than any other Austen heroine, she does just that. The subtlety and wry nature of her intelligence and wit are evidenced in her ability to annoy her Aunt Norris in spite of seemingly agreeing with everything the older woman says.

And more than that, one gets the impression that Jane Austen herself perhaps appreciated the physical and social limitations of a character like Fanny Price. Fanny shared some of Jane's own life experiences and strongly reflects elements of Jane's brothers and sisters as well. If Fanny is to be ridiculed for failing to claim what she wanted whenever she wanted it, then ALL of Jane Austen's heroines should be equally ridiculed. Even that hallowed bastion of Pride and Prejudice, Elizabeth Bennet didn't announce or follow her intentions and desires outright. Furthermore, unlike Elizabeth, Fanny didn't waste a moment in pondering her heart's desire. She always knew her own heart.

The above soap-box is all to say that I plan to earn my Historical Fashion Blogging chops this year and make the ubiquitous Regency dress. I've never made one before. This isn't the first project on the horizon, though. For the year I must:

*  Finish all of the Jehossee stuff. (Due within a few weeks. Tick. Tick. Tick...)

*  Make an English round gown (or something equally excellent) for a symposium on 18th century fashion I'm supposed to participate in.

*  Finish my beloved linen and cane stays, which have languished for nearly six months without binding or attached lining. Based on these, which are my favorite stays ever in the history of the world:

Philadelphia Museum of Art. 1725-1750.

*  Make another couple of 18th century petticoats because I've got the fabric and it needs to be evicted from the stash.

*  Make an 18th century quilted petticoat. (I eagerly anticipate the day that the roll of wool batting is no longer in my closet, seducing moths.)

*  Make a more accurate Civil War dress and perhaps a few accessories to wear for 150th Anniversary events around town.

 Metropolitan, Costume Institute. 1860.

*  Make a bloody Civil War era corset. WOW do I ever need to do this. One more turn at a battlefield in my clearance rack Victoria's Secret finery and I may have to call it quits. For those interested, YES, it's possible for a corset to wear out. Just like a bra. Only worse and with more poking.

*  And waaaay down here is a lovely little Regency gown. I purchased some window-checked silk a year or more ago that is destined for this dress. I plan to practice putting it all together before I cut into the silk. My dry run will hopefully yield  a second, simpler frock. It shall be rendered of a reasonably passable roller print-style cotton.

 Metropolitan Museum of Art, Costume Institute on both of these. 1804-1814.

And then there's the little issue of having no undergarments for Regency fashions. Hmm...

1 comment:

  1. The blue/grey wool stays at the Philadelphia Museum are my favorites stays too!