Wednesday, July 10, 2013

The Livingstons and Their Fabulous Hats

So I was inspired by this entry in Taylor Shelby's delightful "Hats from History" blog to take stock of some of the fabulous head wear the Livingstons have sported over the years.  Mrs. James Duane (at right) was a daughter of Robert the 3rd Lord.  Painted in 1787, she is proudly wearing an enormous day cap, perched on top of an equally large hairdo.

White day caps made of linen, silk, or occasionally cotton were de riguer  head coverings for women--both wealthy and poor--throughout the 18th century.  They kept the hair clean and were part of creating a fashionable appearance.  They were even kept on under larger hats and bonnets.  They also went through varying styles, and historians like John Styles in Dress of the People have suggested that even poorer women attempted to keep pace with headwear trends.

Above at left is Margaret Beekman Livingston some 45 years earlier around 1742, sporting a much smaller cap with broad and expensive lace trim, possibly a pinner cap, which would have long tails of lace that reached down her back.  At right is Maria Thong Livingston, circa 1764, sporting a small, close-fitting daycap with the lappets tied tightly down around her ears.  The only ornament on the cap from this angle is a narrow ruffle that frames her face.

Catherine Ten Broeck, at left, is portrayed around the same time with a similar cap--lappets, ruffle and all--only hers is adorned with a white ribbon and a bow on top.

During the 1780s and 90s, fashionable caps got very big like Mrs. Duane's that we saw at the beginning of this blog entry.  For instance, check out this fabulous 1785 mob cap from  Dames a la Mode blog.   To me when they get this big, they start to look a bit like some sort of wild confectionery on the head.

Even Margaret Beekman, who was nearing 70 by this time, was willing to experiment with larger day caps.  Note, in her 1793 Gilber Stuart portrait, how much higher the caul (or the large part that covers the hair) stands off her head much than the caps of 30 years earlier.  Her ruffle has also become more elaborate, requiring a finer fabric and an extra row of stitches to hold it in place--though she still has her lappets tied tightly under her chin.

If puffy caps were fashionable, Margaret Beekman Livingston was not going to be left behind the times. 

Sadly, I only have one example of a Livingston in a hat (as opposed to a cap) from this time period. That's Sarah Livingston Jay, portrayed as right circa 1780s.  Straw hats were popular for long before Sarah picked them up, but she did wear hers with style.  Love that big gauze-y tie under her chine, and the puffs around the crown.  They remind me of the puffs of giant mob caps seen in earlier images.

Moving into the early 19th century, the Livingstons continued to experiment with their caps and hats.  In my opinion the best ever worn by any Livingston anywhere is that of Margaret Maria Livingston in her circa 1802-1807 portrait:

Turbans! Yes, turbans came into vogue during the early 19th century.  Check out Alice Swift Livingston in her stylish version in 1810:

 Even Sarah Johnson Livingston in 1800 was experimenting with an early version:

Not that the good old white day cap was ever totally cast aside.  Sarah Livingston Livingston, at right in 1806, kept her modest little cap with no more grandiose ornament than a simple ribbon cockade and soft, draping ruffle (that makes her look quite dour, unfortunately).

And then there's Joanna Livingston Van Cortlandt at left.  her cap could almost have come from the previous century.  (As an interesting side note A Portrait of Livingston Manor suggests that this portrait is posthumous from a wax profile done in the 1790s).

At least for portraiture and evening, more women also left their hair unadorned with more than fancy curls during this time period.  Check out Angelica at right around 1815.  Angelica's aunt Alida Livingston Armstrong (seen below) elected instead to go with long strings of pearls wrapped around her forehead instead of risk looking unkempt in her portrait a few years earlier.

There were many other styles of headwear during this time period (keep scrolling through either of Taylor Shelby's blogs I linked to above for delightful examples), but the Livingston women seem to have stuck with the above options--at least for their portraits.  Who knows what they wore every day since I have so little in the costume collection that dates back this far.

Pushing forward into the next few decades of the 19th century, the Livingston ladies were portrayed in some more really fabulous headwear.  I love this one of Judith Livingston, at left, in 1825.  She appears to be wearing something between a turban and the frilly, frilly daycaps that came into popularity for the next few decades.

Then there's dear Louise Livingston in 1827, sporting a large straw hat, ornamented with lots of flowers and ribbons.  There are even more flowers under the hat on a ribboned ornament in her hair itself.

 My second favorite hat in the Livingston family portraits is this one on Helen Livingston Ten Broeck in 1832.  This is another giant confection of hearwear, and I love the way the ribbons on it also match the one at her neck.  My only regret about this image is that the artist apparently thought it was too big to bother squeezing all the way into the portrait.  Boo.  I'd love to see what the top of it looked like.

Later in the 19th century, decorative bonnets really came into their own.  Frilled out with silk, lace, flowers, and ribbons, the style was dependent upon the size of the brim and the shape with which it flared out.  I love this little example from mid century.  (Sadly, this image was in a box of unidentified photos so I don't know who this pretty little girl is)  There aren't too many examples of these in my collections, but I do like to keep my eye out.

But bonnets were not the only hats out there.  Hats came in all sorts of sizes and shapes, like these at left from the 1860s (note those feathers on the one at left).  One appears to be straw, the other is felt or velvet.  Livingston women would have had the buying power to purchase from New York City shops, getting some of the most fashionable things available at the time.  Some who traveled abroad may even have been able to choose from the peak of European fashions--France or England. 

I like this one too: a men's wear inspired hat meant to go with her riding habit.

 The next best records I have of Livingston hats comes from Alice Livingston, who lived at Clermont in the early 20th century.  She left behind plenty of images of her childhood, and most of them include excellent millinery.

For instance, this one taken in the late1880s with her sister Adelaide.  Love the feathers!

And here she is again a couple years earlier (don't miss those bangs!):

This 1892 image features Alice in a glamorously-adorned straw hat, and her friend in something much plainer.

But truly Alice's best hats were from the early 20th century.  Hats of the period again went through a Really Big! stage, and Alice was not immune to the whims of the fashion.  Here she is on honeymoon in Egypt: 

Alice wore lots of big hats.  At right is a portrait taken (also on honeymoon) in France in 1906.  That ostrich feather is truly massive, and may possibly come from a few feathers piled together to build enough bulk.  Some hats from the period featured entire taxidermied birds perched atop them, though the practice proved ecologically devastating.  I can't imagine traveling around Europe with all those big hat boxes.  It must have been quite a pile of luggage.

I also love this picture from when Alice returned from her honeymoon: all decked out to go walk her baby in the snow around Clermont in 1909.

Then come the 1910s, and Alice left me little good material for that time period.  I think she put all of her big effort into dressing the children.  There are lots of pictures of her two daughters in matching hats (and matching dresses for that matter), like this one at left from around 1916.

Alice, like many modern mothers I think, seems to have found herself behind the camera a lot more than she was in front of it, but I did find this one of her watering her garden in Aiken, South Carolina around 1916 or 17.

Hats had shrunk down again by this time, and they were not too far off from modern proportions.  There are a lot tilted down brims that gave women and girls a slightly wilted look, like Honoria at left.

By the time Honoria and Janet were in their teens, it was the 1920s, and hats became frequently very close fitting.  I like these exotic little things, photographed in Italy between 1922 and 1925.

And then there's Honoria in what appears to be a turban (the return of the turban!) just a few years later.  

And then in the very late 1920s or 1930, we see the image we're all more familiar with of a very close-fitting little cloche style hat.

So that's about two centuries of the Livingstons and their hats.  I love the shifting cycle of small to large and back again.  Each style is an integral part of the overall aesthetic of their clothing, and it's an important part of recreating the era.

Clermont is working on our reproduction hat collection, and these hats appear at important costumed events like the Fall Fete: A Regency Tea Party (coming up on Sept. 28th, 2013 at Vanderpoel House of History).

While hats have largely disappeared from both men's and women's heads over the past 30 years, they used to be a requirement of proper dress.  So what do you think?  Was it just one more accessory that made us slaves to fashion, or should we bring hats back to everyday fashion?

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