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Thursday, November 10, 2011

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF POPULAR COSTUME IN PORTUGAL- late 18th to early 19th century

Although the Regency period is one of my favourites in terms of fashion, what I found didn't helped me at all in my own personal re-enactment, socially speaking, and just to take for granted what other re-enactors do and copying them is not what I call re-enactment. It then all becomes a vicious cycle and suffers from the same evil as the bible: A load of interpretations of what really happened.
And now that I'm starting to re-enact a new time period and knowing myself the way I know, all sorts of questions started to rise, being one of them the understanding of female clothing in Portugal during the French invasions.
It wasn't easy to find books that would have information just on 20 to 30 years of Portuguese history, specially on lower class' clothing and yet I found one that took away my doubts. I wished only that it had patterns but life isn't perfect.
The book I'm talking about is sort of a relic from 1924 and I had to ask for special permission to view it and couldn't take scans, pictures or copies of it. So, I took notes and, thank the gods, some of the pictures are in one of the books I have at home. The name is “Trajo popular em Portugal nos séculos XVIII e XIX” (Popular Costume in Portugal from the 18th and 19th centuries) by Alberto Souza and the pictures I took from “História da vida privada em Portugal na Idade Moderna” (History of private life in Portugal in the Modern Ages) by José Mattoso.
As I said a few lines back, my wish was to find examples of clothing of lower classes, but what I got was a whole different range of knowledge of Portuguese fashion: the typical regency dressing, the one that we automatically think of, the high waisted dressing, isn't what the big majority of Portuguese population wore!
What I found out that even some entitled people, some nobles from the countryside wore exactly the same as the rest of the folk, only in better quality fabric and brighter and richer colours and accessories. That was the case of some of the Fidalguia (please read earlier post on this social class) that I was writing about on an earlier post.
So, what this means is that only high status people wore what was fashionable in England – the regency fashion.
One interesting detail that I found out is that with the French invasions a new trend appeared: women would start to use top hats embellished with plumes that the British soldiers would have. And even after the French invasions, this trend became a very fashionable for some ladies to wear.


Lithography from a Portuguese Fidalga from North of Portugal, 1828.

Another thing that was characteristic of the pictures and explanations I saw was about Portuguese culture: Regionalism affected certain aspects of fashion and what you would see in the Minho region, for example, you wouldn't find in Alentejo.



Portuguese peasants: On the left from Alentejo; on the right from the Beiras., by James Murphy in "Travels in Portugal, 1797. Same picture found in the book I've mentioned.

And last but not least, fashion hadn't changed much in the coming years. Even in the 1820's (what many would describe as the romantic era) Portuguese women would still be wearing what they did before, with few changes. That's why I'll be posting some lithographies of that decade to exemplify better some of the topics written below.
The following descriptions are generalized ones, of what everyone would wear, not taking in account a lot of those regionalisms and specially nothing to do with classical regency.



Skirts
Skirts would be, broadly speaking, made in one colour, preferably dark, and yet we can find some variables, like using a different colour fabric at the bottom, or as personal taste or to save money on fabric.
Stripes, called de indiana (this meaning from India and not Indians) were also used, just as skirts embellished with all sorts of ribbons sewn in or just embroideries, both at the bottom of the skirt.
It was very common, fashion or work wise to lift the front of the skirt and tuck it under the skirts waistband.
Women would also use use a pocket, a bag at the side to keep money and other items.



Washerwoman, by Henry L'Évêque in "Portuguese costumes", 1814. One can see that her skirt is striped and that she wears a pocket.



Shifts
Made out of white fabric, mostly linen, or cotton and flannel but I could find one shift with stripes. They were always buttoned up until the neck line, not revealing to much. The shift we see being used in other countries like France or England weren't used by Portuguese women, at least not on the images I saw, always linked to the catholic puritan notions of what popper was.
What I couldn't find out is the length of the shifts, but I assume that, opposite of a chemise, the woman's shift would come as far as the ankles.


Bodices
From 1790 onwards, these were the bodices used, short-stays and similar. Most of them didn't had a low neckline. If they would be a bit more revealing the shift or scarf would cover it up. Not to forget, Portugal was very catholic!
Laced, buttoned or with hooks&eyes. The buttons commonly used were little ones made out of the rests of fabric.
One of the pictures of the book had a woman in a pink bodice.
And even slaves used bodices.




















On the left, picture of a slave taking out the "night vase", drawing by Félix Doumet, and on the right a lithography by João Palhares, 1820's, of a fishseller from.



Jackets
Came in all shapes, colours and sizes. With long sleeves, fitted and in one colour. If the front would be deep, the same happened as with the bodices, it would be covered up.
The collars would also vary: round, edged, short, wide, etc. The length of the jacket would hit the waist or could be a bit longer, with tabs.
In all the pictures I could find there seems to be one common idea. 3 different colours would be used at the same time: Skirt in one colour, bodice in a different one and the jacket in a 3rd.
Even if they would be made of one strong, preferably dark, colour their sleeve edges and collars could be different. I found a description of a sleeve ending with a canhão (cannon), but couldn't find out what that means.
I also found a striped jacket in this book.

Peasants dancing, drawing in James C. Murphy's book "Travels in Portugal", 1797. Same picture found in the book I've mentioned.



Petticoats
Not only white linen petticoats were used but also cotton and flannel ones in very bright colours in contrast of the colour of the skirt. Yellow, red, blue, blue stripes,etc.
Women that worked would usually lift the skirt so it wouldn't get dirty but soon it became a way to show-of the petticoat (an undergarment!) and that's why these would be made out of strong colours. Some were plain when it comes to sewing techniques but others had pleats, embroideries or were embellished with ribbons. Ribbons would also be used for embroidery on the petticoats. I'm not sure about this but I had the impression that there would be 2 petticoats used to give more volume.



Scarves
The ones used on the head would usually be white or whitish (always in a very light colour). They would fall off the shoulders and would be tied in a knot at the ends or wrapped around the neck. I found descriptions of head scarves being made out of white muslin.
The way scarves would be tied up on the head was also a way to see from which region that women came.
When there wasn't a head scarf then other scarves would be used to cover it, like the ones that would be rapped around shoulders and torso. These came in all lengths and colours (strong colours) and would be tied in all forms and fashions. The most usual way would be around the shoulders, crossing at the front and tucked under the skirt's waistband. Also striped fabric was used for scarves and one of the pictures of the time had a woman with light pinks stripes on her scarf.


http://saloia.blogspot.com/search/label/len%C3%A7o%20portugu%C3%AAs
(the scarves are not Regencyanymore but can give a good idea of how prints were)


Aprons
Used mostly to spare the skirt from dirt but what I could also see in the images is that the skirt would be lifted, as described earlier, and the apron would cover the petticoat. And they came in different colours. I believe that the idea was to impress through colour.
Shoes and stockings
The pictures showed shoes with heels and some had big satin bows, with a strap over the foot that would fasten at the side with a button or shoes with buckles. This doesn't mean that every Portuguese woman had shoes, in fact many would walk barefoot specially related to the type of work they did, like fishmongers. Others would use slippers (specially in North of Portugal, the Minho region) or Portuguese clogs or had wooden soles on their shoes.
Even fishmongers would wear stockings that came as high as the thighs, some that didn't had a knitted foot (only a tube that would end at the ankle), but hard work and warm weather would mean that many lower class people wouldn't wear stockings.



Capes, hats and hoods
Big hooded capes in black felt, like the ones still used today in the folklore of the Azores islands, simple cloaks and other capes were used to keep rain or the cold away. Some of the hats used were also made of black felt with round brims that would slightly fold inwards and I found this extraordinary hat/hood that I've never seen before (picture below) made of black velvet and lined with coloured linen.
Of course, with the invasions several hat fashions emerged, being the most famous one the stove pipe hat worn by women from North of Portugal many time embellished with a plume from English soldiers. How they got it, you can use your imagination.



A city woman from Porto, 1828.

Religious items
As said before, Catholicism integrated Portuguese society. So, to wear religious items was not only common but also expected. Rosaries or golden crosses hanging from golden necklace around the neck. Women would make rosaries out of pinions and sell them on the streets.
As a conclusion of all what was said above I'll post an image of Racine'ts Book “Le Costume Historique” that shows how Portuguese fashion was like. It even shows a partisan (2nd woman of the left).

Different depictions of the Portuguese population: Peasants working and going to religious festivities, middle class women and clergimen. "Le Costume Historique" by Auguste Racinet.

3 comments:

lobomarco said...

Thanks for writing this. I'm also interested in Portuguese culture. Maybe you'd like to visit my blog too: http://lobomarco.wordpress.com/

secrets said...

Can you help me identify the date of an antique buffet I recently purchased? I was told that it came from a castle in portugual. It has a man carved in the wood with a costume that I think will identify if it was made in portugual and possibly what century. I wld need to send a pic.

Sara Seydak said...

Sorry, cannot help you further, with or without picture. Perhaps you should write to a Portuguese museum or similar and ask for help. Try the museum of classical arts in Lisbon: http://www.museudearteantiga.pt/

If it truly comes from a castle in Portugal, I am very sorry to hear that. Between the same king we shared with Spain for 3 generations, the French Invasions and the British allies, not a lot was left in Portugal when they all returned home. And the worst is that the Portuguese governement never made any efforts to get it back.
Would you not consider a donation of that buffet? Perhaps later in life, after you enjoyed it a bit?