Painted Ladies

I collect postcards of lovely ladies.  When I consider a purchase, I only ask two things of them:  that they be, of course, lovely and that they be hand-tinted.  I've seen a couple from the 1890's – a woman in bed, wearing a sheer dressing gown and smoking an ornately carved opium pipe – but most that I own are from 1905-1915.  The ones from the 1920's on are painted too garishly…but the earlier ones must have been colored with brushes made of feathers.

This brings me to a book I once had.  It was a very scholarly treatment of the revolution in women's fashions during the beginning of the 20th century.  But it was VERY scholarly.  And the illustrations were infrequent and inconclusive.

So I got rid of it.

But some of the dresses were so very fetching, and I felt badly about never seeing them again.  So, I scissored them out, and decided to try my hand at hand-coloring them.    I was always curious about trying this, but would never attempt this on an authentic postcard.

Water-color was a washout.  I didn't have a subtle enough hand.  So out came the big guns, and I layered those poor women with poster-paint. 

These outfits are probably from around 1912, all inspired by the wonder and color of the Ballets Russes.  Clothes were bright, exotic and patterned.  Strands of pearls were wrapped, draped and hung:

Smoky-eyed and wearing harem pants, turbans, slippers with a jester's curled toes, twisted and coiled feathers and tent-like tunics…women were suddenly comfortable and cast new silhouettes. 

And the designer who cast the longest shadow during this time was Paul Poiret.   His wife would model his clothes:

And his parties would reflect the new designs.  One of them, "The Thousand And Second Night", required all guests to dress in 'Eastern'-style wardrobe.  For anyone improperly dressed, there was a closetful of his own creations for the agitator to change into. 

Who would have ever thought they'd ever see Sherazade take a walk down the Rue de Paix?  

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11 responses to “Painted Ladies

  1. I want several Tunic Lit lol……I love color and flowing things

  2. I love the old and retouched photos. There is a pencil made for retouching called Marshall's retouch Pencils. You color lightly with the pencil but if you want high drama you may use their solution and blend. I have a great picture fom the 40's of my mom in her first jazzy outfit with a face that could have been painted by an angel. Subtle color. I do love the Arabian influences from way back when I had 2 big Nubian heads with turbans and you plant ferns in them. Lost them along the way but I know my great Aunt had them and she was pushing a hundred when she gave then to me.Imagine having the where-with-all to keep your own costume closet in case a guest shows up under dressed,lol. The parties must've been quite an event.

  3. [this is stunning] Great job with the paints! These look lovely. I so wish I could join them for a party in costume. How fun that would be.

  4. Ahn…. I love these posts!

  5. another very enjoyable post!

  6. Can you imagine going from the corset/laces/stays/heels into "Tunic Lit"?No wonder the ladies loved M. Poiret's clothes.

  7. Nicely painted and nicely written. I like the first one the best, but all of them are visually interesting. Poster paint turned out to be a good choice. You might even consider taking them to Staples or Kinkos or whatever copy center you have around and turn them into postcards.

  8. The first two remind me of Theda Bara

  9. Renee – great idea! There's a Wilcopy about two blocks from the palatial Aubrey Apartments.
    SubH – Theda and the Ballets were comtemporaries – early teens of the 20th century…I love the vamps: all dark eyed and dangerous.

  10. This is a day late and a dollar short but think camel hair brushes.

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