How Many Grails Are There?

Lily Auguste was created in 1867. I have decided. 

Since she’s a grand 29”, exhibition-size fashion doll on a luxury wooden body, I want to believe that she was created for the 1867  International Exposition in Paris.  That’s my story and I’m sticking to it. 

I have collected books

and magazine annuals (or archives) from that year for costume inspiration. 

So far, I have collected three annuals (bound compilations of an entire year of magazines):  Arthur’s Magazine, Peterson’s Magazine and , most recently, Lady’s Friend. All from 1867, all published in Philadelphia, PA, USA, and all purchased on eBay. 

Hopefully, I’ll eventually be able to find some original French source material.

This black and white fashion illustration that I found in Arthur’s, dated April, 1867, really caught my attention.  The description reads:  “Dress of steel-colored silk, open at every breadth, disclosing an under-skirt of rich blue silk. Each breadth is richly embroidered in blue silk, and trimmed with a quilling of ribbon. The corsage is embroidered to suit the skirt, and finished with a wide blue belt, fastened with a steel buckle. The hat is of gray straw, trimmed with a long and full blue feather.”

It stuck with me but I wasn’t sure I liked the idea of so much steel grey for a doll costume. I thought I’d probably choose white or cream, or maybe even a pale gray to be closer to the original, instead. Do I dare to reinterpret how this dress was supposed to be made?

Lady’s Friend arrived just last weekend and I was surprised to recognize the same dress, dated March, 1867, with a different description:  “Spring Walking Suit.—Short skirt of blue silk. Casaque Polonaise of white mohair, ornamented with white silk embroidery, and edged with a ruche of blue ribbon. Blue waistband with pearl buckle. Hat of white straw, with a long blue feather. Parasol of white silk, with blue silk lining.”

I love the Oxford commas!  

When I read the descriptions, I felt like I was doing one of those “can you spot the differences?” puzzles. 

Since the illustration was published one month earlier in Lady’s Friend, did Arthur’s copy it and change the description slightly?  Or did they both receive a black and white fashion plate from Paris and guess the colors?  Did each editor impose their own taste when describing the dress?  Did the same artist work for both magazines?

Instead of, “who wore it best?”, we get to decide, “who described it best?”  Yes, I do realize that it’s the same dress and only some of the materials and colors are different. But finding this sure made me happy. 

It’s going to be be fun to try to find more examples of this phenomenon in the annuals. 

In striving for historical accuracy when recreating costumes, we pore over every detail in an original, period source. We tend to assume that the source we have found is the holy grail on the subject and we study every nuance. But, maybe there’s more than one grail? 

Whadda ya think?


How Many Grails Are There? — 4 Comments

  1. Welcome back! I think we get to be as creative as those long-ago ladies who may not have had access to the fabrics as they were described or maybe they just hated steel gray! After all, they would not have wanted to be seen in an exact copy of a dress worn by another woman!

  2. The literature surrounding the Grail can be divided into two groups. The first concerns King Arthur’s knights visiting the Grail castle or questing after the object. The second concerns the Grail’s history in the time of Joseph of Arimathea . The nine works from the first group are: Perceval, the Story of the Grail by Chrétien de Troyes.
    Holy Grail – Wikipedia

  3. She’s BIG! Just like Irmie and many of the girls here in the home circle. And if she tells you she has hewn from the heart of a tree and fired in a kiln in 1867, then you’d better listen and believe her! Our girls don’t all have loud voices but they speak to our hearts in the best way they know how. So you must believe what she’s telling you. Dolls are pure of heart.

  4. Lily is absolutely wonderful. There is no rule that says she cant have multiple version of thesame dress..seasonal changes..fabrics, colours etc…