Describing the Dolmanette of Ivory Brocade Silk and Chenille Fringe, 1884

 Describing the Dolmanette of Ivory Brocade Silk and Chenille Fringe, 1884

 Erin Bernard

Part I. The Object Itself

A soft and silky ivory jacket with a fuzzy-looking fringe hangs on the clothing rack and as the Costume Collection graduate assistant cautiously grasps the hanger to move it, there is little sound.  The jacket is too plush to swish or crunch as the garment is moved to the table for review.  No smell is noticed.  The fringe looks slightly-yellowed, but the jacket still has a pristine, almost regal look, the brocade on the silk still finely defined.  It nearly shimmers.  As the jacket is opened, the interior too looks hardly-worn, slippery.  Special.  Like holiday clothes worn just once.

This dolmanette is a jacket styled for a female to wear to a formal occasion, quilted with batting to keep warm in the winter and early spring season.  No exact weight was taken.  It seemed about the weight of a current female winter pea coat.  The measurements were 35” in length, 18”across the shoulders, 62” bottom wingspan.  Because this coat is like a mantle with plenty of room to drape for stylistic purposes, these measurements do not offer insight on the exact size of the object’s wearer.

 The dolmanette features ivory brocade on the silk material of the jacket.  It has chenille fringe along the collar and exterior seams, including the back. The interior features quilted silk with batting within to add warmth.  The craftsman of this dolmanette is unknown, but both American and European designers made such dolmans.  The seams of the interior quilting were done with machine.  This is a finely-made dolman.  Other than some yellowing, specifically of the fringe, this dolman seems to be in excellent shape.  There were no noted places of wear or missing ornamentations.  The origin of the dolmanette is currently unknown,but similar pieces from the 1884 time period were made both in America and in Europe.1

According to the Drexel Historic Costume Collection’s records, this piece was owned and worn by Miss Rosalie Hassler, sister to Music Director Mark Hassler.  She is attributed to have worn this jacket to the opening of the Metropolitan Opera at the Academy of Music on March 14, 1884.2  However, according to the records of the Metropolitan Opera, the date of their opening at the Academy of Music, as opposed to past performances at the Chestnut Street Opera House, was April 14, 1884 with a performance of Les Huguenots.3  In fact, on March 14, 1884, the Metropolitan Opera Company’s online archives pinpoint a performance of Martha in New York City,4 making the date listed in the Drexel Historic Costume Collection to be impossible, if Rosalie did indeed attend a performance by the Metropolitan Opera in Philadelphia at the Academy of Music.  Further investigation on this date discrepancy will be done with hopeful research at the Academy of Music and also the Historical Society of Philadelphia’s archives of Academy of Music program notes, pending the ability to do so.   Further research also needs to be done on Ms. Hassler herself, who from preliminary investigation, seems to have come from a prominent German and possibly Jewish family of Philadelphia which was very involved in music.5

This dolman would have been priced between $22 to $44 depending on whether or not it was imported, who designed it, and the quality of the silk.6  The ticket cost of Les Huguenots was $6.7 Current appraisal rates for such dolmans are still to be discovered.

Part II. The Intellectual Connotations of the Object

Intellectual Analysis

Miss Rosalie Hassler is the determined owner of this cloak per the records of the Drexel Historic Costume Collection.  The designer could have been someone like Emile Pingat, though it is not likely his specific handiwork.  When researching designers of dolmans and opera cloaks, Emile Pingat8 immediately sticks out because he was a couture outerwear designer who created many opera cloaks in Paris.  Because of the class level associated with this item, Ms. Hassler most likely had assistance in dressing for her evening at the opera, but more research will be done to verify that conclusion.

The dolmanette is essentially a coat.  Compared to female coats today, it is similar to a lined swing dress coat.  In comparison to other dolman jackets of the period found through the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s website, the piece seems to exemplify a few noticeable trends including printed silk fabric with slit in back to rest over the dress bustle.  It also is notable that the fringe on the silk dolmans of the 1880s have a more feathery look, ranging in fabrics from chenille to silk to fur.  The 1880s dolmans also feature elaborate fringe on the collar area.  The Ivory brocade sets our dolmanette apart from the darker rose-printed ones of the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s collection. 9

Pingat’s work in the 1882-1887 time period featured ivory, fringe, and in the later of those years, fur.  Arguably, Miss Hassler was quite the fashionista for her time because her dolmanette is ivory like the fashion-forward Pingat’s dolman of 1885.10 More research will be done on this topic. This object is definitively high class, and when examining the trends in other dolman jackets and opera cloaks of the time period, ivory looks to be a forward-fashion color in 1884.  The fringe also would have been a fashion statement.  These forward-thinking trends suggest this object to be a use of personal style, but also power, a statement of high class prominence.  This makes sense when thinking this lady was the sister of a Music Director attending the premier of an opera from New York in a new opera house.

The last Intellectual Analysis question posed in the methodology framework for the dolmanette has proved difficult to answer, but more work will be done to determine these factors. (What are the Cause and Effect of Behaviors Associated with Object? What happened to the environment and people as they made this object and distributed it?)  What we do know is that the piece was most likely purchased via catalogue, department store, or directly from a designer in America or abroad.

Empathetic Interaction

This section is still being constructed, but a vignette, much like the opening vignettes of In Small Things Forgotten: An Archaeology of Early American Life by James Deetz, about Miss Hassler’s entrance and seating in the Academy of Music at the beginning of the opera is being researched and worded with care.

Part III. Make a hypothesis.

                It is difficult to say exactly what I expect to argue about Miss Rosalie Hassler’s dolmanette at this time because there is still much to discover about her, the dolmanette itself, and the performance at which she wore it.  From the research I have uncovered at this time, there is a suspected element of class restriction and power to the society of music in Philadelphia during the 1880s.

Because the dolmanette of Miss Rosalie Hassler seems to be an expensive article of clothing, I expect, as unbiased as I can be, that there will be an element of power in the style of this particular dolman, especially if the color ivory and the trendiness of the fringe is as exclusive and new as it seems from other dolmans of the time period.  How miss Rosalie Hassler was exerting her power, as a woman, as an integral part of musical society, as a Jewish person in Philadelphia, I am not yet sure.  Was what Miss Hassler was wearing to this opening somehow more special or different from other women at the same event?  How do their differences and similarities in dress frame these women in society, in Philadelphia music culture, and in America 1884?  These are things I would like to understand more fully to devise a thesis with clarity and direct purpose.

To go out on a limb, I’ll say that Miss Rosalie Hassler used the dolmanette as an object of style and power to exert herself a place within the musical culture of Philadelphia in the 1880s.  Essentially, the ticket to the opera was not her admission to society; the dolmanette was the object of inclusion.  Let the true exploration commence.

Notes

1Coat (Dolman). The Metropolitan Museum of Art. http://www.metmuseum.org/Collections/search-the-collections/80035661?rpp=20&pg=1&ft=dolman&pos=6, 14, 17, 19, 22, 28, 32. (accessed September 16, 2012)

2Judy Patterson. “Unknown 180: 68.5.1,” in the Historic Costume Collection of Drexel University. (accessed September 10, 2012).

3 “Nilsson and Scalchi in “The Huguenots,” in the Philadelphia Press. [Met Performance] CID:2410. Les Huguenots {3} Academy of Music, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: 04/14/1884. http://archives.metoperafamily.org/archives/frame.htm (accessed September 13, 2012).

4 “Metropolitan Opera House Review,” in The New York Times. [Met Performance] CID:2220. Martha {5} Metropolitan Opera House: 03/14/1884. http://archives.metoperafamily.org/archives/frame.htm (accessed September 13, 2012).

5 “Philadelphia Composers and Music Publishers: Mark Hassler (1834-1906),” in University of Pennsylvania’s Special Collections: Keffer Collection of Sheet Music, ca. 1790-1895. http://www.library.upenn.edu/collections/rbm/keffer/hassler.html. (accessed September 14, 2012).

6 John E. Kaughran & Co. John E. Kaughran & Co.’s Illustrated Catalogue, Fall and Winter, 1884-85, 1884 from the Smithsonian Libraries Image Collection. http://www.sil.si.edu/imagegalaxy/imagegalaxy_imageDetail.cfm?id_image=12535  (accessed September 14, 2012).

7 “Nilsson and Sclachi in “The Huguenots,” in the Philadelphia Press. 4/14/1884. http://archives.metoperafamily.org/archives/frame.htm

8 Rachel. “Emile Pingat,” Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising Museum Blog. http://blog.fidmmuseum.org/museum/2009/09/emile-pingat.html (accessed September 16, 2012).

9Coat (Dolman). The Metropolitan Museum of Art. http://www.metmuseum.org/Collections/search-the-collections/80035661?rpp=20&pg=1&ft=dolman&pos=6, 14, 17, 19, 22, 28, 32. (accessed September 16, 2012)

10 “Jacket: Emile Pingat.”  The Victorian Albert. http://collections.vam.ac.uk/item/O128007/jacket-emile-pingat/ (accessed September 16, 2012)

Bibliography

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Kaughran, John E. & Co. John E. Kaughran & Co.’s Illustrated Catalogue, Fall and Winter, 1884-85, 1884 from the Smithsonian Libraries Image Collection.              http://www.sil.si.edu/imagegalaxy/imagegalaxy_imageDetail.cfm?id_image=12535               (accessed September 14, 2012).

“Metropolitan Opera House Review,” in The New York Times. [Met Performance] CID:2220Martha {5} Metropolitan Opera House: 03/14/1884. http://archives.metoperafamily.org/archives/frame.htm (accessed September 13, 2012).

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Patterson, Judy. “Unknown 180: 68.5.1,” in the Historic Costume Collection of Drexel University. (accessed September 10, 2012).

“Philadelphia Composers and Music Publishers: Mark Hassler (1834-1906),” in the University of Pennsylvania’s Special Collections: Keffer Collection of Sheet Music, ca. 1790-1895. http://www.library.upenn.edu/collections/rbm/keffer/hassler.html.                                                    (accessed September 14, 2012).

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Steele, Valerie. “A Museum of Fashion is More Than a Clothes-Bag,” in Fashion Theory 2, 1998: 327-336.

 

 

 

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