Diana, a Lady of 1830 by Doll Artist Mirren Barrie
Diana, a lady of 1830, by Mirren Barrie is 12” tall and all cloth with a hardened face and hand painted features. Her wire armature enables her to stand unaided. She has embroidery floss hair and a detailed, early Victorian costume accessorized with hat, purse, umbrella and jewelry. Diana and her outfit are entirely sewn by hand.
She was made as the souvenir for the 25th anniversary of NIADA – the National Institute of American Doll Artists – in 1987.
Mirren Barrie was a native of Scotland who lived in Vermont in her later years. She was committed to historical authenticity in her costuming, and under Diana’s skirt is a hidden pocket which holds a piece of paper describing every article of her ensemble. The text reads:
DIANA: NIADA SOUVENIR DOLL FOR 1987, NIADA’S 25TH ANNIVERSARY
If you juggle the letters ‘NIADA’ you will find the name ‘DIANA’ so we have called this souvenir doll, Diana, and dressed her in NIADA’s colors for good measure. She wears a modified 1830’s dress in pure silk ribbon organza. Underwear was often embroidered, quilted and heavily starched. A number of petticoats were worn but Diana’s have been modified to a fancy chemise and one petticoat with a padded hem. This was dictated by the necessity to keep the waist as narrow as possible so the fewer layers in that area the better. Underpants will still not worn by adults but during the following decade they would become a part of the general underwear although there was much opposition and ridicule. They were considered unhealthy.
The emphasis in this costume is placed at the extremes – the hem and the neck and sleeves, all of which were extremely exaggerated, the sleeves being held out by either wire cages or feather pillows. Necks were very low, even to the extent of slipping off the points of the shoulders. Fashions began their careers at this time in the Courts of Britain and France. What the Court ladies wore filtered down through society’s stratas in varying degrees. In Britain, Queen Adelaide who was considered prudish would not allow ladies to attend her parties with very low necklines. Her husband, George IV, however liked ample displays of uncovered female so would not allow ladies to wear high necklines! A garment called a guimpe, rather like a high-necked camisole, was worn under the dress. Diana’s is of silk illusion veiling.
Fragile silk or satin shoes, flat-heeled and held on with ribbon ties round the ankle were often home-made. Ten years earlier in 1820 T. Hancock of Middlesex, England, invented the first elastic fabric with rubber in it. Elastic cloth or webbing as it was called, ultimately replaced the ribbon garters and the ribbon shoe ties. Shawls were very popular. Some were narrow and six yards long needing instruction as to how to drape these gracefully. Among others were the famous Paisley shawls made in the town of Paisley, Scotland. Shawls were to remain fashionable for most of the century.
Jewelry was profuse and heavy but worn only by married women – an indication of their husband’s affluence. The unmarried wore a single string of pearls. However, our Diana is an emancipated woman and wears what she likes! The settings are gold – silver was generally used for mourning jewelry. Accessories were many. Fans, muffs, reticules, parasols and handkerchiefs engaged the often gloved or mittened hands and together with extra long or full scarves and huge hats the 1830 lady must have found a windy day an interesting experience. Diana’s reticule is borrowed from a later period as it was felt to be a better compliment to her costume, – easier to make at a time when seconds were more precious than gold.
Hair styles were probably among the craziest. Hair was arranged in big sausages on either side 0of the face; the back hair was swept up smoothly and it, plus false braids, all oiled or lacquered into loops called Apollo’s Knots, were piled in fantasy on top of the head. Flowers, wheat, ribbons etc., were added. Hats had to be large to cover all this and trims were garish and copious. A silly, amusing and inventive period. 1823 saw E. Mackintosh of Britain patent the first practical process for waterproofing; 1807 B. Sanders of Birmingham, England invented the metal button formed of two disks locked by turning the edges and the shell button with a metal shank. In America Samuel Williston of E. Hampton, Mass, patented a machine to produce cloth covered buttons.
This doll is #194/201 (signed) Mirren Barrie NIADA 1987.
Diana is for sale in my Etsy shop.