I-43752.1 | Mrs. William Easton as "A Turkish Lady," Montreal, QC, 1870

Mrs. William Easton as "A Turkish Lady," Montreal, QC, 1870
William Notman (1826-1891)
1870, 19th century
Silver salts on paper mounted on paper - Albumen process
17.8 x 12.7 cm
Purchase from Associated Screen News Ltd.
© McCord Museum
Keywords:  female (19035) , Photograph (77678) , portrait (53878)
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Keys to History

Mrs. Easton attended the skating carnival as "A Turkish Lady." Like Mr. Holland's "Ali Baba" costume, hers is pure fabrication. For women, the appeal of such costumes was heavily based on the commonly held belief of the greater sexual permissiveness of the exotic "other." A fancy dress advice manual recommended that the darkly mysterious was a good choice for a woman: "If . . . she has the liquid eye that speaks the flirtatious soul . . . [she] may be quite irresistible: for always the unknown allures."

In such costumes women flouted several conventions of respectable female dress. Here the hair, normally worn up, is left long and loose. This colourful costume was adorned with a great deal of jewellery, which would have seemed ostentatious and in very bad taste in any other situation. A still greater departure from the norms of dress can be seen on close examination of Mrs. Easton's hemline; she is wearing very full "Turkish" trousers, though she has almost hidden them from view.

Mrs. Aria, comp., Costume: Fanciful, Historical, and Theatrical (London: Macmillan, 1906), p. 185-86.

  • What

    Like the bloomers of the mid-19th century, Mrs. Easton's Turkish trousers appear very full and are gathered into two leg bands. They are, however, well hidden by a skirt.

  • Where

    Only Mrs. Easton's head is visible in the composite, on the right side, towards of the back of the crowd.

  • When

    While Mrs. Easton's trousers are very daring by the standards of 1870, like other women in fancy dress, she did not go so far as to wear them without modestly covering them with a skirt or to appear without a corset.