II-60090.1 | Miss Macdougall in costume, Montreal, QC, 1881

Miss Macdougall in costume, Montreal, QC, 1881
Notman & Sandham
1881, 19th century
Silver salts on paper mounted on paper - Albumen process
14 x 10 cm
Purchase from Associated Screen News Ltd.
© McCord Museum
Keywords:  female (19035) , Photograph (77678) , portrait (53878)
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Keys to History

Peasant or pastoral dress was typically popular for women. Many versions of a romanticized shepherdess were common at fancy dress events, although advice frequently cautioned that only young women should attempt such portrayals. Part of the appeal of such costumes was the shortened skirt and the simplicity of printed cotton fabrics, though ballgoers sometimes gave in to the temptation to use more lavish silks and velvets sometimes.

Miss Macdougall attended her mother's ball in 1881 in a version of one of these costumes as 'Dresden China.' This name would have been recognized by her peers as a reference to the popular 18th-century-style porcelain figurines representing romanticized shepherdesses. A reporter noted her lavish materials and success of the portrayal:
"A petite figure of 'Dresden China' was beautifully attired in true fidelity to the idea represented, in rich flowered satin and silk . . . The hair was white and worked in puffs, and completed the effect of beauty, making the costume one of the most striking in the room."

Miss Macdougall does not, however, have a crook, the usual requisite accessory for this type of costume.

Montreal Star, 26 February 1881.

  • What

    Shepherdess costumes were loosely based on a romantic 18th-century style of pastoral dress, incorporating a printed overdress looped up to reveal a shortened petticoat and powdered white hair.

  • Where

    Dresden china was originally manufactured in Meissen, Germany.

  • When

    Miss Macdougall and her mother were hostesses of the ball held at the Queen's Hall in 1881.

  • Who

    Miss Macdougall was the eldest daughter of D. Lorn Macdougall, founder and first president of the Montreal Stock Exchange, and his wife.