II-60114.1 | Miss Scott in costume, Montreal, QC, 1881

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Miss Scott 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

Costumes representing characters from literature, legend or opera were also very popular for fancy dress. Though there is no written evidence as to which ball Miss Scott attended and what her character was, none is needed. She would have been instantly recognizable to her peers as the heroine, Marguerite, in the opera Faust. Features of a "Marguerite" costume always include the satchel on the left side, catching up the skirt, the bodice cut in one piece with the dress, the square neckline over a white chemisette and the sleeves with their horizontal puffs. For the dress, grey cashmere trimmed with black velvet was recommended.

Fancy dress advice strongly encouraged ballgoers to choose characters suited to their age, body type, complexion and hair colour, not to mention personality type. It cautioned against the temptation to camouflage one's true nature. "The character of Cleopatra . . . would not suit a blonde; nor would the representation of Marguerite in Faust . . . harmonize with a brunette." Miss Scott evidently did not heed this advice.

Cermer Mada, "What to Wear at Fancy Dress Balls," Saturday Night, 5 January 1889.

Cynthia Cooper, "Dressing Up: A Consuming Passion," in Fashion: A Canadian Perspective, ed. Alexandra Palmer (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, forthcoming).

  • What

    The opera Faust told the story of a young girl, Marguerite, who was seduced by a man who had sold his soul to the devil.

  • Where

    The legend of Faust originated in Germany; hence the stipulation that the heroine, Marguerite, should always be blonde.

  • When

    The opera Faust premiered in 1859. One of the most famous portrayals of Marguerite on the stage in the 19th century was by Ellen Terry in 1885.

  • Who

    Marguerite and the devil, Mephistopheles, were popular characters for fancy dress. Faust himself was less so.