On to pelerines, pinafores, and berthes
Many thanks to all who commented on the last post! With your help, I think I know more or less what I need to do with the repetitions of кокетничать/кокетство and стеснить/стеснять. Now it’s only the лиф ‘bodice (?)’ that remains.
Commenter Gorkovchanin cites an 1847 dictionary where лиф is defined as “Лифъ – Перехватъ на задней части платья около поясницы” (“Lif: a perekhkvat on the back part of a dress around the lower back”) and перехват is in turn defined as “2) Мѣсто въ платьѣ, съуженное надъ поясницею” (“Perekhvat: a place on a dress that is narrowed over the lower back”). So a 1 1/2 vershok– (2 5/8 inch–) lif would mean the woman in the portrait had a mostly bare back, and wouldn’t suggest anything about her chest.
That’s plausible and different from how I read it. I thought I might be misinterpreting what ширина ‘width’ meant in terms of where you’d put a tape measure, and I also wasn’t confident in my arshins and vershoks, but the idea that a lif did not at least include the front part of the upper half of a dress hadn’t occurred to me.
However, I’ve been looking at how contemporary writers used the word lif, and it does seem to typically mean the part of a dress that’s above the waist, as opposed to the iubka ‘skirt’ of the dress. Also, this portrait in “The Old Man” is supposed to be an unsuccessful imitation of a head by Greuze, and in the prototypical head by Greuze I don’t think we see the woman’s back. Details below, if you’re interested; if anyone wants to weigh in on whether lif means “bodice” (OED: “2. The upper part of a woman’s dress, a tight-fitting outer vest or waistcoat, either made in a piece with the skirt or separate […]”) in the relevant passage, and if so what exactly “1 1/2 vershoks of width” means in context, that would be wonderful.
Here are some mid-to-late nineteenth-century uses of lif, the word I’m so far translating as bodice (click the link after each to see the Russian):
“It will probably now seem very strange if we begin to talk about ball gowns. However, we will mention only one, and that merely to marvel at the degree of refinement that women’s taste has today attained. Here it is. Three skirts of blue satin, the lowest of a dark color, the second much brighter, and finally the upper one brightest of all. Each skirt has been matched with a bouquet of roses with velvet leaves. The lif and sleeves are smooth. Wreaths of small roses have been placed at the end of the sleeves, and on the lif a white lace pèlerine or berthe.” (from the fashion column in an 1843 issue of National Annals)
“The clothes worn by boarding-school girls are so well known that it is almost unnecessary to describe them. In the main a green or brown floor-length camlet dress, of the most idiosyncratic and antediluvian cut, a skirt sewn in the back to a smooth, cut-out [вырезанный] lif, with short sleeves, that was fastened with hooks in the back; one breadth of the skirt, which was not sewn to the lif, was fastened to it from the side. With the lif a pinafore — linen on weekdays, calico on holidays — was fastened on underneath with pins and tied on above with a string; white pelerines and sleeves — that is the outer clothing.” (from “Sketches of the Boarding School Life of Former Times [From the Memories of an Old Boarding School Girl]” in an 1870 issue of Dawn)
“The influence of the Marquise de Maintenon (beginning in 1685) on women’s dress was expressed above all in the replacing of the open lif by a high one that covered the entire chest up to the beginning of the neck.” (from an 1879 translation of a German treatise on the history of fashion)
“‘One may base one’s idea of the Ural sarafan,’ writes the author (p. 122, no. 4, Lib. for Reading), ‘on those sarafans in which wet-nurses are here sometimes dressed, with only one difference: that the sarafan is made with a very high lif that goes right up to the throat and with a waist encircled by a gold or pearl belt with long tassels.’ Something isn’t right here; something here doesn’t make sense. The lif, according to the author, goes up to the throat, and then there is the waist — and where is the skirt? One gets quite lost trying to picture it. The sarafan has neither a lif, nor a waist: the sarafan is one continuous mass of fabric that covers the entire figure of the Ural woman, from her neck all the way down to the floor […] If a Cossack woman takes it into her head to wear a belt, then both a waist and a lif will be formed thereby, and otherwise, that is, if the Cossack woman does not wear a belt, as is regularly the case in Cossack women’s day-to-day domestic life, then there will be no sign either of a waist, or of a lif […] and can the dressing-gown [khalat] be said to have a lif and a waist? It seems that it cannot.” (from a work on the Ural Cossacks published posthumously in 1888)
a woman needs help pulling on [стянуть] a lif that is too tight and laments that she no longer has a “slender waist”; later she can’t breathe in it and asks if the lif can be let out [не можете ли вы немножко отпустить лиф?] (paraphrase of a page of “Mortal Combat” [Смертный бой], in Russian Thought in 1894)
And here are some selected portraits by Greuze, of women with or without doves: