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Archive for the ‘Fashions’ Category

The House Servant’s Directory: An African American Butler’s 1827 Guide by Robert Roberts is the first books written by an African American to have been published in the

Gore Place, Waltham MA

Gore Place, Waltham MA. Image @Wikipedia

United States by a major publisher. Roberts worked as a butler and major domo for Christopher Gore (a U.S. Senator and governor of Massachusetts) from 1825-1827 at Gore Place. Robert’s book, a remarkable feat, was also popular, for it was to have two more printings in 1828 and 1834. His advice gives us a glimpse into the life of an early 19th century butler.

Here are his instructions for taking care of a gentleman’s clothes:

if your gentleman’s clothes should happen to get wet or muddy, hang them out in the sun or before the fire to dry. Do not attempt to brush them when wet, or you will surely spoil them, but as soon as they are perfectly dry, take and rub them between your hands where there are any spots of mud, then hang them on your clothes horse, which you must have for the purpose; then take a rattan and give them a whipping, to take out the dust, but be careful and don’t hit the buttons, or you will be apt to break or scratch them.

Image @Wikipedia

Image @Wikipedia

He goes on to describe how one should then carefully brush the coat, starting with the back of the collar, moving to the shoulders, and then to the sleeves and cuffs.  Roberts’ instructions for folding the coat are equally meticulous and given so that “you will find the coat folded in a manner that will gain you credit from any gentleman, and will keep smooth for any journey.” Clothes, as I mentioned in an earlier post, were quite expensive, and taking care of them and keeping them in good shape was a major undertaking.

Man's suit, American. 1810-1820. Museum of Fine Art

Man’s suit, American. 1810-1820. Museum of Fine Art

Hats were another part of a gentleman’s wardrobe that required great care lest they begin to look shabby. A soft camels hair brush is the preferred instrument to brush hats with, for it will not injure fur or scratch it off. Wet hands should be handled with great care or “you will put it out of form.” Using a silk handkerchief and holding the hat carefully (hand inside and fingers extended) “rub it lightly all round, the way the fur goes”. Roberts was most likely talking about beaver hats, which were quite the rage and expensive.

Hat 1820-1830, Snowshill Manor. Image @Nationa Trust/Richard Blakey

Hat 1820-1830, Snowshill Manor. Image @Nationa Trust/Richard Blakey

There are some people that think brushing a hat while it is wet, certainly spoils it; but it is quite the contrary; for the hatters themselves always brush and finish off their hats while damp, so as to give the fur a brilliant appearance. Likewise they set them to their regular shape while damp. I have received these instructions myself, from one of the best hat manufacturers in London.”

This last statement demonstrates Roberts’s worldly and educated background. It is no wonder that his advice still holds up well today.

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Lisa Brown. Image @Edward Voytovich. Click on image for a larger view.

Inquiring readers. My first JASNA AGM in Brooklyn started out with a bang. Not only did I room with the wonderful Deb Barnum (Jane Austen in Vermont), but the first workshop I attended was given by Lisa Brown, co-coordinator of the Rochester and Syracuse Regions of JASNA (and the official photographer at the AGM, it seems). She presented a fashion show and workshop demonstration of Regency fashions, including detailed instructions on how to rework 1970s and 1980s gowns into very creditable Regency costumes. A similar custom was studiously followed by Regency ladies, such as the Miss Bennets and Miss Austens, whose income precluded them from custom ordering as many handmade gowns as they liked. Two hundred years ago, cloth and trim were quite expensive, although changes wrought by the Industrial Revolution in weaving, dying cloth, and creating off the rack gowns would make clothes more affordable as the 19th century progressed. Jane Austen wrote frequently of refurbishing a new bonnet or reworking a gown to suit an occasion.

Lisa Brown stands in the center of her models

Lisa graciously gave me permission to use the videos I took of her fashion show and from my notes. The personal impressions are mine.

The back of Lisa’s gown with the drawstring details. Note the floral print.

The Layers of a Regency gown

In Regency fashion, it’s all about lift and undergarments. The distinctive Regency “shelf” was created with straps tied from the side (not center) and short stays with busks and wires. The stays were drawn from the bottom to the top, and as the stays tightened the bosom (shelf) rose. During the extended Regency era (1795-1820) women wore fewer clothes than their mothers and aunts. Sheer fabrics, exposed bosoms, and bare arms in the evening were the hallmarks of the Regency style.

This image of Jennifer Ehle as Elizabeth Bennet shows her wearing a day gown with long sleeves. Note the gathering in the back and the silhouette of her Regency shelf bosom

The typical dress layers included (from skin side out): a simple shift made of sturdy cotton or linen that could withstand repeated laundering; short stays; a petticoat; and a gown. While women wore stocking and garters, under drawers were not generally worn until later in the 19th century. If a woman opted to wear them, they would be crotchless (mostly for convenience.)

Regency gown fashion show

In this video Sarah wears a 1970s dress found in a vintage shop and a period bonnet. The sleeves look modern, but the overall effect is very charming. Sarah is the author of the delightful post: I was a Model in a Regency Jane Austen Fashion Show.

Nadia wears a modern reworked holiday dress that converted nicely into a Regency style costume. I felt that the skirt lacked authenticity in that there was no gathering of the fabric in the back.

Julie wears a simple gray gown. To me the accessories turned this vintage dress into a Regency look, for the dress details were too sleek to be authentic.

Joyce in a green silk tafetta that could have used some trim or a shawl or something to turn this dress into a show stopper.

Jaclyn’s brown tafetta dress is one of my favorites. The gloves, bonnet, puffy sleeves, low scooped neck, and slight gathering in the back added realistic touches.

Jane wears a cotton dress with spencer jacket and long ties. I imagine Mrs. Austen might have looked much like her.

Meg looks like she is going to market. On stage she showed her reversible cape, which she took off for the runway. Her outfit is typical of a married lady who, after her marriage, begins to wear a cap. After turning 27,  unmarried women don caps as well, much like Jane Austen and her sister Cassandra. Meg also wears a delicate fichu, an item typically worn during the day. It can be tucked in or worn out. The fichu indicated casual day dress. If a lady with a limited wardrobe wished to dress up for the evening, she would take off her fichu and add dressier accessories to spruce up her look.

Aniela is also off to market. On stage she wore a spencer, a spinster’s cap, and a tucked-in fichu, a garment appropriate for all ages. Walking down the runway, you can see her fan on a little chain. Angela is a resourceful young woman, who found her short, form-fitting “spencer” at Forever 21. All she needed to do to turn this day gown into evening wear was to take off her cap and fichu, change from short gloves to long gloves, and change her jewelry. Voila! She is ready to visit neighbors for dinner and join in a dance! Notice the Van Dyke points on her sleeve.

Lynn Marie wears a spencer and parasol. Lisa cautioned that only umbrellas made in the 40s, 50s, or 60s would do as Regency parasols. Umbrellas from that time period were still made pagoda style, with the fabric coming up to the top of the frame. Notice how Lynn Marie’s dress has the gathered pleats in the back. If you choose to make a dress with a print pattern make sure that the prints are small and set far apart. Modern prints are often too large and set too closely together. In choosing cloth to make Regency gowns and for the sake of authenticity, Lisa also warned us to stay away from fabrics that are reminiscent of the two Lauras – Laura Ingalls Wilder and Laura Ashley. Hah!

Joyce wears a dark sleeveless pelisse with a long train. An elegant look that flows beautifully when she walks.

Nadia wears long sleeves during day and gloves. Dark fabric was chosen for daywear, since the color was easier to keep clean. Lighter colors, such as whites and pastels, were worn at night. White was a symbol of wealth since laundering took a great deal of time and effort. A white gown easily became soiled and required enormous maintenance to keep pristine (imagine how dirty those trains must have become even if the woman was confined to walking indoors.) Jane Austen’s audience knew exactly how pampered Eleanor Tilney was when her character was described as wearing only white.

In her second costume, Sarah wears a long sleeved dress and a quaint Amish straw bonnet with lining, flowers, and a ribbon. Trims were expensive and transferred from dress to dress, on the neck or sleeves, or at the bottom of a dress. Between 1805-1815, embellishments at the hem increased from 1″ of trim to 2″, to 3″ or more in 1817, the year Jane Austen died.

Jaclyn’s polyester pink 1970s gown turns into a pretty Regency ball gown. Today’s enterprising seamstress can order Indian muslin in specialty stores and find sheer netting overlays at curtain shops.

Julie’s pink gown is based on Empress Josephine’s coronation gown. The elaborate satin overdress is worn over a simpler dress underneath.

Aniela wears a pretty pale dress, very simple in design. Her day look includes short gloves and a basket.  This dress can easily be converted for a night time look by adding the right accessories.

Lynn Marie wears a dramatic ball dress from David’s Bridal. It was an age when showing one’s ankles was deemed scandalous, but showcasing one’s bosom was not. In fact, the Regency shelf was a display area on which a possible suitor could feast his eyes and the lady in question could show off her pretty necklace as well as her womanly assets.

Proper jewelry for that era consisted of small round shapes, such as seed pearls, small crosses, and delicate stones. To resemble a proper Regency miss, one should not wear posts or hoop earrings, long chains of pearls, or chokers, which were a Victorian affectation. Choose flat-heeled ballet style shoes or slippers, and half-boots with outer wear.

More on the topic:

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Since the 18th century, satirists have had a fun time mocking dandies. In Hogarth to Cruickshank: social change in graphic satire, 1967, (Walker Publishing)  Mary Dorothy George classified 3 different kinds of print-shop dandies: 1.) the notorious dandy, 2) the effeminate dandy, and 3) dandies who were slavish in their imitation of  Beau Brummel.

Buckskin breeches, clawhammer coat, and riding boots. This ensemble from the Kyoto Costume Institute could well have been worn by Mr. Darcy as he toured the grounds of Pemberley.

I would add to those categories two more distinctions: the powerful dandy and the ridiculous dandy, or one who, from behavior or social standing, is a wholly ridiculous and insignificant creature. The latter exquisites, along with the slavish imitators and effeminate dandies, were fodder for cartoonists, especially Robert and Isaac Cruikshank, who took great glee in lampooning them in a series of hand colored engravings.

This exquisite was a wholly ridiculous creature, a true fashion victim.

According to Jane Rendell in a Pursuit of Pleasure, the word dandy may have originated from “jack-a-dandy”, a Scottish description of a person dressing up at a fair. The word dates back to the late 18th century/early 19th centuries. In the Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue, published in 1788, Francis Grose describes the dandy:

Dandy.  That’s the dandy;  i.e. the ton, the clever thing

Dandy.  grey Russet. A dirty brown. His coat’s dandy grey russet the colour of the Devil’s nutting bag.

Dandy. Prat. An insignificant or trifling fellow.

An effeminate dandy required a great deal of care. Cruikshank.

Much later, the word “dandy” is used to describe “Satinist” – Obs. rare”1, [f. Satin sb. + -ist.] A wearer of satin, a dandy. A new English dictionary on historical principles: founded mainly on the materials collected by the Philological Society, Volume 8, Part 2, 1914.

Beau Brummel’s influence in modifying men’s behavior and dress ranged far and wide, influencing the Prince Regent and his set.

Prinny’s set, or the Prince Regent’s friends, consisted of the Earl of Sefton, the Duke of Devonshire, Lord Manners, “Poodle” Bing, and the Duke of Beaufort, serious dandies all. Somber and rich, these men epitomized the powerful, restrained dandy. Image @The Georgian Index

In Jane Austen and Representations of Regency England, Issue 33; Issue 61, Roger Sales identifies Henry Crawford and Tom Bertram of Mansfield Park as dandies: Tom because he is the quintessential Regency sports man, as well as rich and handsome; Henry, because of his mode of address, which shows a haughty attitude towards rural workers, and because he fashions his conversation “into exquisity little mirrors to reflect his own sense of superiority.” Henry makes elegant bows and frequently mocks others. His manners, like Beau Brummel’s, verge frequently on insolence – his stance is one of ennui and superiority at the same time. While Henry is not as handsome as Tom, he commands a room with his personality. I would classify Tom and Henry as notorious dandies, for both pushed the limits of what was considered proper behavior. The more modest Edmund Bertram would never behave like either man.

Hessian boots

John Thorpe of Northanger Abbey belongs in the category of the ridiculous dandy. He drives a gig, but imagines it to rival a phaeton, which is like comparing a toyota corrolla to a sleek jaguar. John uses cant, and one imagines that his clothes are too loud and his shirt points too high.

Great coat with numerous capes, a favorite menswear item described by romance writers.

As for Mr. Darcy, his looks and dress are effortlessly elegant. He doesn’t try to impress; he simply is a superior man. His arrogance, which Elizabeth Bennet found so off putting at first, comes naturally, for he is placed securely high in society. His inheritance and the cares, responsibilities and duties that great wealth bring exemplify the qualities of a gentleman who is a cut above the rest.  Beau Brummel, I imagine, would have found very little fault with Mr. Darcy.

Two dandies by Cruikshank dresssed to the nines. While exquisitely rigged out, they take tea in a mean hovel of a room. Note the ragged curtains and table cloth, the dishes on the floor and the wash hanging on the line overhead.

While the term dandy has come to mean many things, among my favorite cartoons of the Regency era are those that make sport of them. These caricatures must have been popular then, and are irresistible to view now.

A Dandy Fainting, or an Exquisite in Fits, Cruikshank. This scene at a private box at the opera gives one a sense of how similar it is to today’s private boxes at a stadium. Note the table with food and drink; the couch, and the curtain that allowed for privacy.

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Recently I commented on a morning gown whose influences were largely from British history. In this April 1812 Ackermann fashion plate, the pink ball gown is indicative of the impact of trade and foreign travel in eastern lands and the advances of the Industrial Revolution on fashion. A young lady attending the ball would have (in her mind) come as a strong exotic eastern woman, resplendent in her turban, peasant bodice, and other rich oriental details.

Click on this fashion plate to enlarge it.

Ball Dress: a round Circassian robe of pink carpe , or gossamer net, over a white satin slip, fringed full at the feet; a peasant’s bodice of pink satin or velvet, laced in front with silver, and decorated with the same ornament. Spanish slash sleeve, embellished with white crape foldings, and finished at its terminations with bands of silver. A Spartan or Calypso helmet cap of pink frosted crape, with silver bandeaus, and embellished with tassels, and rosets to correspond. A rich neck-chain and ear-rings of Oriental gold. Fan of carved ivory. Slippers of pink kid, with correspondent clasps; and gloves of white kid: an occasional square veil of Mechlin lace.”

Detail of the Spartan or Calypso helmet cap, mechlin lace, fan, peasant bodice, and Limerick gloves.

Eastern Turkish influence includes those of Circassian women, whose reputation dates back to the Ottoman Empire and the Sultan’s harem. Circassians became a common symbol of orientalism during the Romantic era. In Europe and America

 Circassians were regularly characterised as the ideal of feminine beauty in poetry, novels, and art. Cosmetic products were advertised, from the 18th century on, using the word “Circassian” in the title, or claiming that the product was based on substances used by the women of Circassia.- Wikipedia

The gossamer net represented the advances made in machine made lace during the late 18th and early 19th centuries. (Click here to read my article about net lace.)

Early 19th century dress made with embroidered black net.

 The white crape foldings in the Spanish slash sleeves remind me of the puffs in the hem of this early 19th century gown.

Limerick gloves were “a celebrated style of glove that became popular throughout England and Ireland during the late 18th, early 19th century. Commonly referred to as ‘chicken-skins’, the gloves were renowned for their exquisite texture. They were made from a thin strong leather derived from the skin of unborn calves and sold encased in a walnut shell.”

Limerick glove. Image @The Museum of Leathercraft.

Circassian women were regarded as strong, beautiful, and exotic, which is how the woman wearing the ball dress depicted in the Ackermann fashion plate must have felt.

Circassian woman. Image @Clipart, etc.

The circassian robe, or an outer garment used in ceremonial occasions, is not as evident in the fashion plate as in the dress below, where it flows over the gown’s train.

Eliza Farren in 'A Scene in the Fair Circassian' with Robert Bensley by James Sayers. Etching ca. 1781 from the National Portrait Gallery NPG D9544

Rich lace, tassels, and an ivory fan completed our fashionable lady’s the ensemble.

Decorative imported ivory fan. Image @Independence Seaport Museum.

Detail of the hem.

More about the ball gown’s fashion influences:

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It is a rare occasion when we can compare a gown in a portrait with the actual dress. The painting, after George Daw, of the Prince Regent’s daughter, Princess Charlotte, shows her wearing a charming blue gown in a domestic, albeit royal, setting.

Princess Charlotte in her Russian Dress. Painting after George Daw, 1817. Image @Wikipedia

A second portrait depicts the same dress more royally. Princess Charlotte (or the artist) has accessorized the dress with ermine, lace, and pearls.

The mannequin from the Museum of London exhibit a few years back is dressed more informally, as if she was in the morning room reading. I found the image on Pinterest, but unfortunately the pin did not state the image’s origin. (A reader wrote that the dress belongs to the Royal Collection.)

As you can see, the dress no longer possesses the rich blue hue as shown in the paintings. So many of the costumes of that era are not only in a fragile state and can rarely be shown, but we cannot trust that the colors have remained the same.

Princess Charlotte's "Russian" outfit as shown at The Museum of London. The gown belongs to The Royal Collection.

Below is the original portrait by George Daw, which shows Princess Charlotte wearing the same dress. Click here for yet another view of Charlotte in a similar gown, but without the trim and wearing a lace cap. My sense is that after her death Princess Charlotte’s image became sought after and that many portrait copies were made (both in oil and in print) to satisfy the mourning public.

Princess Charlotte, George Daw, 1817. Image @National Portrait Gallery

Find more views of the gown at Jenny La Fleur’s site. Images of the gown can be seen in the exhibit catalogue called In Royal Fashion: Clothes of Princess Charlotte of Wales and Queen Victoria, 1796-1901, which can only be obtained second hand.

The exhibit: Princess Charlotte, The Lost Princess, will be on display at the Prince Regent Gallery in the Brighton Pavillion through 10 March, 2013.

My other posts about Princess Charlotte:

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In Sense and Sensibility 1996, Kate Winslet as Marianne wears a charming straw sun bonnet as she recuperates from her illness. When I ran across the fashion plate of a morning dress from The Gallery of Fashion, 1794-1798, I was immediately struck by the similarity, although the brim in the fashion plate is more elaborate.

Detail of a morning gown and balloon bonnet, Heideloff, The Gallery of Fashion

The magazine described the head wear as a “balloon bonnet of wicker, trimmed with broad lace. The front hair is in curls, the hind hair is turned up.”  I suspect that Lydia Bennet would have wrapped ribbons around her capote much as in the above image.

Kate Winslet’s capote is simpler, but equally charming. Capotes, or scoop-shaped bonnets, were popular in the early Regency and first made their appearance in the 1790s. The hats accommodated the modish hair styles of that era, which were short or piled on top of the head.

Bonnet, 1805-1810. Image@The Victoria & Albert Museum

Generally made to be worn outdoors, capotes were also worn as evening headwear early in the 19th century. This evening capote is elaborately trimmed.

Infant bonnet, 1820. Image @Metropolitan Museum of Art

The charming bonnet was made for an infant.  Click here to read the description. The image below shows a modern interpretation of a Regency era capote bonnet. (Living With Jane)

Image @Living With Jane

The shape of the Capote bonnet changed as hairdos changed, and the hat crown shifted to accommodate the increased height of swept up hair. The poke, or brim, also became larger over time. This definition describes the Victorian capote: Close fitting bonnet with rigid brim, either of straw or boned into shape. Soft, shirred crown , ribbon bows tied under the chin, Victorian 19 c. with deep ruffle in back. Also poke bonnet, fanchon, scuttle bonnet, sun bonnet. - Glossary of hats, Village Hat Shop.

View images of the Victorian capote here http://www.metmuseum.org/collections/search-the-collections/80044650 and here http://www.metmuseum.org/collections/search-the-collections/80044657. You can see the vast difference between the two styles, yet they are still capotes.

This link leads to instructions for making a Capote Beguin, or Edwardian Era bonnet.

Make Your Own Regency Bonnet

More on the topic:


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Fashion is always more than it seems on the surface. Take this charming Regency morning dress from Ackermann’s Repository (April, 1812), for example. Its detailed description in the magazine demonstrates how many historic influences shaped this romantic costume. The lady who wore these garments as a total ensemble would have known about its medieval, Elizabethan and Jacobean associations.

Morning or Domestic Costume: A superfine Scotch or French cambric over a cambric slip, with full long sleeve, and ruff a la Mary Queen of Scots. A neck-chain and sight set in gold; bracelets and necklace of white or red cornelian. A Flora cap, composed of white satin and lace. A capuchin or French cloack of blossom satin, or Pomona green, trimmed with thread lace. Slippers of pale pink or green; and gloves of tan or Limerick kid.

Cambric material, also called batiste and made of bleached linen or cotton, was widely used in the 19th century for handkerchiefs, shirts, bed and table linens, and as fabric for lace. Scotch cambric was actually a fabric made in India. French cambrics were hard to come by after the British banned imports from France during the war.

Detail of cap, ruff, and necklace with quizzing glass, or 'sight'.

The Mary Queen of Scots ruff indicates the influence of the Elizabethan era in fashion and architecture. At this time, British fashion began to diverge from French fashion because of the Napoleonic wars, which effectively blocked normal communication and travel between the two countries. By 1811, fashion designers, who were influenced by the Romantic sensibilities of British poets and philosophers, looked to the Tudors and the Gothic eras for new fashion statements. Ruffles and slashed sleeves began to appear, and gowns began to veer from the elegant simplicity of Grecian designs to more embellished dresses.

Flora McDonald

I found almost no references to the flora cap, which hugs the skull. In this instance, a lace brim frames the face and hair. Historically, Flora McDonald was immortalized through her association with Bonnie Prince Charlie, and in the early 19th century,  Sir Walter Scott symbolized her as the embodiment of romanticized Scottish Jacobitism. One portrait of Flora shows her wearing a lace cap. Interestingly, today’s baseball and American hunting caps pop up when one Googles either Flora cap or Jacobean hats.

Cornelian, primarily found in India, was a popular semi-precious stone used in jewelry. The rust red is more prevalent over the white. Think of the colors of a cameo and you will have an idea of what bracelets and necklaces made of cornelian might look like. In this instance, the fashion plate depicts a white carnelian necklace.

Capuchin cloaks were loose hooded cloaks  whose design origins dated back to the medieval period. Capuchin monks, a 16th century off shoot of the Franciscan monks, wore distinctive pointed hooded cloaks, whose popularity remained strong through the 18th and 19th centuries.

I found this Victorian reference to Limerick kid gloves highly fascinating:

the best foreign glove is not better in any respect than the best Irish glove,—because the best London-made kid glove is rarely imported, or, if imported, cannot be sold as cheap as the best Dublin, Cork, or Limerick kid,—because the majority of imported gloves are made by frame, instead of by hand, and that the stitching by hand is much surer and firmer than sewing by machine; as, if one stitch give in a hand-made glove, that stitch alone goes, while if a stitch give in a machine-made glove, the whole finger is apt to go—and, lastly, because the article that is generally sold, is made of what, in the trade, is called “seconds,” the raw material being what is technically termed ” slink lamb,” and not kid; the difference of which may be better understood when I state that “seconds,” or “slink lamb,” can be bought by the manufacturer at from 1s. 3d. to 2s. per dozen, while kids range from 8s. 6d. to 14s. per dozen. What is usually called French kid, is, in reality, Italian lamb. So that my advice is—stick to the Irish kid, which will give good wear, and look charmingly on the hand.” – The industrial movement in Ireland, as illustrated by the National exhibition of 1852 (Google eBook), John Francis McGuire, 1853, p. 87

Detail of the Limerick kid gloves.

Although this lady is wearing a household garment meant to be seen only by family and close friends, and which she will keep on until she goes out to shop or visit friends, she is also wearing a cloak and gloves. One of the coldest vacations I ever spent was a week in April in London (the second coldest was a windy weekend in August in San Francisco). I visited a friend who lived in an ill-heated apartment, and I shivered for 7 days during one of the rainiest weeks this Dutch girl ever experienced. I imagine that the domestic outfit  portrayed in this fashion plate was well suited to staving off cold drafts and the shivers.

Several years ago I engaged in an online discussion about whether a lady wore gloves indoors. My “opponent” was adamant in her assertions that ladies did NOT wear gloves inside, saying that Regency portraits indicated that they never would. Never say never. I replied that this made no sense. Ladies tried to look their “Sunday” best for expensive portraits destined to be hung in long galleries, which meant showing off their most beautiful clothes and their milk white, unsullied hands. Besides, I found one or two paintings that portrayed a woman wearing gloves inside the house. I imagine that in some instances, a visitor might keep her gloves on if her visit was short and she was offered nothing to eat or drink.  (Think of Lady Catherine de Bourgh’s imperious visit to the Bennets to confront Elizabeth about her intentions with Mr. Darcy.) The gloves in this print might mean that the woman was sitting in a glassed-in conservatory or in the confines of her private garden.

A lady who lived in a freezing mausoleum of a house would be a fool not to keep her gloves on. This fashion plate shows such a sensible young woman.

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Jane Austen fans are familiar with the high-waisted muslin dresses popular during her adulthood. How many are aware that machine-made net or gauze became a “hot” item from 1810 and on?

Evening dress with gauze overlay

“Net dresses were very fashionable and their popularity was spurred by new inventions. The development of machine-made net in the late 18th and early 19th centuries meant that gauzy lace effects were increasingly affordable either as trimmings or garments. The bobbin-net machine was patented by the Englishman John Heathcoat in 1808 and produced a superior net identical to the twist-net grounds of hand-made bobbin lace. It was so successful that women in the highest ranks of society, including the Emperor Napoleon’s first wife, Josephine, wore machine-net dresses. Initially, however, all machine nets were plain and had to be embroidered by hand.” – Victoria and Albert

Detail of an evening dress with net lace. Image @Victoria & Albert Collection

Machine-made bobbin net was first made in France in 1818. Until this date, lace as it was made was known as old lace. After that date, lace is categorized as being modern.

Silver embroidery on net on Empress Josephine's court gown. Image @Madame Guillotine

Machine made lace made an appearance around 1760. The nets and tulles became immediately popular. Their arrival spurred the production of other silk lace cloths, which led to a general rise in popularity of the silk lace trade – until a machine was invented that could produce silk net lace as well.

Evening dress with net overlay, 1817-1818, V&A Museum

In the 18th century the hand-made net was very expensive and was made of the finest thread from Antwerp: in 1790 this cost £70 per pound, sometimes more. At that time the mode of payment was decidedly primitive: the lace ground was spread out on the counter and the cottage worker covered it with shillings from the till of the shopman. As many coins as she could place on her work she took away with her as wages for her labour. It is no wonder that a Honiton lace veil before the invention of machine-made net often cost a hundred guineas. Heathcoat’s invention of a machine for making net dealt a crushing blow to the pillow-made net workers. The result is easily guessed. After suffering great depression for twenty years the art of hand-made net became nearly extinct, and when an order for a marriage veil of hand-made net was given, it was with the greatest difficulty that workers could be found to make it. The net alone for such a veil would cost £30. – A history of hand-made lace: Dealing with the origin of lace, the growth of the great lace centres, the mode of manufactures, the methods of distinguishing and the care of various kinds of lace, Emily Jackson, p. 170

Hem of 1817_1818 Evening Dress with net overlay, V&A Museum

The most popular European centers for lace making were located in France, the region known as Belgium today, Ireland, England,and Italy.

During the French Revolution the French textile industry had suffered and unlike in England, use of textile machinery had been non-existent.  Emperor Napoleon stopped the import of English textiles and he revived the Valenciennes lace industry so that fine fabrics like tulle and batiste could be made there. – Regency Fashion History

Black net over gold gown, 1818. Image @Defunct Fashion

Between 1806-1810, net gowns embroidered with chenille embroidery became popular. Profits rose for the manufacturers as the price for the cloth plummeted.

In 1809 Heathcoat took a patent for his bobbin net machine. But the profits realised by the manufacturers of lace were very great, and the use of the machines rapidly extended; while the price of the article was reduced from five pounds the square yard to about five pence in the course of twenty-five years. - John Heathcoat and the Bobbin Net Machine, Samuel Smiles (1859)

By 1813, the bobbinet machine had been perfected. After 1815, gauze was used over satin evening dresses, with the fabric gathered at the back. By 1816, crepe, net and tulle were worn over evening wear made of satin, silks, velvets, kerseymere, satin, lame, and both plain and shot sarcenet.

La Belle Assemblee Court and Fashionable Magazine contains this description of a lady’s dress in Her Majesty’s Drawing Room in January 1818:

Hon. Lady Codrington.—Net draperies, magnificently embroidered in gold  lama, in bouquets and sprigs, over a petticoat of white satin, with blond lace at the bottom, headed with a rouleau of gold lama; train of crimson velvet, trimmed with gold lama and blond lace. Head-dress gold lama toque, with ostrich plume, and diamonds.

1818 Evening Dress, June. La Belle Assemblée. ENGLISH. No. 1.—Evening Dress. Round dress of embossed gauze over white satin, with coriage of peach-coloured satin, elegantly ornamented with rouleau medallions and palm leaves of white satin. Mary Queen of Scots hat, ornamented with pearls, and surmounted by a full plume of white feathers. Negligé necklace of fine pearls, and gold chain beneath, with an eyeglass suspended. White satin shoes, aud white kid gloves.

Not every lady of that era was obsessed over bobbin net lace or tulle. Many began to publicly and proudly favor the old hand made lace.

…both in England and on the Continent and at Almack’s, the Assembly Rooms at Bath and Tunbridge Well, the chaperons would gossip of their lappets of Alencon or Brussels. Numerous were the anecdotes as to how this treasure or that had turned up having escaped the doom the rag-bag, which alas! was the fate of so much old lace during the muslin and net period. – Emily Jackson, A History of Hand-made Lace, 1900, p 48.

Machine made lace dealt a great blow to the industry of hand-made fabrics. In Tiverton in 1822, where once 2,400 lace makers worked, only 300 lace makers were still employed.

Evening dress with net overlay, 1818. Image @Old Rags

The Duchess of Gloucester was one of the few whose affections never swerved from her love of the old rich points towards blondes and muslins, and her collection was one of the finest in Europe. Lady Blessington, too, loved costly lace, and, at her death, left several huge chests full of it. Gradually lace began to be worn again, but it was as it were ignorantly put on, worn simply because it was again the fashion to wear lace, and lace must therefore be worn; the knowledge of its history, worth, and beauty was lacking…  - Emily Jackson, A History of Hand-made Lace, 1900, p 48.

Princess Mary, Duchess of Gloucester (Daughter of King George III) Image @Justin F. Skrebowski

Sprigs beautified the machine-made net. It is said that Queen Charlotte introduced applique on net to support the machine net industry. Honiton appliques consisted of white linen thread sprigs mounted on the net, but black  silk sprigs were applied as well. The black silk cost twice as much as the linen threads and soon went out of fashion.

The trade of lace making remained for several generations in some families, thus in 1871 an old lace maker was discovered at Honiton, whose turn or wheel for winding cotton had the date 1678 rudely carved on its foot -Old lace, a handbook for collectors: an account of the difference styles of lace, their history, characteristics & manufacture, Margaret Jourdain, 1908, p94-95

Detail of early 19th c. tamboured net shawl. Image @Vintage Textiles

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Beauty and Cosmetics 1550-1950 by Sarah Jane Downing was published this month by Shire Library.  Small and compact, as Shire publications tend to be, this wonderfully illustrated book describes the standards of beauty popular in each era, from 1550 when alabaster brows were highly prized, to the black eyebrows that were favored by 18th century women.  As with her best-selling Fashion in the Time of Jane Austen, Ms. Downing provides the reader with a comprehensive overview of the topic. She begins with the Tudor Court and ends with the delightful cosmetic advertisements of the first half of the 20th century.

Marriage à-la-mode: The Countess's Morning Levee, William Hogarth, c. 1745

Because my blog’s theme centers on the Georgian and Regency eras, I will confine much of my recap to those years.

A woman applying beauty patches, Boucher

Mirrors, once only possessed by the rich, became so popular in London in the mid-16th century that British manufacturers petitioned Parliament to ban foreign imports. The ritual of the dressing table became quite elaborate and ladies began to entertain guests as they prepared themselves for the day.

French mop gold boite a mouche patch box with brush, 1730. Images @ Etsy

Decorative patches covered skin blemishes and blotches, sometimes to such an extent that a face could be covered with a variety of dots, half-moon crescents, stars and even a coach and horses! The popularity of using patches began in the mid-17th century and did not wane until the end of the 18th century.

Woman with patches, pale skin and rouged cheeks. Thomas Gainsborough

Porcelain skin was highly prized and created with white lead-based skin cream. Blush was then applied to create a doll-like look. Cosmetics were created in a variety of ways. Here are the ingredients for one recipe for lead face powder that did not come from this book: several thin plates of lead, a big pot of vinegar, a bed of horse manure, water, perfume & tinting agent. Once can only guess how this concoction was put together and at its smell.

Marquise the Pompadour applying face powder with a brush. Boucher, 1758.

Ms. Downing describes in her book:

lead sheets were unrolled and beaten with battledores until all the flakes of white lead came off. These were gathered and ground into a very fine powder… p. 24

Gainsboroughs portrait of Grace Dalrymple Elliot in 1782 shows the craze for dark eyebrows.

For a while during the third quarter of the 18th century, dark eyebrows became all the rage. Lead-based cosmetics, used over time, caused hair-loss at the forehead and over the brows, resulting in a receding hair-line and a bare brow. For those who lost their eyebrows, it became the custom as early as 1703  to trap mice and use their fur for artificial eyebrows. Sadly, the glue did not always adhere well, and a lady could be caught with her brows out of kilter. This hilarious poem was written by Matthew Prior in 1718:

On little things, as sages write,

Depends our human joy or sorrow;

If we don’t catch a mouse to-night,

Alas! no eyebrows for to-morrow. – p.28

Aging beauties staved off the ravages of time with sponge fillers and rouge (sound familiar?), while many women risked poisonous side effects from using their deadly cosmetics. Maria, one of the Gunning sisters who went on to become Lady Coventry, was so addicted to her lead-based paints that she died in 1760 at the age of 27 knowing full well that she was at risk.

Maria, Countess of Coventry

The French Revolution swept away the widespread use of makeup, which was associated with the aristocracy. Defiantly, some aristocratic ladies went to their doom wearing a  full complement of make-up: pale skin, patches, rouged cheeks and rosy lips.

The more natural look of the regency woman. Note that the cheeks are still rouged.

Rousseau influenced the concept of nature and a more natural Romantic look took hold, aided by the blockade of cosmetics during the Napoleonic Wars. The death of many soldiers resulted in widespread melancholia and the affectation of a consumptive look. Ladies, nevertheless, were never far from their rouge pot.

Another Regency portrait with subtle makeup. The flower basket adds to the natural look.

As with all Shire books, Sarah Jane Downing’s trip through time provides us with brilliant insights, in this instance it is via cosmetics and how society viewed beauty in each era. By the 1950s, the success of a marriage was defined by how well a woman took care of herself. This included makeup. Beauty, as Ms. Downing wrote, “was switched from a pleasure to an obligation.”  Oh, my. I give the delightful Beauty and Cosmetics 1550-1950 four out of five Regency tea cups.


Product Details

Paperback: 64 pages
Publisher: Shire (February 21, 2012)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0747808392
ISBN-13: 978-0747808398
Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 0.2 x 8.2 inches

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My regular Jane Austen readers have been patient as I succumbed to Downton Abbey fever and began to cover events 100 years after Jane Austen’s death. Customs changed during that intervening century. Take the matter of dress. While proper Regency ladies changed their outfits from morning gowns to walking gowns when they went out, and changed into dinner dress when dining, by Victorian and Edwardian times the custom of a lady changing her clothes throughout the day had turned into a fine art.  One could get by with no less than 4-5 changes per day. A woman who packed to visit a country estate was sure not to be seen in the same outfit twice. This meant that for a 4-day visit she would need at the very minimum to have her maid pack 16 changes of outfits. One can only imagine the work of a lady’s maid to keep all the clothes and unmentionables in perfect (and clean) condition. Such attention to detail required quite a bit of organization.

Morning dress, 1815. Ackermann plate. While she looked proper in her at home attire, this morning dress looks stodgy compared to the Edwardian teagown.

Corsets were worn all through the 19th century and into the early part of the 20th century. Women were constricted into these garments for most of their waking day, but there were times when they were free from these tight-laced garments.  During the early 19th century, upper class women at home would wear comfortable (but beautiful) morning gowns. Dressing gowns were also worn. Such gowns were meant to be seen by the family and close relatives only. The moment a woman expected to be seen, she would change into more proper dress.

Cora, the Countess of Grantham, lived during a time when teagowns were all the rage. These beautiful ornate gowns had the advantage of being simply cut and worn without a corset. It was possible that for just a few hours she could relax comfortably before dinner.

They were generally loose-fitting and elaborately trimmed, and gave full vent to the dressmaker’s or couturier’s skill and taste for theatricality. Tea-gowns were influenced by historical styles from eighteenth century Watteau-pleats, to renaissance hanging sleeves and empire waistlines and quite often, all of them at the same time. Never has so much love and art been invested in such an arguably unnecessary garment. All kinds of informal garments including tea jackets, peignoirs, dressing gowns, combing sacques, morning robes and dressing jackets also had their place in the leisured Edwardian lady’s wardrobe, all of them beautifully decorated and almost all of them now obsolete. 1900-1919: The Last Age of Elegance 

American dancer and actress Irene Castle wearing a teagown, 1913

It had long been the custom for a lady to entertain both male and female visitors in her boudoir. (Read my article on this topic.) During the Regency era, dressing gowns were quite plain and simple compared to teagowns.

1810-23 dresssing gown. Image @Met Museum

At times the teagown gave rise to temptation, for a woman could entertain in private and not need the services of her maid:

Worn between five and seven oclock,  gave rise to the French phrase ‘cinq à sept‘. This referred to the hours when lovers were received, the only time of day when a maid wouldn’t need to be there to help you undress and therefore discover your secret. – “Style”, The World of Downton Abbey, Jessica Fellowes

Early 19th century dressing gown. Image @Met Museum

Attired in her tea-gown, a soft flowing robe of filmy chiffon or fine silk, trimmed with an abundance of lace and often free of corsetry, the hostess must have been a tempting prospect for many men. Such loose gowns afforded women great comfort, ease of access and a tremendous sense of femininity. Little wonder then that whilst hemlines rose and fell the tea-gown, which had appeared in England as early as 1875 lingered on until the 1920s. – Edwardian tea gowns, fashion era

This Lingerie-style dress embellished with Irish crochet, c.1905 (below) can be seen in more detail on Vintage Texiles. Made of sheer cotton decorated with lace and ruffles, this sheer dress required a slip.

Edwardian teagown, 1905. Image @Vintage Textile

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Image of an early 19th century dressing gown at the Met Museum

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Early milliner shops were like our department stores, selling all manner of fashionable items. The image of a milliner shop in Paris shows the costumes we have come to associate with the era of Marie Antoinette. After the French Revolution, fashions changes drastically, for the French citizenry did not want to be reminded of the recent bloodshed or the ancient Regime. The rage in fashion was an imitation of the classical dress worn by the Greeks and Romans.

Dressmaker shop, 1775

The end of the 18th century witnessed a signal change in the style of women’s dress. The gown no longer consisted of two dresses, an under and an outer one. The formal styles which had prevailed throughout the century and brought into use stiff materials such as solid damasks, velvets, satins, and silks, were replaced by the fashion of the short-waisted clinging gown made of muslin and soft silk. This “Empire” mode characterized the dress of the first quarter of the 19th century. – The Encyclopedia Americana, Frederick Converse Beach, George Edwin Rines, 1902,  “costume”

Too Much and Too Little, or Summer Cloathing for 1556 & 1796

Parisians dressed in the new fashions were known as the “incroyables” (men) and the “merveilleuses,” (women.) These fashions were not at first admired and generally regarded as hideous. Caricaturists had a heyday making fun of these freaks of Fashion. British fashionistas shortly followed suit, as the cartoon by Gillray attests.

Monstrosities of 1799, Kensington Gardens, Gillray

Macaronis turned into dandies, and gently bred ladies wore clothes so thin and diaphanous, that the shape of their legs showed clearly through the skirts. The muslin disease (catching a serious cold or pneumonia) lasted for as long as fashionable young women wore thin muslin dresses with bare necks and arms in damp and drafty buildings.

Merveilleuse et Incroyable. The close up of the dress reveals how sheer the fabrics were.

In some instances, nothing was left to the imagination. In the satirical image below by Isaac Cruikshank, the ladies are shown wearing next to nothing. Satire took many forms in the late 18th century. The Lady’s Monthly Museum featured a dialogue between a lady visiting Paris and a man milliner. His answer is hilarious.

Caricature by Isaac Cruikshank

Dialogue Between a Lady and A Man Milliner at Paris

“Citizen, I am just come to town: –pray, have the goodness to inform me how I must appear, to be in the fashion.”
“Madame, ’tis done in a moment; in two minutes I shall equip you in the first style. –Have the goodness to take off that bonnet.”
“Well.”
“Off that petticoat.”
“There it is.”
“Away with these pockets.”
“There they go.”
“Throw off that handkerchief.”
“’Tis done.”
“Away with that corset and sleeves.”
“Will that do?”
“Yes, Madame, you are now in the fashion. ‘Tis an easy matter, you see.–To be dressed in the fashion, you have only to undress.” – The Lady’s Monthly Museum, February 01, 1801, pg. 126.

Definition of a man milliner: A man who makes or deals in millinery, that occupation having been at one time predominantly performed by women; hence, contemptuously, a man who is busied with trifling occupations or embellishments.

Louis-Léopold Boilly painted a gown so sheer that without a petticoat, her short chemise is easily visible under the delicate muslin.

The days of the Revolution (1789 – 1799) brought in simple fashions. Corsets were discarded, the waist became short and the skirt clinging, and cheap materials were used. During the Directoire, the women adapted the classic style, borrowing from both Greek and Roman fashions. These costumes were scanty, and frequently were split up the sides. The dresses were often transparent and worn without chemises. The gentlemen of this fantastic period were styled “Incroyables,” “Unimaginables”; the ladies, “Merveilleuses” and “Impossibles.”  The men wore an exaggerated copy of what had been previously called the English fashion.- Costume design and illustration,  Ethel Traphagen, 1918,  p 120.

Millinery shop in Paris, 1822

A milliner could carry possibly a thousand different goods, becoming the forerunner of the modern department store. At this point, the term “milliner” was tied to the Latin word “mille,” meaning thousand.

The 18th Century milliner might have offered a thousand goods but all shared the quality of being fashionable accessories. Wares could include shoes, jewelry, table service, clocks, hosiery, fabrics, shirts, aprons, cloaks, caps, hats, muffs and mitts. – The Millinery Shop, Colonial Williamsburg

Milliner doll catalog, 1820s. These dolls were dressed in the fashion of the day. Look at the above image for a sample size of a doll. Image @Christine LeFever: Dolls and Fancywork

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Ladies shoes, 1810

In a previous post, I discussed how ladies slippers and boots were so delicately made that they could not withstand much wear and tear. In fact, a lady would not venture to walk outside the house in rainy weather and would be confined inside, whether she was in the city or country. Jane Austen described a rainy day in Mansfield Park:

… to poor Miss Crawford, who had just been contemplating the dismal rain in a very desponding state of mind, sighing over the ruin of all her plan of exercise for that morning, and of every chance of seeing a single creature beyond themselves for the next twenty-four hours; the sound of a little bustle at the front door, and the sight of Miss Price dripping with wet in the vestibule, was delightful. The value of an event on a wet day in the country, was most forcibly brought before her.”

1801, Two ladies in morning dresses, Nicholas Heideloff, Gallery of Fashion

In the country a lady would not soil her delicate kid slippers on grass or muddy lanes, but would walk along gravel paths in the shrubbery, as shown in the Heideloff image above. Elizabeth Bennet, who walked the three miles to Netherfield Park, muddying her petticoats in the process, would have worn sturdier shoes, such as those worn by the women in the watercolor below.

Studies of female figures with children, James Ward

Female fashionable attire in the eighteenth century was very ill fitted for country life, which is so largely spent out of doors. Indeed, it was not fitted for out door wear at all. No fashionable woman was properly shod in the first place, for the coloured shoes, which, as has been stated, all ladies wore, were not adapted for vigorous exercise, or damp weather, with their high heels and very open tops. Those were the kind of shoes worn for walking in London. Country life in shoes of that sort would mean endless expense. The wonder is that town bred women did not insist upon the shoemakers providing something more fitted for the dirty, uneven pathways. But, then, walking was not a daily exercise as it is now. Foot gear has undergone much reformation in the present century, in spite of the persistence of high heels…”

Knife Sharpener, W.H. Pyne. This traveling craftsman would have worn sturdy old boots like William Conway.

“… A notable itinerant trader of the middle of the eighteenth century, known to all Londoners, was William Conway of Bethnal Green, who made a living by selling and exchanging metal spoons. As he walked twenty five miles a day, Sundays excepted, his shoes were the most important articles of his attire, and these he made out of the uppers of old boots. A pair of shoes lasted him six weeks. He was an odd figure, with his long spindle legs encased in tight knee breeches, short coat, high hat, and bag slung over his shoulder.” – A history of English dress from the Saxon period to the present day, Volume 1, By Georgiana Hill , 1893, p 181

"Cash", Rowlandson, 1800. Note the dark leather slippers worn by the maid, and the sturdy buckled shoes by her elderly swain.

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