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Archive for the ‘Regency style’ Category

During the late 18th century, early 19th century, trains on gowns were de rigueur. I chose to show the two gowns below, since the styles were popular when Jane Austen was a teenager (first image) and wrote the first editions of Northanger Abbey, Sense and Sensibility, and Pride and Prejudice (second and third images).

1785-90 Sheer embroidered cotton muslin lined with pink silk taffeta - Galliera

Sheer embroidered cotton muslin, lined with pink silk taffeta, 1785-1790. Galliera

Silk Dress 1795 The Kyoto Costume Institute

Silk Dress, Kyoto Costume Institute, 1795

Robe ayant appartenu, 1797

Robe ayant appartenu, 1797

As Regency styles evolved and the 19th century  progressed, trains were worn largely on evening dresses.

 

1805-1810 French evening dress, V&A museum

1805-1810 French evening dress, V&A museum

I have often wondered how delicate muslin gowns survived the harsh laundering that was required to remove stains made from dusty floors and muddy pathways. Even the grandest ladies wearing the most expensive dresses promenaded on gravel walkways or shopped along city or village streets. How did they manage to keep their hems clean in an era when paved roads and sidewalks were almost impossible to find?

Dirt road, a view near New Cross Deptford in Kent, 1770. artist unknown Yale University, Mellon Collection.

Dirt road, a view near New Cross Deptford in Kent, 1770. artist unknown Yale University, Mellon Collection.

Until macadam roads became widespread, roads across most of Great Britain remained unpaved. Village roads were especially notorious for becoming muddy quagmires during rainy days. The deep ruts in this village scene, illustrated just five years before Jane Austen’s birth, say it all.

Detail

Detail of  the road in New Cross Deptford

Dresses worn by working class women stopped at or above the ankles, and for good reason! These women wore sturdy leather shoes that could withstand the dirt.

recto

Paul Sandby drawing of two vendors, 18th c.

City streets were barely better than country roads. While sidewalks protected dress hems, roads were still made of dirt. People tossed out garbage from their windows, and horse droppings made crossings all but impassible for pedestrians.

Dirt road_St. George, Bloomsbury

Dirt road, detail of St. George, Bloomsbury

Crossing sweepers were stationed along major intersections, sweeping a clearing for anyone willing to give a tip. Not only did horses pull carriages and wagons, but drovers led animals to market through village and city streets. The stench from their droppings must have been unbelievable.

street sweeper and wheeled plank Vernet_street_print

This enterprising street sweeper places a wheeled plank at strategic points to help pedestrians cross dirty roads. Print by Carle Vernet.

 

With time, machines began to replace manual labor, as this unhappy street sweeper notes.

By 1829, machines began to replace manual labor, as this unhappy street sweeper notes in “The Scavenger’s Lamentation.” Observe the piles of horse and animal dung left behind.

Jane Austen mentioned wearing pattens when she lived in Steventon. These devices elevated shoes above the dirt, but by the turn of the 19th century, pattens were no longer considered fashionable and were largely worn by the working classes, such as the midwife below.

Rowlandson, Midwife going to a labour.

Rowlandson. AMidwife Going to a Labour.

 

early 19th century pattens. Museum of Fine Art, Boston

early 19th century pattens. Museum of Fine Art, Boston

I always view contemporary images for clues. Diana Sperling created some wonderful watercolours around the topic. In this painting, you can see how the trains of the dresses have somehow been hitched up in the back, especially with the first and third women.

dirt road_hazards of walking sperling

Hazards of walking, by Diana Sperling

After Elizabeth Bennet walks to Netherfield to visit her sick sister, Jane, Mrs. Hurst and Mrs. Bingley speak disparagingly about the state of her dress:

“She has nothing, in short, to recommend her, but being an excellent walker. I shall never forget her appearance this morning. She really looked almost wild.”

“She did indeed, Louisa. I could hardly keep my countenance. Very nonsensical to come at all! Why must she be scampering about the country, because her sister had a cold? Her hair, so untidy, so blowsy!”

“Yes, and her petticoat; I hope you saw her petticoat, six inches deep in mud, I am absolutely certain; and the gown which had been let down to hide it, not doing its office.” – Pride and Prejudice, Chapter 8

Bingley’s citified and nouveau riche sisters were horrified at Elizabeth’s lack of decorum. To them, appearances are more important than sisterly devotion. One imagines that they would not have ventured out until the sun had dried the mud and they could be assured of a carriage. From the image below, one can readily see why Elizabeth’s hems were in such sad shape after her long walk in fields made wet by heavy rain.

Dirt roads

One wonders how helpful pattens were when dirt roads became quagmires. Although she was young when she painted these watercolours, Diana Sperling demonstrates a decided sense of humor in her paintings.

In Northanger Abbey, Isabella and Catherine became quickly inseparable, even calling each other by their first names in an age when only intimate friends and family could be on such terms.

They called each other by their Christian name, were always arm in arm when they walked, pinned up each other’s train for the dance, and were not to be divided in the set; and if a rainy morning deprived them of other enjoyments, they were still resolute in meeting in defiance of wet and dirt, and shut themselves up, to read novels together. 

They pinned up the trains of each others’ evening gowns to prevent tripping, but also staining, I suspect.  (It must be noted that guests changed from their street shoes to dancing slippers before entering a ballroom, which probably reduced the amount of dirt trailed inside.) Nothing could stop the girls from seeing each other, not even “dirt” or muddy streets.

There were many ways to protect trains. In this film still, Gwynneth Paltrow’s Emma hitches her train on a loop over her wrist.

Note the train in this image of the 1996 version of Emma

Note the train in this image of the 1996 version of Emma

These French images from the late 18th century provide the best evidence in how ladies would protect their delicate dresses out of doors. While we assume that ladies did not expose their ankles to the public (they certainly did not in the Victorian era, but the Regency was a different time), the illustrations point out the practical habit of hitching a train over one’s arm.

corte de pelo a la victima

This French fashionista with her short, pert hair cut, reveals her roman style slippers as she promenades with her train carried over her arm.

Les Merveilleuses, by carle vernet

While this 1797 satiric image by Carle Vernet is making fun of fashionistas, one can surmise that the habit of carrying long skirts over the fore arm was widespread.

Wind and open windows swept dirt and dust continually into houses and visitors trod in dirt. No wonder maids needed to sweep floors daily!

Regardless of the efforts to keep streets, sidewalks, and floors clean, one wonders about the condition of the hems on women’s garments. Clothes were expensive before the advent of mass-produced cloth and were carefully recycled, even by the well-off.

Laundresses took an enormous amount of effort to keep clothes clean. One can only assume that the majority of women wore clothes with stained hems, and that only the rich could afford the expense of keeping their clothes looking spotless. Eleanor Tilney wore only white gowns, which told contemporary readers more about her economic status than pages of explanations ever could. In Mansfield Park, Mrs. Norris frowned on maidservants wearing white gowns. These white clothes were not only above their stations, but they would require an enormous amount of time spent on maintenance.

Also on this blog: Trains on Dresses

 

 

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One of the benefits of gathering images for Pinterest is that one’s awareness of the minute differences in fashions from year to year improves. Daily exposure to thousands of fashion images from the Georgian era have taught me to notice the nuances of style and line. These images are one-sided, since very few articles of clothing from the lower classes survive. With rare exceptions, most museum quality fashions were made for the wealthy, and one must keep in mind when studying these images that fashions for the upper classes were vastly different from those of the working poor or laboring classes. Men’s trousers are a perfect example of class distinction.

a dandy fainting

In this caricature, you can see a contemporary rendering of short, loose trousers; formal breeches; and a form-fitting pantaloon.

By the turn of the 19th century, breeches, pantaloons and trousers worn by all men were sewn with a flap in front called a fall front. This flap was universally held in place by two or three buttons at the top. No belts were worn. Instead, breeches, pantaloons and trousers were held up by tight-fitting waists, which were adjusted by gusset ties in back of the waist. Seats were baggy to allow a man to rise comfortably from a sitting position. As waists rose to the belly button after 1810, suspenders were used to hold the garment up.

Trousers, top flap

Trousers with top flap open

Bfreeches with flap front closed. Image @Met Museum

Breeches with flap front closed. Image @Met Museum

Breeches silk - 18th century - part of a wedding suit. From the Ham House collection, Surrey. Image @National Trust

Breeches silk – 18th century – part of a wedding suit. From the Ham House collection, Surrey. Image @National Trust. Note that the front flap has only two buttons.

Breeches, or short pants worn just below the knee, were popular during the 18th century. During the Regency era, they were worn largely as evening wear or at court, a practice that was to continue until the mid-century.

Detail of buttons at the knee. Breeches image @Met Museum

Detail of buttons at the knee. Breeches image @Met Museum

By the 1820s, breeches had fallen out of favor for day wear and were considered either too old-fashioned or effeminate a garment. As the 19th century progressed only liveried male servants, most specifically footmen, continued to wear breeches.

Full Dress of a Gentleman, 1810.

Full Dress of a Gentleman, 1810. @Costume Institute of Fashion Plates, Met Museum

In their heyday, breeches were made from a variety of materials. For the upper classes, buckskin breeches were considered to be proper casual attire for mornings or life  in the country. Silk  breeches were reserved for the evening and more formal occasions. White stockings were worn with white breeches, and black or white stockings with black breeches. Tradesmen and hunters wore breeches made of  leather or coarse cloth.

Country attire of buckskin breeches, clawhammer coat, and hessian boots.

Country or morning attire of buckskin breeches, clawhammer coat, and riding boots.

Around the 1790s, the tail coat changed and breeches began to be lengthened below the knees to accommodate the longer tails, gradually giving way to slimmer fitting, longer pants, or pantaloons, that ended at the ankle. Pantaloons were close-fitting and sometimes buttoned all the way down the leg. Fabrics were knitted or, like kerseymere and nankin, cut on the bias, so that the garment would hug the leg.

1809 image of man wearing pantaloons. Image @Republic of Pemberley

1809 image of man wearing pantaloons. Image @Republic of Pemberley

These slim pants were often worn with Hessian boots. To help maintain a smooth look, some pantaloons had a fabric loop that went under the foot, as in the image below. Gusset ties are evident in this image.

1830 linen pantaloon 1830-40 met

Pantaloons were recommended for men whose legs were both slim and muscular. The idea was to show off a good leg. If men possessed deficiencies in musculature, a slight degree of stuffing was recommended, although padding, it was assumed, would be used with the greatest care and circumspection. Interestingly, stockings worn under pantaloons were kept in place by the tightness of the design and fabric.

Padding was added to make the ideal 1819 male figure.

Some dandies added padding to attain the ideal 1819 male figure.

Caricaturists had a field day with men whose physiques looked outlandish in pantaloons.

French illustration of British gentlemen. Note the unflattering way that pantaloons hug the figure on the left.

French illustration of British gentlemen. Note the unflattering way that pantaloons hug the figure on the left.

This detail of a public domain image from the Metropolitan Museum of Art shows a Regency dandy who cuts a fine figure in his pantaloons. No stuffing or corsets needed here.

A fine figure of a man

A fine figure of a man

Overalls were a form of extended breeches used largely by military men, but first worn by men in the American frontier. They covered the leg, stockings, and buttoned over shoes, much like spats. They were a practically garment for traveling and walking over rugged terrain, and were quickly adopted by the British army.

Trouser, 1793. Image @Met Museum

Overall, 1793. Image @Met Museum

Capt. John Clayton Cowell, 1st Battalion, 1st (or the Royal) Reg’t of Foot, ca. 1796

Capt. John Clayton Cowell, 1st Battalion, 1st (or the Royal) Reg’t of Foot, ca. 1796

Trousers were first worn by sailors and working men before 1800, and were adopted by the fashionable set around 1810.

Scene in Hyde Park in 1817 shows a combination of trousers

Scene in Hyde Park in 1817 shows a combination of trousers and pantaloon worn by the soldier.

Originally known as “slops”, trousers were loose-fitting and ended at the ankle. As trousers were adopted, long stockings with decorative clocks were replaced by half-hose, all but destroying the stocking industry, which had thrived since breeches had become fashionable.

A sailor's slops ended at the ankle. Detail of Rpwlandson's "Wapping"

A sailor’s slops ended at the ankle. Detail of Rowlandson’s “Wapping”, ca. 1807

Caricatures had a field day showing dandy’s in short wide-legged trousers, as in the image below.

An exquisite wearing wide legged trousers

An exquisite wearing wide legged trousers with a high waist that came up to the navel.

Closer fitting trousers were slit up the seam for a few inches above the ankle. This allowed the foot to get through the pant leg. (Breeches and pantaloons were buttoned on the side.) Early in the 19th century, they were appropriate only for day wear.

cotton trousers from 1800, Image @Met Museum, with slits up the seams.

cotton trousers from 1800, Image @Met Museum, with slits up the seams.

Tight trousers create a dilemma for this dandy, who cannot pick up his handkerchief.

Tight trousers create a dilemma for this dandy, who cannot pick up his handkerchief. Notice the very high waist.

Trousers with a fall front, 1820. Image @Augusta Auctions

Trousers with a fall front, 1820. Image @Augusta Auctions

Trousers were made of wool, linen or cotton. They could also be strapped.

The Marquis of Worcester walks in profile with his half-clipped poodle. He wears top-hat, double-breasted tail-coat with a rose in his buttonhole, and strapped trousers. Jan 1 1823. Image@ British Museum

The Marquis of Worcester walks in profile with his half-clipped poodle. He wears top-hat, double-breasted tail-coat with a rose in his buttonhole, and strapped trousers. Jan 1 1823. Image@ British Museum

By the 1840s, they had replaced pantaloons. The waist is high in the above trousers, which were probably kept up with suspenders.

The well trousered genteman

The well trousered gentleman, ca. 1830s-40s.

Knee pants with black silk stockings were an essential evening accessory until 1850s when long trousers finally took over. Up until the 1850s, the tie could be black or white, but by the ’60s, white or off-white was the most common choice.

1850's ballroom scene.

1850′s ballroom scene.

In the 1850s long trousers finally replaced breeches for appropriate evening attire.

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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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Over a year ago I read a fabulous blog post on the Regency Redingote entitled  Boy to Man: The Breeching Ceremony. The article is thorough and I was quite satisfied with its information until I ran into this quote, written by Jane Austen in 1801 to her sister Cassandra:

Mary has likewise a message: she will be much obliged to you if you can bring her the pattern of the jacket and trousers, or whatever it is that Elizabeth’s boys wear when they are first put into breeches; so if you could bring her an old suit itself, she would be very glad, but that I suppose is hardly done.”

This short passage told me much more about the topic and I decided to pursue it further.

Portrait of William Ellis Gosling, 1800 , Sir William Beechey, R.A. Image @Wikipedia

Portrait of William Ellis Gosling, 1800 , Sir William Beechey, R.A. Image @Wikimedia Commons

During the 18th century boys and girls were dressed alike in baby clothes during their infancy and in petticoats as toddlers. In Beechey’s image, our modern eyes would not identify the infant as a boy unless he was labeled as such.

John Russel, Boy with spaniel. Image @ Christie's.

John Russel, Boy with spaniel. Image @ Christie’s.

At some point, the boys** would be placed in skeleton suits or a form of pantaloons and a frilly tunic. Their hair was still worn long and they still lived in the nursery, if the household was wealthy enough, or were overseen by women – their mothers, older sisters, grandmothers, aunts, nursemaids, etc.

Fathers rarely stepped inside the nursery, the province of women.

Fathers rarely stepped inside the nursery, the province of women. In this idealized scene, the infants are guided on leading strings and a special “cage” that enabled toddlers to learn to walk. Image, source unknown. (Does anyone know the provenance?)

Between the age of 4-6, they would have their hair shorn and graduate to wearing trousers. This important event was marked by a breeching ceremony, a significant milestone in a young boy’s life. I can liken it to my first communion at the age of six. It was an event so important and memorable that I can still vividly recall my pretty white dress and veil, and the details of receiving my first communion wafer and celebrating the occasion with close family and friends. I felt different after that day, and in that way can relate to the pride that 18th and 19th century boys must have felt as they changed into the clothes that marked their first step to manhood.

The modern eye would regard these two children as girls. Lydia Elizabeth Hoare (1786–1856), Lady Acland, with Her Two Sons, Thomas (1809–1898), Later 11th Bt, and Arthur (1811–1857) by Thomas Lawrence   Date painted: 1814–1815. Image @National Trust Collection

The modern eye would regard these two children as girls. Lydia Elizabeth Hoare (1786–1856), Lady Acland, with Her Two Sons, Thomas (1809–1898), Later 11th Bt, and Arthur (1811–1857)
by Thomas Lawrence
Date painted: 1814–1815. Image @National Trust Collection

The breeching ceremony had little to do with social status and was practiced across all class lines. The rich could afford any amount of new clothes for their children, made by tailors or seamstresses, no doubt, but at the start of the Industrial Revolution, the cost of clothing was still prohibitive for even the gentry, the class to which Jane Austen’s family belonged. As Jane Austen so often mentioned in her letters, clothes were generally remade and recycled rather than discarded. Ribbons, buttons, lace, or other embellishments were added to update a garment, and sleeves were reshaped or cut down to size, and hems raised or lengthened as current fashion required. If the garment was no longer suitable for one person, it could be cut down to size for someone who was smaller. The refashioned garment was worn and patched until it was given to the poor or used as rags.

Jane Austen’s comments about her sister-in-law’s request to Cassandra to bring back a pattern to share or an old suit for her boy’s breeching ceremony now makes sense. The women of the house sewed the clothes (for mass production of garments and textiles was still in the future), and shared patterns and borrowed sartorial ideas from each other. Hand me downs were de rigeur, I am sure, for most parents of that era with large families could scarcely afford new clothes for each of their many children.

Thomas Lawrence English (Bristol, England 1769 - 1830 London, England) Sir Walter James, Bt., and Charles Stewart Hardinge, 1829. Image @Harvard Art Museums

Thomas Lawrence
English (Bristol, England 1769 – 1830 London, England)
Sir Walter James, Bt., and Charles Stewart Hardinge, 1829. Image @Harvard Art Museums

Regardless of social standing, all boys,  even those from the lower sorts, would receive a new pair of breeches around the age of six (four to six, to be more precise). The breeching event provided a cause for private celebration, to which family and friends were invited. For the parents, this ceremony also acknowledged that their child had survived past infancy. In an age when so many children died before reaching their majority (almost a fourth of them would die before the age of 10), the breeching ceremony might well have been the only significant event in a young boy’s life. In addition, he received a set of brand new clothes – a milestone indeed!

To put a perspective on how a parent felt about this event, Samuel Taylor Coleridge proudly writes of his son Hartley’s breeching ceremony in 1801:

Hartley was breeched last Sunday — & looks far better than in his petticoats. He ran to & fro in a sort of dance to the Jingle of the Load of Money, that had been put in his breeches pockets; but he did [not] roll & tumble over and over in his old joyous way — No! it was an eager & solemn gladness, as if he felt it to be an awful aera in his Life. O bless him! bless him! bless him!” – Samuel Coleridge to Robert Southey, November 9, 1801

Portrait of Two Boys in Green and Red Velvet Suits by Ramsay Richard Reinagle

Portrait of Two Boys in Green and Red Velvet Suits
by Ramsay Richard Reinagle

What a vivid description! Relatives and friends, including the godparents, showered the young boy with coins and gifts. This ceremony marked an important occasion in which the boy left the world of women (nursery). After this momentous event, his father would become more involved with his upbringing or he would be mentored by other men in his life. He might be placed in a nearby boarding school with the young sons of other gentry, such as the one that Rev. Austen ran, for example, or in a more prestigious school if his parents were richer. Opposed to a young boy of the same age, a little girl’s life remained essentially the same – she would learn the art of running a household and catching a suitable man, but her young male counterpart would learn the art of running an estate or, if he was a second son, the skills required to make his way in life. (Click here for a modern image of breeches.)

THE CHILDREN OF RICHARD CROFT, 6TH Bt.,c.1803, by John James Halls, R.A.  In this image one can see the three stages of boyhood - petticoats, skeleton suit, and jacket, shirt, and trousers.

THE CHILDREN OF RICHARD CROFT, 6TH Bt.,c.1803, by John James Halls, R.A. In this image one can see the three stages of boyhood – petticoats, skeleton suit, and jacket, shirt, and trousers.

**The type of clothing that young boys wore after the breeching ceremony depended on the century. During the 17th century, children’s clothes looked like miniature versions of adults. Young boys wore waistcoats, shirts, breeches, stockings and leather shoes. But by the time Jane Austen and Samuel Taylor Coleridge wrote their remarks in 1801, childhood was extended. Little boys wore skeleton suits until the age of nine, and then were graduated into more adult like clothing. Sons of the working class and poor did not wear skeleton suits, but wore clothing that resembled that of their farmer and laborer fathers.

More on the Topic:

Other links and resources:

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Several years ago I wrote a post on Regency Hairstyles and their Accessories. This series of images starts much earlier than the Regency. Jane Austen, who was born in 1775, would have been familiar with the hairstyles depicted here up to 1817, the year of her death. Her mother and aunts would have worn longer curls and powdered hair in her childhood. As teenagers and young women just coming on the marriage mart, she and Cassandra would have worn their hair much like the women in the 1790s.

Jane Austen's World image

1780s, 1781, 1790

As can be seen from the paintings, hairdos were elaborate in the 1780s and 1790s. Wigs made from real human hair were often used to build up elaborate hair structures. These confections took so many hours to create that a woman would wear them for days on end, protecting the hairdo at night.

Wigs and hair were covered with hair powder made of starch (potato or rice flour, not wheat flour). Oily pomades applied to the hair allowed the powder to stick and fragrant oils masked odors.

Jane Austen's World image

1790, 1792, 1795

Jane Austen's World image

1795, 1796, 1797

Hairdos became increasingly less elaborate and by the end of the 18th century women began to look to antiquity for role models.  (Regency Hairstyles and their Accessories.) A woman’s natural hair color was allowed to shine. More often than not, women tied back their hair in chignons that exposed the neck. In some instances, hairdos were cut boyishly short. Lady Caroline Lamb cut her hair short, as did the two girls shown in 1810.

Jane Austen's World image

1797, 1800, 18001801, 1801, 1802 1801, 1801, 1802

I cannot anyhow continue to find people agreeable; I respect Mrs. Chamberlayne for doing her hair well, but cannot feel a more tender sentiment – Jane Austen, 1801

1802, 1802-1804, 1804

1802, 1802-1804, 1804

1804, 1804, 1804

1804, 1804, 1804

1804, 1805, 1804-1806

1804, 1805, 1804-1806

1806, 1906, 1807

1806, 1906, 1807

1807, 1807, 1808

1807, 1807, 1808

Even when wearing hats, curls were coaxed out to frame the face. The woman below right with straight hair pulled back into a severe chignon wears curls in front of her ears. Curling tongs were very much in use during this era, as were paper and cloth curlers worn at night.

1809, 1809, 1809

1809, 1809, 1809

1810, 1810, 1810

1810, 1810, 1810

1810, 1810, 1810

1810, 1810, 1810

1810, 1810, 1810

1810, 1810, 1810

1810, 1811, 1812

1810, 1811, 1812

She looks very well, and her hair is done up with an elegance to do credit to any education.” – Jane Austen, 1813

1813, 1813, 1815

1813, 1813, 1816

1816, 1816, 1816

1816, 1816, 1816

Jane Austen wore caps over her light brown hair, but allowed curls to peep out from under them. I imagine that her nieces at a ball looked much like the young miss at top left in 1813. Hairdos became slowly more elaborate as dresses as dresses were embellished with frills, lace, and other furbelows. Jane would not have recognized the more elaborately decorated dresses and stylized hairstyles of the mid-1820s and 1830s, in which natural flowing lines were taken over by elaborately ruffled collars and skirt hems. Had she lived, she might even have made a joke at the expense of ladies who wore  the popular but elaborately built-up hairstyles at the crown, with ringlets cascading down the sides, and flowers and feathers arranged artfully into the curls. (Modes des Paris image.)

1818, 1819, 1820

1818, 1819, 1820

1824, 1825, 1825

1824, 1825, 1825

1828, 1828-1833, 1830

1828, 1828-1833, 1830

1831, 1834, 1835

1831, 1834, 1835

Modes des Paris image, 1832

Modes des Paris image, 1832

More on the topic

To see a Regency timeline of headresses and hairstyles for Regency evenings and their descriptions, click here.

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I can’t believe it’s been a day since the excitement of my first JASNA (Jane Austen Society of America) Annual Meeting. This one was held in Brooklyn, which turned out to be a fabulous place for this Janeite, for I walked over half of the Brooklyn Bridge between sessions and loitered in Brooklyn Heights, a truly wonderful neighborhood in which to while away one’s time. Then there were the plenary sessions, break out sessions and the EMPORIUM, where money flowed from my pocket into the vendors’. (I had to ship my loot back!)

Feather fan. Only some discoloration and one blemish flaw this otherwise remarkably preserved fan.

One of the loveliest displays was the antique fan exhibition presented by Dr. Abbey Block Cash. The variety of fans was astounding. One, made entirely of feathers, was in almost pristine condition (see image). The fans were so delicate that I would be afraid to handle them and many were hand painted. One in particular caught my eye … a puzzle fan from 1820:

The fan is made of French brise with blond horn sticks. The four images that open in four directions are:

  • Bouquet of flowers
  • Marriage proposal
  • Farm house
  • Planting scene

I went to the website suggested in the brochure, the Fan Association of North America is: http://fanassociation.org/projects.htm. Information on this site was varied and practical. What I liked in particular were the links to other fan sites. FANA is well worth a visit and exploration if you are interested in these beautiful yet practical accessories.

Not all the fans belonged to the Regency Era. As you can see, most are hand painted with exquisite scenes. The last fan in this video was made ca. 1910 (I hope my memory serves me right) and depicts scenes painted by Kate Greenaway. It is obvious from the quality of the fans that all were destined for the upper crust. I did not see a fan of the sort that the lower classes could afford, such as those with advertisements. (Because I did not see such fans, does not mean that they were absent.)

I wish I had the presence of mind to ask about the language of the fan, for there are so many myths swirling around that topic, but those of you who have been to an AGM know how much there is to see and do, and how many people one MUST meet NOW.

The red fan was exquisite and dramatic. The fan in back of it sports Kate Greenaway images of children.

There were some notable absences at this year’s AGM: I so wanted to meet my frequent blog partner Laurel Ann Nattres (editor of Jane Austen Made Me Do It and Austenprose) and Margaret Sullivant (editrix of Austenblog), but alas they did not come this year. You will see over the coming weeks the people I DID meet, such as Joan Klingel Ray, Susannah Fullerton, Deb Barnum (my lovely roommate), Lori Smith, Syrie James, and Dianah Baycich. Some of us fell all over each other like twins separated at birth. Every Janeite should make at least one JASNA Meeting. You simply will not be disappointed. I must add that the folks from JASNA NY did a splendid job of putting this complex (and largest) JASNA conference together. Kudos to all.

Read my other post from the AGM:

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Men of fashion began to wear short and more natural hair at the end of the 18th century, sporting cropped curls and long sideburns in a classical manner much like  Grecian warriors and Roman senators. Before this period, a balding Louis XIII had made powdered wigs popular at the French court and consequently throughout Europe. The often elaborate and expensive gray wigs lent an air of wisdom and authority to their wearers.

William Pitt the Younger – Attributed to Thomas Gainsborough (c. 1804)
Prime Minister 1783 – 1801; Chancellor of the Exchequer 1804 – 1806

A scarcity of flour in 1795, combined with William Pitt’s attempt to raise revenue through a hair powder tax, brought the fashion for wigs and powder to a screeching halt. Men protested and a new more natural hair style became fashionable.

The 5th Duke of Bedford. Image @ Wikipedia

The Bedford Crop was a style of hair favored by the Duke of Bedford, who, in protest to the tax, abandoned his wigs in favor of a short cropped and unpowdered hairstyle. He challenged his friends to do the same.  His natural looking crop was parted on the side with a dab of hair wax.Wikipedia)

Pitt eventually reduced this unpopular tax on hair powder, which never quite generated the revenue he predicted, but by then it was too late. Gentlemen had discovered the comforts of going au naturel, and by 1812, few men still wore wigs. There were some holdovers – older men, military officers, and those in conservative professions such as lawyers, judges, physicians, and some servants for the very rich (footmen and coachmen) retained their wigs and powder. Formal court dress also still required powdered hair.

Beau Brummel’s Brutus hair style in 1805. Notice how it is brushed forward and volumized on top of his head.

By and large men took their cue from classical Greek and Roman art. The romantic movement also influenced a natural, unpretentious aesthetic. A dry disordered look that used very few artificial products began to rule.  Beau Brummel’s influence cannot be discounted. His own grooming included shorter hair and a clean-shaven face. Every morning he examined his face in a dentist mirror and plucked any remaining stray hairs with tweezers. By 1813, almost all Regency men sported both long or short sideburns; they rarely wore mustaches or beards.

In Pride and Prejudice 1995, Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy wore his hair somewhat longer than the Bedford Crop and affected a slightly unruly hairdo, probably known as the Brutus.  (I confess I never liked Firth’s hairstyle for Mr. Darcy.)

Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy. His rather long, wild hairstyle now makes sense to me.

Upon seeing the following images, I can now see why the film’s hair stylist settled on this slightly wild do for Mr. Darcy, which seems to be a compromise between a severe clipped hair style and the stylish “frightened owl” hairdo below.

Young man by an unknown artist, c. 1800, from the book The Tie. Image @Jessamyn’s Regency Costume Companion

The  “frightened owl” hairstyle was achieved through infrequent hair washing (as infrequently as every few months) and the use of hair wax, which helped to create the wild and unruly volume.

The models for Regency men’s hairstyles: Caesar, Titus, and Brutus

Popular styles in the late 18th century were the Caesar, Titus, and Brutus. The Coup au Vent was short at the back and worn long over the eyes at the front.

Caesar cut. You can almost see the laurel leaves on his head with this brushed forward Caesar cut. Portrait of an unnamed man, ca. 1810-20

The Cherubin, like the Bedford Crop, sported short curls all over (the Caesar was clipped even closer.)

Bernier by Ingres, 1800. You can see the all over cropped unruly look. The sideburns in all these images are long, but the men are clean shaven.

The Classically influenced Titus was cropped short everywhere but at the front with curls combed forward onto the forehead to resemble the Roman Emperor Titus.

Balding men benefited from the close cropped, forward brushed styles. c.1815. Louis Francois Aubry. Monsieur Rivio Baritone in Paris Opera

The more severe Brutus was even more clopped than the Titus. One of the most popular hair styles of the day, though, was the Brutus, a disheveled style that Beau Brummell and his followers wore.

John Opie’s 1802 portrait of Edmund Lenthal Swifte shows a few artfully arranged locks over the forehead.

These hairstyles  took a great deal of time and patience to achieve. Men used an oil or pomade made of bear fat to achieve a natural “tamed” wildness. (Scented pomades were called Pomade de Nerole and Pomade de Graffa.)  Since hair was rarely washed, night caps were worn to prevent soiling pillows and doilies protected the backs of chairs.

The height on top with the artfully arranged curls take precedence in this hairstyle. Friedrich Wilhelm Schelling, 1801.

Napoloeon Bonaparte’s classic Caesar cut sported  longer locks down the forehead.

This dandy sports a Titus.

Arnauld de Beaufort ca 1818 (by Pierre Paul pPrud’hon). His hair is noticeably brushed forward, lending his features a saturnine look.

Regency hairstyles gave men a natural, romanticized look. 1800s portrait of an unknown man.

Gericault’s 1816 self-portrait shows a wildly romantic and unruly hairstyle.

Additional Information:

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Covered porcelain pomade pot. Mid 18th Century. Image@Metropolitan Museum of Art

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Infant’s hand-embroidered dress, c. 1815-1820. Image @Vintage Textiles.

Whenever I view fashion plates and clothes from 200 years ago with Vandyke points, my gaze always lingers. I love these deeply indented trims and decorations, whether they are made of lace or cloth. These are sewn by hand! Imagine the work that went into them.

Vandyke points on the sleeves of a girl’s dress, 1815-1820. Image @Vintage Textile

Delicate muslin border. Image @Vintage Textile

These trims were named after Sir Anthony Van Dyck, a 17th-century Flemish painter (and popular portraitist for British royalty and the upper crust), who was known for painting elaborate V-shaped lace collars and scalloped edges on both his male and female sitters. The pointed vandyke beard was named after him. You can see an example of both in the portrait of Charles I below.

Anthony Van Dyck’s triple portrait of Charles I. Notice the scalloped edge lace collars and pointed vandyke beard.

Vandyke points are labor intensive. The edges you see in the sample of a child’s dress are sewn by hand, as are the tucks. One can only imagine how much time it took, but the results are striking.

Notice the Vandyke points. Love this Heideloff fashion image, 1794-98.

All of the lade edges were once hand-tatted; they are now machine made, but no less spectacular.

Modern reproduction of a regency gown using lace with vandyke points

Vandyke points edged skirts:

Muslin dress with vandyke edging, 1820-1825. Image @Christie’s

They embellished lace caps and collars:

Vandyke points on lace cap and on collar, detail of an Ackermann plate, morning gown, April 1812.

And edged necklines:

1818 ballgown with satin vandyke points edging

They were used to decorate hems:

Silk European dress, ca. 1819-22. Image @MetMuseum

And are still made for modern edgings:

Modern lacy knit with vandyke points

17th century antique clothes looked rich and splendid with these added lace embellishments:

Italian collar with sharp lace points, 1610

For embroidery stitches and lace tatting, click on the following link: Van Dyke online tatting: This article demonstrates how to tat your own Vandyke point lace. Warning. Time consuming. And the link in the caption to the image below:

Vandyke embroidery stitch – a nice way to fill in leaves and flowers. Image @Windy River embroidery stitch tutorial

More on the topic:

Rolinda Sharple’s painting of the Cloakroom at Clifton shows a number of dresses with vandyke points. This one demonstrates several rows of lace with scalloped edges, and sharp-edged embroidery patterns.

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Vic at 22 on a sailboat, reading a Georgette Heyer novel. Look at those chubby Dutch cheeks!

I stumbled upon Georgette Heyer during a golden time of my life after college graduation when I had three precious free months before I began school again. Bursting with youthful energy, I didn’t know what to do with my time. And so I hit the books, but this time for pleasure. In those days, I could gobble up a book a day if I was so inclined, and I sped through Jane Eyre. Wuthering Heights. Tess of the d’Urbervilles. Rebecca. Father and Sons, by Ivan Turgenev, one of my favorite authors, and Pride and Prejudice (for the second time in my life). That last novel with its sparkling wit and clear view of village life seemed like a breath of fresh air after the heightened emotions of the Victorian authors.

To me, Mr. Bennet was the image of my father, whose wry statements always made me pause before I could figure out if he was making sport of me, himself, or some other unwitting target. Mrs. Bennet reminded me of my crazy Dutch grandmothers – both of whom were slightly hysterical and VERY demanding. I read Pride and Prejudice twice that summer (and began a tradition of reading it every summer for the next twenty years). Greedily I reached for more Jane Austen novels until there were none left. I railed against the illness that carried Jane off before she could produce enough novels to assuage my addiction. Where to turn?

The library, of course.

I looked up Regency novels and found … Clare Darcy. Ok, I thought. I’ll give her a try and picked up a copy of Victoire, a most logical choice given my given name, and read the book in one long sitting. How to state it nicely: Clare Darcy is to Jane Austen what a sputtering candle is to the sun at high noon.

My quest was not over.

My apartment roommie, also a Janeite, discovered the Flashman novels by George MacDonald Fraser. She LOVED them. But budding little feminist me wanted books written by humorous females, not a man with no interest in the goings on of small town families and their courtship rituals, and silly clergy, and strong heroines who were able to learn a thing or two. And so I continued my search.

One day I found a Barbara Cartland novel. Hahahahahahahaha! Tossing aside her cheesy book about a 16-year-old-heroine with a heart-shaped face, I wondered if I could charge her for wasting my precious life.

I continued my search.

And there it was. On the bottom shelf at the library. Arabella. It was a pathetic excuse of a book – dog-eared, blemished, and torn partially in the spine. I read the front cover – Arabella by Georgette Heyer – then sat on the floor and began to read. Witty words leapt from the pages. I laughed with delight. Before long I checked out the book and proceeded to read it in one long sitting. My roommie, who had started her new job two weeks after college, came home from work to find me engrossed. “I found a new author,” I said, telling her she could read the book when I was done. I gave it to her that night.

We were both instantly hooked on Georgette Heyer.

I returned to the library and checked out all the Georgette Heyers I could find. My roommie and I fell in love with Arabella, but we became die-hard fans when we encountered Venetia, The Grand Sophie, Sylvester, and Frederica. By summer’s end we had read ALL the GHs we could lay our hands on, even the mysteries and histories. (Thankfully, Georgette was prolific.)

My roommie and I were two young and hopeless romantics. We loved the glittering, detailed descriptions of the characters, the clothes they wore from expensive shops, and the houses, towns, and cities they inhabited. We learned about Regency London and the manners and mores of the Ton. Georgette Heyer characters spoke in cant, and thus we affected British accents and used cant-speech at every opportunity. Our boyfriends, while a bit mystified, played along, even debating which weapon was more effective in a fight – the epee or the sword.

Vintage GHs

But then life intruded and my intense love affair with Georgette Heyer had to take a back seat. I returned to school and began to read academic books again. I left my obsession behind, except for my yearly date with Pride and Prejudice.

Flash forward a number of decades when Sourcebooks began to republish Georgette Heyer novels. Once more I began to read them regularly, only this time I reviewed them as well.  I discovered that my tastes had changed and that I was more attracted to other novels like The Reluctant Widow and The Convenient Marriage. I never reread Arabella, for I did not want to revisit my first love only to discover that she had flaws.

I savor my memory of first discovering Georgette Heyer and thank Sourcebooks for the opportunity to relive that Golden Summer. I keep about 10 GH books on my Nook and Kindle (yes, I have both) so I am not ever very far from one of my favorite authors. If you are intrigued, all of GH s novels are available at Sourcebook’s Discover a New Love Website at http://www.discoveranewlove.com.

WIN A FREE BOOK! Those who leave a comment, have an opportunity to win a Georgette Heyer novel! Just let me know why you love to read Regency romances and/or Jane Austen! Contest ends on August 16th, (Contest ended!)which is Georgette Heyer’s 110th Birthday! Happy Birthday, GH, and thanks for the memories. Congratulations winners, Jan and Ginger, chosen through Random Number Generator! Thank you all for making a comment!

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Among the principle gifts in 1908 may be mentioned: – suit of clothes, &c., formerly belonging to Mr Thomas Coutts, the founder of Coutts Bank, died 1822, given by Francis Coutts, Esq., Announcement for The Victoria & Albert Museum

Shirt. Image @Metropolitan Museum of Art

This cryptic announcement does not tell the whole story of how a number of important museums around the world came into the possession of several portions of Mr. Coutt’s wardrobe. In her excellent book, Four Hundred Years of Fashion, Natalie Rothstein (curator of silks at the Victoria & Albert Museum) recounted how the clothes that had once been worn by Thomas Coutts, successful banker, came to be passed down for several generations in the family and divided among a number of major museums in 1908 and 1912.  The collection was unusual, for it consisted of the entire wardrobe of a gentleman who lived in the early 19th century, that included:

the considerable number of cloth costumes, articles of hosiery and underclothing left by Mr Thomas Coutts at the time of his death, 24th February 1822 . . . The cloth suits are all of a plain black and of precisely the same cut, so that only one is necessary for exhibition.”

One of the ten wigs in the “brutus” style. One wonders if Mr. Coutts is wearing one in the illustration below! Image @The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Top hat

Additional clothes in the collection include: 57 items of underwear made of linen or wool,  46 shirts made of a fine cambric and with and without frills, four spotted nightgowns, several plain nightgowns, 13 pair of leather and wool gloves, ten wigs and three beaver hats. Such a large, intact group of clothes from one source was rare and unique. Ironically for the museums, according to Strandlines, “Thomas Coutts seems to have been an eccentric man, who preferred to dress scruffily and to hide his wealth, rather than display it.”

Thomas Coutts. {From an engraving by R. W. Sievier of an oil painting by Sir W. Beechey, R.A.)

Coutts was not a wit himself or the cause of wit in others. There are, indeed, two or three anecdotes, ” duplications,” in the argot of the Higher Criticism of the same legend, which turn upon the piquant incongruity of his garb with his gear. He is dressed in a threadbare coat, “the costume of a decayed gentleman,” and a benevolent stranger of limited means presses a guinea into his hand, and then to his dismay learns that he has ” pouched ” the wealthiest man in England. It may have been so. A dean once complained to the present writer that he was often mistaken for the verger, and offered a shilling for his services as guide to the Cathedral. It is possible that before the days of Harriot Mellon, Coutts was sometimes ” attired in very faded, worn-out clothes,” but his wardrobe, which his widow preserved in camphor, was, like Alice Fell’s new cloak, as stout and ” warm as man can sell.” A select portion is preserved at the Victoria and Albert Museum, and may be inspected by the curious. He had, too, some five or six ” Brutus ” wigs, which were of the finest make and the costliest description. Even if these legends are founded on fact, they are hardly worth the re-telling.” – The life of Thomas Coutts, bankerErnest Hartley Coleridge (1920).

Harriot Mellon Coutts and the future Duchess of St. Albans, painted by Sir William Beechey in 1817-1818. She preserved her husband’s wardrobe.

It was fortuitous that Coutt’s second wife, Harriot Coutts, nee Mellon, was the daughter of a wardrobe-keeper in a company of strolling players. One can only imagine that when she was made a widow the preservation of her husband’s wardrobe would come naturally to her. The Victoria & Albert Museum eventually acquired three suits, several sets of the underwear, two of the spotted nightgown, and some accessories. The rest of Coutts’s wardrobe was (sadly) divided among a number of museums, including The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, The Royal Ontario Museum, The Royal Scottish Museum, Bristol Museum and Art Gallery, and more. All but one of the museums would receive a black suit. With vast understatement, Ms. Rothstein (who laments the break up of such an intact collection) writes:

The clothes worn by Mr Coutts were probably not the height of fashion but rather conservative. There is no mention of any trousers for instance, in the full list of his clothes. All his suits had breeches. The cut of his coats is consistent with the current fashions: his tailor was probably as conservative as his customer. None of his coats had a waist seam. - Four Hundred Years of Fashion, Natalie Rothstein, p. 62

Black wool day suit. Image @ Victoria & Albert Museum

Since the late 16th century, middle-class professionals like doctors, lawyers, clergymen, academics, merchants, and businessmen have worn these stark black suits. This tradition continued through the 19th century and well into the 20th. “The sombre colour of this suit befits the sober profession of its wearer, Thomas Coutts (1735-1822), the founder of Coutts Bank., including the old-fashioned breeches, which suited his age. Top hat made in Great Britain, ca. 1800-1817. Cotton shirt, (1800-1820) made in England. (Text from the V&A.)

Detail of one of Coutts’s nightgowns. Image @Victoria & Albert Museum

Nightgown. Image @V&A

Nightgown. Image @V&A

Nightgowns were worn over shirt and breeches, in the privacy of home before noon or late at night.  The tufts of black wool on the cream wool fabric are meant to imitate ermine. These nightgowns come from the wardrobe of Thomas Coutts (1735-1822), the founder of Coutts Bank. (Text from the V&A.)

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When Lady Caroline Lamb met Byron in 1812, the waltz was starting to gain traction with the more progressive elements of Society. This couples dance was considered rather racy in an age when stately group English country dances were the primary offerings at Almack’s.

Thomas Rowlandson’s image of the waltz in 1806

The vivacious and racy Lady Caroline Lamb met Lord Byron in 1812. She recalled that time in a letter she wrote 12 years later:

Devonshire House at that time was closed from my uncles death for one year – at Melbourne House where I lived the Waltzes and Quadrilles were being daily practised – Lady Jersey, Lady Cowper, the Duke of Devonshire, Miss Milbank, and a number of foreigners coming here to learn…

You may imagine what forty or fifty people dancing from 12 in the morning until near dinner time all young gay & noisy were.
In the evenings we either had opposition suppers or went out to Balls and routs – Such was the life I then led when Moore and Rogers introduced Lord Byron to me… Caroline Lamb, 1824, in a letter to Captain Thomas Medwin

It is interesting to note that Caroline mentions Lady Jersey and Lady Cowper, two of the patronesses of Almack’s, where the waltz was banned. Eventually, however, the ultra exclusive Almack’s would cave in, and by 1814 the waltz was finally sanctioned. Young ladies would still need approval before a gentleman could clasp his arm around her waist, but the doors had been opened beyond the confines of the upper classes.

La Walze, Le Bon Genre, 1810. This caricature has a feeling of decadence.

By 1815, when Jane Austen’s Emma was published, the waltz has become so respectable that it would be danced in Highbury at the home of the Coles.

Mrs Weston, capital in her country-dances, was seated, and beginning an irresistible waltz; and Frank Churchill, coming up with most becoming gallantry to Emma, had secured her hand, and led her up to the top.” - Emma

The waltz looks gentrified in this 1816 illustration.

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As a blogger who is curious about all things in Jane Austen’s world and customs in her past that might have influenced her, I am still amazed at how one tiny clue points to another until I land on a series of sites that open up a whole new topic. While history foodies probably know about the elaborate lengths that pastry chefs took to please their patrons, the visual results of a full banquet are simply astounding. I can only assume that Georgian taste buds were equally pleased.

Modern chef and historian, Ivan Day, recreated a feast from the past using sugar structures and porcelain figures to arrange a fanciful garden centerpieces for the table.

I already knew about The Prince Regent’s elaborate 1811 dinner at Carlton House, which was described as thus:

“Along the centre of the table about six inches above the surface, a canal of pure water continued flowing from a silver fountain beautifully constructed at the head of the table. Its banks were covered with green moss aquatic flowers; gold and silver fish swam and sported through the bubbling current, which produced a pleasing murmur where it fell, and formed a cascade at the outlet.” – The Gentleman’s Magazine, describing the Prince Regent’s fete at Carlton House, June 19, 1811 in honor of the exiled French royal family.

The great kitchen at the Prince Regent’s Pavilion at Brighton could accommodate creating dishes for huge and fanciful banquets.

So great was the interest that the doors of Carlton House were opened for three days in a row. But instead of satisfying the curiosity of the masses, the result was ever-increasing crowds. Chaos ensued.

‘The condescension of the Prince in extending the permission to view the arrangements for the late fete at Carlton House has nearly been attended with fatal consequences,’ reported one newspaper. Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1039063/As-Queen-opens-Palace-Ballroom-public-story-decadent-royal-banquet-ever.html#ixzz1s7ijkAEv

Detail of the design for an elaborate garden centerpiece. These engravings were showcased in Le Cannameliste Français by famed confectionary chef, Joseph Gilliers, in the mid-18th century. View the entire centerpiece here: Click on this link.

The banquet featured a recreation of a landscape at its center. Such a method of decorating a table was not new, especially when it came to desserts. Elaborate set pieces with architectural French influence were created for tables using spun sugar and Sevres bisque figures to create fantasy landscapes. Before the Napoleonic Wars, travel over the English Channel between British and French courtiers and diplomats was common, and thus the French chef’s custom of creating these elaborate centerpieces became well-known in England. Upper class households vied for highly paid (and desired) French chefs, and by the 1820s these gentlemen had by and large invaded British upper class kitchens. Their ability to create dishes that feasted both the eyes and the stomach was unrivaled.

 SEVRES BISCUIT FIGURES CIRCA 1755, Modeled after François Boucher. Image @Christies.

This was an era when confectionary was considered as much a branch of the decorative arts as of cuisine, and porcelain for the table represented prestige as well as a demonstration of power. The combination of French chef, porcelain, and fanciful confectionary desserts served as symbols of prestige and wealth, for no ordinary household could offer such an extravagant display of food and panoply. (View this porcelain table centerpiece set.)

Detail of Gilliers’ templates for cut outs.

Most of the images of the banquets and figurines are copyrighted. I encourage you to click on the links to view the spectacular results of sugar and porcelain table centerpieces that mimic gardens, sculptures, and figures based on famous paintings. The fanciful recreation included redesigning tables as well.

Modern version of Gilliers table. Image @Simon Beer.

Gilliers’ 1751 sketch of the table, plus seating.

Amy Hauft, VCU sculpture department. Confectioner Joseph Gilliers conceived his 100-seat rococo fantasy for the serving of a single course — dessert — in a garden setting. The centerpiece atop the tailored white tablecloth was to be a sculpture made of sugar paste fortified with dried sturgeon bladder. There is no record that this table was ever built by Gilliers. Image@Richmond Times Dispatch

More on this fascinating topic:

Ivan Day’s  pavilion made from a “pastillage sugar paste for an exhibition at the Met in NYC two years ago. They were exact replicas of ones made for Maria Theresa, the Empress of Austria in 1740. “

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