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.
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.”
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.)
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.”
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.
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.
Rich lace, tassels, and an ivory fan completed our fashionable lady’s the ensemble.
More about the ball gown’s fashion influences:
- Click here to read Maria Edgeworth’s short story of Limerick Gloves
- Costume plate of Circassian women
- Decorative Ivory Fan
- A Descriptive Catalogue of the Collection of Lace in the South Kensington Museum, Mrs. Bury Palliser, 1881,