Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Fashions’ Category

by Brenda S. Cox

When Emma encountered Mrs. Elton visiting Jane Fairfax, “she saw [Mrs. Elton] with a sort of anxious parade of mystery fold up a letter which she had apparently been reading aloud to Miss Fairfax, and return it into the purple and gold ridicule by her side,”—Emma, Volume 3, chapter 16, Cambridge edition

If you’ve ever made yourself a Jane Austen-era costume, you know that a reticule is an essential accessory. These lovely small purses hung by a drawstring from the lady’s wrist.

In previous generations, wide skirts had allowed for two huge pockets, one on each hip, to hold essential items. But with the slim new Regency style, there was no longer room for pockets. So the pockets were externalized and made small and beautiful.

If you have a reticule, you realize that it doesn’t hold nearly as much as a modern purse. Nowadays we might put our phone and a credit card, driver’s license, and little cash in the reticule. But what did Jane Austen’s ladies carry in theirs?

Candice Hern recently gave three lovely presentations for the JASNA AGM*. She showed her collection of items an Austen-era lady might have carried in her reticule. First, she pointed out that Jane Austen would probably not have used the word reticule! This little purse was more often called a ridicule.  This was the word used in ladies’ magazines of the time. That’s why, in the quote above from the original 1816 edition of Emma, Mrs. Elton has a purple and gold ridicule, not a reticule.

The Oxford English Dictionary lists sources calling it a ridicule from 1799 to 1999, and sources calling it a reticule from 1801 to 2004. So the terms were used interchangeably for a long time. Both words apparently came from the French word réticule for a small handbag. That word came from the Latin rēticulum for a small meshwork bag. Ridicule may have been a pun on the French word, though no one seems to know for sure.

The only time Jane Austen mentions a reticule, or ridicule, is in the above passage from Emma. Mrs. Elton slips a letter into her ridicule, which is, of course, a showy purple and gold one. Austen may have purposely chosen the form ridicule because Mrs. Elton is so often ridiculous! But modern versions usually change it to reticule.

So, we know that reticules could be used to carry letters. The Cambridge edition of Emma tells me that reticules might also hold handkerchiefs, snuff boxes, or sweets. However, snuff boxes seem to have been a gentleman’s item, so I doubt ladies would have often carried them. (Though some ladies did take snuff, though not as widely as men did.)

Candice Hern tells us that Regency reticules might range from only two inches long up to about ten inches long. So everything that ladies carried began to be made smaller. This created some lovely, tiny treasures.

Here are some of the items Candice showed us, with photos she kindly provided from her collection:

Reticule Essentials: the Fan, the Coin Purse, and the Vinaigrette

Fans

For hot evenings in the “crush” of a crowded ball or party, women carried fans. In Austen’s novels, she says Catherine Morland carried a fan at a dance. At Fanny Price’s ball, it seems her brother fanned her with his partner’s fan. Austen talks about her own “white fan” in a letter of Jan. 8, 1799.

Before and after this period, fans were about 10-12 inches long. (This is the length of the fan sticks; the open fan would be almost twice that in width.) But, to fit in the reticule, fans were made smaller, only about 7 inches long. They were most often made from ivory. Some were pierced with a tiny jeweler’s saw, to give a lacy effect. This was called brisé (pronounced bree-ZAY). Here are two of Candice’s (and my) favorites:

This gorgeous brisé fan is made of mother-of-pearl. It would shine and sparkle in a candlelit ballroom. The guard sticks, at each end of the fan, are made of faceted and polished steel. It also sparkles like jewels. Each stick is pierced identically, but the sticks are placed in alternating directions to form a pattern. c. 1810-1815.

The top section of this fan is painted rather than pierced. The birds and butterflies are made of real feathers. The flowers were created with tiny pieces of velvet.

On the lower part, sticks of three different pierced patterns are arranged to form a more complex pattern. The sticks are 6 ½” long. c. 1810-1820, or earlier.

For more lovely fans, see Candice’s website.

Coin Purses

Regency women didn’t have wallets like we carry today. In small reticules, they may have carried loose coins. But in larger reticules they kept coins in a coin purse so they could find them easily. Ladies usually made these purses, which might be beaded, knitted, or netted. In Pride and Prejudice, Mr. Bingley marvels at the accomplishments of young ladies, who can all “net purses.”

Some coin purses closed with drawstrings, while others had a metal closure at the top. The closure might be made of pinchbeck—a cheap metal alloy that looks golden—or other metals. Ladies also made coin purses for men. Austen’s favorite poet, William Cowper, wrote a poem thanking his cousin for making him a network purse. Gentlemen’s purses were sometimes called miser’s purses.

A lady probably bought the sterling silver frame (dated 1816) for this coin purse, then netted it with pink and silver metallic thread. It is 3 ¾” long, plus the tassel.

Vinaigrettes

If a woman began to swoon, in an airless room or when she learned something unpleasant, a vinaigrette was pulled out of a reticule and waved under her nose. These tiny metal boxes held a sponge soaked in vinegar and perfumed oils, with a grille over the sponge to let out the fumes. The grille might be dotted with holes, or might be pierced in a lovely design. Vinaigrettes were made of various materials and in many shapes and designs; those in Candice’s collection are silver.

The sponge might alternatively be soaked in something sweet-smelling, like rose water or lavender water. Many places in the Regency era stank, and a sweet smell could help the lady tolerate them.

Austen doesn’t mention vinaigrettes, but she does mention smelling salts, which were used similarly. Candice thinks these salts would actually have been a solution in vinegar, kept in a vinaigrette.

Regency vinaigrettes were tiny and delicate; Candice’s range from ½” across to 1 ¾” across.

This vinaigrette is made of silver but gilded inside, so the vinegar did not discolor the silver. It still contained a ratty sponge when Candice bought it. It could be carried in a reticule, or, with the metal ring, attached to a chatelaine: chains used for hanging things to a woman’s belt. Marked 1802, made in Birmingham.

Other Items That Might be Carried in a Reticule: Perfumes and Cosmetics

Perfume étuis

Perfume also counteracted bad smells. In Austen’s age, when bathing was not very common, perfumes were essential. However, perfume bottles were breakable, easily spilled, and too large to carry in a reticule.

So a lady would carry a perfume étui (pronounced ay-twee), a tiny container that could hold a glass vial of perfume and be fastened tightly shut. (Other types of étuis were used to carry sewing materials, writing materials, eating utensils, and other items; the word is French for any portable case.)

Perfume étuis were made of enamel, metal, tortoiseshell, shagreen, or other materials. Shagreen was a cheap option. It was shark’s skin, usually dyed green, with a knobbly texture. Shagreen étuis were probably used by middle-class women, while upper-class women used more expensive materials.

This painted enamel étui with brass fittings is about 2 ½” high. It held a tiny glass bottle of perfume with a screw-on metal top. 1760s to 1780s.

This shagreen étui is only 1 ¾” tall. It holds two tiny bottles of scent, so the lady can choose which she wants to use.

Cosmetic Cases

Some ladies also carried small cosmetic cases in their reticules. These were similar to today’s compacts. When open, the top was a polished mirror, and the bottom might contain rouge and/or lip color, and an applicator.

This 2 ½” wide cosmetic case still had traces of rouge in it when Candice bought it. The applicator brush is made of ivory. The outside of this case is shagreen (dyed shark skin), with silver decoration. 1770s or 1780s.

Next time, in Part 2, we’ll look at some other fun items a woman might have carried in her reticule. What else do you guess a lady might have carried?

*JASNA AGM—the Jane Austen Society of North America Annual General Meeting, which this year was held online in October.

Candice Hern writes Regency-era novels.

To find out more about her and her work, look for her on:

Facebook

Twitter

Pinterest

Regency World

To see more of her lovely collections, go to her Regency Collections.

Links in the article above take you to Candice’s articles about specific items.

All images courtesy of Candice Hern, used by permission.

For more information, see also:

Fans: Essential Accessories, including the language of the fan

Reticule: The Regency Purse

A Fashionable Accessory

The Reticule and Purse

 

You can connect with Brenda S. Cox, the author of this article, at Faith, Science, Joy, and Jane Austen or on Facebook.

Read Full Post »

Inquiring readers,

Kevin Lindsey, who frequently comments to posts on this blog, forwarded the link to this 5-minute YouTube video. He writes:

As a long time subscriber to your blog, I thought you might be interested in this. It’s from a British group called Crows Eye Production. They create excellent, tasteful, and informative videos on historical clothing. They released this one on Jane & Cassandra Austen today. I thought it really well done, and thought I would share it with you, in case you wanted to pass it along. Below is a link. If you would prefer not to use that just got to YouTube and look up “CrowsEyeProductions”

Enjoy!

More on Regency Fashions: Jane Austen’s World category on fashions

Read Full Post »

fashion-3aIn the fashion world everything has already happened. Moreover, that phrase is suitable not only to the latest fashion week shows releases. History confirms that fashion constantly balances between the past and the future for ages. The greatest proof of that is the Inaugural Exposition „The Fashion Repeats Itself. The revival styles in the XIX century ladies fashion” on view at the brand new Museum of Historical Costume in Poznan, Poland. On March 29th, 2019 we are going to witness the Grand Opening event of the first that kind of museum in Poland. We are going to be able to admire the most unique and original ladies dresses and accessories from XIX century!

fashion-1

Image courtesy of Museum of Historical Costume in Poznan, Poland

XIX century brought significant changes and innovations, not only in the technology and scientific world. It is also brilliant time of creation fashion itself, in the meaning that we are using nowadays. It is the moment when the first haute couture was born, from the concept of its creator, French designer – Charles  Frederick Worth.

However, the luxury fashion designs for royals stayed in the opposition to the daily utility dress code reform. The revolution in the history of fashion and costume had came! From the one hand, XIX century fashion was splendid and shined with the splendor of the highest quality materials and eccentric designs. From the other hand, it became highly utility product with the practical use and started to be seen as an applied art. It had to become more simple to wear and easier to take care of. Women started to be liberated and fashion needed to respond to that request. Almost in every ladies magazine were embroidery patterns for household linens, children clothing and underwear. Many woman basing on this printed supports created custom embroidered works of art, which in many cases we can admire until this day.

fashion-2

Image courtesy of Museum of Historical Costume in Poznan, Poland

That is why XIX century fashion is characterized by its diversity and innovations. And that is what the visitors of the Museum of Historical Costumes in Poznan, Poland are going to see, having a tour around the new exhibition „The Fashion Repeats Itself”. From extravagant dresses from the belle epoque to more simple, daily dresses with clear antiques inspirations.

The Inaugural Exhibition at Polish Museum of Historical Costume is going to show us that XIX century fashion styles made a loop – it had started and ended with antiques influences. Even though the existence of variety of styles among this age are very visible, also during the XIX century the circulation impacts from the past were very much alive – such as dresses from 30. and 80. XIX century have variety of similarities.

fashion-3

Image courtesy of Museum of Historical Costume in Poznan, Poland

The extraordinary exponents from Museum of Historical Costume are coming from the private collection of Anna Moryto (XIXgallery). Polish collector was compiling ladies original dresses and accessories from XIX century from auction houses from the US and London, over the years.

Previously, XIXgallery was known for the traveling exhibitions around the country. Today, the gallery has transformed into the museum and the true educational mission became highlight. The Founder of the Museum of Historical Costume in Poznan, Anna Moryto, explains:

I’ve decided that XIXgallery deserved to become an official museum. I would like the museum to be thematic and that fashion would be only a fragment of the exhibition and part of the bigger message”.

The plans for the museum are to bring thematic expositions about the historical lifestyle, habits and position of the woman in the society. The mission of the museum is to educate the visitors, including engaging children and youths, as well as everyone interested in this amazing field of human life and history.

This exclusive journey back to the XIX century will be even more empirical thanks to the uncommon location of the museum. Beautiful, XIX century tenement house, will certainly help to immerse yourself into the classical spirit of the Museum of Historical Costume. Located at the Kwiatowa Street 14/2 in Poznan, just in the hearth of one of the oldest and the most charming cities in Poland. Visitors will surely enjoy a magical tour between the cosy corridors, high and spacy rooms with wide windows and to step on the antique wooden floor.

In the fashion everything has already happened but never in the exact same way. You can admire that inspirations loop and the unique and original dresses and ladies accessories from XIX century in the Museum of Historical Costume in Poznan, Poland. Grand Opening and Inaugural Exhibition „The Fashion Repeats Itself. The revival styles in the XIX century ladies fashion” is starting on March 29th, 2019.

Practical Info:

Museum of Historical Costume
Kwiatowa 14/2 Street
Poznan, Poland

fashion-4

Image courtesy of Museum of Historical Costume in Poznan, Poland


Vernissage (private view) on invitations only on March 29th, 2019
Exposition opens from March 30th, 2019

Visiting the museum with the curator on March 30th/31st, 2019

Exciting Meeting in the Museum – we invite you to the first event in The Museum of History Costume combined with a curator’s visit to the current exhibition. Guiding guests (and above all, telling about the history of fashion) will be the author of the exhibition: Anna Moryto.

The tour will take place on 30th and 31st March 2019 at full hours from 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM.
FB event: https://www.facebook.com/events/1896634873797062/?event_time_id=1896634880463728

Visiting hours:

Tuesday – Friday 10:00 AM – 3:00 PM

Saturday – Sunday 10:00 AM – 5:00 PM

Monday closed

Tickets:

12 PLN / 3 EUR adult

8 PLN / 2 EUR kids and seniors

Kids under 7 years free admission

Tuesday day free!

Follow the Museum of Historical Costume in Poznan, Poland:

www: https://en.xixgallery.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TheMuseumOfHistoricalCostume/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/xixgallery/

 

Read Full Post »

Ah, the internet. I am happy to spend hours searching, researching, and sharing ideas as I crawl through thousands of fascinating sites each week.

The Victoria & Albert Museum website seldom fails to please. Enter this interactive V&A site on Georgian wigs designed which teaches as well as encourages you and your child to create a fashion of the past. We all know about the over-the-top wigs worn by Marie Antoinette and her court. Does hyour child? The V&A gives us an opportunity to design a wig virtually and to share the results with the world. create wig

Before each step, the V&A provides some information about the zaniness of wig creations in the late 18th century. The instructions then ask you to drag out the hair to start your wig.

make wig

I came up with this. Hah! I tried a number of variations. Such fun. This would be a great teaching activity with your children. Let them go NUTS, I say.

decorate

You are then asked to decorate with the usual ornaments – a ship, a fan, feathers, jewels, flowers, bows and tassels. Go crazy! I did.

powder

Add powder in the final step, which I did not find quite as intuitive, and, voila! Your own bewigged work of art.

Could this interactive site have been more sophisticated? Oh, yes, but it’s free. Within the limitations of the site, the activity is quite informative and fun. Bring in a few paintings, caricatures, and illustrations of the day, and you’ve brought a fun history lesson into your child’s life. One can even show some modern influences.

Thibault Carron

Photographer Thibault Carron imagines what modern life would be like if our fashion was from the 18th century in this playful series And if Fashion Was…, the Montreal-based creative juxtaposes scenes from contemporary culture with a woman whose outfit and hairstyle recall a time from centuries past.

I’ve collected quite a few Marie Antoinette images on my Pinterest board, Marie Antoinette’s Hair and Other French 18th Century Inspired Fashion – Splendor during, before, and way after the French Revolution. Some images are historical, others are tongue in cheek.

As an online advent calendar gift, this V&A site can’t be beat. I hope you are all enjoying this holiday season.

Read Full Post »

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.

Read Full Post »

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:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Read Full Post »

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.

Read Full Post »

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:

Read Full Post »

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:

Read Full Post »

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:


Read Full Post »

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.

Read Full Post »

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

Sources:

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

%d bloggers like this: