The Whims of Fashion, January-March 1802

I’ve mentioned The Lady’s Magazine many times before.  It’s lovely as a period resource, and performs as an entertaining companion to The Gentleman’s Magazine.  Many of the articles are reader contributed, making it very popular with the enterprising ladies of the day, but there was one complaint made to the editorial staff:  fashionistas were not always satisfied with the advice on what was trendiest.  One of the reasons for this was that readers contributed the reports, but I think that gives us a nice view of the average respectable woman’s eye for detail, whether she was from the ton or the bourgeoisie.

Despite occasional complaints, the magazine had a very good run.  Distribution continued from 1770 to 1837.  I love it for its anecdotes and fashion plates.  The ones below show Parisian styles from 1802. Because the descriptions for a single month are loooong, I’ll be posting three months at a time with a selection from the original text.  If you’re a historical writer or costumer, this magazine is golden, but even if you’re not, the whims of fashion are a delight.  Each month contains a description of Paris and London fashions, with a brief description of what a la mode gentleman wore.  Maybe it’ll give you some inspiration in your own closet or maybe you’re like me and you just like pretty pictures.  Either way, enjoy!

January of 1802

In Paris:
What do you think of the short tunic? I haven’t seen them much before. The Lady’s Magazine describes them as adaptable “to almost all varieties of robes in full dress.” If anything, they were practical when a lady considered her closet full of muslin dresses.
The turbans, which are going to appear in many 1801-1802 fashions, “have a strongly marked Asiatic character… The hair distinctly separated upon the forehead, and very sleek and smooth, comes along the temples until it loses itself in these head-dresses.” Pearls are going to make their impression in the early parts of 1802, appearing in cords over the turbans. Bandeaus are also popular. They are basically headbands that are made by wrapping a fabric once, maybe twice, over the hair. The wealthiest women wear them ornamented with diamonds. As a holdover from 1801, “rose is still the reigning colour.”

In London:
Green velvet graces pelisses and bonnets, and as you’ll soon note with the English, most of the accessories on the ensemble match. Feathers this month are green, as are the flowers that appear on bonnets. The other popular colors are purple, scarlet, and buff. Also, necklines are cut low to show cleavage and the waist is short or empire.

February of 1802

In Paris:
“The head-dress for undress is frequently only a piece of muslin, sometimes enlivened with pearls; pearls are likewise the usual ornaments for head dress. In full dress turbans are principally worn…”

“Orange colour has not long enjoyed an exclusive favour. Several elegantes have resumed the rose; others have decided upon the shamoy [chamois]…” White satin hats with orange ribbands complement the look. Some ladies even sport pure orange velvet hats. The rage for orange extends to “satin square Polish hats with flat crowns. They are tied with a ribband of the same colour, under the chin, and leave a few ringlets hair visible on the back of the neck and at the sides.”

Rose is battling orange though. “The morning robes in highest esteem are calicoes of a soot colour with rose flowers. We observed at the late balls some very elegant rose coloured dominos, but the greater number were black. The necklaces of newest fashion are the necklaces a-la-Romaine with twisted branches, bearing sometimes one, and sometimes three, flat pieces cornelian or agate of an oval shape…” Combs are something else we’ll see in 1802. They are usually gold and this months are “in the shape of a diadem chased in gold with three cornelians or painted ornaments.”

In London:
The emerging colors are black and yellow and trains are long. The evening dress reminds me of Marilyn Monroe when she wore white satin with fur.  In 1802, the dress would be trimmed in swansdown (a repeated fashion in the cooler months); the mantle would also be satin.  It’s a great look in 1802, 1953, and now. But faux fur–don’t go plucking swans.

Cornelians [aka carnelians] are popping up, but wearing cornelian hearts on a golden chain is a charming fashion with a caveat. The Magazine solemnly states: “We hope this is not emblematical that ladies retain their lovers hearts by chains of gold, instead of love.”

 March of 1802

In Paris:
Gorgeous gown, isn’t it?  Although orange reigned last month, it appears rose is still beloved. Confusing for a fashionista to keep straight. Noticeably different in March is that “The robes are adorned with flowers lozenges or very close foliage.” The turbans are still Asiatic. In other news, aigrettes [sprays of jewels] are out. The cool hats are now called a-la-Pamela, but they are restricted to the “opulent class.”  What’s particularly confusing about March is that the “ribbands, which are of velvet, were at first orange colour, then cherry, the scarlet poppy, then white, now cherry color.” I don’t envy the ladies this season. Sounds like a full-time job just to keep up.

My favorite part of March is not shown in a print, but it sounds delightful: “Some elegantes appear in head-dresses of hair with diadems of foliage; others with diadems of plain steel, but the greatest number with golden arrows in the front of their heads.” Katniss would approve.

In London:
Large earrings and necklaces in the Chinese style are the thing. Popular gems are rubies, pearls, emeralds, and diamonds. For hairstyles, short curls frame the face, and silver myrtles and laurel wreaths are worn in the hair. This is an extension of the previous jewelry trend a-la-Romaine from February, except it’s gravitated upward.

That’s it for now.  Come back tomorrow.  I’ll be posting the second quarter of the year, and you wouldn’t want to miss that, would you? 

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