An Electric Blue Gown at Grandmother’s Party, 1788

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Bouquets, or Grandmother’s Party by Philibert-Louis Debucourt  (1788)

Grandmother’s party is popping with fashionable details:  the little boy in a striped suit, the chubby cheeked toddler’s bonnet that matches maman’s, and Maman.  The hedgehog hairstyle she’s sporting isn’t too hot, but how about the electric blue paired with a black lace and silk wrapper?

All in all the etching, dedicated to mothers, is a quaint family scene from an artist and social satirist who built up a body of work painting racier images.   You may compare it with Debucourt’s 1787 companion piece that is dedicated to fathers.

The Compliment, or New Year's Morning by Philibert-Louis Debucourt, 1787

The Compliment or New Year’s Morning by Philibert-Louis Debucourt (1787)

Susan Ardelie is the author of Shadow Fire Lady, the first book in the Incorporeal Lords series, a historical paranormal romance.  

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Poking Fun at Georgie

In the words of JT on your birthday…

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George Washington by Valentine Green after Charles Willson Peale (1785)

This portrait just makes me laugh.  There are lots of problems I could point out, but I think you guys can discover them on your own.  Unfortunate aspects aside though, our oldest president almost pulls off dashing, especially when compared with “I’ve lost me teeth” portrait we all know and probably don’t love.

Today’s historical trivia

Is today George Washington’s birthday?  My ICal says it is but sadly, it’s wrong. Georgie’s birthday actually falls on February 22nd.  So why do calendars (and many people) still think it’s George Washington’s birthday today?  Read here.

Anatomy of a Breakup: Søren Kierkegaard & Regine Olsen

“You, my heart’s sovereign mistress (‘Regina’) stored in the deepest recesses of my heart, in my most brimmingly vital thoughts, there where it is equally far to heaven as to hell–unknown divinity!  Oh, can I really believe what the poets say:  that when a man sees the beloved object for the first time he believes he has seen her long before, that all love, as all knowledge, is recollection, that love in the single individual also has its prophecies, its types, its myths, its Old Testament?  Everywhere, in every girl’s face, I see features of your beauty, yet I think I’d need all the girls in the world to extract, as it were, your beauty from theirs, that I’d have to criss-cross the whole world to find the continent I lack yet that which the deepest secret of my whole ‘I’ magnetically points to – and the next moment you are so near me, so present, so richly supplementing my spirit that I am transfigured and feel how good it is to be here…” 2 February , 1839.

Regine Olsen by Emil Bærentzen (1840)

The tormented philosopher and theologian Søren Kierkegaard pursued Regine Olsen for two years before he proposed and ultimately regretted the decision he’d made.  They met in the spring of 1837 while Kierkegaard was still a student.  His liking for her was immediate.  He pursued her as a friend and then a suitor before he confessed his true feelings, which he recounted in his writings about the awkward event nine years later:

“On 8 September I left home with the firm intention of settling the whole thing.  We met on the street just outside their house.  She said there was no one at home.  I was rash enough to take this as the invitation I needed.  I went in with her.  There we stood, the two of us alone in the living room.  She was a little flustered.  I asked her to play something for me as she usually did.  She does so but I don’t manage to say anything. Then I suddenly grab the score, close it not without a certain vehemence, throw it onto the piano and say: Oh! What do I care for music, it’s you I want, I have wanted you for two years.  She kept silent.  As it happens, I had taken no steps to captivate her, I had even warned her against me, against my melancholy.  And when she mentioned a relationship with [Johan Frederik] Schlegel [future husband and former teacher], I said: Let that relationship be a parenthesis for I have first priority…She mostly kept silent.”

Not the stuff made of ladies’ dreams, is it?  Despite his fumbling, Regine agreed to marry Kierkegaard, and they were engaged for almost a year before he sealed his engagement ring in a breakup letter and put it in the post on 11 August, 1841.  Is that today’s equivalent of breaking up via text?  Among a few other lines which aren’t necessary to relate, he wrote: “Above all forget the one who writes this: forgive someone who whatever else he was capable of could not make a girl happy.”

Sketch of Søren Kierkegaard. Based on a sketch by Niels Christian Kierkegaard

Sketch of Søren Kierkegaard, 1840. Based on a sketch by Niels Christian Kierkegaard.

Regine was rightfully devastated.  She thought herself in love with a melancholic heart, and the poor girl threatened to commit suicide.  She was so put out that Kierkegaard stopped writing her “I don’t love you anymore” letters (he thought indifference would convince her of his unworthiness) and finally visited her in person on 11 October, 1841…where he said some dick things:

“…I received a letter from him [her father] saying that she had not slept that night, that I must come and see her.  I went and made her see reason.  She asked me: Will you never marry.  I answered: Yes, in ten years time, when I have had my fling, I will need a lusty girl to rejuvenate me.  It was a necessary cruelty.”

Kierkegaard was capable of intellectual romantic excesses and though he broke with Regine because of his depressive nature, his inability to be writer and husband, and what he decided was divine opposition, the complicated man remembered her fondly for the rest of his life.  Upon his death, he wished Regine to have “whatever little I  may leave behind… [his books and author’s rights].  What I want to express in this way is that to me an engagement was and is just as binding as a marriage, and that therefore my estate is her due exactly as if I had been married to her.”  It was later revealed in 1896 that her husband Schlegel refused the inheritance.  Regine is also said to have destroyed her letters to Kierkegaard, so there isn’t much from her point of view, but Kierkegaard, who some biographers say suffered from hypergraphia, later reflected:

“I cannot quite place her impact on me in a purely erotic sense.  It is true that the fact that she yielded almost adoringly to me, pleaded with me to love her, had so touched me that I would have risked everything for her.  But the fact that I always wanted to hide from myself the degree to which she touched me is also evidence of the extent to which I loved her… Had I not been a penitent, had my vita ante acta not been melancholic, marriage to her would have made me happy beyond my dreams.  But even I, being the person I unfortunately am, had to say that without her I could be happier in my unhappiness than with her – she had touched me deeply, and I would so much, ever so much, have done everything.”  24 August, 1849

You can read more about Kierkegaard’s writing on Regine in Papers and Journals: A Selection. I also did a series of posts a while back on Napoleon’s letters (Achy Breaky Heart part one or part two) to Josephine if you find yourself in an epistolary reading mood.

Handsome Devils and Their Digs: 1st Baron Dover

May I introduce you to this handsome fellow,

George Agar-Ellis, 1st Lord Dover, by Thomas Lawrence (1823)

his digs,

Gowran Castle, Kilkenny Ireland

and his lady wife,

Georgina Agar Ellis, Lady Dover, 19th century

Lady Dover and son Henry, attributed to Joseph Lee, after Joshua Reynolds (1832 or thereabouts).  You can also view her here.

George Agar-Ellis, 1st Baron Dover, was husband to the charming Lady Georgina, nee Howard.  He was also the father of four children, two boys (3rd and 5th Baron Dover) and two girls.

The house engraving confused me at first because a mansion is depicted, yet it is called Gowran Castle.  This is because the mansion was built on the grounds on the old castle, which was purchased by the Agar family during the Restoration, and I guess they just kept the name.  The first Agar to hold it, James Agar, Esq, expended a considerable amount in 1713 to improve the castle by casing it in stone and raising its front to two stories.  Unfortunately, by the time of its tear down date in 1816, the castle was in ruins.

I would have liked to find an image of the castle in its pre or post-remodeled glory because the old castle has a fascinating history. During the Third English Civil War, it was an important stronghold when Oliver Cromwell’s forces seized it and shot all within–except the dude who had given them the key to the castle.  He was pardoned, and Cromwell then ordered the Franciscan friar inside to be hanged and the castle burned to the ground.

After the Third Civil War ended, the remains were seized from the royalist Butler family and given to the Lord Deputy of Ireland.  Eventually, James, Duke of York, was granted a number of “forfeited” Irish properties and filled his coffers by selling them. James Agar, Esq. purchased from York, and was the last to put his stamp on the castle.

Gowran Castle post-1819 was the seat of the Viscounts of Clifden and would have been George Agar-Ellis, 1st Baron Dover’s, home had he not predeceased his father, Henry Agar-Ellis, 2nd Viscount Clifden. Lord Dover died when he was just 36, but he managed to cram in a considerable amount of accomplishments during his life.

George Agar-Ellis, Baron Dover

Study for Patrons and Lovers of Art by Pieter Christoffel Wonder (1826-1830)

Lord Dover is on the left

© National Portrait Gallery, London

When doing these posts, I like to think about what type of man I’m writing about, and I think that Lord Dover seemed not so much a devil as he was a kind, considerate man.  During his earliest youth, the borough of Gowran was described in one church record as being filled with “wretched habitations” that contributed very little to the borough’s taxable base–essentially the community was poverty stricken.  The 19th century Gowran house would have been the nicest abode around.  Lord Dover grew up to be sensitive and liberal-thinking, a self described “decided reformer” and Whig politican, maybe as a result of his personal and familial history.   His ancestors hailed from the French Comte Venaissin, who fled France due to religious persecution.  A collector of fine art, he was also a man of letters who rescued and edited his family’s letters on the Revolution, 1686-88, from the British Library where they languished in obscurity because he thought them important to English history.  He also wrote a number of books including The True History of the State Prisoner: Commonly Called the Iron Mask, mostly because he found the original history written by Monsieur Delort convoluted and and excessively flattering to King Louis XIV.  Yes, the thoughtful Lord Dover was offended that Delort bestowed compliments on the monarch while “recording one of the most cruel and oppressive acts of the Sovereign’s cruel and oppressive reign.”  See what I mean by sensitive?  His obituary is quite lengthy and lists him “involved [in] the cause of learning, the fine or useful arts, charities, and the improvement of people.”

I think he might be the least eligible “devil” I’ve written about, but it’s refreshing to have a nice guy around these parts once in a while.  You can see more pictures of Lord Dover at the National Portrait Gallery, and if you’ve an exceptionally good eye, you can play where’s Lord Dover in famous Trial of Queen Caroline by Sir George Hayter.  Good luck!

A History of English Miniatures

As is often the case, I recently came across a very dry history book with some hidden gems in it.  Miniatures: Ancient and Modern was written by Cyril Davenport and published in 1908 and although I wouldn’t recommend reading it if you’re a miniaturist dilettante like I am, it does offer a useful perspective on how English miniatures changed from the 16th through the 19th centuries.  The short answer is not much in terms of shape and overall presentation. Excluding the style exhibited in the day’s favored painter,  miniature portraits gradually grew more sophisticated in terms of backgrounds and range of mediums, but they are still miniatures.

England’s Three Periods of Miniature Art

Thomas Wriothesley, First Earl of Southampton by Hans Holbein the Younger (1535) (c) Met Museum
Thomas Wriothesley, First Earl of Southampton by
Hans Holbein the Younger (1535) (c) Met Museum

The 16th century Tudor period marks the first time in English history when miniatures appear in large numbers.  They are influenced by the work of Hans Holbein, the younger and are fairly uniform in design.  Simple blue or red backgrounds predominate and men are the likeliest subjects, although important high-born ladies and Queen Elizabeth do appear.

The shape of the miniature is round, the medium gouache or oils, on vellum or paper, wood or metal, respectively, and no shadows present themselves on the portrait itself. Davenport’s definition of a miniature is no larger than 7×7 inches, which sounds fairly large to me if you wanted to admire someone in the palm of your hand (I always thought miniatures were somewhere in the range of 2×2 inches or less, but I guess not). Anything larger than 7×7 inches gets classified as a cabinet painting, which would measure no more than 2×2 feet.

The black and white mother and son portrait miniatures are from Elizabeth’s reign.  If you do know what Henry, Prince of Wales looks like, you might be wondering if this miniature is actually of his younger brother, Charles I.  Here’s a portrait from 1610-12 painted shortly before Henry death at age 18, making the age depicted in the miniature improbable.

Maybe the miniature below is a keepsake of what Henry would have looked like if he hadn’t died (hmm, I wonder if that was done)?  Or maybe the painter sucked at his art? Another of history’s mysteries, if you’re up for some sleuthing.  You can see Anne’s miniature in color here–the jewels in her hair and ruff are crazy!

The style of the 17th century Stuart period takes a nod from the work of Anthony van Dyck.  Instead of being strictly blue or red, backgrounds add distinctive scenery and short oval shapes compete with the rounds of the previous century.  The mediums have not yet changed.  I personally like the first miniature of a Lady as Flora that was painted by Issac Oliver between 1575 and his death in 1617, making it straddle the Tudor and Stuart period.  The duke in the second miniature has smug looking lips though, so I can’t recommend him.

Portrait of a Lady Dressed as Flora

books-2Before daguerrotypes came onto the scene and resounded the miniature death knell, the third period extended into the 18th and 19th centuries.  They styles is a reflection of Sir Joshua Reynolds’s paintings.  Transparent watercolors were introduced, the shape turned oval, and ivory is a popular medium on which to paint.  Ladies also start to appear in miniatures with regularity, though I must say I’ve seen a lot of ladies in 17th century miniatures.

The first three below are 18th century, the fourth is from the 19th, and the fifth is late 19th to early 20th century.

Archibald Robertson by Sir Joshua Reynolds (1786-91) (c) Met Museum
Archibald Robertson by Sir Joshua Reynolds (1786-91) (c) Met Museum

 

Portrait of a Woman, Said to Be Madame Récamier by  Nicolas François Dun (1812-14) (c) Met Museum
Portrait of a Woman, Said to Be Madame Récamier by
Nicolas François Dun (1812-14) (c) Met Museum

One last medium that I haven’t mentioned is enamel.  Portraits on enamel have been around since the Byzantine period and during the 16th-19th centuries, were more popular on the continent than in England.  I like how glossy they look.  The colored Mary Wortley Montagu miniature at the top of the post is also enamel.

George IV  as Prince Regent, after Lawrence Henry Bone (1816) (c) Met Museum
George IV as Prince Regent, after Lawrence
Henry Bone (1816) (c) Met Museum

Unlike miniatures from the 16th century onward, early examples of Roman miniatures from the first and second centuries A.D. were painted on gold leaf and encased in glass plaques.  The Greeks produced encaustic miniatures, painted on wood with hot beeswax, while Renaissance Italians and Germans also excelled at encaustic works, setting their miniatures in relief with most of their subjects in profile.

Clearly, there’s always been a desire to carry a beloved’s portrait around, making me think that miniatures are kind of romantic.  Yes, they were given as diplomatic gifts and created to commemorate an age or occasion, but I can’t help but feel that many of them are as sentimental as a picture or a photograph in locket, which has got me thinking . . . what’s the history of lockets?

For more information on miniatures, do see:

Victoria & Albert Museum Portrait Miniatures Collection

And if you’d like to know what was going on across the pond, visit the Metropolitan’s Museum of 18th century American miniatures and 19th century American miniatures.  Of particular note is the daring Sarah Goodridge’s self-portrait.  Gotta love a lady with pluck!

Elizabethan Fashion: Any Way You Slash It

A recent reader comment sent me on a journey to discover the history of the style you see below.  If you’re a regular around here, Lady Diana Cecil may look familiar to you (she’s the lady in the punchbowl).  When I first wrote about her, I had no idea what to call the cut-outs on her gown.  Now that I have been educated, I can confidently say they are called slashes, and their history is fantastic.

Lady Diana Cecil by William Larkin, (1614-18) (Ranger's House, Suffolk Collection)
Lady Diana Cecil by William Larkin, (1614-18) (Ranger’s House, Suffolk Collection)

According to popular legend, it all started with a chappie called Charles the Bold.  he was the Duke of Burgundy and in 1476 the Swiss beat his ass on the battlefield.  Ever enterprising, the Swiss looted Charles’s possessions and stumbled on an idea: why not turn the loser’s luxury fabrics into patches that could repair the soldiers’ uniforms?German mercenaries thought this a practical solution to fixing their military garb, and the French court swooned at their unwitting panache.  By the 1500s, slashing was seen all over Europe, brightening ensembles and adding relief to the density of ornate fabrics, as shown on the sleeves below.

Anne of Austria by Peter Paul Rubens
Anne of Austria by Peter Paul Rubens (1620-25)

Another possible origin of slashing describes soldiers cutting strategic lines in their leather tunics to improve maneuverability/breathability but it’s a much less colorful history than Charles’s story.  Whatever way the trend came about, slashing emerged from military fashion and was adopted by both men and women.  Pinking or dagging, which is to say cutting shapes and pulling the bottom fabric out to contrast with the top, was also popular but can you guess which country sported the most elaborate interpretation?  I would’ve said France, but it’s Germany.  A brief exploration of 16th century German portrait painters did not illuminate exactly what this would have looked like, but I did discover that Albrecht Dürer could moonlight as Jesus. In other words, if you happen to know of a good example of the German slash style, do send it my way.

Portrait of a Lady by a follower of  Francesco Salviati del Rossi
Portrait of a Lady by a follower of Francesco Salviati del Rossi

The lady above represents what I’m going to call the entry point into slashing. If you were a fan of subtle, you could go for a few slashes in the shoulder like her, but the style really runs the gamut. I’ve shown you sleeves, shoulders, and the fronts of gowns. That is just the beginning. Shoes and boots were given the knife to add color to otherwise simple designs, and anything that could be slashed was slashed.  The moral authority in Europe even called the peek-a-boo trend depraved. Fashionistas, however, knew there were few upgrades easier than cutting a hole and adding a stitch to keep it from tattering. Even Robert Dudley was a fan.

Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, Attributed to Steven van der Meulen (1560-65)
Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, Attributed to Steven van der Meulen (1560-65)

So what do all of you think of this style? Love it?  Trash it?  Willing to resurrect the 1980s style of wearing tights under ripped jeans?

The Whims of Fashion, October-December 1802

Happy Monday everyone. I’m back for the last day of fashion plates in 1802, which will take us all the way to December.  You can rejoice about these plates because color has returned.  Yep, yesterday’s black and white plates have gone packing.  Hallelujah!  If you missed any of the previous posts, find them here: January-March, April-June, July-September.

October of 1802

In Paris:

What do you guys notice about this month? A star-printed dress. Love it! Can’t say I’ve seen that before. Yellow has obviously been making strides as there is no pink or rose to be seen. The magazines does refer to capotes bonnets (see satire here) of pink taffety being worn though.

Fashion is beginning its trickle down this month.  The black straw hat  has been adopted by the middle classes. For the elegantes, jonquil hats and sky blue dresses are now the thing. The hated cropped hair a la Titus is starting to die out, and the full bodies of dresses are being pulled in for a slimming style. Turbans have come back, but they are now made of shawls. The other headdress of choice is a veil worn at the halfway point on the top of the head. Similar to the dress pictured, black hats are ornamented with coquelicot, or corn poppy colored, stars. Feathers are less common, and instead scarlet poppies are worn. Full sleeves have also seen their moment come and go.

In London:

The only fashion of real note is sky-blue muslin dresses worn tight around the neck with white muslin sleeves. Silk seems to be the preferred fabric for bonnets, caps, and headdresses. Black remains popular.

November of 1802

In Paris:

Check out the hair. It’s tufted up top and pinned with a golden arrow. Kind of fabulous, kind of not. Hair dressing has made a leap, and there’s even a reference to the locks of hair that fall over the turban being two different colors. Hmm, wonder how they achieved that.  Artificial hair? It’s mentioned all throughout 1802, maybe as a side effect of regret from hair a la Titus?

So what’s new, you ask?  Feathers are dead, and flowers of the capuchin color are worn instead.  Based on earlier references to capuchin accessories and dresses, I take capuchin to refer to the robes Capuchin friars wore, so I think they’re talking about brown flowers–which is different.

On account of the cooling weather, black beaver hats are making an appearance. “Two kinds of dresses are also remarked in the most fashionable circles: one is kind of fold, formed by a shawl which falls down upon the neck and discovers the hair in the midst of it; the other is a turban made with a shawl, embroidered with spots of gold or silver, one point of which hangs down on the left shoulder. The accompaniments to the first dress are gold pins in the shape of arrows, caducea, or lyres combs with gold or diamonds.” Marigold, jonquil gold, rose, and pistachio green are the favored colors. Also, white fur, which was popular in winter of 1801, has returned. Something fun about November? The most fashionable ladies wear tinseled turbans with their evening dresses.

In London:
Humbug.  The descriptions are omitted this month, so we are out of luck.

December of 1802

In Paris:

Rose, white, and marigold are the colors for December, though lilac is mentioned as a “rival.” Maybe a throwback from summer since it’s now chilly outside.

Hairstyles range from simple to complicated. The most fashionable is a l’Angloise, which is described as “cut square and turned back over the forehead.” To complement this style, the hats are now high upon the head so that the hairstyle will show. Black velvet hats are gaining ground, and are worn with orange velvet bands. Orange colored velvets hats are also common. There is mention of gaiter boots “which resemble leather and stuff.” Greatcoats in whitish or drab colors appear with body coats of blue and black underneath. Is this 1802’s answer to winter wear? Beaver hats are already becoming unstylish, and I see in December the first mention of fans. They are popular in white crape, black, or Egyptian brown, and sport spangles of gold, silver, or steel.

In London:

Amber, coquelicot, green and purple are the in colors. White cambric muslin dresses are popular (still!) Lace remains popular, but cloaks are now longer worn; pelisses and fur tippets have taken their place.

And whew, we’re done. Are you guys sick of plates yet? I think I might be and that leaves me trolling through my notes about what I should write about next.  I do have something Elizabethan in the works, but I take suggestions!

If you haven’t had enough fashion plates, I have two sites for you.  The Incroyables et Merveilleuses has plates from the Directoire period here.  The Los Angeles public library also has a mind-boggling rich resource in the Casey Fashion Plates here.

The Whims of Fashion, July-September 1802

Welcome to day three of The Whims of Fashion in 1802.  If I haven’t mentioned it on the January-March and April-June posts, you can visit the selections from The Lady’s Magazine by clicking on any fashion plate within the post.

July of 1802

In Paris:

Although it wasn’t shown on June’s fashion plate, the long train is starting to shorten. By July, it has come back with full force. Robes are also getting longer in the waist too, and the colors have changed.  Apart from white, sky-blue, rose and black are popular. Wait, black? Really?  We’ve talked about black lace and black velvet caps, but dresses. Before when I looked at portraits, including the one I shared earlier this week of Lady Francis Courtenay, I have always assumed black was for mourning.  Apparently, this is untrue.

One more thing to note is the headdress. It’s similar to a handkerchief and called a fichu en marmotte. Hairstyles a la Titus (like Lady Caroline Lamb) have caught on, but The Lady’s Magazine disapproves. They refer to hair in the front being saved from the “fatal scissors,” and in the months to come will blame the style on the hot weather.

Hair a la Titus, directoire period

Pinned and plaited is the style for ladies who refuse to relinquish their long locks.

In London:

Fashions are “much copied” from the Parisian styles, but there are some differences. The Rohan hat, “made of frivolity, twist, and willow,” has been invented by a Madame Lebrun.  Green, yellow, and lilac are also the sought after colors.  Walking dresses are “short, and flounced round the bottom.”  A pretty bonnet of pink silk trimmed with black velvet and white ostrich feathers is described.

August of 1802

Again with the black and white–not nearly as fun, but July to September is colorless. Imaginations, start firing.

In Paris:

Veils are still worn, but instead of being tied under the chin, they lay flat against the hair and drape over the head. Round dresses and Marmaduke tunics prevail. Also remember when I talked about black dresses being reserved for mourning? Well, this month dresses of black crape are all the rage. They appear with full sleeves and are complemented by a black straw hat instead of the formerly favored white hat. Poppy colored ribbons, striped in black, are a common color combination–beautiful in nature and lovely on a lady:

Papaver rhoeas

In London:

Pink is in! For evening the dress of choice is a round robe of pink muslin with lace across the back. Turbans of pink, ornamented with bead and pink feathers, are worn to complete the ensemble. During the day, cambric or short dresses of nankeen, full in the front but tight in the back, are preferred. Unlike the previous Spring months, flowers are out and feathers are it. The white Spanish cloak is also worn in black now–a curious choice for the hot summer months?

September of 1802

In Paris:

Rose is back with a vengeance. I’m starting to wonder if ladies got sick of buying new things (or were reprimanded by their husbands/fathers, more like!) and simply brought back a hue that was fading a month or two before. Black and rose are the colors to pair now. As far as headdresses go, veils are used, but the style has changed. Instead of letting the fabric drape over the forehead, it’s pulled to the back of the head and pinned in place, lest it fall off.  Golden combs are used on both short and long hair. Rather than the empire waists of months past, low waists and full sleeves are everywhere. The fichus en marmotte that were so popular in July are now being worn over hair, hats, and mob caps.

In London:

I’m starting to realize London fashions change much more slowly than in Paris. For evening, pink and white round muslin dresses are still choice, but there is a mention of adding “A spencer of yellow silk, covered and trimmed with black lace.” Now that is new! Spencers are essentially boleros, short jacket that open at the bosom and have tight sleeves.  If they are pulled overhead and tightly fitted, they are called canezous or hussar vests.

early 19th century bonnet and spencerDuchess of Angouleme bonnet and spencer, early 19th century, possibly 1814, from  La Belle Assemblee.

The yellow and black spencer mentioned above is paired with a yellow hat with black lace and a yellow feather to boot.  Dresses up top are usually lighter in color to contrast with the spencer.  Daytime shows the procession of buff muslin dresses with white cambric sleeves.

One more day and we’ve come full circle in fashion plates circa 1802. See you tomorrow!

The Whims of Fashion, April-June 1802

Hello again, fashion enthusiasts! I hope you enjoyed yesterday’s January-March styles, and have come ready for another dose of what ladies salivated over in 1802. Unfortunately April’s plate is black and white, but I think the colors were primarily black and white anyway, so we aren’t missing much.  The fur trim is likely swansdown, a continuation February trend where swansdown appeared in pelisses, trim, etc.  But doesn’t April look more wintry than January, which was bursting with rose and showed the short tunic?  An odd choice for fashion plates, but maybe Parisian ladies weren’t ready to give up their frosty glamour quite yet.

April of 1802

In Paris:

So, remember when I told you aigrettes were officially so yesterday? They are back (already?)  The great thing about April is that headdresses have become ridiculous. I wish there was a picture of this because the Medusa-like effect would be amusing, but the magazine describes the new style as: “The hair not only appears but forms twisted locks and are scattered over the whole head dress. To make trial of this strange fashion without sacrificing their hair, some elegantes have ordered black wigs a-la-Medusa.”

Something like this…

Medusa by Caravaggio (1595-96)

 

Medusa by Caravaggio (1595-96)

The other designs for the head are include plaited headdresses “…adorned with a garland of flowers or a bandeau of steel beads. The Pamela hats degenerate.”  Asiatic turbans are also starting to ever so slowly fall out of favor: “A few elegantes have in place of the turban, which continues so obstinately in fashion, a mob cap a-la-Figaro in silk gold net with gold tassels.”  I like the gold tassels.  It sounds either garish or fabulous, and reminds me of Diana Vreeland’s tassel earrings.

(As a side note, I watched the documentary about her, The Eye Has to Travel, last night on Netflix streaming.  If you like outrageous, original women, watch it.  She invented and embodies the word “pizzazz”)

In London:

April’s colors would make Chanel proud: white muslin dresses with white pelisses trimmed in black lace, worn with a black velvet cap. Tres chic!  Sprigged muslin and white cambric are another option for promenade dresses.  Spanish cloaks of white muslin are replacing pelisses, which are probably too warm for April; these will become a trend for some months to come.  The colors in London are straw, lilac, blue, and green.

May of 1802

In Paris:

Cashmere shawls like the one worn above are called Egyptian shawls. They actually come from India, but are routed through Egypt, thereby gaining the moniker.  Hats of white satin are most fashionable when worn with white ribbands and white feathers (like a powder puff on the head!)  Velvet hats still reign in the same colors of orange and scarlet, but “the turban fashion is much in decline.”  The hats a-la-Pamela, which were coveted two months ago, are outmoded.  What’s great about this month?  Hair adorned with diadems of white daisies.  This would look striking on dark hair.

In London:

The black lace trim of earlier months is holding steady.  In May, it appears as a broad trim on scarfs or shawls of lilac and other colors, tied with a ribbon bow.  Watch necklaces that perform double duty as lockets–a delightful ode to gentleman’s pocket watches–swing over the bodice of round white muslin dresses.  Other popular trinkets are harps with pearls (brand new and worn on a gold chain) and crescent diamonds worn near the bosom.  There is also mention of horns of the lamp of eve (anybody know what this means?  Lamp of evening?  Literally the lamp of Eve?  Horns = sinfulness, the devil?  I googled without luck.  If you are interested, the exact reference is, “the horns of the lamp of eve cannot be supposed to refer to the happy husbands of our modern belles.”)

Although scarlet and orange are seen, the colors are lilac, yellow, and blue.  The color silver is mentioned in sprays and trimming. Straw hats, seen in previous months, are decorated with flowers and tied beneath the chin. Dutch straw bonnets are turned up, in front and behind, and sport puffed up white muslin around the brim.  The fashionably short cloak sounds beautiful: lined with pink and trimmed with broad white lace.  May’s edition has the longest description of London’s fashions.  If you’re interested in reading more, click on the May’s Parisians fashion picture, and scroll to page 265.

June of 1802

In Paris:

The style pictured has altered slightly from last month. Sleeves are shorter and worn with white gloves.  The shawl is all one color. In other news, fashionable ladies read, and turbans and antique headdresses are officially dead. The veil is en vogue; also the half handkerchief of lace. Dark green and jonquil taffetas are beginning to replace the favored rose and lilac of yesterday.

In London:

Round dresses of white muslin that wrap around are very popular. For day dresses, cambric muslin is the choice of fashionable ladies. There’s a lot of white satin, white feathers, white muslin overall, along with lace. Dresses of violet silk with white sleeves trimmed in lace are making an appearance. Can you guess what the prevailing colors are? Lilac, flesh-color, blue and puce. I didn’t know puce was still popular in earliest 19th century.  Spanish cloaks of white muslin trimmed round with lace are also continuing to be seen on ladies.  For hats, the leghorn and chip are popular.  If you wish to learn more about 18th century hats, look at Lars Datter’s page.  It provides links to museums and has most every C18 hat you will want to see.

I’ll be back tomorrow for July to September fashions.

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?