Tuesday, January 22, 2008

The Fashionable Miss, Part III: 1821-1830

If the clothes of the first two decades of the 19th century were classically influenced (all those long white dresses that were supposed to resemble the columns of a classical temple), I’m not sure what the clothes of the next two decades were influenced by, apart from controlled substances. Think color--lots and lots of them in prints and stripes and even plaids--and richer, heavier fabrics like silks, merinos, and crepe. Hats moved from the demure turbans and bonnets of the last decade to a size and form of ornamentation that would not be rivaled in sheer goofiness until the 1890’s. Tasteful and restrained? Um, no. Easy to wear? Probably not. But fun to look at? Heck, yes!

The clothes of the years 1821 to 1830, during most of which the Prince Regent now ruled England as King George IV, now totally left classical simplicity behind. Those high waists began to creep downward toward the natural waist, and tighter lacing of corsets came back in as well. Busy was “in”: in the earlier years of the decade, the lower parts of skirts could have everything from heavy embroidery and poufs to lace flounces and artificial flowers, like the fancy ball dress on this young woman from 1821 (left). Note that her waist is still way up there, just under her breasts.

By 1825, the waist had migrated south, as you can see in this pretty yellow ball dress at right. Hems were still getting star treatment, though. I wonder if all that fluff around her feet, made of large puffs of fabric (though some dresses actually had stuffed hems!) made it harder to dance?

Over the next few years, sleeves and bodices got in on the embellishment act as well. Isn’t this 1828 ball dress at left, with its embroidered tulle skirt over an underdress of Feodore blue (named for Victoria's sister, perhaps, who got married this year), just adorably dainty and feminine?

Within a year or two dainty gave way to silly as sleeves began to balloon out into astonishing size, often requiring whalebone supports or down cushions to maintain their shape and size. And the hats! Here is a print from 1829 that will give you an idea of the size of both. And this was just the start.

On next Tuesday I’ll give you at peek at the clothes of a fashionable miss from 1830-1840, when restraint went out the window, the last vestiges of classical simplicity gave way to utterly froo-froo romanticism, and women had to go through doors sideways.


Gillian Layne said...

I love these pictures! And you know, I like all the excess. It's fun!

What about their shoes and undergarments? Did a big change happen there as well?

Marissa Doyle said...

Aren't the pictures great? I'll have some really fun ones next week. :)

I'll leave major undergarment discussion to Regina (she's got a post up her sleeve about that) but yes, the return of the hour-glass silhouette meant a change in corsets. The number and material of petticoats changed as well--this was pre-crinoline, remember, so the bell shape of skirts came from lots of petticoats.

I haven't been able to find that shoes went through much of a change in this period--still the half-boots for day wear and charming slippers for evening. Maybe we need to consider a post on shoes at some point.

Gillian Layne said...

Great! I'll be looking forward to the undergarment discussion, and I'll definitely say a "yes" to a shoe post as well ;)

Sarah Prineas said...

Yes, definitely a post on shoes!!

Those tiny, dainty feet in all the Regency-era pictures. Slippers, right?

Marissa Doyle said...

Yes, Sarah, slippers, often with ribbon ties that are still seen today on ballet shoes. And cool embroidered stockings. I have a thing for funky socks, so this tickles me no end.

Gillian Layne said...

And then in the undergarment blog you could explain how the stockings stayed up....? And how far they went up? ;)

Marissa Doyle said...

Garters, of course, tied just above the knee. They must have been a dreadful nuisance until about late 1820's/early 1830's, when rubber elastic started to be used. I'm sure ladies constantly had to retire to the ladies' withdrawing room to retie their garters at balls.

I may combine the stocking and shoe discussion, given my fondness for crazy socks.