Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Fashion Forecast: 1819

What was the well-dressed young lady wearing in 1819?

In January, the Court was still in mourning for the death of Queen Charlotte the previous November…but after a certain amount of time clothing went from full mourning to “half-mourning”, when white as well as black were allowed. You can see examples in Ackermann’s Repository with this Half Mourning Walking Dress and Half Mourning Evening Dress, both from the January issue: By February, though, all mourning was off, as is shown by this exuberantly cheerful cherry-red Ball Dress from La Belle Assemblee. No guess as to the fabric, but it was obviously elaborately embroidered:March saw an event that should be celebrated by mall-lovers everywhere: the opening of London's Burlington Arcade, a covered walkway onto which opened 72 upscale shops. I wonder if a young lady might have worn this smart Walking Dress to examine the delights for sale there? There’s quite a garden blooming on the top of that bonnet, though I like the pink and green combination (Ackermann’s Repository): I wish I had the original description of this Evening Dress from the March edition of Ackermann’s Repository, as it’s quite stunning: note the purple embroidered sheer overdress on top of a mustard-yellow underdress. The hat is, um, quite original, and the expression on the young lady’s face as she strums her guitar is priceless. I can’t help thinking she might be worried about that rose in her headdress, just above her forehead: As can be seen from both this Walking Dress and the previous one from March, the spencer was still in fashion. This one sets off an elaborately embroidered dress (that looks like eyelet embroidery to me) and ruff, with a matching green hat. May 1819, by the way, is a special month in my calendar—it saw the birth of a sturdy baby girl in Kensington Palace who would, in a few weeks time, be christened Alexandrina Victoria…and come to the throne 18 years later as Queen Victoria. (Ackermann’s Repository): Isn’t this wonderful? It’s “A Danish fancy dress worn at the Prince Regent’s Fete” in August 1819—for his birthday, perhaps? I have no idea if it actually resembles Danish fashions, or if Mrs. Bell, the dress’s “inventor” was just having fun…but it certainly is eye candy, isn’t it? (La Belle Assemblee): Though not particularly eye-candyish, I thought this dress from La Belle Assemblee of interest. It is labeled “Parisian Evening Bridal Dress”, and includes the original description:
Round dress of white watered gros-de-Naples, flounced in a festoon of very broad lace of a rich pattern, surmounted by full-blown blush roses and orange-flower blossoms. The hair is arranged in full curls, and bound round with pearls and ears of ripe corn. Bouquet of orange flowers on the left side of the bust. Necklace of pearls, fastened before with a cameo à-l’Antique. Earrings à-l’Etoile. Short sleeves, white kid gloves, white satin shoes, and carved cedar fan.

The above dress is the faithful representation of the bridal attire of a lady of rank, for returning her congratulatory visits on her late marriage.

This hearkens back to an exchange that occurred in a past Fashion Forecast about bridal attire; here we can see that white as a color didn’t originate with Queen Victoria (nor did wearing orange blossoms as a wedding flower), and that one’s gown was usually worn to make post-wedding calls in: Several of the Ackermann prints from this year have wonderful “props” and settings to add visual interest; I thought this Walking Dress from the November issue was charming on both counts. The pale yellow with pink ruffles is just sweet, and her oversized bonnet looks like a valentine (though it must have been an absolute bear to actually wear). I wonder why she’s gazing out to sea with such interest? Maybe to catch a glimpse of one of the new trans-atlantic steamships, which had made their maiden voyage in June: What do you think of 1819's fashions?


QNPoohBear said...

I'm having a hard time getting past ears of corn ! I do quite like the walking dress minus the unattractive cut of the spencer and the wedding dress.

Marissa Doyle said...

The ears of corn actually kind of makes sense if you're into symbolism--fruitfulness and that sort of thing. I'm also having a vague recollection that there might be some mythological connection as well...

Marissa Doyle said...

And don't forget, "corn" means grain in British English--so, ears of wheat, which are actually kind of pretty.

ettie said...

Im thinking I need to require that Danish fancy dress costume!!!
my poor seem stress :) as it happens to be me and mom.

Dara said...

I'm in LOVE with that cherry red dress.

Not such a fan of the hats though. But I've never been a hat person :P