What was the well-dressed young woman wearing in 1831?
By this year, the era of “big” is firmly established: big hats, big sleeves, big skirts, and in some cases, big hair, as in this print from February’s La Belle Assemblée. The lady on the left in the green Dinner Dress has a coiffure fearfully and wonderfully made (and probably involving a hair piece added to her own braided locks):
The heavy ornamentation of skirts seen in the 1820s has diminidhed but lingers on into the early 1830s, as we can see in the Evening Dress and Opera Dress from March’s La Belle Assemblée. Long fur tippets, or boas, will remain in fashion throughout the decade, a foretaste of the 1890s:
The sheer size of sleeves in this decade (until 1836) must have made tasks such as putting on earrings (as the young lady at right in the Dinner Dress is doing) less than easy. Sleeves achieved their size through stuffing with horsehair pads or through frameworks made of wire or wickerwork (June, La Belle Assemblée):
The Dinner Dress at left here is a bit of a throwback to the 1820s, with its gauze oversleeves and lack of crazy shoulder width...and the Ball Dress at right is just charming, with lace-frilled sleeves and an overskirt heavily decorated with flowers and more lace (July, La Belle Assemblée):
The big event of 1831 was the coronation of King William IV, who’d succeeded his brother George IV (a.k.a. the Prince Regent), and his wife Queen Adelaide, on September 8. In this print of the event from October’s La Belle Assemblée, it is curious to note that the female spectators seated in the balconies do not sport the excessive sleeves and headdresses currently in fashion (it's hard to see in this image because of the size, but trust me on this). I would not be at all surprised if that weren’t the result of official decree...or it could just be prudent ladies not wanting to have their sleeves crushed at such a crowded event!
The Carriage Dress on the left features a sort of capelet called a pelerine, in addition to a pleated linen double collar. Both it and the Dinner Dress at right have gigot sleeves...and there’s another fur tippet (La Belle Assemblée, November):
In this print from November’s La Belle Assemblée the lady at far right is wearing a mantle over her Opera Dress, a sort of combination of cloak and coat and the standard outerwear for women for the next several years. Her hat is very stylish, I must say—I love the jaunty angle at which it perches on her head, though I would not want to be sitting behind her in the theatre. The Morning Dress at left features Medici sleeves and overskirt and pelerine edged with a rounded dagged trim:
From December's La Belle Assemblée we have another mantle (or it could be a pelerine cape—it’s not always easy to tell the difference) over a fur-trimmed Carriage Dress—perfect for the time of year! The Dinner Dress at left features an embroidered and lace-bedecked muslin canezou-pelerine set over puffed sleeves with gauze oversleeves—a somewhat fussy look. Good thing the rest of the dress is very plain!