Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Journal Journey into the Year 1811: La Belle Assemblée Fashions for November (October issue), Part 2


Here is part 2 of the fashions for November 1811. Replete with fashions, such as an outfit based on the Great Comet of 1811 and of course, the still-fascinating Prince Regent.

GENERAL OBSERVATIONS ON FASHION AND DRESS. 
From Wellcome Library, London
Winter is so tardy in its approach, that London affords but little scope for our observations on the head of fashion; we must follow the fair to the different watering-places, or to their country seats, which they appear loth to quit while the golden age seems in part restored, by their viewing blossoms and fruit on the same bough, and we shall in vain search for the arbitration of fashion in the metropolis. The modern world will still delay to leave the smiling scenes which so long a summer has given to either their own rural possessions, or to the more public situations of Weymouth, Brighton, Margate, and Ramsgate.

Simplicity of dress seems at each of these places the order of the day. Fashion has not yet finished weaving her rich and variegated wreath of winter flowers; but, nevertheless, she has began it; and our fair country women are finding ample employment for the London milliners, to prepare their dresses for the promenade, the carriage, the dinner-party, the rout, and public places of evening amusement.

For the former of these, the figure represented in the present Number displays an exact copy of a costume which was given us, and which has been just completed for a lady who ranks high in fashionable life. The comet hat and mantle, made of coquelicot velvet, or fine Merino cloth, claim a place also amongst the most novel articles: the hat is made something in the form of those turbans worn by the Moorish peasantry; it is trimmed with a very narrow silver galon, with a delicate silver flower in front, forming a clustre of small stars, with light and elegant sprays issuing from them, representing the tail of the superb and awe-inspiring stranger. The mantle, trimmed with long tassel fringe, is peculiarly elegant, and falls in starry points over the form. Such fashions as these are merely local, but the elegance and taste of both the hat and mantle are unrivalled, and we think it a pity they had not a title which might have rendered them more durable favourites of the approaching
 winter. The Carthusian mantle of silver grey Merino cloth, with an under spenser of the same, seems likely to be more generally prevalent.

Tippets a-la-pelerine are still much worn; few in fur have made their appearance at present, except some light Chencilla and Angola; white satin, either plain or quilted, and trimmed with swansdown or Mechlin lace, are most in requisition.

The small scollop shell mantle, trimmed with a rich tassel fringe, and thrown quite behind a spenser of the same colour as the mantle, like the ancient Spanish cloak, seems much in favour.

There is but little variation in the mode of the gowns; they are still buttoned behind, with either the frock or military front; when the latter, the stripes across the waist and bosom are composed of stripes of lace and needle-work, alternately let in; it is expected that, for evening parties, trains, this winter, will be the prevailing mode.

For receiving friends at home, or for social dinner parties, Jaconot muslins, made quite plain, or with only a narrow trimming of fine lace round the sleeves, bosom, and bottom of the gown, are generally adopted; and the Merino crape which is much worn also on these occasions, has little other trimming than a neat chain gimp, the same colour as the gown.

At Brighton, Weymouth, and Ramsgate, the costume is simply elegant. White is universally worn, both in the morning and evening; and the ball and concert boast no other scenery than muslin dresses, with pearl or amethyst ornaments; though some few ladies have made their appearance in white gossamer satin, trimmed with swansdown, while others have sported white crape and spangles: for the libraries and music-rooms, the hair well dressed, with a flower, or small satin cap, and a veil thrown carelessly over, and a black lace shawl, fastened with a brilliant brooch in the form of a crescent, has been almost universal at our watering-places this summer; and long sleeves are worn either in dress or undress.

We are happy to find those disguises to female symmetry of form, the long stays, fast losing ground; and while the contour of nature is carefully preserved, the waist is more inclined to the Grecian shortness, than the awkward length of the Egyptian, who has lain buried, bound up in cearments, for above a thousand years!

The hair is generally worn parted on the forehead, with round light curls on one side the face, and a few longer ringlets on the other. Some of our elegantes wear their hair in curls on the neck; but, in general, the neat smart crop, with the hair easily dressed on the top of the head, by its unstudied simplicity seems to prevail over the Sappho and Cleopatra style of head-dress. Some ladies who have fine hair, twist it in a long plait, and round it on the back of the head, a-la-Chinoise; but the Chinese fashions have had their day, and are not much now retained, except in the article of furniture; wherein the light elegance of that style will ever be admired. Caps are worn much, except by very young persons.

Notwithstanding the unusual warmth of the season, the winter jewellery, even about the middle of the last mouth, began to make its appearance; coral and red cornelian have taken place of the white, of pale sapphires, and even of pearl. Different coloured gems, set in four distinct rings of gold, with a spring to vary the form at pleasure, are a new and elegant article in jewellery. to these may be added an ornament of a very novel kind, forming at once a small bouquet and a brooch; it is composed of a cluster of the small Sicilian strawberry, beautifully coloured and enamelled from nature, with leaves and stalks of gold. The watches are something larger than they were last season, and are worn in the sash or belt, with a light Lisbon chain of gold, formed in scallops or festoons, according to the fancy of the wearer. The seals are very small, and generally composed of white cornelian, the best Brazilian topaz, and an unengraved Ceylon ruby.

Flowers, the sweetest emblem of feminine beauty, and the most becoming article of a lady's dress, are, we are happy to say, still in favour: they suit all seasons, for every season enjoys the gift of Flora; and when these, her tributes, are not too glaring by refulgence of colour, they suit all ages, and they employ a number of indigent females. The variegated carnation, the grouped corn-flowers, the geranium, and England's pride, oak leaves with acorns, have now succeeded to the rose or maiden blush, the jessamine and mignonette, and are generally worn in small bunches under the straw cottage bonnet, which has no other ornament than the white satin ribband, with which it is tied; it is worn backward, and not infrequently the face is covered with a black or white lace long veil.

Regency boots, with hussar heels, are sported by some dashing belles; but the prevailing fashion is half boots of purple kid, and the demi-broquin, or quarter-boot, with lacing of the same. In full-dress white satin shoes, with a very small buckle of gold, or plaid slippers, or blue kid. with a buckle, are adopted.

The prevailing colours are faun-colour, amber, and willow green; ribbands of amber colour, richly brocaded, Regency purple and plaids, seem to be the only coloured ribbands worn at present.

Notes

Chencilla and Angola: most probably chinchilla fur and Angora goat hair. How the goat hair would be treated, whether with the skin or locks of fleece woven into a hairy fabric, or just a soft fabric, is unclear.

Coquelicot: a bright red.

Comet hat and mantle: Here's a fashion commemorating the Great Comet of 1811. The comet arrived early in 1811 and was visible for most of the year. By late fall it was so bright that those watching the sky could even see its long swallow-like tail. Some watchers claimed that the comet predicted Napoleon's invasion of Russia and even the War of 1812. (See Great Comet of 1811 on Wikipedia.) Dr. Thomas Lucas, a diarist living in Stirling, England, reported on September 7:
Saw a Comet NNW about 4 degrees above the Horizon. The Newspapers had noticed it a week previous. It appears to the naked Eye to be a very considerable one and very Luminous.
He was to report the look and movements of the comet several more times that fall and winter. (Diary provided by the Stirling Council Archive.)

It's no wonder that a society lady might take the comet for a chance to create a memorable ensemble.
 The hat, is described thus: the hat is made something in the form of those turbans worn by the Moorish peasantry; it is trimmed with a very narrow silver galon, with a delicate silver flower in front, forming a clustre of small stars, with light and elegant sprays issuing from them, representing the tail of the superb and awe-inspiring stranger. Here is the ever-popular turban again, trimmed in starry silver galloon, and adorned with what sounds like a silver aigrette trimmed with brilliants, and partly composed of thin wires that would tremble and sparkle when the turban-wearer moved. Here's are a few from the period, courtesy the Lisa Lazar Aigrette collection on Pinterest:

Early 19th century diamond feather and spray tremblant aigrette, c.1810
Aigrette, circa 1810; Lisa Lazar, Pinterest.

Regency aigrette, Lisa Lazar, Pinterest.
Demi-broquin: see note about this in the November issue's first post.

Gown construction: the author writes: "little variation in the mode of the gowns; they are still buttoned behind. Now we know what to do! with either the frock or military front; when the latter, the stripes across the waist and bosom are composed of stripes of lace and needle-work, alternately let in.

Home dress, for receiving visitors, or little parties: plain dresses in white! Per the author: Jaconot muslins, made quite plain, or with only a narrow trimming of fine lace round the sleeves, bosom, and bottom of the gown, are generally adopted; and the Merino crape which is much worn also on these occasions, has little other trimming than a neat chain gimp, the same colour as the gown. Interesting, the wide variation in costliness of dress between formal and informal occasions. I wonder if it was purely style at work, or if the cost of the Napoleonic wars was having an effect.

Mantle: at that time a cape. The year before Ackermann's had shown a "Russian mantle", described like this: "A Russian mantle of bright crimson velvet, lined throughout with the spotted American squirrel skin, with broad facings and high collar of same. The mantle clasped in the front of the throat with silver, gold, or steel."
Ackermann's January 1810,
courtesyCandice Hern
.
The Carthusian (named after a Catholic monastic order) variety here is described as being made of silvery-gray cloth, that is, wool, most likely fulled for warmth. A "scollop" shell version is another...one might think it decorated like a scallop shell, with a scalloped bottom perhaps. Both are, interestingly, worn over a spenser.

Merino cloth: Here we have politics, economics, and the pursuit of luxuries all mixed together. Merino (mare-eeno) is a very soft and warm type of wool from the Merino sheep. Merino sheep fibers are very fine indeed, although not as soft as cashmere goat hair. The fibers are nicely crimped and spin up into a delightfully springy yarn that now, as then, is perfect for fine, warm fabric. Being a protein fiber like silk, it takes gorgeous, rich and bright colors. 
Merino sheep. Wikipedia.
By "cloth" the writer here meant in all likelihood a high-end broadcloth. Broadcloth is plain woven (tabby woven), the simplest over-and-under weave structure. The cloth would be fulled -- partially felted, essentially -- into a wonderfully warm fabric perfect for outerwear. It's unclear if the clearly luxury fabric meant here was fulled to the degree that it would not fray when cut, although this would make sense for the mantles described in this article. (Najecki Reproductions discusses qualities of broadcloth: it's a useful read.)

Merino sheep had been raised for centuries in Spain. They are rather big sheep, with a heavy growth of a rather short-fibered fleece. Spain outlawed export of Merinos for ages, but by the mid 18th century the breed was being established in elsewhere, significantly Saxony in Germany. Note too that there was a royal flock at Kew Palace, where King George III lived during the Regency, and some sheep had gone to Australia. By the beginning of the 19th century, German merino was considered the best; meanwhile, Napoleon's armies were destroying the Spanish flocks. It's unclear where the cloth discussed here would have come from. Was it a product of English mills? Saxony at the time was allied with France, so it is unlikely to have come from there, and the U.S. was out -- Britain was busy blocking wool product shipments to the U.S. (Read a brief history of the Merino mess at Merino on Wikipedia.)

Merino crape: wool crape fabric! At last, it's good to hear of a pretty wool fabric being used: the Merino crape which is much worn also on these occasions, has little other trimming than a neat chain gimp, the same colour as the gown.  A solid color dress with just a big of gimp trimming: something someone should try.

Military style: per the author: "little variation in the mode of the gowns; they are still buttoned behind with either the frock or military front; when the latter, the stripes across the waist and bosom are composed of stripes of lace and needle-work, alternately let in. Interesting that lace designs could be interpreted as a military style. (N.B. Lace was still at this date worn as part of a Royal Naval Officer's uniform, for instance, at the neck and cuffs, so the issue is not that lace has purely feminine connotations.)

Stays: Well, they mentioned them at last: "We are happy to find those disguises to female symmetry of form, the long stays, fast losing ground; and while the contour of nature is carefully preserved, the waist is more inclined to the Grecian shortness, than the awkward length of the Egyptian, who has lain buried, bound up in cearments, for above a thousand years!" What all this means is a bit of a puzzle. Here the writer is clearly talking about where the waist is positioned, and is saying that shorter-waisted look is most in fashion. Whether the stays to procure this look not only push the bosom up but end at a high waist, or whether they are cut lower, at the natural waist or at the hip, is unclear.

We know from Sabine Schierhoff's work that staymakers were producing a variety of stays styles around 1810. We also know that they were still at it in 1815. Witness a prolix advertisement in Ackermann's, June, 1815.

It reads:
Patronized by the Royal Family.
NOVELTIES.
At this gay season, when every eye and every inclination is in pursuit of Novelty, Fashion, and Pleasure, the attention of the Fair Sex has been ____ by the Attractions of Marston's curious and splendid Assemblage of PATENT STAYS, which in design and execution infinitely surpass his former Inventions, and seem calculated to gratify the expectations of the Fashionable Circles, who are most respectfully invited to honour him with a visit to his very extensive Repository, where convenient Rooms are appropriated for the reception of the Nobility and Gentry, with respectable Females to attend them. The GREAT ADVANTAGES resulting from this Establishment can only be appreciated by comparing the Quality and Price of his Stays with those of other Houses.
Great pleasure will be felt in submitting for their inspection, his superb French, beautiful Spanish, improved Greciain, Italian, a la Diana, Circassian, and every other Stay (for which he has been favoured with the sanction of the Royal Family), in the greatest variety of shapes, and of the upmost exquisite materials and workmanship.
 The short Parisian Stay and full cottoned Bodices are admirable and prevailing articles of dress.
Sold by the Inventor and Patentee, at 25 and 24, Holywell-street, Strand; and retail by one respectable Milliner or Dressmaker at every principal town in England, Ireland, Scotland, and Wales. 
Several ____ and pair of children's Stays at half the usual charges.



Marston's advertised in Ackermann's several times. For example, see Christmas time 1813, when the advertisement touts its "PATENT STAYS OR CORSETS". Each time the advertisement speaks of lower prices at the same time it touts the quality of its clientele. I wonder a bit about the real quality of its products. Anyhow, the advertisement does focus on the breadth of its offerings and those of other businesses, leading me to believe that there were many shapes of stays to be had at that time.

A side note: the street itself was close to The Strand, which at that time, while lined with palaces, was decaying, at least in parts. Holywell Street itself, writes Andrew Whitehead, was in the early 19th century a place patronized by pamphleteers and freethinkers. The Slang Guide to London talks of the street being business-oriented: first mercers, then second-hand clothes, then books and pamphlets, and the radicals described by Whitehead.

Tippets a-la-pelerine: A shame we do not have an image, but our magazine spoke of them before, in February 1807 (p. 106), and gave this description:
Opera tippets a la pelerine, of white satin, or velvet; the latter trimmed with swansdown, the former vandyked with coloured velvet, with full puckered collars, are very distinguishing, and particularly well adapted for slender figures.
The object sounds very like a tiny cape, with or without a collar, lined with a luxurious fabric and made with luxurious outsides -- fur and swansdown -- rather like what today we might call a shrug. Not the far longer boa-like tippets seen in the 1790s and very early 1800s. Pelerines and tippets would be become very fashionable later, in the 1820s, as sleeves and shoulders broadened; a quick Google search brings up quite a number of references.

Weymouth, Brighton, Margate, and Ramsgate: All seaside resorts in the south of England, facing the English channel. To give an idea of distance, from Weymouth in the county of Dorset, through Brighton, then to Ramsgate and finally Margate, both in Kent, is a 240 mile drive.  All are in relatively flat areas with sandy beaches, and relatively clement weather with few snows and freezes and more sunshine than the rest of England, courtesy the giant Gulf Stream ocean current. This is not cliff-side, rugged England.  It is little wonder that a warm fall would make resort-goers loth to leave the beach!
Google Earth view of the drive from Weymouth to Margate.

There is a lot packed into these magazine issues, isn't there? Would have loved to have dug in a bit more, especially on the jewelry, but research time is limited...

4 comments:

Rosa said...

Dear Natalie,
that aigrette is wonderful! It's funny though, from the description of the short waist in vogue, all I keep seeing for whatever reason is a generously proportioned matryoshka... must be the lack of sleep:-)

By the way, (though I feel rather shy about it!XD)I nominated you for a Liebster blog award here: http://fantasiadollhousediaries.blogspot.cz/2015/01/liebster-blog-award.html I really like your blog and the way you persevere is a great inspiration to me.

Hugs,
take care,

Rosa

PS: I did get your e-mail in the end and I replied, I hope you got it:-)

Natalie Ferguson said...

Dear Rosa,

Uh-oh, hope you get some sleep: your vision sounds a bit surreal :}

Yes, thank you, received your email. May the studies go well; we'll correspond after that.

Meantime, thank you for the Liebster Award! Am glad that you like the blog and get some ideas from it.

Very best,

Natalie

. . . Lisa and Robb . . . said...

I've been distracting myself from a tedious headcold by reading your fascinating blog. Imagine my surprise when I saw my name, in connection with those delightful aigrettes!

Thanks for the smile!

Natalie Ferguson said...

Dear Lisa,

Ah, you're Lisa Lazar! Your Pinterest collection was wonderful; so glad you had shared it with the world. It's neat to be able to tie objects together with articles from the period, or even better, letters, from the period. It puts things in context.

Thanks again, and glad that you enjoy the blog. Am not able to update it as often as would like, given work and family responsibilities, but do when I get the chance.

Very best,

Natalie