Monday, November 24, 2014

Journal Journey into the Year 1811: La Belle Assemblée, September

This month's La Belle Assemblée issue reports, as usual, a month ahead. I, on the other hand, am very late in posting. This fall's workload has been unusually heavy, and we all have come down with assorted bugs to the point that it's a wonder the washer is still working, so many extra loads of laundry have been degermified.

Please don't forget to read the London report from Ackerman's, and those from Weimar and Paris.

  • Sabine in Weimar: Journal des Luxus und der Moden
  • Alessandra in Paris: Journal des Dames et des Modes
  • Maggie, in London: Ackermann's

This month there are no special fashion articles, just the normal plates with their explanations, plus some commentary on trends. They appear on pp. 156-157 of the July-December collection. Here they are below, followed by notes. Personally speaking, I find this month's plates especially pretty, rather than some of the over-the-top ensembles we've seen at other times this year. This month, too, is thematic: it's all about twists and pearls and beads: both plates make use of them and the general observations section mentions that beads are popular, as they have been at other times in 1811.



No. 1. EVENING DRESS. A sea-green crape dress, vandykcd round the petticoat, and ornamented with large beads; a full drapery over the shoulders, and confined in to the back with a pearl band, ornamented round the neck and down the back with beads. A full turban fillet tapered, worn on the head. Pearl necklace, white kid gloves and shoes.

No. 2. BALL DRESS. A fancy dress of undressed white crape, worn over a satin slip; the waist of the dress in the boddice form, scolloped and bound with pink satin ribband; the bottom of the dress scolloped in a similar manner, and caught up with small bunches of artificial flowers, the centre bunch of an increased size. The hem of the petticoat trimmed twisted satin and beads. Short Spanish sleeves composed of satin and lace; the back and shoulders of the dress trimmed with vandyke lace; a bouquet of artificial flowers worn much on one side. The hair ornamented with a fillet of twisted satin and pearls, placed twice round the head, and left to fall in a tassel, finished with beads. Pearl necklaces and earrings. White kid gloves and shoes, with small pink and silver roses.


During the last month, we have observed several little elegant trifles, but nothing strikingly new, or decidedly prevailing. Whoever can display most taste in transforming a handkerchief into a mantle, or a shawl or veil into a becoming head-dress, is entitled to the palm of taste and elegance. Less seems to depend on the skill of the milliner than on the fancy of the individual; every lady is in some measure her own artist; thus her cap it not only adapted to her figure and features, but even to the air and humour she puts on for the day; she has nothing to do but to look well, and no matter in what. For the promenade, an elegant mantlet is formed with a square of yellow crape, bound with satin ribband of the same colour; it is turned over from the neck, so as to form a sort of cape, the corners ornamented with small elegant silk tassels. White satin spensers, with a white silk scarf thrown over them, are well adapted to the season, and have a fascinating appearance. Satin tippets lined, and edged with swansdown, or spensers, will be well suited to the latter end of the present month. The pelisse of lace or crape, if still retained, will shortly require the addition of a scarf in conformity to the season. Short pelisses of rich twilled sarsnet are much worn over a dress trimmed with a full cambric edging. Satin and lace Grecian or cottage caps, are the prevailing mode of head-dress. Feathers seem less worn for the promenade, and have consequently appeared in greater numbers in the drawing-room.

Morning Dresses are frequently made in the pelisse style, buttoned down the front with small raised buttons, and trimmed round the bottom, the collar, and down the front, with a full cambric frill, delicately plaited. This style of dress is very fashionably prevailing; it gives us that idea of neatness, delicacy, and innocence, always interesting in a female; neatness is most bewitching, not merely as a pleasing quality in itself, but as a certain indication of many others; a well regulated wardrobe is not unfrequcntly a mark of a well regulated mind; of a conduct marked with propriety, and "thoughts void of offence." It is a never failing sign of economy, and of all those qualities so requisite for the well arrangement of a family.

For dinner or borne dresses, Merino crapes, Opera nets, sarsnets, and cambrics are most in request. They have not varied at all in their make. The waists remain much shorter than at the commencement of the summer; they are made entirely plain, to fit the shape. Trains are considered fashionable, but it is a fashion which, except in full dress, is in a great measure superseded by convenience. Cloth dresses have already appeared, but these we cannot help considering as premature. Velvets are very numerous; in fact, there is scarcely any season at which velvet may not with propriety be worn, warm as it may appear, it has the sanction of custom, which no one ventures to arraign.

For full or evening dress, figured gauze, white satin, coloured crapes, short lace dresses, and gossamer nets are considered the most elegant. Fine India muslins, with satin bodies and short satin sleeves, with a loose lace sleeve, brooched with diamonds worn over, and satin slips, are likewise very elegant. Coloured satin bodies are not so much worn, but will probably be more approved at a more advanced season; they give an appearance of dress, and contribute to the variety of the drawing-room, very pleasing at a less genial season. It is imagined that soft India mull muslins, wrought in small sprigs, with coloured cruels, will be found in great request fur the end of autumn and winter; they may not be probably considered to belong to full dress. Silver turbans are a very prevailing head-dress; satin caps, blended with lace, and ornamented with the Highland plume, are also much approved. Pearl cords and tassels are extremely elegant; beads are more worn than during the last month. Crape dresses ornamented with coloured satin, fancifully displayed in sprigs and wreath patterns, or for full dress, in silver foil or spangles, are considered of the very first order of dress. The hair is worn curled in full round curls round the face; the hair behind turned loosely up without any twist, and left to fall in irregular ringlet curls in the neck; no ornament worn in the front of the hair; a full blown rose placed much on one side a-la-Phoebe, seems to have many admirers; as has a knot of white or coloured ribband, mixed negligently with the falling ringlets in the neck.

We have observed no very new devices in jewellery; pearl necklaces with a diamond clasp, without either locket or brooch are the most prevailing; necklaces in emeralds and amber, are considered very fashionable; the short sleeves have again introduced that elegant and becoming ornament the bracelet.

The prevailing colours for the season, are jonquille, violet, amber, celestial blue, autumnal yellow, and rose.

It is from good authority we announce the present assortment of superb India shawls, gold and silver muslins, the admired Angola and Arabian shawls, together with the choicest India muslins, and all the new articles for ladies' autumn dress, now on sale at the house of Millard, in the city, far exceeds even that of any former season; and, although we understand there is to be no sale this autumn at the India house for India muslins, yet the immense stock of that house will still afford a rich treat to the lovers of that truly valuable article, where they are regularly obtained by the piece, or demy, at the first price.


Bodice and petticoat combination. This month's ball dress is not made in one piece, but two. Harking back to earlier jacket-and-petticoat styles from the later 18th century and earlier Regency, this dress has a separate "boddice", back-closing. Sure wish we could see the back closing. Had we reached the point of a back lacing? The fit makes me think so. A separate slip and over-petticoat are worn with it. It's unclear if the slip includes a bodice, but I would assume that it does not since the bodice may not be taken off. The separate combinations are more common than one might think and under-represented in today's recreations.

Fancy dress. The ball dress this month is described as a "fancy dress". Normally the term fancy dress means masquerade dress. That may be the case here: our model may represent the goddess Flora or spring. It's not entirely clear.

Hairstyles. Both plates this month show hairstyles clearly. Both hairstyles make use of twisted fabric and pearls for headdresses -- see tuban fillet, below, for more on that. Both hairstyles are constructed similarly. The hair is brushed towards the back of the head with no apparent partings, and braided into a coiled bun. Additional braids -- and false hair would be common -- are arranged either atop the bun, in the case of the ball dress, or swagged from the face to the bun in the case of the evening dress.
The hairstyles end up looking quite different.

The ball dress model wears her bun rather low, and her hair is smooth, something we don't always see. She sports just two sets of curl wisps to the side of her face. This style would be good for a woman whose hair was naturally quite straight.

The evening dress model wears her bun quite high so that the coiled fillet is accentuated. Her front hair was probably parted from side to side and then curled in tiny hanging ringlets with papillotes or a curling iron, for a softened Roman matron effect.

The observations section of the fashion column talks about a related but simple evening hairstyle:
"The hair is worn curled in full round curls round the face; the hair behind turned loosely up without any twist, and left to fall in irregular ringlet curls in the neck; no ornament worn in the front of the hair; a full blown rose placed much on one side a-la-Phoebe, seems to have many admirers; as has a knot of white or coloured ribband, mixed negligently with the falling ringlets in the neck."
Imagine the front curls from the evening dress model. Now, take the rest of the hair, pull it to the back loosely, bunch it, and without twisting it, push it up against the back of the head and jab a wide comb into the bunch to hold it in place. Allow the ends to curl back down over the comb and to the neck.

India muslins. Featured heavily this month. Clearly imported, as they had been for many years; note the advertising for particular shops carrying them in the last paragraph. My favorite mention -- "soft India mull muslins, wrought in small sprigs, with coloured cruels". By "cruels" the writer means crewel embroidery done with wool floss. Here would be a nice variation on the little white dress for evening: the sprigs would be in full color rather than in whitework. The designs would be variations of the pretty stylized florals so popular for over a century, by this point.

An example from the Deutsches Historisches Museum, of a dress that I believe is of India muslin. See how attenuated the sprigs and winding vines are. Widely spaced, small motifs are common at this juncture; they would become bolder as time passed until they turn into the full-and-fluffy Victorian styles.

From "La Fleche", a member of the Napoleon 1er forum.

Here is an example using the boteh pattern, the paisley design which appeared about now and is still popular.

Cotton dress with wool embroidery, 1810. Met: 11.60.226.

Pearls. The pearls used in this month's plates were in all likelihood faux pearls, perhaps glass filled with wax, the so-called Roman pearls written about in the Two Nerdy History Girls blog. Real sea pearls were fabulously expensive. In the evening dress plate the pearls outline portions of the dress, and even add weight to the vandykes at the dress hem.

Pearl necklace. The pearl necklace in the evening dress plate is clasped with a metal clasp rather than tied with ribbon as common earlier.

Turban fillet. For a change, just what you might imagine: a "fillet" is normally a narrow ribbon or wire wound round or encircling the head, while a turban is a, well, a turban. In this month's evening dress hairstyle, we have a length of fabric well gathered to make a narrow, round, gathered tube, wound round the head. The turban is wound with pearls for extra measure. Handsome and I hope that someone will take up this style for a ball before long! The ball dress plate uses a similar design; it encircles the head more like the fillets we remember from Medieval fairy tales, but ironically, the effect is more turban-like to my eyes than the evening dress example, yet isn't called a turban. Fashion, fashion.
That's it for September's journey. I sure hope to be able to get to October before long! So behind...


The Quintessential Clothes Pen said...

I was inspired by your post and made a turban fillet. I just posted about it:


ZipZip said...

Dear Quinn,
I am so behind on reading and correspondence but finally read your post. First reaction upon seeing your turban? An intake of breath. It's so, so, pretty on you, and so pretty a decoration in real life. Some fashion plate accessories feel like overkill when worn. Not this. The style is perfect for you, your age, your gown. So glad you brought it to life!

Anonymous said...

Hi! I was wondering what vandykcd means? Is it referring to the triangled hem? If so, do you know where I can find a way to do it for my dress?


ZipZip said...

Dear Neroon,
Sorry for the delay: have not been online much. Yes indeed, vandykes are the triangle-shaped trim. There are two sets of directions for making it in The Ladies Stratagem, edited by Frances Grimble. She translated the directions from French sources.
Very best,

Neroon15 said...

Thanks Natalie!

By the way, on the second ball dress that has the artificial flowers, do you happen to know what those types of flowers are? I am hoping to make the dress and make the flowers as 3-d beaded flowers. Thanks for any one help you can give me.

Also, when they say crape, do you think that's like a crepe silk or something like that? Thank you!!

neroon15 said...

Thanks! Do you have any idea of what the artificial flowers on ball gown 2 might be as they don't look like roses to me? I want to create 3-d beaded flowers on my dress. Thanks so much!

ZipZip said...

Dear Neroon15,

I've looked at them and cannot be sure of what they are, but the six-pointed flowers remind me a little of primroses, a well-known English spring garden flower. They could also be primulas, and the leaves fit that, or Carolina Jessamine. A good bet is to Google a term such as "common 18th century flowers": it will turn up flowers that will have been well known by the Regency period. You might also check pages about the language of flowers, since it's very possible that there is symbolic significance in these flowers.
Hoping this is of use to you, and very best,

ZipZip said...

Oop! About crape. It was a lightweight fabric, often black, made of silk or silk and wool worsted (tightly spun), woven in such a way that it crinkled.

Very best,