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.