Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Fashion Forecast: 1820

What was the well-dressed young lady wearing in 1820?

1820 was quite a year, starting out with two important deaths. In January, poor King George III finally succumbed to old age and ill health, making our friend Prinny the Prince Regent into King George IV. The old king’s death was hardly surprising…what did shock everyone was the death of his son, the Duke of Kent, just a few days before, of pneumonia. The Duke left a wife and a chubby eight-month old daughter, who would grow up to become Queen Victoria. But as these deaths took place late in the month, this Half Dress from the January Ackermann’s Repository doesn’t yet reflect mourning. The deep frill collar is rather pretty…and waistlines are as high as ever:

I have one word for this Carriage Dress from February (now reflecting the mourning that was customary for society after the death of a monarch): cozy! Note the enormous ermine muff on the chair behind her—yes, they’re still in fashion. (Ackermann’s Repository). One other noteworthy event for this month: John Tenniel, the illustrator of Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass was born:By April we’ve moved into half-mourning as you can see in this Evening Dress from Ackermann. Note the waist set at the natural waistline...unusual for this year:Also featuring a lower waist is this gorgeous Court Dress from July's Ackermann. That's almost an entire ostrich worth of feathers on her head, don't you think? But the lace overskirt over the blue must have been lovely. Being received at court must have quite a memorable event, especially with the feud between the King and his wife Caroline, now returned from the continent and embroiled in a parliamentary struggle to remove her: This next dress is a bit unusual, and I can't help thinking it's almost more a costume than a dress. Perhaps this Cottage Dress is supposed to be an "at home" kind of dress for when one is feeling rustically domestic--note the apron-like front to the skirt, the scarf tied casually around the neck, and the straw hat (Ackermann's Repository, September issue):
What a charming Ball Dress! The white slip is looped back over the pink underskirt, and the dainty puff sleeves are striped pink and white. The bodice is again very high (Ackermann's Repository, September issue):
I love the flirty rows of ruffles around the hem of this Evening Dress from the October issue of Ackermann's Repository, which goes perfectly with her pose. I wonder what was in the letter she's holding to make her look so coy?:
This Walking Dress ushers in a style we'll see much of for the next several years: day dresses of solid-colored fabric, decorated with appliques, puffs, and ruchings of the same fabric, and topped by a bonnet of some description. This one appears to be asymmetrical in shape, and has rather hysterical little bows sewn inside as well as outside the brim, which must have been very distracting to the poor wearer (Ackermann):
What do you think of 1820's fashions?

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