Tuesday, September 18, 2012

A Picture is Worth a Thousand…Wikipedia Entries?

Long-time readers of Nineteenteen know that one of my hobbies is collecting early 19th century fashion plates, which I feature in our Fashion Forecast posts. I recently acquired a new plate from Ackermann’s Repository, which while delightful in itself, has a lot more of interest in it apart from the clothes.

Here it is: a Promenade Dress from the September 1809 edition of Ackermann's Repository:
The dress appears to be of a lightweight fabric--muslin, perhaps, with soutache trim on the bodice and at the hem and a high neck finished with lace insets and a dagged ruffle; the hat is a close bonnet of straw, decorated with blue and white ostrich tips and tying under the chin; accessories include a lovely dark blue shawl with a red pattern picked out at the ends, a dark blue sunshade with a deep fringe, York tan gloves, and terribly impractical (at least for beach-strolling) yellow kid slippers. The hem appears to be a little high, or maybe she's holding it up slightly--it's difficult to tell. A perfectly charming dress--and I love the fringed parasol!

But look a little more closely. Our young lady stands on some oddly-drawn rocks while she gazes out at the scene below her. To her right, we see this:There's a man, not elegantly dressed: it looks like he's wearing a belted smock--standard laborer's wear--with leggings, boots (or perhaps high stocking and sabots), and perhaps a stocking cap on his head, carrying what looks like a fishing net of some description on his shoulder. Beyond him we see a pair on horseback: evidently, riding on beaches at low tide was considered just as much fun in 1809 as it is now. And beyond them is a two-masted ship--a coastal merchant ship, perhaps?

Even more interesting is what's going on beside our model's left shin: First are what appears to be a fashionable couple, strolling on the sand: he wears a coat with rather brief tails, and she's wearing something that looks remarkably like this outfit, don't you think?--another 1809 offering from Ackermann's: Beyond them is another woman (mom, or a nanny, perhaps), pulling what appears to be a small wheeled cart that looks remarkably like those you see today attached to bicycles pedaled by cycling enthusiast moms...and judging by her posture, it can't be too easy to tug Junior down the sand!

Beyond her is another elegantly dressed woman--probably mom this time--with more children in tow...but it can't have been easy to juggle her sunshade and two children who both seem set on galloping down the beach themselves.

We can't, of course, know that this is an absolutely accurate picture of an afternoon at a fashionable beachside resort town in 1809...but one does get the feeling that the artist who drew this had seen such a scene sometime...and now, over two hundred years later, is giving us a peek at that same scene. Horseback riding on the beach...canopied pull-carts for infants...children aching to run down the sand as children do today--some things don't change all that much, do they?

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