Tuesday, October 9, 2018

La Belle Assemblée Strikes Again!

These early La Belle Assemblée plates never cease to delight me!

This September 1806 print seems fairly quiet on first glance; two muslin dresses, appropriate for summer...though it never fails to amuse me that even while the country was engaged in the bitterest of battles with Napoleon, English fashion magazines of the times serenely continued to report on the latest Paris fashions... But to borrow a phrase, the delight in this print is in the details. 

First, the official descriptions:
Parisian Summer Fashions 1806
Plate II. Fig. 1.—Full Dress
A round train dress of Moravian worked muslin, with correspondent border, worn over white satin; white satin sash, tied in front; long waist, with robbing back; round bosom, cut low, embroidered border round; no neckerchief; a short full sleeve, gathered into a puckered roll the size of the arm; the hair parted near the forehead, the front in close curls, divided from that which forms the crown by a tiara of frost-work studded with antique medallions in the centre, the rest of the hair formed into various horizontal braids, twisted into a knot on the crown of the head, and fastened with a gold comb, the ends formed into curls; necklace and ear-rings of amethysts, linked with wrought gold; India muslin scarf, richly embroidered with an embroidery of purple and gold; white satin shoes; and white kid gloves.

Now, the details...first, notice the lacing fastening up the back of the dress at left?


Most fascinating of all is her hair; most probably a classical borrowing, perhaps from Greco-Roman statuary, but striking nonetheless. Definitely not to be attempted at home without help!

Now, the second dress...

Fig. 2.—Evening Walking Dress
Plain muslin dress, a walking length, a ribband laid flat round the bottom; a patent net apron, with an embroidered border in stars, and a lace put full all round; the bosom of the dress cut rather low, and a full plaiting of net all round; a short sleeve rather full, confined with a plaited band of muslin the size of the arm; a small straw hat, a little turned up on one side, no rim on the other, but the vacancy occupied by field-flowers, or roses; a band of yellow sarsnet is passed under the chin, and tied in a bow on the top of the crown; no hair is seen but on the sides; a half square of lilac muslin, embroidered with a border of laurel leaves in white, is thrown negligently round the neck, and confined simply with the right hand; necklace and ear-rings of pearl; gloves of yellow kid, tied above the elbow with a bow of lilac ribband; sandals of the same, laced with lilac; lilac ribband round the waist, and tied with a small bow and long ends behind.

I’m a little amused by the direction that the shawl of lilac muslin is to be “negligently” draped and “confined simply with the right hand”; what if the poor girl is right-handed and needs to use her hanky while out walking in the garden of an evening? The yellow gloves with lilac ribbons holding them up are also quite jaunty.

But that headdress is...um, interesting. The “band of yellow sarsnet passed under the chin” makes the poor girl look like she has a toothache, don’t you think?!

But toothachey or not, definitely a delight!


AnneB said...

Those yellow gloves...perish forbid she'd need to take them off before she got home again because how would she tie the ribbons without the help of her maid? And they're kid, in the summer! *fans self*

I know things are a cooler and damper in England than most places in the US, but between the gloves and the hat all I can think is HEATSTROKE!

Daisy said...

I like the yellow gloves a lot. Both ladies have rather odd expressions.

Marissa Doyle said...

The yellow gloves tied with lilac ribbons are absolutely wonderful! But yes, like the hair, not to be attempted on one's own.

Chemystress said...

Well, perhaps she IS right handed, as she is confining her negligently draped shawl with her left. (Also why did I just have to do EIGHT verify tests to post this?)

Marissa Doyle said...

You're absolutely right, Chemystress! Either the plate got flipped when it was being engraved, or the artist wasn't paying attention, or the person who wrote the copy wasn't paying attention to the print, or...hmm!

QNPoohBear said...

I love that evening walking dress and shawl. The toothache hat, not too much. The woman on the left has cornrows! Those would never stay put without a headache or hairspray. I wonder if her maid used some kind of hair product or if less washing of hair meant more natural oil to make the braids stay together or if this style is some kind of fantasy no woman could ever dare attempt?!

Marissa Doyle said...

There wasn't much of anything available in terms of hair products, so that's an interesting question. I've seen the style in Roman portrait busts and in other Regency era works, so I don't think it was a fantasy.