Friday, January 18, 2008

The Fashionable Miss, Part II: 1811-1820

Oh, goody! More clothes!

What started out as simple, clean lines and soft, white fabrics at the turn of the century began to grow more bold. Napoleon was beaten by the middle of 1815, and more European goods and ideas began to appear in England. Perhaps most importantly for our young lady was the use of copper hooks and eyes to close clothing around 1814. No more was she completely dependent on someone else to tape, lace, or pin her into her clothes!

Between 1811 and 1820, our young miss would have had a wealth of fashions to play with. Instead of short capped or long simple sleeves for her gowns, she could request her seamstress to put on a more elaborate confection such as a Bishop sleeve (full from the shoulder down to the tight wrist) or a Marie sleeve (full from the shoulder down, but tied tight with ribbon in places). Even the names of clothing grew more fanciful. You might go out wearing a Circassian wrapper (a close-fitting cloak a bit like a long nightgown), a Kutusoff mantle (three-quarters-length close-fitting cloak worn pinned at the neck, perhaps trimmed in velvet), or a Witchoura mantle (a long cloak with a little cape over the shoulders, sometimes of fur). You might cover your upswept curls with a Semptress bonnet (a bonnet with ribbons so long you could cross them under your chin and bring them back up to the top of the bonnet in a bow) or an Armenian toque (a small turban trimmed with feathers and spangles).

The pale colors of earlier years gave way to carmine, Forester’s green, Mexican blue, and Nicholas blue. In fact, blue of any shade was quite the thing. Sheer fabrics gave way to those with more texture, such as Angola and Cashmere. And everywhere there was more decoration: more lace, more ruching, more cording, more ribbons, and row upon row of ruffles at necks, sleeves, and hems.

I must admit to enjoying the more bountiful coloration, but the excess of furbelows quite gives me the vapors. Er, that is, the bright colors are cool, but it’s all a bit froo-froo for me. What do you think?


Gillian Layne said...

I think I love all this detailed information! But I've heard so many people say they prefer the simple lines of early Regency.

Could you explain a bit more about the "tape, lace, or pin" part? And were the copper hooks and eyes in both and front and back of clothes, such as a pelisse?


Sarah Prineas said...

It's interesting that fashion was somewhat dependent on the political and economic situation in Europe. I'd never thought of fashion being subject know... reality.

Regina Scott said...

Thanks, Gillian!

As far as taping, lacing, and pinning, that's exactly how a young lady got into all those pretty gowns. Tapes--thin pieces of material--tied bodices to skirts or pieces of bodices to each other. Laces held together corsets and sometimes sleeves. And straight pins, with little glass tops, actually held some gowns together. You'll hear people talk of "pin money." It gradually came to mean an allowance of sorts, but it originally meant money to refurbish your supply of those little, necessary pins!

They did have simple buttons made of woven thread, but those don't seem to have been used very often. When you see large metal or pearl buttons on clothes, they are often only for decoration.

The copper hooks and eyes could be at the back of a gown, but every picture of a pelisse I've ever seen shows the coat fastening in some way down the front.

Tune in next week when I give Marissa a turn to talk about clothes for a change. :-)

Regina Scott said...

I know, Sarah--fashion always seems above all this! But someone once correlated hemlines to economic prosperity and found that shorter actually meant more prosperous times. Of course they also correlated them to sunspots. Now, that's a little too far out of reality for me!

Gillian Layne said...

Thank you Regina! I never knew that about the "pin money".