Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Morning or Evening?

Here’s a rather curious fashion plate from the February 1812 edition of the delightful La Belle Assemblée, showing fashions for March...except this one had me very confused for a bit. Let me explain...

It’s a fun print...but I was confused by the attention paid to the props (the desk and its contents) rather than to the evening dress the should be the focus of the plate. “That’s an odd presentation for an evening dress,” I thought. “Who is going to be doing watercolor painting in an evening dress?”

As it happens, no one. I looked the print up in an on-line edition scan of La Belle Assemblée, and was bemused to see that it was a Morning Dress in the scan. Make much more sense to be painting watercolors in a morning dress...but the mystery remains as to why the print in my possession is has the title “Evening Dress.” Maybe it’s an out-take...

So let’s look at the dress itself:

"Morning, or Home Costume  
A white cambric frock, with a demi train; short sleeves fastened up in front with cordon and tassels; a necklace formed of two rows of opal; the hair dressed in full curls, and confined by a demi turban of very fine muslin tied on the right side with a small bow; silk stockings with lace clocks, richly brocaded, and plain black kid slippers.”

Funny how the description has more to say about the stockings (which aren’t visible in the illustration) than about the dress itself! The lack of adornment makes the sleeve decoration more noticeable; if one were to wear an apron while painting, perhaps, this would make sense. This dress feels authentic because of the very lack of ornamentation; what practical miss would waste lace and other expensive trimmings on a dress that no one would see and which might get paint-stained?

Let's also take a closer look at the table. I see a palette and brush at the far right, a box of colors at the top partly hidden by the papers on the easel, an album under the easel and a lot of pieces of paper fluttering from the drawer and stacked in the easel. Note also the green baize top to the table; I wonder if it could be replaced with a clean piece when necessary?

I love this print; what do you think?

(And speaking of love...I am thrilled to report that Between Silk and Sand won first place in the Young Adult Category of the Wisconsin RWA’s Write Touch Award!)


Regina Scott said...

Congratulations on the win, my dear! Well deserved! But do you get a rock this time? :)

Marissa Doyle said...

:D Thank you! I think I get a slab. Not quite as deadly as a rock, but they mail it to me so I don't have to carry it in my luggage.