Tuesday, August 20, 2019

A Quiet Morning...Reviewing the Troops?

While we can’t help being drawn to the wonderful evening dresses and ball dresses that make their appearances in the pages of Ackermann’s Repository and La Belle Assemblée, it’s refreshing to have a look at the clothes that Regency era ladies wore when attending to their everyday duties. And sometimes, those everyday clothes are...well, not so “everyday.”

Take this Morning Dress from the May 1812 La Belle Assemblée, showing fashions for June. First, what a charming pose: the crossed legs, the wonderful chair (love the little lion supporting the armrest!), the housewifely act of sewing. But the dress itself very much turns the “little woman at home” theme completely on its head. The description reads:

An high dress of fine French cambric or plain India muslin, richly embroidered round the bottom with a deep border; a demi sleeve, ornamented a-l’antique surmounting the long sleeve, which is finished at the wrist by a narrow ruffle; the bust adorned partly en militaire, partly a-l’antique, to correspond with the demi sleeve: the whole of the upper part of the dress ornamented by a profusion of lace, and finished at the throat by an old English ruff. Peasant’s cap, with two rows of lace set on full, confined under the chin by a band formed of the same material as the cap, and terminating in a bow on the crown. Plain black kid or jean slippers.

It seems a little curious to have a house dress decorated “en militaire”, but in 1812 hardly surprising; England’s continued struggle against Napoleon continued to wear on, though good new from the Peninsular battles gave hope that the tide was turning at last. The very martial looking bodice of this dress contrasts with the froth of lace and ruffles on the neck and sleeves.

The froth of lace and ribbon continues around the hem. I can’t quite figure out what the design is supposed to be--a curious combination of zigzags and loops that contrasts with yet complements the strict military symmetry of the bodice. I presume the “a-l’antique” decoration of the sleeve refers to the tongues of fabric around the upper arm that lend a slight medieval flavor.

So what do you think? Is this the dress you’d choose to knock around the house in while doing chores one morning?

1 comment:

Daisy said...

Aside from the weird sleeve things and the standup collar, I would definitely wear this dress. Whether or not I wear it for chores depends on the chores. Mending yes, laundry no.