Tuesday, February 4, 2020

Fancy Mourning Dishabille, Of Course

Ah, La Belle Assemblée never fails to inform...and delight!

Behold this marvelous “invention” of Mrs. Bell in the January 1818 issue—a Fancy Mourning Dishabille!

The accompanying text reads “Morning slip of grey Merino crape, ornamented with black round the border in ranges of leaves; the slip made low, without sleeves, and worn over a cambric spencer, ornamented with fine muslin, embroidered at the edge with black, and finished at the throat with a triple ruff of muslin, tied in front with black love. Black sarsnet French apron, edged round with a newly invented trimming of black love. Cornette of fine muslin, crowned with a garland of black flowers. Black chamois slippers.

So... why mourning? A look at the date answers that: official mourning was still in effect for Princess Charlotte of Wales, Prinny’s daughter who died in childbirth the previous November. This dress moves into the half-mourning range, as the dress is of gray crepe rather than black and includes a white cambric undershirt, or spencer, and white muslin headdress.

And the “Fancy Dishabille” part? That title and the decorative apron suggest this was a dress to be worn “at home”...but not when one’s plans included giving the dog a bath and cleaning out the
lingerie drawer! Rather, it was for when one was expecting, say, friends and acquaintances to drop by—maybe to pay “thank you for your hospitality” calls after a dinner or party, as one did.

I’m intrigued by the references to the “ black love” trimming the French apron and the hat: it looks almost like a chenille trimming of some sort, or perhaps a pleated ribbon. The apron itself—I’m not sure what makes it French, but it’s certainly a fetching enough article. And the leaf decoration around the hem definitely presages the heavily decorated dress hems that were soon to be all the rage.

What do you think? Will this be your next lounging-about-at-home costume?

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