Friday, May 8, 2020

A Caricaturist’s Guide to the Season

I recently discovered a fascinating cartoon online, originally from Harper’s Bazaar in 1870, but entirely apropos for the earlier nineteenth century. Take a look at this:

The Coming Season offers a wealth of insight into how at least this particular artist (and the editor who approved the drawing to run) saw the London Season.

In the four corners and center, the caricaturist imagined the five types of ladies who might be taking part in society this Season: the debutante (“Coming out”), the lady on her second Season (“Came out last Season”), the seasoned campaigner (“Not shelved yet”), the lady who has weathered a few too many Seasons (“Didn’t come out yesterday”), and the lady who is determined not to be back next year in a single state (“Will conquer or die”). And it seems to me that everyone except the debutante is showing more skin. Hm.

But the smaller pictures are even more interesting:

  • The older woman studying a peerage guide (“The Dowager’s Stud Book”)
  • Her counterpart musing on the sort of husband she wants for her daughters (“Four girls to commoners, the fifth must have a coronet”)
  • The young lady between them with what appears to be a monstrous bouquet nearly as large as she is
  • The young lady giddily tossing her books in the air as she leaves the schoolroom for Society
  • The young lady dipping a deep curtsey in “A royal salute”
  • Her counterpart tossing out shoes and boots as she searches for the perfect item (“Apropos de bottes”).

Two that most intrigue me are in the lower middle, left and right. One is a collection of beauty instruments labeled “Engines of War.” I recognize curling irons (when they really were made of iron and heated over a flame such as in a lamp to curl your hair), powder puff, comb, hairpins, and possibly a makeup brush for rouge, but I’m not entirely sure about the zigzagged piece running through. My grandmother had something like it that pulled her hair back from her face and held it in place. Any other suggestions?

Finally, the sketch opposite it across the picture shows a braided something kicking a hamburger-patty-shaped something off the ledge. As the picture is supposed to show changing fashions, I can only conclude that braided false hair pieces had overtaken false buns in 1870.  

All in all, an interesting take on the Season. Which part is your favorite?


Chemystress said...

I think the zigzag thing is a "curler" of sorts. You wind/weave your hair on it and it make waves. Sort of like today's spiral curlers. I have long straight hair and I've experimented with many varieties. I've given up. Long straight hair goes in and out of fashion, I'm just unfashionable most of the time.

Regina Scott said...

Ah. Thanks, Chemystress. When I was younger, I always wanted long, straight hair instead of my natural curls. Even now, I have to beat them into submission, especially with hair stylists still staying home in my state. :-)

Unknown said...

What a neat cartoon!

The zigzag thing is a hair braiding tool.

Just a guess on the braided thing kicking the bun thing, but maybe it’s an allusion to a hairstyle trend that changed? Giving up the utilitarian bun for the more elegant braids?

Regina Scott said...

Thanks for solving that mystery for me! I can certainly see the braiding used in the more elaborate hairstyles of the era. And hence the need for the braided hairpiece. :-)