Tuesday, November 10, 2020

Walking Out in Style

1809 through about 1812 were especially good years for La Belle AssemblĂ©e fashion plates: the illustration quality, production values, and sheer delightfulness of the clothes make them standouts in the magazine’s long history. And this Walking or Carriage Dress from the May 1809 edition is no exception.

The text reads:

English Costume

No. 1.— Walking, or Carriage Costume

A fine cambric round gown, with high collar, finished with needle-work and scalloped lace; a correspondent trimming round the bottom of the dress. A Spanish spenser of black or puce-coloured velvet, edged with gold lace. A waistcoat or wrap front of marble, or leopard satin, with collar the same as the spenser, edged also with gold lace. The Vigonian helmet, or Patriotic bonnet, composed of the same materials; the helmet edged with gold lace, and the crown crossed with gold cord, terminating on one side with a cone tassel. Hoop earrings of wrought gold; necklace of variegated amber; gloves, York-tan, and half boots of tan-coloured kid, laced with black cord.

I just love this plate—so tailored and elegant! The long points on the spenser are unusual (and unexpectedly modern), and the masculine styling on the waistcoat a charming contrast with the smooth flow and flirty lace hem of the cambric dress. The masculine theme continues in the watch and chain (complete with a fob!) at the waist, suspended from the bottom of the waistcoat. I’m intrigued by the description of the waistcoat fabric as potentially being of leopard-patterned satin—unexpected for a Regency-era dress!

The description of the quietly stylish hat also intrigued me. A “Vigonian helmet”—sounds like something from Star Trek, doesn’t it? But it turns out that “Vigonian” pertains to items of felt made from vicuña hair…though as it states that the hat is made from the same materials as the waistcoat and spenser, color me confused.

What do you think of this outfit?

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