Tuesday, June 8, 2021

Shawl We Dance?**

 Another stunner from La Belle Assemblée! This one is dated May 1810, so was likely published in April of that year.

The text reads:


No. 1.—Evening Shawl Dress.

A rich Paris-brown French silk shawl robe, with short full sleeves, made to sit very much off the shoulders; worn over a white satin body with long sleeves. The hair divided on the crown of the head, curled in ringlets in the neck behind, and on the right side of the face, with a small bunch of curls on the left side of the head; a band of diamonds, or coloured stones (with a cornelian clasp or brooch), is worn round the head; diamond earrings; Persian scarf of green silk; white satin shoes; and white kid gloves.

Aside from general bemusement at the description of an “English costume” made up of Paris-brown French silk, what do we have here?

In the early nineteenth century (well, before then too), shawls woven or silk and/or kashmir wool in India and elsewhere in Asia and imported to Europe were prized indeed by fashionable women. The plates in the French Journal des Dames et des Modes in particular contain many depictions of beautiful shawls. So prized, indeed, were these shawls that it became a bit of a “thing” to make dresses out of them (and later, from fabric that had been made to look like a shawl.)  They tended to be quite large, so this was not as silly as it initially sounds; with the slim profile of Regency-era dresses, it was quite doable, as can be seen here at right in this portrait of Empress Joséphine by Baron Antoine-Jean Gros, ca. 1808, from the Musée d’Art et d’Histoire at Palais Massena, Nice, France.

So what about our Belle Assemblée example? It’s a fairly straightforward design: the ends of the shawl, with its deep paisleys, are used to decorate the lower edge of the skirt. I like that the fringe edge was utilized, as you can see around the very bottom of the hem. I’m guessing that the shawl’s selvages form the trim up the front and around the bodice. As this dress is made to be worn over a bodice (white satin, in this case), less fabric has to be used.

And may I just say that her hairstyle may be one of the prettiest I’ve seen in any fashion plate? Simple and charming, though using a diamond necklace as a headband may be anything but “simple!” 

What do you think of today’s confection?

Oh...speaking of prized indeed, Im happy to announce that Evergreen is a finalist in the Young Adult category of First Coast Romance Writers National Excellence in Romance Fiction Award contest.




**This is, of course, not a ball dress or at all suitable for dancing. But I couldn’t resist the pun. 😊

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