Tuesday, December 14, 2021

Hello, Sunshine!

We’re only a week or so away from the Winter Solstice here in the northern hemisphere, when the days are shortest and the nights longest. The lack of sunlight can be hard…which is why I thought this fashion print from La Belle Assemblée would be just the thing to brighten the day.

I mean, YELLOW! 


This is an Evening Dress from February 1812; the British know something about gloomy winters, so I can imagine this dress would have brightened things up then just as much as it does now.

The description reads, No. 1.—Evening Costume  An amber crape dress over white sarsnet, trimmed with pearls or white beads, with a demi-train; a light short jacket, rather scanty, with two separate fancy folds, depending about three quarters down the front of the skirt, forming in appearance a kind of Sicilian tunic, and trimmed down each division, like the bottom of the dress, with a single row of pearls: short sleeves, not very high above the elbow, fitting close to the arm, and ornamented at the top with distinct points of satin, the same color as the dress, relieved by pearls; two rows of the same costly material or of beads, according as the robe is ornamented, form a girdle. The hair is dressed in the antique Roman style, with tresses brought together and confined at the back of the head, terminating either in ringlets or in two light knots; a braid of plaited hair drawn over a demi-turban formed of plain amber satin, with an elegantly embroidered stripe of white satin, separated by rows of pearl, and a superb sprig of pearls in front. Necklace of one single row of large pearls; with earrings of the Maltese fashion to correspond. Ridicule aux getons of slate colour, shot with pink; the firm base secured by a covering of pink stamped velvet, with pink tassels. Italian slippers of amber, fringed with silver, or ornamented round the ankle with a row of pearls or beads. White kid gloves. –This elegant dress owes its invention to the tasteful fancy of Mrs. Schabner, of Tavistock-street.

To me, it’s not just the color that makes this dress stand out: it’s the extravagant simplicity of it all. There’s little fuss or bother to this dress, stylistically, though the little peplum at the back of the waist is a nice touch. But the materials say otherwise: though a simple illustration can’t depict it, picture the contrast of the textures of the “crape” and the satin on that sleeve, even though they match in color.


And the pearls! I would hope that beads were used at least for the hem, because that is an enormous number of pearls (which weren’t at that time as common as they are in this day of extensive pearl culturing)…not to mention the likelihood of pearls being trod upon and crushed. Eek!

The headdress, curiously, is the busiest part of this ensemble, with its “elegantly embroidered” band and the ringlets and braid inspired by ancient Roman styles seen in statuary: don't forget that a great deal of fashion in both clothes and home furnishings were heavily influenced by the ancient world.

Also outstanding, though not in a positive sense, is the reticule or “ridicule”; gray and pink do not harmonize well with the yellow in my opinion, but tastes do change…


What do you think of this dress? I hope it brightened your day—in all senses of the word! And as Regina and I will be taking a couple of weeks off over the holidays to spend time with our families, I will also take this opportunity to wish our NineteenTeen readers many, many bright days over the rest of this year and into 2022.

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