Tuesday, February 21, 2023

Celebrity Endorsements, Regency Style

In November we looked at a riding habit from La Belle Assemblée for June 1816. That was clearly a good month for fashion plates, because we’re going to have a look at the month’s other plate, The Cobourg Walking Dress.

(Does anyone but me think it funny to depict a walking dress on a seated model?) Here’s the accompanying text: Round dress of fine French cambric under a pelisse of amber shot sarsnet, elegantly ornamented in a novel style with blue satin ribband. Oatlands hat to correspond with the pelisse, tied with a chequered ribband of blue on white, and the hat surmounted with a bunch of tuberoses or Passion flowers. Morocco shoes or half boots of light blue the colour of the pelisse trimming. Limerick gloves; and the hair dressed forward in curls.

What’s going on here is a royal wedding: Princess Charlotte, daughter of the Prince Regent, married Prince Leopold of Saxe-Coburg (or Cobourg)-Saalfeld on May 2, 1816. This particular issue of La Belle Assemblée included lengthy articles on gowns in the princess’s trousseau and on the Queen’s Drawing-Room held in honor of the wedding, both copiously descriptive…which was hardly surprising given the magazine’s target audience and the large number of silk warehouses and other stores given to fashion who advertised with it. And of course, the inimitable Mrs. Bell, “inventor” of the fashions depicted in La Belle Assemblée’s plates, had to get in on the act…which is why we have a Cobourg pelisse and an Oatlands hat, Oatlands being the country estate of the Duke and Duchess of York, where Charlotte and Leopold spent their honeymoon. And of course Passion flowers…need one say anymore?

Let’s have a look at what can see of the outfit (can I say I’m very cross that we can’t see the front?) The back is very handsome, however, with what looks like ruched ribbon in a yoke over the shoulders and on the garment’s edges (and even sewn into the shoulder seams. The gathering at the back of the waist is attractive as well: I wonder if the garment is actually gathered by the ribbon, or if the gathers are sewn in.

I’m not quite sure what’s going on with the hat, however. It starts out as a conventional straw bonnet trimmed with the blue ribbon…but what’s going on at the back of the crown? It rather looks like a large bag has been sewn into it… Any thoughts on what’s happening here?

We all know that Charlotte’s happy marriage was short-lived—sadly, she would die in childbirth a year and a half later. Reading the account of her trousseau and the celebrations around her wedding make for melancholy reading: they’re so full of excitement, of fairy-tale magic “and they lived happily ever after”, and of hope—Charlotte was the heir presumptive to the throne after her father. I wonder if Charlotte herself ever paged over a copy of this edition of La Belle Assemblée and examined this plate, and the walking dress created in her new husband’s honor? Alas, we’ll never know.

What do you think of the Cobourg Walking Dress?


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