WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Bedizened

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Bedizened

It’s the final week and final plate in the Progress of the Toilet, and our lady is fully beribboned and bejeweled, ready for her evening on the Town. Thank heavens she lives during the Regency and not the 21st century, to be plagued by Covid-19 and confined to quarters, where all that finery would be wasted on kith and kin.

Please don’t think I am making light of the current health situation beyond poking fun at this wardrobe, and a little bit about the poor hygienic practices of so-called modern, educated humans. One would hope it wouldn’t take a pandemic to make people wash their hands and cover coughs and sneezes, but every year the flu sweeps through like a mini-version of the Black Plague. In the US, we hear constant justifications from “I don’t have sick days to take,” to “I have too much work to be sick,” to “I’ll lose my job if I take a sick day.” True or not, these excuses neither keep the ill person from worsening nor passing it along to others, prolonging periods of illness. They also don’t prevent the sick from being careful and cautious if they must be in public…but study after study shows people simply do not wash their hands.

Filthy beasts.

Like it or not, whatever virus each season brings, we’re all in this together. Be kind, and don’t hoard all the toilet paper.

Bedizened

Dressed out, over-dressed, or awkwardly ornamented.

Progress of the Toilet – Dress Completed – Plate 3, by James Gillray, published by Hannah Humphrey, 1810, The British Museum.

From the British Museum description:

The lady, dressed for the evening, stands before the pier-glass, drawing on a long glove. She wears an apparently simple dress of sprigged muslin, high-waisted and décolletée, showing her ankles, with draped shoulder-strap. The tight curls of the wig have been loosened to simulate natural (short) hair. A miniature or pendant hangs from her neck, above the elbow is a massive bracelet. The maid stands behind her mistress holding a shawl and fan, and with a hand held up as if in admiration at the result of her long labours. The book-case is open but with a key in the lock, and contains two volumes of ‘Delphine’ and one of ‘The Monk’. The picture on the wall is ‘Evening’: a lady in full toilette walks, holding a fan; below it hangs a large ornate bag or reticule. The dog stands on a chair (right), gazing at its mistress. On the floor is a book: ‘Gallery of Fashion dedicated to the Beau Monde’ open at a fashion-plate of two ladies walking.

From the Victoria and Albert Museum description:

This print depicts a lady, dressed for evening in the most up to date fashion of the day (1810), admiring herself in a mirror. Behind her, a maid holds her shawl and fan. In the background, a bookcase holds two volumes of ‘Delphine’ and one of ‘The Monk’. On the floor lies a copy of ‘Gallery of Fashion’. ‘Delphine’ is a novel by Germaine de Stael, an early feminist thinker. ‘The Monk’ is a Gothic novel about the carnal temptations of a monk, by Matthew Lewis. Both books were considered fashionable and controversial in this period, and their inclusion here suggests that the subject of the print has been readind [sic] material deemed ‘improper’ for respectable women.

James Gillray, the creator of this print, produced a large number of satires on the topic of contemporary fashion, as well as political prints. This image is the third in a series of three, the previous of which depicted the same woman having her appearance altered by the use of stays (corsets) and a wig.

 

Slang term taken from the 1811 Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue.

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Bedizened

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Bedizened

The men have had their turn to preen; this month it’s ladies fashions in the world of slang. Might as well start at the passionately overdone top.

Bedizened

Dressed out, over-dressed, or awkwardly ornamented.

Closeup of the exuberant finery of Miss Bingley and Mrs. Hurst, Pride and Prejudice, 1995.

When I think of over-dressed ladies, I picture the Bingley sisters from Pride and Prejudice. After all, their first mention reveals:

His sisters were fine women, with an air of decided fashion.

Miss Bingley and Mrs. Hurst inspecting the crowd at the Netherfield Ball, Pride and Prejudice, 1995.

This is like saying someone has a nice personality when you ask how they look.

Miss Bingley and Mrs. Hurst at the Netherfield Ball, Pride and Prejudice, 1995.

They were in fact very fine ladies; not deficient in good humour when they were pleased, nor in the power of making themselves agreeable when they chose it, but proud and conceited. They were rather handsome, had been educated in one of the first private seminaries in town, had a fortune of twenty thousand pounds, were in the habit of spending more than they ought, and of associating with people of rank, and were therefore in every respect entitled to think well of themselves, and meanly of others. They were of a respectable family in the north of England; a circumstance more deeply impressed on their memories than that their brother’s fortune and their own had been acquired by trade.

So here we learn they had money and, likely because of their antecedents in trade, were inclined to spend that money in pursuit of rank and position. They would have known the Shakespeare quote, “the apparel oft proclaims the man,” and knew that by keeping up with current fashion, they were proclaiming their wealth and place in society. I’m inclined to think this is why they are dressed so ostentatiously in certain adaptations of the book.

But that’s none of our business. Tea time for Mrs. Hurst and Miss Bingley, Pride and Prejudice, 1995.

Because the 1940 version utilized costumes from the antebellum south, and the 2005 version inexplicably omitted one-half of the persnickety sister-duo (yet included the pig and his nethers waltzing through the Bennet house…but I digress), I’ve chosen to illustrate bedizened ladies with the Bingley sister costumes from the 1995 BBC adaptation of Pride and Prejudice. I found an article in The Sydney Morning Herald from March 1996 that included an interview with this version’s costume designer, Dinah Collin. She stated to demonstrate the difference in wealth between the Bingley and Bennet sisters, she chose to dress the former in brightly colored silks with plenty of embellishment.

The extent of their adornment needed therefore to be greater. I did this with bright yellow and cerise pink silks, feathers and brooches.

Costume Designer Dinah Collin’s sketch for one of Caroline Bingley’s costumes, complete with notes and finished product, courtesy Frock Flicks.

Boy, did she ever! They were bedizened within an inch of their lives to help illustrate the difference in their monetary stations. I think it worked.

 

  • Slang term taken from the 1811 Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue.
  • See the full article, Sense and Sensuality, in the 6 March 1996 edition of The Sydney Morning Herald (I’ve included the link but you’ll need a subscription to see it, unfortunately).
  • You can also read interesting excerpts and see more costuming ideas and inspiration from the 1995 BBC Pride and Prejudice adaptation at FrockFlicks.
  • And yes, because this word was about going overboard, it took all I had in me not to use the word Austen-tacious instead of ostentatious. You’re welcome.