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 ~ Rigging

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Rigging

Regency era ladies must have sighed with relief when fashions evolved from the large skirts, thick panniers, and elaborate wigs of the late 18th century to the simpler, empire-waisted, silhouette dresses of the 19th century. Dressing would be so much simpler.

Or would it?

Let’s make a stop in a Regency lady’s dressing room.

Rigging

Clothing. Rum Rigging:  fine clothes.

Underthings

The Shift ~ Also known as a chemise, this thin, white linen or cotton precursor to the modern-day slip was worn right next to the skin, as it was much easier to clean than the next article of clothing, the stays (it was also kinder and more comfortable to the skin). It had a square neckline and could be short-sleeved or sleeveless. The shift was also long, falling to just above the knee or even the ankle.

Chemise/Shift, linen, 1810s. Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

The Stays ~ Also known as a corset (though not the larger, full torso-covering and whalebone-laden corsets of the Victorian era), stays were worn as a support for the bust and to aid proper posture. They looked much more like a modern brassiere or bustier than the fuller-length Georgian or Victorian corsets. Stays were made of a medium weight, tightly-woven linen or cotton and, depending on the bust size of the lady, might have cording to provide extra support. There were three types of stays: short (covering just the bust), transitional (covering the bust with a bit of material underneath for added support), and full with a busk (the precursor to the full, Victorian corset). Stays were worn over the shift/chemise.

Transitional stays, circa 1800, Victoria and Albert Museum.

The Petticoat ~ This garment was worn just underneath the gown, over the stays and shift. A petticoat could be functional, providing an extra layer of warmth or modesty, or merely decorative. The ornamental petticoats were embellished with lace or embroidery, and were meant to be seen when worn under sheer (even dampened) or robe-style gowns, or peeking under the hems of shorter overdresses. Petticoats could be made of muslin, flannel, silk, or cotton, and only one was worn at a time (unlike the layers of the Georgians or coming Victorians).

Decorative petticoat with shoulder straps, reproduction, Oregon Regency Society.

The Stockings ~ Stockings were made of silk, cotton, or flannel, in descending order of desirability of material. They came in a variety of colors, but during the Regency most were white, ivory, or pale pink. Garters were worn above the knee and held in place by ribbons or garters. Lace and embroidery could be added for extra decoration.

 

Pair of knitted silk stockings, 1800-1829, England, Victoria and Albert Museum.

The Chemisette ~ This was an optional piece that was caught in between underthings and things to be seen. It was a thin half-shirt, similar to the modern-day shrug, for lack of a better descriptor. It covered the neck, decollétage, and shoulders. As Kristen Koster put it, “basically a white lawn dickey with a high collar.”

Chemisette, circa 1840s , British, Metropolitan Museum of Art.

The Drawers ~ Did they or didn’t they? Princess Charlotte wore an ankle-length pair in 1811, allowing them to peek from under her dress, causing Lady de Clifford to complain and the public in general to think her fast. The consensus seems to fall that drawers were around, but ladies of good breeding did not wear them.

Daywear

The Morning Dress ~ Also known as the Domestic Dress, this informal gown could be worn anytime during the day while at home doing domestic tasks, such as addressing correspondence or visiting the nursery. They were generally high-necked and long-sleeved, and made from sprigged or plain muslin, cotton, or wool. The style was often a “round gown,” meaning the bodice and skirt were made from one piece of material.

Morning or Domestic Dresses from Mirror of the Graces, 1813.

The Walking Dress ~ When a lady left her home during the day, she went about in a Walking Dress. Depending on the season, sleeves could be long or short, but the bodice was generally higher than those worn in the evening. The hem was often higher to aid in cleanliness while out on the streets and pathways. These dresses were often paired with coordinating outerwear (such as spencers or pelisses below).

Walking Dress, Costume Parisien, 1814, Plate no. 149.

The Promenade Dress ~ Not your average Walking Dress, but one meant to be seen in gadding about the Park. The difference between this and a Walking Dress was the richness of the fabric, and the hemlines were lower.

Promenade Dresses from Mirror of the Graces, 1811.

The Riding Habit ~ Meant for riding (go figure!), these garments were constructed of a sturdy fabric like wool, that could take the punishment of mounting, riding, and dismounting horses. They were cut to resemble an overcoat, sometimes with a military flair, with embellishments kept to a minimum. Skirts were long and full, and cut longer on one side to accommodate side saddle riding.

Riding Habit, Lady’s Magazine, June 1817.

The Evening Gown ~ Now we’re getting into the fancy, possibly low-cut, and definitely substantially trimmed dress for activities after dark. Fabrics of choice were muslin, silk, gauze, and crepe…but pretty much anything went for these garments. Sleeves could be long or short, and a few featured merely wide straps that sat on the curve of the shoulder. The feature that I adore – the short train – began to lose its popularity after 1812.

Evening Gown, May 1809, Ackermann’s Repository.

The Ball Gown ~ Exquisitely trimmed frocks with rich fabric and elaborate construction were the quintessential hallmarks of the Ball Gown. These dresses usually consisted of one under layer (of satin, crepe, velvet, or the like) topped by an over-dress (of gauze, sarsnet, or gossamer muslin). Every hem and fastening was decorated with all manner of lace, artificial flowers, feathers, beads, jewels, flounces, scallops, embroidery, and other fine adornments. Many believe unmarried ladies were restricted to white and pastel colors, although no historical proof has surfaced to corroborate this. Popular colors of the time were indeed pastels (rose, lavender, ivory, and primrose yellow), as well as scarlet, slate, apple-hued Pomona green, bright canary yellow, and puce.

Regency Era Ball Gowns from author Sharon Lathan’s image gallery for her novel, In the Arms of Mr. Darcy.

Outerwear

The Pelisse ~ This overcoat was fitted but not tight, and was worn over a lady’s dress. It could be full- or knee-length, with fastenings from neck to ankle in the front. Pelisses were made from heavier fabrics such as wool, velvet, brocade, or kerseymere. They were also ornately trimmed with fur, swansdown, cordings, or other decoration. Similar to a pelisse is the Redingote, an English corruption of the French “riding coat.” These garments were long, fitted coats that belted at the waist but fell open down the legs to reveal the gown underneath.

Pelisse coats, circa 1812, Ackermann’s Repository.

Redingote de Levantine, Costume Parisien, 1811.

The Spencer ~ This garment was similar to a jacket but only covered the bodice and sleeves, accentuating the era’s empire waist gowns. Spencers were made from wool, silk, or satin, and were often quilted. Similar to the pelisse, they were heavily decorated, usually with embroidery, ornate stitching, or cording, and often cut to resemble a gentleman’s riding coat, without the tails.

Pink wool spencer, Costume Parisiene, Plate no. 125, 29 May 1799, Google Arts and Culture.

The Mantle ~ These garments could also be called cloaks or mantlets. They were worn in the evening for formal events, with the attached hood worn over the head or laying about the shoulders. Their length ranged from a cape that fell to the waist, to a billowing, full-length cloak.

Jubilee Cloak, 1809, La Belle Assemblée, Museum of London.

The Shawl ~ This must-have accessory could be made of muslin, gauze, or silk for warmer months, or wool, velvet, or cashmere for cooler times. They ranged in style from plain, solid colors to vibrant, intricate patterns.

Shawls from Costume Parisien, Plate no. 23, 1810.

 

Next week ~ head coverings!