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!

 

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WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Colquarron

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Colquarron

It seemed a travesty to do a hit-and-run on Regency era cravats last week, so this week I wanted to look at them more in depth. To do that, I needed a somewhat relevant slang term. The one I chose is about as old and obscure a Cant term that can be found.

Colquarron

A man’s neck. CANT.

So, let’s get our supplies. According to MY Mr. Knightley, there are two ways to make a Regency cravat:

  1. Cut a long strip of cotton or linen material about 4 to 8 inches wide and at least 60 to 80 inches long, depending on the types of ties you will make. If you want your cravat to go twice around the neck then 80 inches is best.
  2. Cut a triangular piece of material, with the base of the triangle 60 to 80 inches long and against the selvedge. The height or point of the triangle should be centred in the middle and measure 10 inches high.

Next, there’s a handy pamphlet entitled Neckclothitania or, Tietania : an essay on starchers and collars / by One of the cloth, published in 1820 and illustrated by George Cruikshank, that details the popular styles of men’s neck attire of the era. After reading the complicated and constricting instructions for each design, it’s no wonder we authors have heroines’ hearts flutter at the sight of a bared skin, and take delight in unwrapping inch after delicious inch of linen from our heroes’ confined necks.

Let’s explore.

Reproduction of Neckclothania’s illustration of Cravats of 1820, from Jennifer Forest, Jane Austen’s Sewing Box: Craft Projects and Stores from Jane Austen’s World, Murdoch Press, 2009.

The Oriental

“…is made with a very stiff and rigid cloth… Care should be taken, that not a single indenture or crease should be visible in this tie; it must present a round, smooth, and even surface…”. The cloth is laid without crease on the front of the neck and wrapped around so the ends come to the front again for tying in a knot.

Sir Robert Peel (1788-1850) by Sir Thomas Lawrence (1769-1830), Tamworth Boroug.h Council

The Mathematical

“is far less severe than The Oriental – there are three creases in it.” Whereas the Oriental is smooth on the neck, the Mathematical is deliberately creased along the neck. It doesn’t look terribly less stiff to me, however.

Sir Thomas Stamford Bingley Raffles by George Francis Joseph, 1817, National Portrait Gallery.

The Osbaldeston

“This neck-cloth is first laid on the back of the neck, the ends brought forward, and tied in a large knot, the breadth of which must be at least four inches, and two inches deep. This tie is very well adapted for summer; because instead of going round the neck twice, it confines itself to once.”

I could not find any contemporaneous examples that I was sure of being an Osbaldeston. So I present this anonymous gentleman whose presence in a picture puts him in the Victorian era, but who is wearing an Osbaldeston cravat.

The Napoleon

“It is first laid … on the back of the neck, the ends being brought forwards and crossed, without tying, and then fastened to the braces, or carried under the arms and tied on the back. It has a very pretty appearance, giving the wearer a languishingly amorous look.”

Anonymous “languishingly amorous” gent.

The American

“differs little from the Mathematical, except that the collateral indentures do not extend so near to the ear [the diagonal crease between the ear and the knot are not as long], and that there is no horizontal or middle crease in it.”

Robert Stewart (1769-1822), Viscount Castlereagh, later second Marquess of Londonderry, by Sir Thomas Lawrence, Royal Collection Trust, Waterloo Chamber, Windsor Castle.

The Mailcoach/Waterfall

“is made by tying it with a single knot, and then bringing one of the ends over, so as completely to hide the knot, and spreading it out, and turning it down in the waistcoat. The neck-cloth ought to be very large to make this Tie properly”…. “A Kushmeer shawl is the best, I may even say, the only thing with which it can be made.”

Portrait of a Gentleman by Francois Mulard, 1805, York Museums Trust.

Let me just pause the historical portrait examples right here and give a shout-out to the dresser of Rupert Penry-Jones in 2007’s Persuasion adaptation for having the most perfect Mailcoach/Waterfall I’ve ever seen.

Rupert Penry-Jones as Captain Wentworth, Persuasion, 2007.

The Trone d’Amour

“is the most austere after the Oriental Tie – It must be extremely well stiffened with starch.” Its only ornament is “one single horizontal dent in the middle.”

Portrait of Frederick H. Hemming by Sir Thomas Lawrence, 1824-25, Kimball Art Museum, Fort Worth, Texas.

The Irish

“This one resembles in some degree the Mathematical, with, however, this difference, that the horizontal indenture is placed below the point of junction formed by the collateral creases instead of being above.” If you squint you can see that the diagonal creases meet at the point under the middle dent, just above the knot.

Thomas Campbell by Sir Thomas Lawrence, before 1830, National Portrait Gallery. I never thought I’d find an Irish cravat where you could actually see the two diagonal creases framing the center horizontal crease.

The Ballroom

“it unites the qualities of the Mathematical and Irish, having two collateral dents and two horizontal ones… It has no knot, but is fastened as the Napoleon.” In other words, just keep wrapping, just keep wrapping.

Joshua Tevis by Jacob Eichholtz, 1827, Smithsonian American Art Museum.

The Horse Collar

“It is certainly the worst and most vulgar… It has the appearance of a great half-moon, or horse-collar.” But you can tuck a double-chin behind it!

Portrait of the Artist John Vanderlyn, 1800, Metropolitan Museum of Art.

The Hunting

“is formed by two collateral dents on each side, and meeting in the middle, without any horizontal ones.”

Other Archer, Earl of Plymouth by Sir Thomas Lawrence, 1817, California Palace of the Legion of Honor, Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco. Those horizontal creases are everywhere!

The Maharatta/Nabob

“is very cool, as it is always made with fine muslin neck-cloths – It is first placed on the back of the neck, the ends are then brought forward, and joined as a chain-link, the remainder is then turned back, and fastened behind.”

Portrait of Sir Edward Pellew by Sir Thomas Lawrence, 1797, National Maritme Museum.

Want to see some neck cloths in action? Head over to Townsends, and 18th century reproduction clothing and accessories house. It’s American, but it’s a nice place to lose some time. They have a nice little video on neckwear, too.

 

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Curtain Lecture

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Curtain Lecture

My apologies for the lack of a post last week. Evidently I angered the gods because my laptop died, our internet service was down, and I couldn’t get the hamsters to run fast enough to power the antique desktop computer for backup. I tried using my phone, but it just laughed at me.

So you’ve married but everything has turned out chalk and cheese rather than peas in a pod. What’s a Regency era couple to do?

Keep on keeping on.
Suffer in silence.
Stay the course.

In other words, you’ve made your bed.

The Devil to Pay; _The Wife Metamorphos’d, or Neptune resposing after Fording the Jordan by James Gillray, published 24 October 1791 by Hannah Humphrey, National Portrait Gallery.

Curtain Lecture

A woman who scolds her husband when in bed, is said to read him a curtain lecture.

There were three ways to get out of marriage: annulment, divorce, and death. The last is self-explanatory, so I’ll only address the first two.

Annulment

The prolific and popular Regency novel trope – that of marrying for one year for -insert reason here- and then dissolving the marriage amicably as if it had never occurred…it’s also the biggest Regency novel anachronism. Unlike today, where marrying and annuling are as easy as filling out a form and paying a $25 fee to your local county clerk, annuling a marriage during the Regency came with specific prerequisite boxes to tick. Minors could not marry if they were too young (no younger than age seven, if you please) or without permission of their guardian if they were not yet one and twenty. No one could marry under a false name, or if one party was already married. These conditions constituted the annulable actions of fraud. Also, a marriage was voidable if one party was not compos mentis, meaning in control of their faculties. Lastly, a marriage was dissolvable if one party – namely the male – was incapable of performing the marriage act, i.e. impotent. The marriage did not have to be consummated to be valid, but the ability to consummate had to be present.

So, gentle reader, to annul a marriage in Regency England, there had to be fraud, incompetance, or impotence. You had to be too young, too headstrong to get your guardian’s permission, too daft, or too flaccid.

Divorce

Divorce was as rare as annulments since the qualifications were just as injurious to the reputations of both spouses. Kristen Koster reports 276 divorces occurred between 1765 and 1857; after the passage of the first British divorce bill in 1697 and up through the year 1857, only four divorces were granted to women (and that not until 1801). I shudder to think how many divorces occurred last week, let alone last year, in our modern and enlightened times.

A Regency divorce was expensive, drawn-out, highly publicized, and excruciating for both parties. Divorce first had to be pursued in court as a legal separation on grounds of adultery. Next, the husband had to sue his wife’s lover for criminal conversation – often abbreviated crim. con. – which means exactly what it sounds like: another man had a criminal (he was not her husband) conversation (of the lewdest kind between unmarried people) with someone else’s wife. Today we would more politely call this ‘alienation of affection.’ If the husband proved his case, he would be awarded damanges for the illegal intercourse between his wife and her lover…but he still wasn’t divorced. No, the next step was petitioning Parliament to end the marriage, with witnesses and testimony, full of all manner of lurid and demeaning moments. Parliament would then decide a ‘yay’ or ‘nay’ for a bill of divorcement. Both sides bore the brunt of society’s snub: while the man would always fare better, he was still a social outcast and no longer considered marriable. The wife, as the adultress, was completely cast from ‘good society’ and usually retreated to the anonymity of the country or, if her family allowed, her parents’ home.

The feuding couple could simply stop at the first step, that of the legal separation, but it came with its own baggage, although mostly for the wife. Don’t forget, a man could simply leave his wife anytime he chose, but she could not do the same. He could summon the law to have her fetched and returned, no questions asked. If the wife truly desired to live apart from her husband, a legal separation was her only recourse. It required the husband to pay for his wife’s financial support while removing her requirements to keep his house and occupy his bed. The price here was social ostracization for the wife, and she could never remarry should she find a more suitable mate. Any future children would be illegitimate and neither her husband nor her lover would be required to offer financial support.

Annulment and divorce were far from easy, quick, cheap, or quiet.

It was a good idea to make sure you were ready for – and even resigned to – all aspects of the marriage bed.

Fashionable Contrasts; _or_ The Duchess’s little Shoe yielding to the Magnitude of the Duke’s Foot by James Gillray, published 24 January 1792 by Hannah Humphrey, National Portrait Gallery.

 

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WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Elbow Shaker

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Elbow Shaker

In Flanders whilom was a company
Of younge folkes, that haunted folly,
As riot, hazard, stewes, and taverns;
Where as with lutes, harpes, and giterns,
They dance and play at dice both day and night,
And eat also, and drink over their might;
~Geoffrey Chaucer, The Canterbury Tales, The Pardoner’s Tale

Dice – those tiny cubes upon which fortunes rise and fall – have been around for centuries. Cleromancy, or the act of seeking knowledge of the future or the unknown by the roll of dice, began some time in the late 1500s. It was only natural the progression from gambling with one’s future to chancing one’s blunt on the tumble of two cubes.

The Interior of Modern Hell; Vide the Cogged Dice by Isaac Robert Cruikshank, private collection.

The Interior of Modern Hell; Vide the Cogged Dice by Isaac Robert Cruikshank, private collection.

Elbow Shaker (noun)

A gamester, one who rattles Saint Hugh’s bones, i.e. the dice.

Chilon, that was a wise ambassador,
Was sent to Corinth with full great honor
From Lacedemon, to make alliance;
And when he came, it happen’d him, by chance,
That all the greatest that were of that land,
Y-playing atte hazard he them fand.
~Geoffrey Chaucer, The Canterbury Tales, The Pardoner’s Tale

The Regency dicer’s game of choice was Hazard, which we know has been around since the 1300s as Geoffrey Chaucer writes of it in The Pardoner’s Tale from The Canterbury Tales. Hazard is simply a game of chance played with dice, from the old French hasart. Tellingly, by the 1540s, the word in English had come to mean a chance of loss, harm, or risk.

Look eke how to the King Demetrius
The King of Parthes, as the book saith us,
Sent him a pair of dice of gold in scorn,
For he had used hazard therebeforn:
For which he held his glory and renown
At no value or reputatioun.
Lordes may finden other manner play
Honest enough to drive the day away.
~Geoffrey Chaucer, The Canterbury Tales, The Pardoner’s Tale

Kick-Up at the Hazard Table by Thomas Rowlandson, 1787-1790, private collection.

Kick-Up at the Hazard Table by Thomas Rowlandson, 1787-1790, private collection.

One of my favorite Regency era phrases is “at sixes and seven,” meaning everything is in utter chaos. After reading the rules of play for Hazard, I see how that phrase could derive from gaming. Kristen Koster does a fabulous job of explaining the ins and outs of “nicking and crabbing while throwing the bones” in her post A Regency Primer on How to Play Hazard.

Seven is my chance, and thine is cinque and trey…
~Geoffrey Chaucer, The Canterbury Tales, The Pardoner’s Tale

I believe I’ll just stick with dice games more my speed and acuity level – Yahtzee and Farkle. Both of which are nearly contact sports in my family.

O cursed sin, full of all cursedness!
O trait’rous homicide! O wickedness!
O glutt’ny, luxury, and hazardry!
~Geoffrey Chaucer, The Canterbury Tales, The Pardoner’s Tale

A Black Leg Detected Secreting Cards by Thomas Rowlandson, undated, Yale Center for British Art.

A Black Leg Detected Secreting Cards by Thomas Rowlandson, undated, Yale Center for British Art.