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.
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.
Dressed out, over-dressed, or awkwardly ornamented.
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.