Georgian Nosegays

nose gay
Courtesy of Lewis Walpole Collection

The dictionary definition of a Nosegay being:

A small bunch of flowers, typically one that it sweet-scented. A nosegay was usually worn at the waist or bodice.

_18th Century Fashion Plate 45 (c1778)
Courtesy of Lewis Walpole Collection

The Fashionable Magazine of September 1786 wrote an ‘Essay on Nosegays‘ that we thought might be of interest to our readers.

Among the different appendages of female dress, none are perhaps more ornamental than the beautiful bouquets so much worn at present by ladies of fashion; and which, it seems,  were first introduced into this country by the French ladies.  Some years ago, a few ladies began to appear at court with large nosegays in their bosoms; the fashion soon became more general, and has been since universally adopted.

Ann Dashwood - 1764 Metmuseum
Image courtesy of Met Museum – Ann Dashwood, dated 1764, clearly ‘sporting’ a nosegay.

In the latter end of the last reign, the French ladies carried that fashion to an extreme wearing nosegays preposterously large; and even at the present day many continue to wear them so. The size, however, depends greatly on fancy; but certain it is that the larger they are, the more girlish and youthful a wearer appears.

 In France and Italy and other parts of the continent, it is still customary for the ladies to wear, on particular days, bouquets of a most enormous size; on their name’s day, for example, which answers to our birthday, and particularly on their wedding day and perhaps for a month afterwards, the new married lady appears in public with a bouquet de marrie, or wedding nosegay, sometimes so monstrous large as to shade the greater part of her face.

On Sundays and principal holidays, in many of their chapels, a young lady, generally very beautiful, goes among the congregation to collect money for the poor.  Her dress on this occasion is splendid in the extreme; and a luxurious bouquet de cote, or side nosegay, uncommonly large, always adorns the bosom of the fair petitioner.  Such a powerful solicitor, it may easily be imagined, is seldom refused.  But the nosegay, on all these occasions, is considered as the most important ornament of the fair, and seems an indispensable part of the dress.

Nosegay
Nosegay seller. Courtesy of Lewis Walpole Collection.

When we consider the natural beauties of flowers, with the luxurious and attractive perfume, it is by no means wonderful that they are so much worn.  Some splenetic ladies have attempted to decry them; but they will find it difficult talk to prevent their being encouraged by the wisest and most elevated personages in the kingdom.  Though many ladies wear their nosegays in the centre of the bosom, it is certain they have a much more pleasing effect when worn rather high on the left side, which mode seems now to be most generally adopted by ladies of taste and fashion.  The French ladies always wear their bouquets on the left side of the bosom as high as the ear.

 Those ladies who are fond of flowers and wish to keep them fresh in their bosoms, usually wear them in a large glass or silver fountain, made purposely to fit their stays, by which means they preserve their bouquets quite fresh the whole day.

collection nosegays 1765
Collection of nosegay holders produced by the Chelsea Porcelain factory dated c.1765. Courtesy of Metmuseum.
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