I accidentally came across this trade card below, for a Matthias Otto of The Strand, London, and for those who are regular readers of All Things Georgian, you will no doubt be aware of my interest in trade cards, but something about this one specific jumped out at me on this one.
It was dated c1765 and referred to Matthias Otto as being a seller of amongst other things – ‘widow’s weeds‘.
Little seems to be known about Matthias, however, we do know that following his death, his son Matthias junior continued the business after his father as another trade card exists which depicts him selling the same items of clothing.
Now, I have to confess I thought the term ‘widow’s weeds’ was a term usually associated with the Victorian period rather than Georgian when women wore black for long periods of time and didn’t realise that it was in common usage prior to this.
The term ‘weeds’, according to Dr Johnson’s Dictionary of the English Language:
originated from the word waed – a garment of clothing, habit, or dress. Now scarce in use, except in ‘widows weeds’, the mourning dress of a widow.
With that, I decided to what more I could find out and my first point of reference was the trusty, Ackermann’s Repository and in 1809 there was a little more information about widow’s weeds:
In every country on the earth some emblem of grief, or token of esteem, is worn by the surviving relatives of deceased persons; but the mode of expressing this affection varies according to the custom or fashion in different nations.
In Syria, Cappadocia and Armenia, sky-blue dress is worn on this occasion, because it is the colour of those regions which it is hoped their departed friends inhabit. In Egypt, a yellow dress is used on such occasions, being a symbol that death terminates our mortal expectations, as the leaves of the trees turn yellow when decayed. The Ethiopians wear grey, and Europeans black. Grey is emblematic of the earth to which the dead return and black, which is a privation of light, it is also typical of the absence of life, but for virgins, a white dress is worn, because it is an emblem of purity.
Another thing that I hadn’t really given any thought to was the process of dying fabric to produce the colour black which given the high mortality rate in Britain would have been something in great demand. Again Ackermann’s provided some answers.
A Mr Vitalis found an improved way of producing a good quality black fabric and thread to make mourning weeds. There had clearly been an issue with the dye, as it was not long-lasting and turned fabrics a rusty colour fairly quickly. For those unable to buy specific mourning clothes it was common practice to dye existing clothes black using iron filings and the bark of an elder tree. The use of iron filings would explain this rusty colour and then keeping such items to be passed down through the family.
General rules for behaving whilst in mourning were published, as someone decided that the correct etiquette was not being correctly observed and that people needed to be reminded about how to behave.
A wife losing her husband
She should not appear in public the first week, nor in private without a handkerchief.
The second Sunday at church, much affected with the sermon, the handkerchief not omitted.
She may go to a tragedy after the first month, and weep in character, either the play or the loss of her husband. The second month she may attend a comedy and smile, but not languishingly.
A husband losing his wife
Must weep or seem to weep at the funeral.
Should not appear at the chocolate house during the first week.
Should vent a proper sigh whenever to good wife or even matrimony is mentioned.
May take a mistress into keeping the third week, provided he had not had one before.
May appear with her in public at the end of the month, and as he, probably, may not choose to marry again, he may, at the close of the second month, be allowed a couple of mistresses, to solace him in his melancholy.
Johnson, Samuel. A Dictionary of the English Language. Volume 4
The Town and Country Magazine, Or Universal Repository of Knowledge, Instruction, and Entertainment, Vol. 1. 1769
The Repository of arts, literature, commerce, manufactures, fashions and politics by Ackermann, Rudolph, 1764-1834. 1809
Town and Country Magazine. Etiquette for mourning. 1769
Today I thought we would take a look at some Georgian recipes for making perfume, most of them are still feasible to make at home today with some minor adjustments.
To perfume clothes
Take of oven-dried cloves, cedar and rhubarb wood, once ounce of each and beat them into a powder and sprinkle them in a box or chest where they will create a most beautiful scent and preserve the apparel against moths.
Perfumed bags for drawers
Cut, slice and mix well together into a rough powder the following ingredients
2oz. of yellow saunders, the same of coriander seeds, orris root, calamus aromatics (sweet flax), cloves, cinnamon bark, dried rose leaves, lavender, and 1lb. of oak shavings.
When properly mixed, stuff the above into small linen bags, which place in drawers, wardrobes, which are musty, or liable to become so.
Perfume for gloves
Take one drachm of ambergris and sieve; add quarter of an ounce of flour-butter and mix together well. Rub the gloves over gently with fine cotton wool and press the perfume into them.
Take half an ounce of damask or rose scent, a drachm of the spirit of cloves and mace, and a quarter of an ounce of frankincense,. Mix them together, and lay them in papers, and when hard, press the gloves; they will absorb the scent in 24 hours, and hardly ever lose it.
Pastils for perfuming sick rooms
Reduce the following to a powder separately on a marble slab and then mix –
1 lb. of gum benzoin, 8 oz. of gum storax (used to treat wounds, infections and coughs), 1 lb. of frankincense, and 2 lbs. of fine charcoal.
Add to this composition the following liquids:
6 oz. of tincture of benzoin, 2 oz. of essence of ambergris, 1 oz. of essence of musk, 2 oz. of almond oil, and 4 oz. of clear syrup.
Mix the whole into a stiff paste, and form into pastils, of a conical shape, which dry in the heat of the sun.
If more liquid should be required for the paste, add warm water.
Melt penny-weights of fine ambergris, in a brass mortar very gently then stir in quickly, 8 drops of green lemon juice, and the same of behn-nut oil (or almond oil). Add, ready powdered with fine loaf-sugar, 12 grains of musk, 12 grains of civet, and 24 grains of residuum from the making of spirit of ambergris.
Add one ounce of spirit of ambergris, mix and incorporate them well, and add 16 pounds of fine dry hair-powder.
Pass twice, through a fine hair sieve; then lay it open for three days, in a dry room, stir it often, until the spirit evaporates, Bottle and stop it close.
Take best dried and scraped orris roots which should be free from mould. Bruise or grind them, the latter is best, as, being very tough, they require great labour to pound. Sift the powder through a fine hair sieve, and put the remainder in the oven, to dry the mixture. A high temperature will turn the roots yellow. Once dry, grind again, and sift; and repeat the same until the whole has passed through the sieve. Mix nothing with it, as it would mould and spoil.
Drop twelve drops of genuine oil of rhodium on a lump of loaf-sugar; grind this well in a glass mortar and mix it thoroughly with three pounds of orris powder.
This will, in its perfume, have a resemblance to a well-flavoured violet. If you add more rhodium oil, a rose perfume, instead of a violet one will be produced; the orris powder is a most agreeable perfume, and only requiring to be raised by the addition of the above quantity of the oil. According to the author, it is better to make your own as what is sold at the druggist’s shops is generally adulterated.
Take two pecks of fresh, dry damask rose-leaves; strip them from their leaves and stalks; have ready 16 pounds of fine hair-powder. Strew a layer of rose-leaves, on sheets of paper, at the bottom of a box, cover them over with a layer of hair-powder; then strew alternately a layer of roses and powder, until the whole of each has been used.
Leave for twenty four hours, then sieve the powder out, and expose it to the air for a further twenty four hours, stirring regularly. Add fresh rose-leaves, twice, as before, and proceed in the same way; after this dry the powder well by a gentle heat and pass it through a fine sieve.
Lastly, pour ten drops of oil of rhodium, or three drops of otto of roses, on loaf-sugar, which triturate in a glass mortar, and stir well into the powder, which put into a box, or glass, for use. This hair-powder perfume will be excellent and will keep well.
Take sixteen pounds of hair powder, and forty drops of Roman oil of bergamot, and proceed in all respects as before, but do not leave the compound exposed to the air as the bergamot is so volatile that it will evaporate.
If none of these appealed then of course you could buy perfume from a perfumery or chemist, such as Simmons and Kirkby in Canterbury, who would sell you musk, orange, bergamot and so on for just one shilling a bottle – perhaps an easier option.
The British perfumer: being a collection of choice receipts and observations by Charles Lillie
Those Georgians certainly had entrepreneurial spirit, and we came across such an example of this some time ago in an article we wrote about the things that every respectable woman should own. In 1794, this gentleman, a Mr Nosworthy, advertised the wares that he sold in his store on Queen Street, Norwich. At that stage his was simply one of many similar adverts we plucked from the newspapers as he sold the unusual item referred to as perfumed gloves.
It wasn’t until later that we found ourselves drawn back to him to take a closer look at exactly who he was, and guess what, he was the gift that kept on giving.
James was born around 1762 and married his wife Martha Slack, in 1783. They bought a shop in Norwich where they sold a whole variety of goods with the added bonus of Martha being a ladies hairdresser. Apart from working in their shop, she also travelled around the county offering her services and in 1789 she advised ladies that she would be in Great Yarmouth, some 20 miles away, on the 9th August, so if they required her services on that date they should book an appointment via the local grocer, Mr Groom on Green Street.
Despite being busy with their business they produced two children, a son, who died shortly after birth and a daughter, Martha Harriot.
In 1790 they had moved premises and expanded the business to include the hairdressing services of Martha, plus expanding into the perfumery market, selling ‘the best sort of foreign and English perfumery – Duty Free’.
James, it appears, was also an inventor and had invented ‘Ear Covers’, we really haven’t quite managed to work out what these were, they could have been akin to ear muffs for warmth, although it seems more likely that they had something to do with hairdressing, so if any of our readers have any suggestions … do tell.
This was a couple that meant business! Seeking out every opportunity to increase their wealth and social standing. When we first met Mr Nosworthy he was selling a whole host of items including everything you needed for sewing; toys for children, crockery and cutlery, stationery, fashion accessories such as purses, fans, parasols, umbrellas and perfumed gloves. He rapidly expanded his range to include everything from children’s rocking horses to wigs.
As his business grew he found it necessary to take on an apprentice, Jonathan Gallant. Business, it appears, was booming.
Two years later he expanded the business again, into selling gold and silver jewellery, everything from thimbles for 1 shilling to 10 guineas for a gold watch chain. He also bought old gold and silver and repaired and cleaned jewellery. He also advised his customers that he had recently received a large quantity of Real Turkey Liquid Black for ladies’ Spanish leather and other kinds of shoes. He sold ladies gowns of all kinds and gown dye.
He also wished for it to be known by all his customers that he had engaged the services of one of the best ladies’ hairdressers from London, sadly he didn’t name the hairdresser.
We can only imagine how large the shop must have been, with all the stock he mentioned in his adverts, it must have been the size of a large modern department store. They even had a department to train hairdressers. Business continued to grow over the following years.
Even James Woodforde, author of The Diary of a Country Parson referred to Mr Nosworthy in his diary, stating that he had purchased a bed from him. Was there nothing James didn’t sell?
In 1797 a merchant and banker, Thomas Bignold founded the ‘Norwich Union Society’, which was set up to insure houses, stock and merchandise from fire. The company was a mutual society, so policyholders received a share of the profits.
Guess who one of the other directors was? – none other than James Nosworthy, he really did have fingers in many pies. Bignold, then changed the company name to Norwich Union Fire Insurance Office, James remained a director.
Early 1808 Thomas Bignold created Norwich Union Life Insurance Society, still with James as a director, but things began to unravel for Bignold. After 1815 a recession began to take effect and claims against the Society increased until eventually his sons and other directors, mainly James Nosworthy, forced him out of the company and into retirement.
Having retired Bignold became something of an eccentric and formed another business, making shoes with REVOLVING HEELS – no, you haven’t misread that – ‘revolving heels’! No, we have absolutely no idea what they would have been like, let alone why he would have thought them necessary. This venture was destined for failure and finally bankrupt him. He ended up in prison, dying in 1835.
James however, died in 1821, leaving the majority of his estate to his wife, Martha and the residue to their daughter Martha Harriot for her sole use even though she had, by that time married the London agent for Norwich Union, Charles Andrew Hackett. Martha promptly advertised their cottage at Thorpe for rent, but she lived on until 1837, leaving everything to her daughter.
One of our lovely readers has found the answer to the revolving heels
And here we have an image of the revolving heel from 1905
Bury and Norwich Post 05 August 1789
Norfolk Chronicle 27 March 1790
Bury and Norwich Post 10 October 1792
Norfolk Chronicle 23 March 1793
Staffordshire Advertiser 29 June 1805
Norfolk Chronicle 19 March 1808
Stamford Mercury 20 November 1818
A Panoramic View of Norwich; Norfolk Museums Service
The desire for women to make their lips moist and luscious has existed for centuries, so we thought we would take a quick look at a few of the recipes suggested for home-made lip salve in the 18th century.
The earliest advert we came across for commercially produced lip salve was at the beginning of February 1712 in the Daily Courant newspaper where the product was being sold by Mrs Markham, was a
highly esteemed lip salve for ladies of a charming and delightful scene. Price one shilling for the box
which would be about £5 in today’s money. Mrs Markham, who also sold tooth powder, informed potential buyers that the ingredients used in her lip salve made the product safe to eat. Does that imply that other lip salves weren’t?
The Compleat City and Country Cook of 1736 suggests the following recipe
Take half a pint of claret, boil it in one ounce of beeswax and as much fresh butter and two ounce of alkermes root, bruised.
When all these have boiled together for a pretty while, strain it, let is stand till it is cold, take the wax off the top, let it stand again and pour it clear from dregs into a gallipot and use it at pleasure.
If I’m being honest, that strikes me as a waste of a good claret!
Now, The Accomplished Housewife, of 1745 recommends the following recipe
Take half an ounce of Virgin’s Wax, half a pound of butter, half an ounce of Benjamin, half an ounce of Ackmony root (today known as alkanet root), half and ounce of fine sugar and a bunch of white grapes. Put all of these over the fire till they are melted, then strain it through a sieve and make it into cakes.
That one doesn’t sound quite as tasty as the claret one, but perhaps the flavour of white grapes might help.
In 1754, The Family Jewel and Compleat Housewife’s Companion recipe sounds quite palatable
To make the incomparable lip salve take of the finest sweet-scented pomatum, one drachm; orange-butter, half that quantity. Add to this a few drops of honey and lavender waters. Rub all well together with a knife. Use it on the lips as occasion requires. This is the greatest esteemed among the nobility and most certainly causes the lips to be of a fine coral red, and the breath most delightfully sweet.
By 1759 The Lady’s Assistant in the Economy of the Table, was advocating the following recipe
Two ounces of pomatum, a quarter of an ounce of alkanet root, a drachm of balsam of Peru (often used in perfumes and toiletries as a flavouring), a little piece of Virgin’s wax and five or six raisins of the sun.
Ten years later the recipe of choice was Monsieur Rouille’s Incomparable Lip Salve.
Orange butter, one drachm, conserve of jessamin, spermaceti, tincture of coral, each half a drachm. Honey water, twenty drops. Grind these together well in a marble mortar and use it morning and evening.
This next one from 1772 was interesting as it used Litharge, which is also known today as lead oxide and is poisonous, so please don’t try this making this one!
Take an ounce of Myrrh, as much Litharge in fine powder, four ounces of honey, two ounces of bees-wax, six ounces of Oil of Roses.
Mix them over a slow fire.
Gentry may add a few drops of Oil of Rhodium and some gold leaf.
A safer alternative would be
Yellow Lip Salve
Take yellow bees wax, two and a half ounces, Quarter of a pint of Oil of sweet almonds. Melt the wax in the oil and let the mixture stand to cool. Once cold it acquires a fairly stiff consistency. Scrape it lightly with a spatula and it will become softer. What you scrape off, put into marble mortar and once you have scraped away the whole, rub it in the mortar with a wooden pestle, to make it perfectly smooth and remove the lumps. Keep it in a lidded gallipot.
It is good for chaps in the lips, hands or nipples, and to preserve the skin, soft and smooth.
By 1785, hog’s lard was the popular thing to use.
Put it into a pan with one and a half ounces of virgin’s wax. Let is stand on a slow fire till it is melted. Take a small tin-pot and fill it with water and add some alkanet root. Let it boil until it is of a fine red colour. Strain, then mix with ingredients according to your fancy, and scent it with essence of lemon. Pour it into small boxes and smooth the top with your finger.
Finally, in the Morning Post and Daily Advertiser of 1785, we found this lovely advertisement
A Caution on Walnuts
Harrison begs to remind those ladies who eat walnuts, of his much-admire Lip Salve, which totally prevents that roughness and peeling of the lips.
Princess Augusta (1768-1840) c.1794 by Edward Miles. Royal Collection Trust
King George III celebrated his 70th birthday on 4 June 1808.
The king was losing his eyesight and, because of this, wasn’t present at his birthday court at St James’s Palace, but did receive several members of the nobility at Buckingham House (as Buckingham Palace was then known).
The morning was, as usual, ushered in with the ringing of bells, at noon the Park and Tower guns were fired, the ships in the Thames displayed their colours, and the flags and standards of the United Kingdom were hoisted on the different churches and public buildings. The streets in the neighbourhood of the Palace were crowded to an excess, and the windows in St James’s Street in particular, exhibited a display of beauty and splendour rarely to be witnessed in any country.
The royal family – minus the king – all began to arrive throughout the day, and assembled for ‘Her Majesty’s drawing-room’. The Prince of Wales, predictably, made sure everyone noticed his entrance.
At two o’clock the Prince of Wales and his Suite, in three carriages, and servants in state liveries, dress hats and feathers, proceeded from Carlton House to the Drawing Room, and entered by the private door in the Park. His Royal Highness was attended by the Duke of Clarence, Lords Keith and Dundas, Generals Lee and Hulse, and Colonels McMahon, Lee and Bloomfield.
The music playing had been specified by the king, but it was the queen who received the company, and all the nobility were present. Everyone had to wear full court dress and the queen continued to stipulate that ladies had to wear full hoops under their skirts, in an echo of the fashions of several decades earlier. Coupled with the trend for gowns with a slim silhouette in the early years of the nineteenth-century, the full skirts of the dresses which had to be worn at court looked ridiculously cumbersome. They certainly weren’t the most flattering of dresses to wear!
A sketch of one of the dresses worn has survived at this particular Drawing Room, and it was worn by the Countess, later Marchioness of Cholomondeley, someone we’ve written about at length. The Earl of Cholmondeley had, a few years prior to his marriage, been the lover of that ‘infamous courtesan’, Grace Dalrymple Elliott. And Grace had also, for just a few weeks in 1781, been the mistress of Cholmondeley’s boon friend, the Prince of Wales, and had subsequently given birth to the prince’s daughter. That girl, Georgiana Seymour (no, we don’t know why she had the surname Seymour either!) was brought up by the Cholmondeleys, treated as their own daughter. Georgiana, 26-years-of-age, couldn’t attend the court, however. The queen had agreed with her son that she should not be presented until she was married, lest the king realise exactly who she was. (Georgiana married in September 1808, and she was present at King George’s 1809 birthday court, as you can discover in our first book, An Infamous Mistress.)
The newspapers described the Countess of Cholmondeley’s dress as follows:
A yellow satin petticoat, covered with a rich Brussels point lace, with a rich border; the train of yellow satin; the sleeves ornamented with rich lace.
La Belle Assemblée magazine went into more detail.
Explanation of Lady Cholmondeley’s Court-Dress: A bright primrose-coloured sarsnet petticoat trimmed full round the bottom with point lace, and a rich drapery of the same, most tastefully festooned with diamond chains, and ostrich feathers in the form of the Prince’s plume reversed. Body and train of primrose sarsnet; the latter trimmed with lace, and the former ornamented with the most splendid diamond wreath to represent the oak leaf and fruit, placed obliquely across the front of the bust; the sleeves finished to match, and the bottom of the waist confined with a diamond cestus. Head-dress court lappets of point; a diamond bandeau and rich coronet, with four ostrich feathers of unequal lengths, most tastefully disposed. Splendid earrings of the oval form; necklace and bracelets also of brilliants. Gloves of French kid, considerably above the elbow. Shoes of white satin with silver trimming.
We recently ran a post on our Facebook page which shared images of Princess Charlotte of Wales in a blue Russian style dress. It proved really popular, so we thought we’d take the opportunity to look at the dress, and the portrait of Charlotte where she is depicted wearing it, in greater detail.
With the end of the Napoleonic Wars two years earlier, anything Russian was eminently fashionable in 1817, when the portrait was painted. Princess Charlotte of Wales, only legitimate child of the Prince Regent (later George IV) was desperate to have the Russian Order of St Catherine bestowed on her. She’d been trying for the honour since at least 1813, with little success. (The order was only given to women, primarily those of the Russian royal family but also occasionally granted to foreign queens and high-ranking princesses.)
The well-known portrait of her, by George Dawe and dated to 1817 (shown above), depicts the princess in a Russian style dress, known as a sarafan, and – supposedly – wearing the Star of the Order of St Catherine’s. The notes on the Royal Collection Trust website say of the portrait:
At her left breast she wears the star of the Order of St Catherine, which she received on 1 July 1817, from Maria Feodorovna, wife of Paul I, in gratitude for hospitality shown to her son Nicholas during his visit to London. (Princess Charlotte’s husband, Prince Leopold of Saxe-Coburg, also served under the Russian Emperor during the Napoleonic Wars.)
Now, we don’t want to contradict the RCT who surely know better than us, but we can find no corroborating evidence that Charlotte ever received this honour, and upon zooming in to the portrait, the Star insignia which she is wearing looks incorrect. It almost appears to have the Prince of Wales feathers atop it and is not studded with diamonds, as it should be. Maybe, however, Dawe chose to paint it this way? Although we have our suspicions, we really can give no confirmation one way or another and will have to rely on the royal collection’s assertion that this is the Star of the Order of St Catherine.
The dress Charlotte wears could almost have been copied from a portrait of Sophia Petrovna Svechina, a Russian exile in Paris. She was painted by François Joseph Kinson in 1816, just a year before Charlotte sat for her portrait, wearing a remarkably similar dress.
A Sarafan is a Russian trapezoidal jumper (or pinafore) dress, and a traditional folk costume. These two Russian portraits show the subjects wearing dresses that are also very like that worn by Charlotte.
No doubt Charlotte had her dress especially made (it was produced in England) for the portrait and to set off her Russian order, whether being worn legitimately or not. Charlotte’s version of this Russian dress is made from blue silk, trimmed with gold lace which has red highlights, and edged with gold fringe. Amazingly, it has survived and is also in the royal collection. As you can see from the images below, it has either faded slightly, or Dawe used a little artistic licence to darken it in his portrait of the princess.
When she sat for her portrait, the princess was pregnant. Her child – a son – was stillborn, and Charlotte died from complications following the birth the next day, 6 November 1817. She was just twenty-one years of age. Had she or her son lived, they would have been heir to the British throne.
Copies of the painting were made, many with slight variations. One shows the dress in white instead of blue, another leaves off the gold trimming. This version below shows the dress in a darker hue, and with a much more extravagant ‘blouse’ beneath, with lace sleeves.
Interestingly, when George Dawe’s brother, Henry Edward Dawe, made a mezzotint copy of the portrait after the princess’ death, which was published in January 1818 and an amalgamation of two of the portraits already given above, the Order of St Catherine pinned to Princess Charlotte’s breast was totally omitted.
George Dawe subsequently spent many years at the Russian court where he painted many of the nobility there. It is thought that he used the portrait of Princess Charlotte as inspiration for his later one of Empress Alexandra Feodorovna. Certainly, the rich colour of the dress and the pose are reminiscent of the princess’ portrait. It increases the pathos of poor Princess Charlotte’s picture however; how she would have loved to be painted with her arms around her children. Sadly, that was not to be.
We’ll leave you with this fantastic video, which looks at Princess Charlotte’s dress and the portrait.
Sources not mentioned above:
Letters of the Princess Charlotte, 1811-1817 (1949)
Autobiography of Cornelia Knight, Lady Companion to the Princess Charlotte of Wales: With Extracts from Her Journals and Anecdote Books, Volume 1 (1861)
* Please note: this week, our next blog post will be on Friday. *
We have previously written about the very popular invention of the Georgian bathing machines, so it’s time to take a look at what people wore to take a dip in the sea. It was in the Regency era that swimwear became really popular and very much a fashion item with the newspapers of the day advising potential bathers of what they ought to be wearing to be à la mode.
Clearly there was an issue with women sharing bathing wear and so a Mrs Bell of 26, Charlotte Street, Bloomsbury came up with new invention in 1814 by creating what she called the ‘Ladies Bathing Preserver’. Its aim was:
To relieve Ladies from the nauseous idea of wearing the bathing coverings furnished by the women at the sea-side, from which dangerous permanent illnesses have arisen, in consequence of their being worn by ALL KINDS of persons, however they be afflicted. Mrs Bell’s bathing preserver is made quite in a novel manner, to which is attached a cap, to be removed at pleasure, made of a delicate oil silk, the keep the head dry. The preserver is made of such light materials, that a lady may carry it in a tasteful oiled silk bag of the same size as an ordinary lady’s ridicule.
In her advert she told potential buyers that she also:
…sold her newly invented Circassian corset, bathing and sea-side walking dresses, which enable ladies to dress and undress themselves in three minutes, without any assistance, and prevents, so much recommended by physicians, the change of taking cold by too long delay in dressing.
The Circassian corset claim might have been a good marketing strategy because this type of corset had certainly been invented by the turn of the century, if not slightly earlier, so by the time Mrs Bell was advertising it, it wasn’t new!
The Circassian Corset is the only one which displays, without indelicacy, the shape of the bosom to the greatest possible advantage; gives a width to the chest which is equally conducive to health and elegance of appearance.
The Morning Post of 1st August 1815 tells its readers what they should be wearing for the month for seaside bathing:
Sea Side Bathing Dress: This very elegant dress is composed of the newly introduced Berlin silk. It is made in the form of a pelisse, and is so contrived that the stays, petticoat, and pelisse are all put on in a few moments. A flounce of green gauze, crape, or muslin, edged with an exceedingly pretty silk trimming, ornaments the dress; which, when on, is so finished and elegant that no one could suppose it was possible to adjust it in a few moments. A Leghorn hat ornamented with a plume of straw colour feathers, and green plaid leather boots, finish this dress, which we look upon as a chef d’oeuvre in its way, since, independent of the advantage which it is to a lady to be able to dress and undress so quickly, the most fastidious belle must confess that nothing can possibly be more becoming than this Sea Side Bathing Dress. The Wellington corset, with which it is worn, is admirably adapted to display in the most easy and graceful manner the natural proportions of the shape; and the tout ensemble of this elegant and useful habit is simple, tasteful and in the highest degree appropriate.
For anyone wondering, like us, what the Wellington corset was, then the Kentish Gazette, 6 September 1814 has the answer. It was designed specifically for women who were pregnant or who had had children as it would repress that fullness which some ladies find rather troublesome in the present style of dress.
The Liverpool Mercury, in 1830, carried the following description of a new invention to aid swimmers and non swimmers to float in the sea, by the Abbé de la Chapelle which he called a ‘Scaphander’.
It was a type of jacket of cork, composed of cork and fastened round the boy by means of leather thongs, which pass between the thighs and over the shoulders. That the body of the swimmer may be in equilibrium with an equal volume of water, a jacket of this kind ought to contain TEN POUNDS OF CORK. It is added that the inventor, with this cumbrous jacket on, could hold a bottle and glass in his hands when in the water (now this is just what I need!).
With the turn for the century, fashions began to change from the tight-laced bodiced dresses to a softer, flimsy and floating style, often made from lightweight fabrics. Presumably it was this change of style that required women to preserve their modesty, so, on that note we’re delighted to welcome a new guest to our blog, Sarah Waldock, who describes herself as ‘a Regency romance author with a morbid interest in drains and underwear’.
The post has come about following conversations we’ve had with Sarah Waldock, about one of our previous articles regarding whether Georgian women wore knickers or not! So we’ll hand over to her to tell you more.
This goes back to an assertion I made that yes, there were drawers worn by ladies in the Regency period as I had seen ads for them. Only when I uncovered the following ad, two words – invisible dresses – leaped out at me.
Radford’s Hosiery, 52 Cheapside
All manner of hosiery, gloves, flannels, drawers, ladies’ invisible dresses….
So going a bit further, I found
Mrs. Morris, once Mrs. Robertshaw, invisible dresses, petticoats, drawers and waist coats of real Spanish lamb’s wool, Welch Flannel Warehouse, 100 Oxford Street.
Plainly Mrs. Morris is a cut above Mr. Radford, being in Oxford Street where you pay three guineas a lungful to breathe [not that Cheapside was especially cheap; the name comes from the same source as Chapman, a peddler, from OE for goods for sale].
Digging around, I initially discover Mr. Radford advertising as far back as the 1st of January 1806 both the ‘Newly invented’ invisible petticoat and drawers, which is the earliest mention of drawers I had yet to find – at that point.
And then a bit of luck.
An unnamed seller advertises on Tuesday 17th September 1811;
New-invented invisible dresses [I hear you say, hang on, Radford and Morris had them in 1810; it’s the way of making them which is new invented] all in one, of a superior style for ladies and children … for ready money only, at no. 16 Poultry.
All in one, which is interesting; it suggests that invisible petticoats and waists have been combined. And in the same year, 21 December, 1811, Mr. Radford is back with his own take on this:
New-invented Brunswick invisible dresses that are such a preventative against colds and are patronised by the Royal Family.
There are also ads from him advertising them for ladies and children, reinforcing the idea that these are practical garments, no mere modesty pieces. These garments are for warmth to prevent the silly and fashionable chits in muslins from dying of pneumonia at winter balls.
I then looked up ‘Brunswick’ in the ‘Fairchild Dictionary of Textiles’. It gave me:
“A twilled wool and cotton fabric similar to cassimere”[Cassimere was a soft woollen twill cloth invented in Bradford and often combined with cotton, silk or mohair].
Now, Mr. Radford was also advertising cotton invisible petticoats in June and July of 1806, so maybe they were there as modesty pieces as well. I don’t have any more on that, nor on whether they were stockinet flesh coloured garments, like the drawers mentioned by Nicky Roberts in ‘Whores in History’ [Harper Collins 1992] to be worn under the notorious dampened muslins. It wasn’t mentioned. However I am seeing, I hope not spuriously, a connection between drawers and invisible gowns, which is an impression strengthened by a few more ads.
And this one from Mrs. Robertshaw [before she was Mrs. Morris] is the winner.
30th September 1806
SPANISH LAMBSWOOL INVISIBLE PETTICOATS
Mrs. Robertshaw begs leave to inform those ladies that found their invisible petticoats shrunk last winter that she has a kind so much improved that she will warrant them never to shrink even in the commonest wash, at the same time will be found equally as soft, pliant and warm. Everybody that has tried them allows them to be a much pleasanter article than ever before invented, being so very elastic[a word merely meaning at the time having some stretch or give] and of so beautiful a white, and, like all these comforts will add quite as little to size as her patent lambs’ wool so much approved of last winter. Likewise invisibles and stays all in one; well adapted to ladies that are confined; also under waist coats and drawers of the same description.
The ad goes on to invite mail order purchase, but what seems suggestive here is that the drawers are also for warmth as the implication is that they are also lambswool [and possibly either knitted or woven as a knit-weave like gents’ pantaloons]
The implication is also that this is not the earliest date.
So this is the ad I found, on 21st October 1805.
Spanish lamb’s wool invisible petticoats; Mrs. Robertshaw…. large assortment of her large assortment of real patent invisible petticoats which ladies will find soft, warm and pleasant at the same time adding little to the size.
Patent. A suggestive word, though I have a gut feeling that a lot of advertisers threw it around without applying for a patent. However, it does suggest that warm underclothes under skimpy top clothes was a recent response to the changes in fashion, having to be lightweight themselves rather than adding a quilted petticoat as one might do in earlier times.
The latest ad I found was in 1815, Friday 22nd December. Mrs. Morris is no longer reminding people that she was Mrs. Robertshaw before.
Ladies opera dresses, drawers, waistcoats, invisible petticoats – Mr. [sic] Morris manufacturer to the Royal Family respectfully informs those ladies that have patronised her patent invisible petticoat, opera under-dresses, drawers and waistcoats …. that she has manufactured an entire fresh and extensive assemblage.
I searched up to 1820 but could find no more ads. But after 1816, the year without a summer, the climate warmed up. Could it be that woolly longjohns and flannel petticoats disappeared for a lack of need for them?
As to earlier, in 1804 Mr. Radford was bad-mouthing those who sold inferior quality whilst proclaiming his own cheap but quality hosiery. He mentions flannels again. Was this a euphemism for flannel drawers? I haven’t tracked that down.
On 13th November 1804 he is advertising elastic cotton and other drawers in with his hosiery, gloves, lace mitts and lace sleeves. He is mentioned on 12th May 1803 as a hosier, and taking on the rent somewhere in an article too faded for me to read.
Mrs. Robertshaw however turns up in December 1804, or rather, Mr. W, Robertshaw does, at the same address, 100 Oxford Street, with a hosiery and pantaloon warehouse with fresh Spanish lambs wool and Angola waistcoats and drawers. Mrs. Robertshaw.
…begs the attention of the ladies to her patent Bath and elastic lambs wool petticoats and drawers, which ladies will find soft, warm and pleasant at the same time to add very little to size.
So, they are not yet invisible! Bath was a soft woollen cloth comparable to superfine; Bath suiting was often used for men’s jackets. It moulded nicely to the muscular form of the Corinthian.
Apart from the existence of W Robertshaw, Hosier, 100 Oxford Street in January 1804, the Robertshaws too disappear. Two families of Hosiers, whose brief, decade-long production of underwear excites the interest two hundred years later.
We’ve written about Georgian era riding habits in an earlier blog, but this time we’re looking at the practicalities of wearing one. Female equestrians in the eighteenth- and nineteenth-centuries were certainly hampered by their clothes, in comparison to men, and needed assistance just to mount and dismount. Then, once in the saddle, they had to arrange themselves to be perfectly positioned with their skirts all in place.
The young horsewoman’s compendium of the modern art of riding; comprising a progressive course of lessons; designed to give ladies a secure and graceful seat on horseback; at the same time, so effectively to form the hand, that they may, in a short time, acquire perfect command of their horses, (1827) gives the following instructions for a novice horsewoman.
Two persons are necessary to assist in putting a Lady on Horseback; one to hold up the Horse’s head, standing immediately in front, with a hand on each Bridoon Rein, close to the Horse’s mouth; the other to life the Lady up to the Saddle.
The Lady having first adjusted her Habit, is to place her right shoulder against the Saddle, her face turned a little from the Horse. Her right hand, with the Bridoon Rein hanging loosely on the fore-finger, or thumb, to be placed on the upright Horn, and to stand perfectly erect, resting the whole weight of the body on the right foot.
The person lifting our equestrian up, now stoops down and cups his hands together; the lady places her left foot in his hands and keeps her left knee as straight as possible.
If the left knee be much bent, the person lifting the Lady up, has very little command of her weight; she is, therefore, compelled to drag herself up in the most ungraceful manner possible… by attention to the foregoing rules, the most heavy, or inactive person, may be lifted up at the first attempt, if the pressure in the man’s hands is correctly perpendicular, and the Lady stands so close to the Saddle as to touch it with her right shoulder.
Before all this, however, thought needs to be given to the riding habit… specifically keeping it out of the way.
[When being lifted onto the saddle] care must be taken, that no part of the Habit is under the Lady’s foot when placed in the man’s hands; as it acts as a check, and prevents her taking a sufficient spring, which must be proportioned to the height of the Horse the Lady is to be put on.
On arriving in the Saddle, the right knee must be put into the crutch as soon as possible; but, previously to doing so, it will be advisable to take hold of the Habit and under garments with the right hand, close to the right knee, to ease them up, in order to allow sufficient room for the knee to come quite down in the crutch, where it must remain perfectly stationary.
Should the Habit require any regulating behind, the Lady must take hold of the crutch with her right hand, and gently raise herself from the Saddle, and smooth it down with her left hand; but if it is properly adjusted, previously to being lifted up, it will require very little alteration after arriving in the Saddle.
Great care must be observed, that the Habit and under garments are particularly full and easy, in order that the Lady may be at perfect liberty, and not, in the most trifling degree, confined by them.
It is a much safer plan, to put that part of the Habit which hangs near the Horse’s side, round the foot, previously to putting it into the Stirrup, than to fasten it down with a clasp, or a pin; as, in the event of a Lady being thrown from her Horse, the Habit disengages itself with the foot.
The Skirt to the Riding Habit should not be too long, as there is a possibility of its getting between the Horse’s fore-legs, or being blown across them, so as to check his action, and throw him down. It also makes a Lady’s figure appear disproportionate.
There is also advice as to headgear, but not relating to safety as we’d understand it. No hard hats here, and we do wonder what the writer would have made of a lady carrying a parasol while hawking, as in this portrait below.
Long veils are also dangerous on Horseback, as they get entangled with the Reins, confuse the Rider, and cause her to lose the command of her Horse.
Never lift the right hand up, with the Whip in it, to adjust the Hat; it not only looks extremely awkward, but will sometimes cause a Horse to shy. Place the Whip under the thumb of the Bridle Hand; and should there be a Rein in the right hand, it may either be dropped, or placed under the forefinger of the Bridle Hand. This leaves the right hand quite at liberty.
This lady, then, is doing everything wrong!
It was advised that, as with getting into the saddle, at least two men should be present to help our lady dismount from her horse and that:
before springing from the Saddle, [she should] draw the right hand down under the right leg, to feel that the Habit is quite clear of it and the Stirrup.
It wasn’t unheard of for women to ride astride a horse rather than side-saddle. An early nineteenth-century caricature, full of innuendo, jokes about the practice.
It was more commonplace on mainland Europe for ladies to ‘ride astride’ or en cavalier (literally, as a rider or horseman). There are famous portraits of both Marie Antoinette and Catherine the Great riding in male clothing in this way. The ill-fated Caroline Matilda, George III’s younger sister, embraced the custom after she married the Danish king.
The [Danish] Queen Consort, young, gay, affable and obliging, gained all hearts by her assiduity to please. It is no wonder that such a person should give occasion for censure to those who were already disposed to find fault… The ladies of Denmark, unlike our countrywomen, when they ride, bestride their horses like men; but to preserve the decorum of the sex, they wear a petticoat over their drawers or breeches. Unhappily her Majesty looked upon the petticoat as an incumbrance, and when she hunted, dressed herself en cavalier. This was immediately taken notice of by her enemies as a great act of indecency.
Nevertheless, riding in this way caused much astonishment and excitement in England.
A German Lady who dresses, and rides en cavalier, has for several days past attracted the attention of the beaux and belles in Hyde-park. She is well mounted, takes her morning rides without any attendant, and leaps over the different bars in the park with all imaginable coolness, and resolution.
And, just slipping in within our timeframe, is this account of the trend-setting Lady Mary Deerhurst, taking full advantage of her freedoms while living and travelling abroad.
The lady alluded to in the Morning Post as astonishing the natives of Rome by riding in the public streets in Turkish trowsers, and en cavalier, with her daughter in a similar costume is Lady Mary Deerhurst, the lively daughter of Aubrey, Duke of St Albans. Her elopement with Viscount Deerhurst was followed in a few years by separation between the parties; since which period, being in possession of a splendid fortune, she has lived an independent life in Italy, somewhat after the fashion of Lady Hester Stanhope. In her exploring parties in the vicinity of Rome, Lady Mary frequently remains on horseback from twelve to sixteen hours, to the no small consternation of her languid Italian attendants.
One of the things we really enjoy doing during our research is to look at the advertisements in the newspapers of the day to see what sort of items were for sale. Don’t you just wonder what it would have been like to go back in time and visit some of the shops? Perhaps a visit to the perfumier would be worth a visit, especially to get away from the pungent odours of eighteenth-century London.
From the late eighteenth-century onward, people would have carried a vinaigrette containing a sponge soaked in perfume or vinegar, to mask the unpleasant odours from the streets, such as this lovely one depicting Newstead Abbey, the ancestral home of Lord Byron.
Perfumiers weren’t quite what we view them as today. Yes, they sold perfume, but they also catered for other essentials required by both men and women.
In this post, we take a look at some of the ‘essentials’ that every self-respecting man or woman would have owned. In the late 1770s, Mr Lewis Hendrie owned a shop in the Haymarket area of London and these are some of the items he sold and it’s always great to see some prices bearing in mind that one shilling would have been the equivalent of about £5 in today’s money.
These would have been priced at around one shilling each, usually white or brown almond and were used to whiten the skin and to prevent chapping. White almond was slightly more expensive than brown almond.
These came in a variety of fragrances, such as jasmine, orange, rose, violet or simply ‘common hair powder’. Also, tooth powder, powder bags, powder masks and puffs.
A powder for the face which answers all the intents of white paint, without having any of its pernicious effects. 8 shillings per pound (and sold in smaller quantities).
And combs for hair, for shaving, toothbrushes and tongue scrapers. Body brushes and oil silk bathing caps.
Soaps & Waters
These again came in several varieties such as Castille, Windsor, Naples. Improved soap for shaving with a brush. Double distilled lavender, Hungary, honey and other floral scents.
Almond, Rhodium, Jasmine, Rosemary and shaving oil.
We weren’t quite sure how shaving oil was used and found a reference to it some ten years prior to Mr Hendrie’s advertisement which described it as ‘the best thing ever invented for the purpose of having or washing fine lace and greatly useful where there is a scarcity of water. Price 6 pence or 1 shilling for a larger bottle’. Not a cheap product then!
Orange, lemon, bergamot and bouquet.
Miscellaneous items such as
Genuine Bear’s Grease:
the only certain remedy to make hair grow thick and to prevent it falling out – one shilling and six pence an ounce.
Tragically, yes it was made from the rendered down fat of young bears.
A composition to take off superfluous hair from the forehead and eyebrows. Takes off hair instantly, 6 pence a stick. For a while, in the eighteenth-century, it was fashionable to remove forehead hair, although we’re not quite sure as to why you would want to do that.
Best French rouge, two shillings and sixpence per pot, which is about the same amount as a skilled tradesperson would earn for one day’s work.
A pomatum that destroys nits in the hair, warranted without the least injury to the person. One shilling per pot.
A liquid, that without injury will dye grey or red hair to a glossy black or brown. This came with a money back guarantee, if it didn’t work!.
Pen knives, scissors, powder knives, tweezers, toothpicks, patches and patch boxes and snuff boxes.
Crimping, curling, nipping, pinching, toupee irons, hair rollers and hair ribbons, but no products such as heat protector or hairspray existed! In 1783, a Mr F Day advertised a new type of styling comb to replace the ‘frizzing comb and curling iron’ which he claimed produced a better result than either of the existing products. He was selling these newfangled combs at three shillings each.
There was no such thing as a nail bar in the Georgian era, but if you wanted your finger or toenails to look good, you could visit a chiropodist. As well as treating corns and warts, they also offered products described as ‘ivory-nail models’. They were described as being as ‘portable as a tooth-pick case, which forms the nails on the hand into an agreeable shape’. They were priced at ten shillings and sixpence and came with directions for use. Were these the first false nails? If these weren’t for you then you could buy fine steel nail-nippers at five shilling per pair.
They were nothing if not entrepreneurial, for example, in 1794 we have Mr Nosworthy of Queen Street, Norwich, a perfumier, who expanded his business to include everything you needed for sewing, toys for children, crockery and cutlery, stationery, fashion accessories such as purses, fans, parasols, umbrellas and perfumed gloves.
Perfumed gloves date back at least a century and there were very two distinct types:
The streets would have had a pretty unpleasant odour and a lady would always wear gloves, so scenting the glove with an almond based perfume, was a way of creating a product that would give the lady something pleasant to smell.
These glove were often known as known as ‘Frangipani gloves’. The first reference we came across for such gloves was in an encyclopedia of 1734. It is reputed that the scent was developed by a Italian nobleman, Marquis Frangipani, who created a perfume used to scent gloves, purses and bags back in the 16th century. However, it is more likely that this was actually a synthetic product based upon the plant discovered somewhat earlier by Charles Plumier, a French botanist.
The other type of perfumed gloves had an altogether more sinister use and were coated in arsenic and would have made had a more sinister use,but we’ll leave the rest of that to your imagination.
Adult only items!
Although we haven’t spotted any adverts for them, condoms would have been readily available for sale from the likes of Mrs Phillips and Perkins, on Half Moon Street in London or from Miss Jenny who sold second-hand, washed ones. The other retailers would have been apothecaries or barbers. They were made from lamb’s caecum and often tied with a ribbon.
The same went for sex toys, relatively recent discoveries have shown that there was a demand for dildos too, these were often purchased by upper-class women and made of wax, horn or leather, wood or ivory.
If only we could have gone back in time to visit their shops. They almost sound like modern-day department stores, where you could spend hours buying everything you didn’t realise that you needed. Oh, and of course perfume!
Part of the reason we started looking at shops, apart from our own curiosity, was that we were lucky enough to have discovered the inventory for Dido Elizabeth Belle’s husband, John Davinière and whilst it’s still in the process of being translated into English with the help of Etienne Daly, we can share with you some of the items listed within the jewellery section of it. Sadly, it is simply a list of items that he owned at the time of his death with very little by way of description, but the fact that they were silver implies that they would have been quite expensive.
There were 3 rings, two kept together and one on its own which we suspect was more than like Dido’s wedding ring. A carriage clock, a silver enamelled toothpick; a silver necessaire, scissors, a type of silver braid, perhaps John received an honour of some sort, but there are no further clues as yet to indicate what it related to.
Whilst it isn’t clear as to whether the silver necessaire was a man or woman’s it would have been a small container which held small items perhaps for sewing such as small scissors, a thimble, possibly a vial of perfume. For a man, it would perhaps contain scissors, a small knife and an earpick.
Public Ledger or The Daily Register of Commerce and Intelligence, October 13, 1761
Bath Chronicle and Weekly Gazette, 14 November 1793
Bury and Norwich Post, 06 August 1794
Morning Herald and Daily Advertiser, November 15, 1783
Chambers, Ephraim. Cyclopædia: or, an universal dictionary of arts and sciences. … By E. Chambers, F.R.S. With the supplement, and modern improvements
1734. The dictionary historical and critical of Mr Peter Bayle
Straw hats were fashionable for women of all social classes, from very plain for the lower class to ones highly decorated for the elite throughout the Georgian era with many being imported, mainly from Italy and Germany, but Bedfordshire became the major manufacturer for straw hat making in England.
Imported straw hats were valuable commodities, as reported in this extract from Tenby in 1750:
In the night of the 3d inst. The weather being very tempestuous, a ship was cast away and beat to pieces of a point of land about three miles to the south-west of this town, and no persons saved or yet seen; nor do we know of anything of value saved. The country people have taken up a great number of straw hats and some loose juniper berries.
And this one from Applebee’s Original Weekly Journal, 1st July 1721.
Some days after one William Allen was committed to Newgate gaol, being charged upon oath, as also on his own confession, upon violent suspicion of stealing fifty Leghorn straw hats, the goods of Captain Andrew Elcam.
In the early 1700s we were importing straw hats, from Leghorn, Italy and Hamburg, Germany; for example, in just one week, 15th – 22nd April 1728, London saw the arrival of 287 dozen straw hats and by 1731 this had increased to 636 dozen which decreased 480 dozen by the turn of the century.
Woodstock, September 16th, 1774:
Whereas a silver watch, with a silver chain to it, was this day offered to be sold to a tradesman in this town by a very suspicious person, who said her name was Ann Brown, about twenty years of age, of brown complexion, short stature, dressed in an old green gown, checked apron and straw hat, who is committed to prison for further examination.
It was clearly a very lucrative trade to be in, as in 1747 a Mr White, of Newgate Street, a wealthy dealer in straw hats died and according to his will he left in excess of £5,000 (about half a million in today’s money).
In 1751 in Constantinople and the surrounding areas there was a great plague, so, in order to prevent the spread into England ships and their crews were quarantined for 40 days and all goods on board the ships had to be opened and aired to remove any possible contamination, goods included goat hair, wool, raw silks, straw hats and all goods packed in straw.
The Oracle and Public Advertiser of 23rd January 1795 reported that the manufacture of straw hats was now being performed by prisoners, who were earning substantial sums from making such items.
Anyone who was anyone would want to wear the latest fashion and the fashion for September 1795, Morning Dress was:
The hair in small curls and ringlets, white satin ribband drawn through it. Straw hat, variegated with a Vandyke border; rose-coloured handkerchief over it, tied on the left side with a bow; green veil.
From the turn of the century straw hats, à-la-Pamela were popular for informal wear and widely worn well into the 1810s. In August 1815, La Belle Assemblée reported on the continued popularity of the chapeau à-la-Pamela, worn far back on the head with a tulle and lace cap underneath.
La Belle Assemblée of 1820 produced a detailed article about straw hats, but here we have just a snippet from it:
Leghorn hats were still in vogue and worn with a simple plume of marabout feathers and were made to turn up behind and turn down again. They would have been adorned with ribbons or bows. Straw hats were often worn with flowers of two colours and adorned with corn poppies with a bunch of ears of corn.
You only have to take a cursory glance at John Collet’s ‘Bath Fly’ to see how popular the straw hat was! We can see 4 in this picture alone.
Hull Advertiser and Exchange Gazette 19 September 1795
Quilted petticoats were an item of clothing that transcended any notions of class or status; they were worn throughout most of the eighteenth-century by all women from nobility down to fish-wives and had a variety of uses. Usually tied at either side of the waistband, they had a gap in the side seams which allowed access to a pair of pockets worn underneath.
Clearly, the primary function of the garment was that of warmth; in colder climates (and here in Britain we’re always complaining about the weather!) the padding provided an extra layer to insulate the wearer.
By the mid-eighteenth century, women’s gowns were worn open at the front and the petticoat underneath became a decorative item. Well-to-do ladies wore petticoats made of silk or satin, often in contrasting colours to their robe, although the backing was often made of a more robust material such as calico or coarse linen.
The courtesan, Nelly O’Brien is famously depicted wearing a simple diamond patterned pink quilted petticoat in her portrait by Joshua Reynolds, but embellishment is added with an embroidered gauzy apron worn over the top. Note the contrasting blue and white striped gown.
Flat quilting, whereby two or three layers were stitched through using a running or backstitch, and corded quilted which involved parallel channels being sown through which cord was inserted from the reverse, were the most popular forms. The latter provided a textured relief.
The designs used were often more decorative and elaborate than the simple pattern on the petticoat worn by Nelly O’Brien; flowers, intricate geometric patterns and even animals all featured.
The following image gives an example of a linen quilted petticoat dating to c.1700-1725, designed to be worn under a mantua. Backed with linen, the quilting pattern was worked first and then both layers of linen were overstitched with embroidery. The notes against this petticoat suggest it was made domestically rather than professionally as the join and certain other details are clumsy.
When just the front of the petticoat would be glimpsed, the decoration was concentrated on that area. As polonaise gowns became fashionable, where the skirts were gathered and looped up at the back, the full hemline of the petticoat was visible. This led to a trend for decoration all around the undergarment. John Wilkes’ daughter, Mary, in this next portrait, demonstrates the fashion; her green quilted petticoat, contrasting sharply with her pink gown, has the addition of a deep frill all around the hemline.
Marseille (or French) quilting is a term used to describe the distinctive cotton quilting which was a feature of the Provence area of southern France, known for fine cording and stuffed designs. There, textiles were made for export, and the London weavers suffered as a result.
In the 1740s, a solution was found: a weaving technique was developed in England using a loom which imitated hand quilting, making the process both quick and inexpensive although it was not true quilting. Usually made with linen, while the fabric appeared to be quilted there was no middle layer of woollen wadding so, although cheap, petticoats made this way lacked the warmth of their ‘Marseilles’ counterparts.
A Sale of Ready Made Goods, &c. by JONAS CLIFTON, SILK-WEAVER and WAREHOUSE-MAN, from SHOREDITCH, LONDON: who now sells at the FOUNTAIN in MARGATE, His CURIOUS BRITISH LOOM QUILTING, for Ladies Petticoats, Bed-gowns, and Gentleman’s Winter Waistcoats, exceeding rich, neat and serviceable…
Kentish Gazette, 9th December 1769
The profession of quilted petticoat maker is described in the London Tradesman, 1747. It was not a lucrative one.
I must just peep under the Quilted-Petticoat. Every one knows the materials they are made of: they are made mostly by women, and some men, who are employed by the shops and earn but little. They quilt likewise quilts for beds for the upholder. This they make more of than of the petticoats, but not very considerable, nothing to get rich by unless they are able to purchase the materials and sell them finished to the shops, which few of them do. They rarely take apprentices, and the women they employ to help them, earn three or four shillings a week and their diet.
An extra cost to the manufacturers of quilted petticoats was the price of the wool used for the wadding, which was subject to the attention of customs.
Last week, the Prince Frederick, a Collier, lately arriv’d from Newcastle, was searched by a custom-house officer, who found about 200 weight of the combings of wool, in two bags, the property of a female passenger on board the said ship, who follows the business of making quilted petticoats; whereupon he seiz’d the same, together with the ship and all her cargo, as forfeited by law, for bringing wool from any part of England without entering it at the custom-house and clearing it from thence; and modestly demanded 600l. of the owners for clearing her, which was refus’d…
Ipswich Journal, 29th October 1743
Quilted petticoats provided shape to the skirts worn over them. Often the wadding used in the manufacture of these petticoats did not extend all the way to the waistband, so they were less bulky at the waistline. But, in an era when women wore a variety of hoops, bum rolls and panniers to enhance and alter their natural forms, quilted petticoats were a useful tool, providing a little extra padding where needed. In fact, evidence shows that they were worn in a variety of different ways throughout the century, both with and without a little extra support and definition beneath them depending on the desired silhouette. Perhaps, when Mary Hobbins went missing, she was trying to disguise her slim frame by wearing multiple quilted petticoats: even for late September, wearing two of these garments must have been quite warm.
September 26, 1724. Whereas one Thomas Robinson… went away with one Mary Hobbins of Swineshead near Boston in Lincolnshire: She is a slender thin-vizzag’d Woman, had two quilted petticoats on, viz. one green, and the other red and blue, with a white Gown with small Stripes or a Popple and white with broad Stripes…
Stamford Mercury, 29th October 1724
The painter Arthur Devis depicted women wearing quilted petticoats over hoops and panniers which gave definition and decoration to the fine silk gowns they wore, which are clearly very wide in the hips.
Towards the 1770s, it was common for fashionable ladies to wear a bum roll underneath their quilted petticoat, to add emphasis to their rear (think Kim Kardashian today!), others simply wore only their shift or another petticoat underneath.
A working woman would, of course, need to be able to move freely; they would wear very little under their quilted petticoats, relying on the bulkiness of the garment to provide any necessary shape, more concerned with practicalities than fashion.
By the end of the eighteenth century, women’s silhouettes became more slender and quilted petticoats were no longer in vogue with women of fashion although lower class women still clung to the practical, hard wearing and warm garment.
So, we’ve looked at quilted petticoats being worn for decoration, for warmth and to add shape to gowns, what other possible reason could there be to wear one? Well, they were handy when smuggling items such as tea or lace past the strict customs officials of the day!
Another smuggler is committed to the Castle of Norwich; from whence ‘tis added, that the Officers of the Customs there had seized a considerable Quantity of Tea, India Silk Handkerchiefs brought up from Yarmouth by a Woman, who, when taken, had several Pounds of Tea quilted in her Petticoats.
Ipswich Journal, 9th January 1731
Thursday a Gentleman and Lady put up at an inn at Dover, where they had just landed from France; when two Custom-house Officers came in, and insisted upon searching the Lady, on whom they found a quantity of Brussels lace, to the value of near 300l. which was concealed in her quilted petticoat… Some of our Nobility, it seems are suspected and even accused of harbouring smuggled goods. The truth is, so many Nobility and Gentry deal so much in smuggling, that a Correspondent says, he will venture to affirm that one half of the foreign lace that shall appear at Court on the ensuing birth-day, is smuggled.
Stamford Mercury, 4th June 1772
Patchwork and Quilting in Britain, Heather Audin, Bloomsbury Publishing, 2013
The Dreamstress: What to wear under a quilted petticoat, 6th January 2012
FIDM Museum: Quilted petticoat, c.1840-45
Five Colleges and Historic Deerfield Museum Consortium, Collections Database: Object Accession No. HD F.495A
The London Tradesman: Being a Compendious View of All the Trades, Professions, Arts, Both Liberal and Mechanic, Now Practised in the Cities of London and Westminster. Calculated for the Information of Parents, and Instruction of Youth in Their Choice of Business, R. Campbell, Esq, 1747
The development of cosmetics and perfumes have been part of life since time immemorial, but did you know that the original Pears’ soap was a product of the Georgian era? A bar of soap that is still used today by many, had it origins in 18th century London.
Andrew Pears was born on 4th April 1768 the elder son of William, a farmer and Elizabeth Pears at St Ewe, near Mevagissey, Cornwall. He and his two siblings, Edward and Maria appear to have been raised by their father, their mother died when he was around 7 years old.
At the age of 21, Andrew moved to London to serve an apprenticeship as a barber; eventually owning his own business.
On 6th February 1794, he married Elizabeth Spencer at St Marylebone church. Elizabeth became pregnant almost immediately, for, on the 9th of November 1794 their first child, Elizabeth was born, followed two years later by their daughter, Mary Ann.
Andrew was concerned about the use of products on the skin especially lead-based cosmetics and towards the end of 1802 he was advertising a product which was
produced from vegetables only, is allowed by many of the Nobility and Gentry to be the most simple and necessary affiliate to nature ever offered to a discerning public. It ameliorates, beautified and renders the skin perfectly fair and delicately transparent, without the possibility of its use being perceived; and by a trifling attention to its application, the beauties of this composition may be assimilated to every complexion.
Was that the first advert for what has now become known as Pears’ soap?
The Cheltenham Chronicle of 15th August 1811 carried an advert for his transparent product in which he described it as being ‘an object of importance to all who are solicitous to possess the advantage, which Lord Chesterfield denominates ‘a letter of recommendation on all occasions’ and certainly the present and future ages must feel themselves indebted to the inventor of the curious chemical process, by which Soap is separated from all the impure and noxious substance with which, in its crude state, it is invariably united; this refinement is manifested in its Transparency and Fragrance’.
By 1815 his business was booming.
Pears’s Transparent Soap
This soap stands unrivalled as a discovery of the highest importance, for its superior excellent in cleansing the skin – reserving it from the effects of the weather, sea, air etc an improving its appearance. It removes every blemish from its surface, and by due perseverance never fails to render it delicate, clear and beautiful.
Prepared by A. Pears, 55 Well Street, off Oxford Street, London and at 1 shilling and 6 pence, 2 shilling and 6 pence per square. Also, gentlemen’s’ shaving cakes, at 1 shilling and 2 shilling and 6 pence.
He also diversified into
Pears’s Rose Colour or Pink Saucers
This is an entirely new invention for drawing in water colours, painting on velvet, tinging the cheeks, lips etc dyeing silk, lace, muslin, feathers, artificial flowers etc
It is necessary the public should be cautioned with respect to any spurious articles of this nature as the superior excellence of Pears’s Pink Saucers has excited many to imitate what they cannot equal: therefore, it is necessary to observe the name on the back of the saucer, as no other can be depended on to be of superior quality.
Prepared by A. Pears, at his Rouge, Carmine, Transparent Soap and Pink Saucer Manufactory, as above.
In October 1821 tragedy struck and Andrew’s wife Elizabeth, aged 44, died.
Andrew continued with the business and we see him here on the 1841 census with his grandson, Francis, Andrew describing his occupation as perfumer. He continued building up the family business until his death, at the family home, 55 Wells Street, St Marylebone and was buried at All Souls’ Cemetery, Kensal Green on the 4th May 1845.
In his will, he left various legacies, but the bulk of his estate he left to his grandson Francis. Francis was then to marry and in due course, their daughter married a Thomas J Barratt who joined his father in law in the family business at which point began its expansion into the product it has become today.
Johnson’s British Gazette and Sunday Monitor(London, England), Sunday, August 1, 1802
The Repository of Arts, Literature, Commerce, Manufactures, Fashions and Politics 1815
The National Archives; Kew, England; Prerogative Court of Canterbury and Related Probate Jurisdictions: Will Registers; Class: PROB 11; Piece: 2018
The Skin, Baths, Bathing, and Soap. By Francis Pears
Pears’ Soap advert: The Special Commission. Wellcome Library
In our previous blog about the turban that Dido Elizabeth Belle was wearing in the portrait of her with her cousin, the Honourable Lady Elizabeth Murray, we mentioned that the portrait was reputed to have been painted by Johann Zoffany and we promised to give you an update with some new information.
We now know more about the turban, courtesy of one of our lovely readers, Etienne Daly, who has been diligently researching Dido for some considerable years now and believes that the turban that Dido was wearing was not merely a fashion statement but was a gift to her from her father, Sir John Lindsay, so it was not part of a portrait ‘costume’ as had been assumed.
Sir John was invested as a Knight of the Bath in an extravagant ceremony in India on 11th March 1771.
At that time he was presented with ‘a very rich dress of gold brocade, made after the European manner with the star upon the left breast,’ a ring with several titles engraved on it in Persian and a turban, all given by Nawab Muhammed Ali Khan Wallajah.
We think it seems a lovely gesture that she would wear it as a ‘nod’ to her father, in the only known portrait of her.
If you look closely at the turban you will notice that it sparkles; it seems highly likely that it would have been studded with gold and diamonds. You will also note the presence of a black ostrich feather at the back of the turban. Now, this was a fashion statement! It is also worth mentioning that the fashion of the day was to wear rouge and Dido was no exception to this.
Ostrich feathers were all the rage in the mid-1770s and Dido’s uncle, Viscount Stormont bought some back from Paris in 1774. Perhaps he gave one to Dido and following the fashion, she added it to the turban?
Viscount Stormont also presented one to the Duchess of Devonshire on his return, and being the fashion doyenne of the day, she sent the fashion world into a spin by adding it to her hat. This sparked the caricaturists into a frenzy, creating the most elaborate caricatures with the largest of plumes, as you can see above.
It has to be said that the Duchess of Devonshire was mocked mercilessly and according to the British Museum:
Lady Louisa Stuart wrote in her old age of “the outrageous zeal manifested against the first introduction of ostrich feathers as a headdress. This fashion was not attacked as fantastic or unbecoming or inconvenient or expensive, but as seriously wrong or immoral. The unfortunate feathers were insulted mobbed burned almost pelted…”.
When Thomas Hutchinson, Governor of Massachusetts, dined with Lord Mansfield in 1779 he met Dido and recorded the following in his diary:
A black came in after dinner and sat with the ladies, and after coffee, walked with the company in the gardens, one of the young ladies having her arm within the other. She had a very high cap and her wool was much frizzled in her neck, but not enough to answer the large curls now in fashion. She is neither handsome nor genteel – pert enough.
We now move on to look at the artist of the portrait. It has long been reputed to have been painted by Johann (John) Zoffany, but this is now disputed, and to this day it remains ‘artist unknown’.
It is acknowledged that Zoffany went to Europe for several years, finally returning to England at some stage in 1779 the very year that the portrait was reputed to have been painted.
From the account of his life, John Zoffany, R.A. his life and works: 1735-1810, it tells us that he remained in Coblenz well into the summer of 1779. Although not impossible, it certainly would have given him little time to have painted Dido on his return. So, if we discount Zoffany that leaves only a few other possible artists, two of whom we think were feasible. One would be Allan Ramsay’s protégé, David Martin (1737-1797), who was known to the family as he painted the stunning portrait of Lord Mansfield.
The slight difficulty we have with the portrait of Dido and Lady Elizabeth Murray being painted by Martin is that again there is a question as to whether he was still living in England in 1779 or if he had returned to his native Scotland (although he retained his property in Dartford until 1782). Certainly, we know that in 1780 Martin was in Scotland when he was admitted to the Royal Company of Archers. Again, the dates are tight!
If it was definitively painted in 1779, then it is feasible that he could have at least had some input into the work, especially as Ramsay had severely injured his hand a few years previously which stopped him taking on any major projects.
The other difficulty we have with Martin is that Etienne has checked Lord Mansfield’s accounts. These proved inconclusive.
So, that leaves only the principal painter to the King (George III), Allan Ramsay, and although we don’t have the expertise to validate this, with the research we have done it would appear far more likely that it was painted by him. Why? Well, there are several reasons to suppose this.
Firstly, we understand that the portrait was commissioned by Lord Mansfield, but there is no record in his accounts of him paying for any such portraiture.
Secondly, given the socially precarious position Dido held in Georgian society, then why not ‘keep it in the family’? Especially when you have an extremely distinguished portrait artist as an uncle to call upon, in the guise of none other than the Scottish portrait painter, Allan Ramsay who was married to Margaret Lindsay, the sister of Sir John Lindsay.
Thirdly, despite an earlier family ‘falling out’ over Ramsay being not regarded as a suitable match for Sir John’s sister, Margaret, we know that the family had been reconciled and Ramsay was, at this time, close to Dido’s extended family. Amongst his paintings, there was one, if not two portraits of Sir John Lindsay himself, so again, it would seem natural for him to paint his illegitimate daughter. Ramsay also named Lord Mansfield and Sir John Lindsay in his will, another sign of the close familial ties.
Finally, the posing of the subjects in the painting appears very relaxed and informal as if being painted by someone the girls knew well and were comfortable with.
Hopefully one day someone will be able to validate the artist and settle that unanswered question once and for all, perhaps one for the BBC’s Fake or Fortune to investigate!
To see the portrait of Dido and Lady Elizabeth in situ, it would be well worth a visit to Scone Palace, Perth, Scotland or to the home, where she spent many of her years, Kenwood House (Caenwood as it was formerly known as), Hampstead.
During our research into the life of Dido, we have also discovered NEW information about Sir John Lindsay’s other illegitimate children and NEW information about what became of Dido and her husband John Davinière. To find out more follow the highlighted links.
Following the BBC’s programme Fake or Fortune, you might be interested to read our thoughts on the findings.
The History of the Royal Company of Archers: The Queen’s Bodyguard for Scotland by Sir James Balfour Paul
General Evening Post, September 14, 1771 – September 17, 1771
English Common Law in the Age of Mansfield, by James Oldham
Ok, we’ve got you interested now, we had to look up the word! The word Aesculapius being the Latin name for a god of medicine. Whilst researching asses’ milk we came across a newspaper with that title as its heading.
The story was about a gentleman who took regular exercise on horseback and whose chief drink was asses’ milk. He was asked by an invalid friend, to whom a doctor was daily administering pills and potions, how he managed to keep in such excellent health. The gentleman’s reply was ‘my physician is a horse and my apothecary an ass’.
Whilst the poor ass was mocked by the public during the Georgian era for its stupidity and with comparison made to the Prince Regent, its milk was proving to be very beneficial.
At a time when more and more of us are becoming interested in nutrition and looking for more ‘superfoods’, it’s good to know that the Georgians were no different in their pursuit of a long and healthy life. Asses’ milk was believed to have a beneficial effect on the body, either to bathe in (Cleopatra style) or to drink. Napoleon’s sister is also reported to have used asses’ milk for her skin’s health care.
It was highly recommended for gout, scurvy, coughs, colds and asthma, however, even then people were aware of the possibility of intolerance, with people raising the issue of ‘lactose intolerance’ even then, although the term itself wasn’t used and that it might cause stomach problems.
One of the main cures for venereal disease at that time was mercury, but who knew – asses’ milk could relieve the side effects of mercury! It was even recommended for women who were in pain after childbirth. For babies, asses’ milk was recommended if they suffered from wind or diarrhoea. It was even used to bathe in to relieve the pain of haemorrhoids too.
According to Oracle Bell’s New World of 1789, asses’ milk mixed with spa water was exceptionally beneficial.
Asses’ milk largely went out of fashion in the late 1790s when Sir John Hill’s Pectoral Balsam of Honey replaced it as a ‘cure for all ills’, as, whilst it looked like asses milk it was more palatable, and people were better able to tolerate it.
For those familiar with Teresa Cornleys, ‘the hostess with the mostest’, ultimately she fell out of favour with the great and the good and ended up in prison On her release, she became known as Mrs Smith seller of asses’ milk, in Knightsbridge. Even during this period of her life, she tried to restore her life to its former glory by hosting breakfasts for the people of fashion.
In 1799, according to Courier and Evening Gazette:
A Parisian Journal says –
We are assured that a remedy had been discovered for disorders of the breast. His remedy is found at St. Domingo, where it is called the gum of the Bois de Cochon. It is produced from a tree, well known in the ci-devant Spanish part of the island. This gum, reduced to oil, and a coffee cup full taken in a basin of asses’ milk, morning and evening, produces a radical cure, provided the disorder is only at its second stage or even at the third. It procures considerable relief. It is for the faculty to judge of this receipt.
The St James’s Chronicle of June 1790 reported that the Queen of Hungary’s health was deteriorating since she arrived in Vienna, so much so that the doctors thought it necessary for her to drink asses’ milk.
The Royal Ass, 1780. Yale Centre for British Art
Observations on the theory and cure of venereal disease by John Andree. 1779
An essay concerning the nature of ailments and the choice of them, according to the different constitutions of human bodies by John Arbuthnot. 1731
An essay on the diseases most fatal to infants by George Armstrong. 1767
Fashions are continually changing but briefly, during the 1770s and early 1780s, women wore the most amazing items known as false rumps. They were large pieces of cork worn in ‘pockets’ under the straps of their stays, which enhanced the lady’s posterior and made her waist look smaller and more delicate. Think Kim Kardashian: does she know that she would have been the ultimate late eighteenth-century fashion icon, we wonder? False rumps were mocked mercilessly by the press and in satirical caricatures (the old-fashioned way of breaking the internet!), and there was even a suggestion that they should be taxed to raise money for the government.
Surely, they can’t have been comfortable but, on at least one occasion, the wearing of a cork rump acted as a life preserver (Norfolk Chronicle04 July 1778).
On Sunday evening a very ludicrous accident happened at Henley upon Thames. A large party from town went after tea to enjoy the coolness of the evening on the banks of the river. Youth and spirits hurried them into such sallies of vivacity, that in running with too much precipitation, a lady’s foot tripped and she fell into the Thames. The consternation was general; but somehow everyone was surprised to see her swim like a fishing float, half immersed, and half above the water. It seems that the lady had been furnished with an immoderate sized cork rump, which buoyed her up so completely that she looked like Venus rising from the water. She was towed to shore by a gentleman’s cane without the least injury but wet petticoats.
So, fashion it seems did have its uses.
Your fake derriere was also a great place to hide contraband according to a report from Paris:
The present fashionable protuberances, so much in vogue among the females, have by the adroitness of two dressy fair ones of this capital, been turned to a profitable instead of expensive fashion and gave rise to a laughable adventure: the females in question had contrived to fill bladders with brandy, which they substituted for cork, wool wire etc and thus equipped in the most outré prominence of the mode, they passed several times daily unsuspected through the gates of Paris, smuggling no inconsiderable quantity of brandy. The frequency of their excursions caused suspicion among the officers at the gates, who attempted to touch their garments, but this was resisted by the fair ones with every appearance of affected modesty. However, one of the officers, having sufficient information of what was going on determined to detect them, and providing himself with a sharp pointed instrument, he slyly pierced what nowadays is usually made from cork, when lo! A fountain of brandy played from the orifice to the great diversion of the spectators, and to no small confusion of the fair one. The result was rather serious, as they were both confined; and there are now actually females at the gates, whose business it is as decently as possible, to examine into the protuberances of such ladies as appear to be in outré of the present fashion. What a pity, as there are so few means for females to gain a decent living, that they should not be permitted to dress to advantage when fashion will admit of it.
When a riot broke out in Covent Garden during the hustings for the election of 1784, it was reported that one lady’s cork rump was shot off and an elderly woman, who was not so fashion forward and whose behind was not so well padded, received a bullet in her… ahem, well! We’re sure you can guess!
As a fashion accessory, the cork rump was short lived and by the end of the 1780s ‘bum-less beauties’ became all the rage.
Many of us have at least one apron, how often it’s worn will vary greatly. Today they are usually colourful with motifs, some plastic, some cotton. Protection for clothing has been used for centuries so we thought we would take a look at some other uses for the humble apron back in the Georgian Era.
We were quite surprised to see just how many accounts there were of aprons being stolen, for example, a report in The News of January 23rd, 1738 when Elizabeth Swann was committed to gaol for stealing a basket and an apron. Gruesome accounts sadly exist where an apron was used to stifle the screams when a woman was being raped. Others told of how aprons caught fire with disastrous consequences or to help extinguish a fire, but we thought we would look at some more unusual ones.
This is a very sad account of its use. In June of 1726, a brazier’s apprentice near Smithfield and a fellow servant had an argument. In a fit of passion, the female servant told the young apprentice to ‘go hang himself’. He took her harsh words quite literally and was found dead with her apron strings tied to his bedstead.
In September 1738, a Barbara Balingal stood bare-headed at the cross between the hours of 11 and 12, with two dozen herrings put about her neck by the executioner (no explanation given as to why, unfortunately!) and the following label on her apron
‘I Barbara Balingal stand here for cheating and beating the servants of the neighbourhood’
Afterwards, Barbara was remanded to prison until she paid the complainer ten shillings sterling damages.
Around mid-October 1750 a woman was found dead in one of the new houses in Parliament Street, Westminster; her apron was full of shavings and sticks and it is supposed that whilst gathering them she fell, which occasioned her death.
One common theme appears is that the type of apron worn seems to denote the occupation, this theme recurs when identifying dead bodies ‘he was wearing a leather apron’, the conclusion, in this case, being that he must have been a carpenter.
Aprons were also symbolic as can be seen below by the Freemason wearing an apron as part of his regalia of office, the different aprons denoting their position within the brotherhood.
We don’t think we’ve ever come across an article like before. It relates to a dinner given by King George II in 1730 for an Indian king, a prince and 5 chiefs of his court. When introduced to the king at Windsor, the Indian king wore a scarlet jacket, but all the rest of the entourage were naked, except for an apron about their middles and a horse-tail hung down behind, their faces and shoulders were painted and spotted with red, blue and green. They had bows in their hands and painted feathers on their heads. Whatever must the monarch have thought?
We end with a story from the newspapers of January 1790 and a lovely scene of domesticity in the royal household. The Princess Royal surprised her royal mother with a present, which, though of no great value in itself, was rendered highly pleasing to her Majesty, by the manner in which it was made. Her Royal Highness had procured some beautiful muslin, which she got made up into four aprons, three of which were for herself, and for the Princesses Augusta and Elizabeth. The fourth was for her majesty. The last had a much richer trimming than the other three. It was bound with ribband and trimmed with a broad and beautiful blond lace, to which was added a rich fringe. When the Queen was going to sit down to breakfast, the Princess Royal presented her with the apron and begged her Majesty would do her the pleasure of wearing it. The Queen, charmed both with the apron and with the attention of her lovely daughter immediately put it on, and said that in her life that she had never worn an apron which she prized so highly.
It’s been a while since we wrote a fashion post, so to make up for that we’re going to take a look at a piece of headgear – the turban, a piece of headwear that according to Vogue is making a comeback for this Spring and Summer.
We were inspired to write this post having watched Amber Butchart’s fascinating programme on BBC4, ‘A Stitch In Time’, during which she looked at the outfit worn by Miss Dido Elizabeth Belle. Nina Mikhaila, historical costumier and her team recreated the outfit including the turban, which proved to be quite a challenge, trying to find the correct fabric and to recreate the style itself.
Amber speculated that the turban was perhaps worn as part of a fancy-dress costume and made Dido appear even more exotic; whilst in part she is correct, there is something a little more significant about the origin of Dido’s turban which Amber wasn’t aware of at the time making the programme (she does now, however, but we can’t spill the beans on that one yet, so it will be a story for another time!). To find out more see our follow up blog – Art Detectives: a new perspective on the portrait of Dido Elizabeth Belle
The portrait of Dido is so unusual in so much as that Dido was not a servant but the daughter of Sir John Lindsay. The painting depicts her with her cousin Miss Elizabeth Murray was reputed to have been painted by Zoffany c.1778. Whilst the turban had been worn by men in the UK during the earlier parts of the eighteenth-century, along with oriental-inspired banyans or wrapping gowns, it was not yet a common sight as a fashion accessory for women. There were, as always, a few exceptions, with the likes of Margaret Kemble Gage, sporting a turban in this portrait by John Singleton Copley c.1771, but examples like this were unusual.
Turbans didn’t take centre stage until towards the end of the century as wigs and ‘high hair’ had been the predominant fashion statement – a turban plonked on top of one of those wigs wouldn’t really have worked!
The turban presented an image of Turkey and the exotic east; it was something worn at a fancy-dress ball rather than everyday wear, as you can see from this extract in the Stamford Mercury of 1773 which was attended by one of Lord Mansfield’s nieces.
Lord Chief Baron’s daughters, Miss Nancy a Sultana, with a turban quite brilliant with a profusion of diamonds and Miss Betsey, a country girl selling eggs and the other two also in pretty attire. Hon. Miss Kitty MacKenzie, sister to the Earl of Seaforth, a milkmaid; Miss Fletcher, a Sultana; Miss Lindsay, niece to Lord Mansfield, a shepherdess.
Just a few years later, however, an advert in the Ipswich Journal September 1778, implied that the turban was the latest fashion statement when attending a ball and was linked to the artist, Johann Zoffany.
Loiacon, Ladies Hair Dresser, begs leave to acquaint his customers and those ladies that will honour him with their commands, that he has with him an assortment of powders and pomatums, at 15 shillings each, French powder at 1 shilling. During the fair, he intends to dress ladies’ hair on a ball day, at 2 shilling and 6 pence. The Zoffany with Rubin, as the newest fashion, like a turban (he likewise differs various ways in dress or undress) which appear neater than any cap whatever.
We move on to January 1787 when the turban was very much the headgear to be seen wearing for balls as we found at this account.
The ball on Thursday night, in honour of her Majesty’s birthday, fell nothing short of general expectation. The number and brilliancy of the company attending having never been equalled in this country upon any similar occasion. The Ladies were dressed with great neatness and elegance. Many of the Ladies of fashion in different coloured satins, ornamented with festoons of flowers, crepe, foil etc. A very prevailing headdress was the turban cap, decorated with feathers, cut steel, pearls and diamonds.
Over in Paris by 1790, the turban was all the rage:
The caterers of fashion in Paris, have availed themselves of the late grand spectacle at the Champs de Mars by introducing a new head-dress for the ladies, called the ‘Confederation Turban’ and the volatile beaux of fashion have just introduced the national colours in their striped silk stockings, which are termed the ‘National Gaitars’.
In 1795 newspapers offered helpful, detailed guides as to the correct items of fashion to be worn and for what occasion, just so that you didn’t get it wrong.
An Evening Dress
The hair dressed in light curls and ringlets, Turban of light blue crepe; bandeau of gold foil, set with diamonds and pearls; the hair turned up, mixed with the turban, and the ends returned in ringlets. Jacket and petticoat, of muslin; four plaits across the petticoat; the jacket turned on the back with lace; Sash of blue satin ribband; three strings of pearls round the neck; pearly ear-rings; blue satin shoes; white gloves; Swandown muff.
At the turn of the century, we find that turbans are no longer the domain of evening dress but are now entering everyday wear from around 1802 onwards.
We finish with this self-portrait of the artist Marie-Elizabeth-Louise Vigée Le Brun who also followed the turban fashion as we see in this self-portrait of 1800.
To discover more, we recommend the book by Paula Byrne, Belle: The True Story of Dido Elizabeth Belle.
Have you ever wanted to dress like a gorgeous Georgian? Well, now help is at hand in the form of the The American Duchess Guide to 18th Century Dressmaking by Lauren Stowell and Abby Cox. It is released here in the UK on 13th December 2017, just in time for Christmas.
Lauren and Abby are owners of the historical footwear online store, ‘American Duchess’ who ship worldwide and sell the most amazing shoes. They have now used their research and experience to complete your outfit and enable you to make the most amazing dresses (and accessories) to go with those fantastic shoes.
Divided into four chapters, this book takes you step-by-step through making four gowns representing four different eras of the eighteenth-century plus all the accessories you could need to go with them. If, like us, your dressmaking skills are a little rusty or even rudimentary, don’t be put off. The book is written in a friendly style with basic details such as the different types of stitches covered as well as more detailed instructions, and all with a multitude of helpful diagrams and images so it doesn’t seem as daunting as you’d think.
And, even for a non-sewer, the book is still an entertaining and informative read if you are interested in the period. It’s interspersed with sumptuous pictures and lots of amusing asides (for instance, discover why one of Madame Pompadour’s maids inspired the name for the new short sacque gown being worn by her mistress, ‘pet en l’air’).
The book begins with a simple English gown from the 1740s complete with neckerchief, apron, mitts and hat. Then we go onto a much more extravagant ruffled and flounced dress, a sacque gown dating from the 1760s-1770s inspired by Francis Cote’s A Portrait of a Lady, plus underpinnings and accessories.
An Italian gown in printed cotton which follows the style of the 1770s-1790s and accommodates a ‘false rump’ is the third project. Again, you are given instructions for everything from the false rump to a silk covered ‘brain hat’, described as ‘fluffy, puffy and never stuffy’.
The last gown to be featured is the 1790s round gown, a much different silhouette from the preceding dresses.
To build confidence, we’d recommend starting with some of the simpler projects: now the weather has turned cold we’re looking with extreme interest at the 1790s giant (faux) fur muff… that’s a fashion that needs to be brought back, right?
This is a book that will be a permanent fixture on our bookshelf. It is a brilliant reference book on the fashions of the eighteenth-century and the history of dressmaking of the period and, as such, invaluable for anyone who writes about the era and wants to understand more about the clothes women wore. And, if you are an eighteenth-century re-enactor or lucky enough to be attending a Georgian dinner, ball or festival where it is requisite to look the part, then this wonderful guide will ensure that you stand out from the crowd in the latest fashions.
Now, where are our needles? That fur muff is not going to make itself and it’s beginning to snow outside!
We received a copy of this book in return for an unbiased review on our blog.
As we’re perhaps thinking about summer holidays and what to wear, there’s no better time to take a look at 18th century fashions and today we’re going to take a brief look at a colour to reflect summer – orange.
Whilst the 18th century colour palette didn’t quite match some of the colours we have today, women did like to wear strong, vibrant colours as we’ve already seen in the post – Fashionable Blues of the 18th Century.
One of the more vibrant fashion colours of the Georgian era was orange as we can see in the following paintings.
Reds, golds and oranges were all the rage, but achieving such colours for silk was complex and time-consuming as we can see here from ‘The laboratory, or school of arts in which are faithfully exhibited and fully explain’d, Godfrey Smith 1740′.
To dye silk and orange colour
After you have cleaned your kettle well, fill it with clean rain-water, and take to each pound of silk four ounces of pot ashes, and four ounces of orlean, sift it through a sieve into the kettle; when it is well melted, and you have taken care not to let any of those ingredients stick about the kettle, then put your silk, which before you have prepared and allum’d as has been directed; turn it round on the winch and let it boil up, then take and wring it out, beat it and rinse it; then prepare another kettle, and take to each pound of silk twelve ounces of gallnuts, let the gall nuts boil for two hours, then cool for the same space of time; after which put in the silk for three or four hours, then wring it out, rinse, beat and dry it.
Another Orange Colour
Soak the white silk in allum (alum) water like as you do in dying of yellow; then take two ounces of orleans yellow, put it overnight in water together with one ounce of post ashes: boil it up, add to it, after it has boil’d half an hour, once ounce of powdered cuccumi, stir it with a stick, and after a little while put your allum’d silk into it for two or three hours, according to what height you would have your colour, then rinse it out in clear soap-suds, til it looks clear, afterwards clear it in fair water and dress it according to art.
The Fashion 200 years ago
By the time we reached 1817, fashion had changed completely from those raunchy earlier Georgians to the more demure look of the those ladies of the Regency Era and more pastel shades, as we can see in Ackermann’s Repository which provided guidance as to what the well-dressed woman should be wearing in the Summer of 1817.
We simply had to finish this post with a pair of chopines from the late seventeenth- to early eighteenth-century – we know they’re not quite orange – more of a salmon pink, but they were far too impressive to not include. Walking in those must have been a nightmare, especially with their long gowns, but we would love to give it a go.
Angelica Kauffmann (1741-1807), RA, by Daniel Gardener (1750-1805), Government Art Collection
Yes, this is folklore, unless anyone can confirm otherwise, and no, we are not talking about the small furry creature kind of moles! These are often referred to as birth marks or beauty marks and judging back the lack of images we have been able to find depicting people with moles, it seems likely that the artists of the day possibly ignored these.
According to ‘Every lady’s own fortune-teller, or an infallible guide to the hidden decrees of fate, being a new & regular system for foretelling future events’ which was published towards the end of the 1700s, experience shows that the presence of moles can provide clues as to one’s future. So do let us know if you have a mole and if the statement pertaining to it is true – we would love to know.
First it is necessary to know the size of the mole, its colour, whether it is perfectly round, oblong or angular because each of those will add to, or diminish the force of the indication. The larger the mole, the great will be the propensity or adversity of the person; the smaller the mole, the less will be his good or bad luck.
If the mole is round, it forebodes good; if oblong, a moderate share of fortunate events; if angular, it indicates a mixture of good and evil.
The deeper its colour, the more it announces favour or disgrace; the lighter the less of either.
If it is very hairy, much misfortune is to be expected, but if few long hairs grow upon it, it denotes that your undertakings will be prosperous.
We will further remark only, that moles of the middling and common size and colour are those we speak; the rest may be gathered from what we have said above; but as it may frequently happen that modesty will sometimes hinder persons from showing their moles, you must depend upon their own representation of the for your opinion.
A mole that stands on the right side of the forehead or right temple, signifies that the person will arrive to sudden wealth and honour.
On the right eyebrow, announces speedy marriage, and that the person to whom you will be married will possess many amiable qualities and a good fortune. On the left of either of those three places, announces unexpected disappointment in your most sanguine wishes.
A mole on the outside corner of either eye, denotes the person to be of a steady, sober and sedate disposition; but will be liable to a violent death.
A mole on either cheek signifies that the person never shall rise above mediocrity in the point of fortune, though at the same time he never will sink to real poverty.
A mole on the nose, shows that the person will have good luck in most of his or her undertakings.
A mole on the lip, either upper or lower proves the person to be fond of delicate things, and very much given to the pleasures of love, in which he or she will commonly be successful.
A mole on the chin, shows that the person will be attended with great propensity and be highly esteemed.
A mole of the side of the neck show that the person will narrowly escape suffocation, but afterwards rise to great consideration by an unexpected legacy or inheritance.
A mole on the throat denotes that the person shall become rich by marriage.
A mole on the right breast, declares the person to be exposed to a sudden reverse of comfort to distress, by unavoidable accidents; most of his children will be girls. A mole on the left breast, signifies success in undertakings, an amorous disposition and that most of his children will be boys. Under the left breast over the heart shows that a man will be of a warm disposition, unsettled in mind, fond of ramblings, and light in his conduct; in a woman, it shows sincerity in love, quick conception and easy travail in childbirth.
A mole of the belly denotes the person to be addicted to sloth and gluttony; selfish in almost all articles and seldom inclined to be nice or careful in point of dress.
A mole on either hip shows that the person will have many children and that such of them a survive will be healthy, lusty and patient of hardships.
A mole of the right thigh shows that the person will become rich and have good luck in marriage. On the left, denotes that the person suffers much by poverty and want of friends.
A mole on the right knee, signifies that the person will be fortunate in the choice of a partner for life and meet with few disappointments in the world. One on the left knee portends that the person will be rash, inconsiderate and hasty, but modest in cool blood, honest and inclined to good behaviour in every sense of the word.
A mole on either ankle denotes a man to be inclined to effeminacy and elegance of dress: a woman to be courageous, active and industrious.
A mole on either foot forebodes sudden illness or unexpected misfortune.
A mole on the right shoulder signifies prudence, discretion and wisdom. On the left, declares a testy contention and ungovernable spirit.
A mole on the right arm denotes vigour and undaunted courage; on the left resolution in battle.
A mole near either elbow denotes restlessness, a roving and unsteady temper, also a discontentedness with those the person is obliged to live constantly with.
A mole between the elbow and the wrist promises the person prosperity, but not until he has undergone many hardships.
A mole on the finger or between it and the ends of the fingers, signifies industry, fidelity and conjugal affection.
A mole on any part of the shoulders to the loins signifies imperceptible decline and gradual decay, whether of health or wealth.
A mole on the loins shows vigour, especially in the duties of love.
A Fortune-Teller, Joshua Reynolds, Courtesy of English Heritage, Kenwood
No-one seems quite sure how the colour blue became associated with the feeling of sadness, some say its origins lay back in Greek mythology whilst others say it has links to the devil. Whatever the true origin, how could anyone possibly feel blue wearing these sumptuous gowns that we’re going to take a look at?
So many shades of blue exist, from the palest baby blue to darkest navy blue and everything in-between and the colour was clearly very popular during the Georgian era. Given the amazing array of paintings sadly we only have space to share few with you, but we do hope you enjoy them.
An interesting point worth noting about these paintings is that to create the impression of fabric required a very specific skill and it seems, not a skill that some of the most famous artists had, so they employed ‘drapery painters’ to paint the more intricate and detailed aspects of fabrics, to ensure that they looked as natural as possible. One of these, who was regarded as being amongst the best was Joseph Van Aken. Another was Peter Toms who was one of the founding members of the Royal Academy.
Mr James Peters was Kneller’s drapery painter so it seems highly likely that he painted this stunning blue dress.
We came across this description in The London Tradesman, of exactly what a drapery painter’s role was so thought you might find it interesting.
The drapery painter is but the lowest degree of a liberal painter; he is employed in dressing the figures, after the painter has finished the face, given the figure its proper attitude and drawn the outlines of the dress or drapery.
A portrait painter who is well employed, has not time to cloath his figures, and therefore employs a drapery painter to finish that part of the work.
This workman must have a tolerable notion of painting in general; but his chief skill consists in his knowledge of colours and the mixing of them, to produce proper shades; for the painter generally draws the outline and leave him to fill up the empty space with proper colours.
The drapery painters are generally employed in signpost drawing, and other sorts of painting that do not require a masterly hand: they have commonly but a dull genius and a mere mechanical head: however, those who are eminent in their way and in the employ of a noted master make very handsome bread; they may sometimes earn a guinea a day, and must be mere bunglers if they cannot make half a guinea.
Their education may be as low as you please; but as in all other branches that handle the pencil, they ought to be early acquainted with the use of it: the sooner they are bound apprentices the greater proficiency they may be expected to make. A sober disposition and a sound constitution are absolutely requisite.
And our final selection:
Following a great deal of discussion amongst our readers, we thought we would add some of the earliest references to a few shades of blue that we have come across in the newspapers.
Mr. Sainsbury’s liveries were a deep navy blue, with silver lace and epulets…
Morning Post and Daily Advertiser, 7 October 1780
A slight variation on the term appeared in The London Chronicle, 16-18 August 1781.
His Majesty and the Prince of Wales, with Sir Hugh Palliser and Lord Sandwich, were dressed in a naval blue, with narrow gold lace.
The Parisian fashion report for June 1779 confirms for us the existence of the colour turquoise in clothing.
CHEMISE A LA CIRCE
The waist is marked with three gathers, surmounted with an Algerine girdle. The front is in Turkish style, and the body is ornamented from top to bottom. It has a very coquettish appearance. The materials generally used for these dresses are Le Pekin’ des trois raisons, summer taffetas, Chinese corisandre, striped turquoise, white crape, muslin, embroidered, worked and plain. Linen, Florence, plain, painted. &c.
Evening Mail, 26-28 June 1799
A Grant has pass’d the Great Seal unto George Spence of Southwark, Dyer; Charles Lathbury of London, Warehouseman; and John Christopher Wagnelin of London, Merchant; of their new-invented Art of Dying Green and Blue Saxon Colours, to them and their Heirs for 14 Years.
General Evening Post, 13-16 August 1748
It is said to have been created by millers in Rode, Somerset, a consortium of which won a competition to make a dress for Queen Charlotte, consort of King George III. The article does not, however, give a specific date for this, but we did manage to find this article below confirming the existence of such a colour by 1782.
NEW-INVENTED PATENT SPRING HATS, and SCOTCH BONNETS.
HENRY HARDY, at the King’s-Arms, No. 7, in the Old Bailey, respectfully acquaints the Public, that he has, with much pains, labor, and expence, invented a neat, light, and elegant covering for Ladies Hats and Scotch Bonnets… and adapted to the colours which are at present much the mode: among other colours are the royal blue, the green, pink, the Emperor’s eye, straw, &c…
Morning Herald and Daily Advertiser, 23 April 1782.
Miss Taylor by Joseph Highmore (1692-1780) Courtesy of Manchester Art Gallery
As well as being essential items of clothing to help people stay warm on those cold winter nights and to cover their modesty, people clothed only in their night apparel provided the caricaturists of the day with a plentiful supply of material, so we thought we would take a quick, lighthearted look at a few of these to cheer up a cold winter’s day.
A lean old woman in night-cap and shift sits in an arm-chair pouncing on an insect on her upraised knee.
People wearing just their nightwear was yet another way of mocking the ‘great and the good’ of the Georgian Era, so here we go with just a small sample of the amusing caricatures of the day.
Here we have the Duke of York and his mistress Mrs Clarke, neither bearing any resemblance to the actual people however, as you can see from the painting of Mary Anne below.
Next we have a satire on Napoleon in 1815, as he sits at a table wearing a night-cap writing his will, with English soldiers on guard, not a very flattering image!
Here we have a print by Rowlandson depicting both George III and the future George IV, always a character ripe for mockery.
This one was produced around the time of the marriage of the future George IV to Caroline of Brunswick; Prinny in his very short night shirt and nightcap looking decidedly worried and Princess Caroline smiling! This was not going to end well, as history teaches us!
And finally, we move from the nobility to political mockery with a terrified Charles James Fox and his wife in bed, Napoleon standing over them and William Pitt to the left.
We thought it was about time for another fashion post so today we’re focusing on the pink fashions of the Georgian Era – we hope you’ll enjoy.
During the 1700s pastel colours were all the rage across Europe. Madame de Pompadour (below), was at the forefront of fashion, loved the colour pink and whatever she wore, others were bound to follow.
Pink at that time was regarded as sexy, although the perception of it changed towards the end of the 1700s after which time it became the colour of innocence.
Until around the middle of the nineteenth-century, both girls and boys wore pink, so our stereotypes of girls in pink and boys in blue to differentiate gender is a far more recent concept.
The fashion for wearing pink was in no way simply the domain of women. Men were certainly not afraid to be seen wearing this vivid shade of pink, they would without a doubt have stood out in a crowd wearing this outfit.
Clearly, French author, Jacques Cazotte was very comfortable in his pink attire.
As you can see, the draped fabric behind such a regal portrait as that by Allan Ramsay of King George III was pink.
To accessorise, pink shoes were very much in fashion as we show here
And of course, no outfit would be complete without an accompanying fan.
The newspapers were always ready to provide descriptions of the attire worn by the ‘great and the good‘ of the day as we can see from these excerpts.
Hon. J. T Townshend
A corbeau colour striped and pink spotted velvet coat and breeches, and white satin waistcoat, richly embroidered in silver spangles, stones and coloured silks, pink satin and net-work border, lined with pink satin; very elegant and rich.
(The World, 19 January 1793)
Below we have a description of the pink dress worn by Princess Augusta, courtesy of The Oracle and Public Advertiser, April 18, 1795.
PRINCESS AUGUSTA – A Green and silver embroidery, festooned with pink satin, and elegantly adorned with silver flowers.
We finish this post with a modern catwalk image which shows that the style and the colour have remained very much in vogue if somewhat modernised for the 21st century!
The December 1815 issue of Rudolph Ackermann’s Repository of arts, literature, commerce, manufactures, fashions and politics featured a design for an evening dress and a walking dress, both the creation of Mrs Bean, a milliner and dressmaker of Albemarle Street, Piccadilly.
FASHIONS FOR DECEMBER, 1815
A crimson satin slip, underneath a frock of three-quarters length made of the silver-striped French gauze; the slip ornamented at the feet with clusters of flowers, and a narrow border of white satin edged with crimson ribbon: the frock has a border of white satin, edged to correspond, and is drawn up in the Eastern style, confined by a cluster of flowers. The body of the dress has open fronts, with a stomacher, which are severally trimmed en suite: short open sleeve, to correspond with a quilling of tull around the arm. Head-dress à la Chinoise, composed of pearl; the hair braided, and ornamented with a wreath of flowers. Ear-rings and drops, pearl; necklace, the French negligé. Gloves, French kid, worn below the elbow, and trimmed with a quilling of tull. Sandals, white kid.
Pelisse of walking length, composed of blue twilled sarsnet, fastened down the front with large bows of white satin ribbon, and ornamented at the feet with a border of leaves formed of the same sarsnet, edged with white satin: the bottom of the pelisse, trimmed with white satin, is drawn into small festoons; sleeve ornamented at the shoulder and the hand to correspond; a French embroidered ruff. A French hat composed of the blue twilled sarsnet, trimmed with white satin edged with blue, and decorated with a large plume of ostrich feathers. An Indian shawl of crimson silk, richly embroidered in shaded silks. The pocket-handkerchief French cambric, embroidered at the corners. Shoes, blue morocco, tied with bows high upon the instep. Stockings with embroidered clocks. Gloves, York tan.
The silver-striped French gauze is a novel and elegant article, which, fashioned by the ever varying and approved taste of Mrs. Bean, requires to be viewed, before a just idea can be received of its fascinating effect: it is allowed to be the lightest and most splendid costume ever yet presented by the amateur to the votaries of fashion.
Mrs Charlotte Bean, the wife of Thomas Bean, was a milliner and dressmaker located at 32 Albemarle Street just off Piccadilly. Her designs were frequently featured in Rudolph Ackermann’s Repository of arts, literature, commerce, manufactures, fashions and politics, and she was a court dressmaker to ‘Her Royal Highness, The Duchess of Kent and also the Princess Charlotte of Saxe Coburg by special appointment’.
Indeed, Mrs Bean made twenty-six dresses and pelisses for Princess Charlotte’s wedding trousseau in 1816. We list a few of them here.
A Prussian blue and white striped satin dress, with a beautiful garniture; above which is a rich broad blond lace, tastefully looped up in the form of shells.
A full dress over a rich white satin, ornamented with silver, the garniture silver leaves intermixed with full puffings of tulle; this forms at the bottom a tasteful scallop, above which are large bunches of silver double lilacs, the sleeves striped with silver, and finished at the top with a narrow wreath of corresponding flowers.
A train dress of net, richly embroidered with a beautiful border of roses and buds a quarter and a half deep round the train, the embroidery coming up to meet the waist; body and sleeves richly worked to correspond; the whole dress lined with rich white satin.
A beautiful primrose silk high morning dress, trimmed and worked in a most unique style of elegance.
An elegant violet and white striped satin pelisse, lined with white satin, trimmed with leaves of violet, and white blond cuffs and collar; bonnet to match, with a beautiful plume of white feather.
Very beautiful clear India muslin dress, most elegantly worked in lace work and satin stitch, forming bunches of wheat ears and corn flowers; at the bottom a waved border of the same, finished with very full rows of elegant English lace; short sleeves, composed of rows of satin, and lace body to correspond, made low to meet the waist, with a satin slip, which forms a very elegant dress.
A very rich evening primrose satin dress, with a deep flounce of blond lace, of a very beautiful tulip pattern, above which is a broad embroidery of pearls, in grapes and vine leaves; the top and sleeves ornamented with pearls to correspond.
Possibly Anne, the wife of Sir William Abdy, Baronet, had been one of Mrs Bean’s best customers? Abdy was reputed to be the richest commoner in the land and his beautiful wife would have ensured that she was dressed in the latest fashions. However, if Anne perused the December 1815 issue of Ackermann’s Repository, she would have known that the gowns pictured were now beyond her means. She had eloped from her home on Hill Street, Berkeley Square just months earlier, stepping into a gig with her (somewhat impoverished) lover, Lord Charles Bentinck, and into a new life. By the end of the year she was living with him, pregnant with his child, and awaiting the outcome of the Criminal Conversation case which had been brought by her husband and which had commenced on the 1st December 1815.
Her fateful decision to elope was to have far reaching consequences, as we detail in our latest book, A Right Royal Scandal: Two Marriages That Changed History, affecting people as far away on the social scale as the daughter of a Romany gypsy and the British royal family themselves.
Hone’s authentic account of the Royal Marriage, 1816
If you have already read An Infamous Mistress: The Life, Loves and Family of the Celebrated Grace Dalrymple Elliott, then A Right Royal Scandal forms a sequel to Grace’s story, continuing the life of her granddaughter through to the publication of Grace’s memoirs (set during the French Revolution), and beyond and the second family of Grace’s son-in-law, Lord Charles Bentinck. But A Right Royal Scandal can also be read as a stand-alone book. It is available now in the UK (and to pre-order in the US and elsewhere) from our publisher Pen and Sword, Amazon and all good bookshops.
(Readers outside the UK might find Book Depository useful, as they ship free worldwide and have competitive prices.)
As we haven’t written any fashion related posts for a while we thought it might be interesting to look at both clothing and paintings showing the vast array of colours worn in Georgian fashion, but, as our regular readers will be aware we got side-tracked when we realised that there were relatively few outfits and paintings of people wearing the colour green and we wondered why, so began to investigate!
We wondered whether it simply wasn’t a fashionable colour amongst the Georgians, but then, having looked at the way in which the colour is produced we soon realised that one possible explanation could be due to the process and the elements involved, thereby making the cost of it more expensive than to produce other dyes, in turn making it only available to the wealthy. There also appear to have been issues with achieving a bright and even colour. Green also seemed virtually impossible to make colourfast – green skin would not have been a good look, as one of us who shall remain nameless knows all too well, having bought a beautiful long, vibrant green skirt to wear on the beach only to find that for some strange reason it wasn’t colour fast … we’ll leave that thought to your imagination!
Green dye could be obtained in a variety of ways such as using plants like grass or nettles for a lively green – common broom, heathers or iris for dark greens. Alternately, a product called copperas also known as could be used, Verdigrease (now know as Verdigris) or Alum.
We came across this book written in 1735 ‘The Gentleman’s Companion and Tradesman’s Delight. Containing, the mystery of dying in all its branches’ which provides us with some recipes for dying fabric green.
To dye a fair green
Take Bran Water and Alum, a gallon the former to a pound of the latter, and boil them up till the Alum is dissolved; then let your silk or cloth lie therein for about a quarter of an hour, then take more Bran Water and a few handfuls of Woad, and put it therein till it become a dark yellow; then add Verdigrease and Indigo of each half a pound or more or less of the one or the other, as you would have it lighter or darker.
To colour a light green
Take the herb called Horse Tail, bruise it and add to the juice a small quantity of Verdigrease, Alum and Copperas, and over a gentle fire, make it into a colour, which will prove very pleasant and delightful.
The School of Wisdom; or repository of the most valuable curiosities of art & nature of 1788 provides the following recipe for creating a lasting green
Boil three quarters of a pound of alum, half a pound of tartar, into quarts of sharp ley for an hour, and in it soak the thread for three hours, keeping it hot all the while: how to dye it yellow: put into the kettle eight pounds of broom, one pound of corn marigold flowers, half a pound of crab-tree bark, that looks yellow and ripe, and add two quarts of sharp ley: when these have boiled half an hour, then dye the thread in the liquor as deep a yellow as possible: but if you can procure Spanish Yellow, an addition of three quarters of a pound of it will heighten the dye, and render it more lasting, for it is to be remembered, that all yellows that are designed to be dyed green, must be as deep as possibly can be. After this turn it green with blue dye. You may blue the thread with Woad, else with indigo, being first thrown into the alum suds, and afterwards into the yellow, and you will have a lasting green, so that a green dye is to be dyed several ways.
First dye your silk a pretty deep straw colour, rinse it clean and wring it close together with sticks; and then put your silk into the blue dye copper: though you must take care that the strength of the dye be proportioned to the quantity of silk, and that you do not put in too much silk at once. When it has boiled enough take the kettle off, and let it stand for an hour, after which time you may work it again, and do the same every hour allowing the same interval, but you must be very careful that one handful of silk does not lie longer in than another, and when it is taken out of the copper, let it be very well cooled, rinse and strongly wring with sticks and afterwards dried.
To dye a parrot or parroquet green
This being something lighter than the other, must be boiled in weaker suds than the other, and, as soon as it is dyed, must be wrung and dried as the other.
To dye greenfinch or canary bird green
This must be dyed as the green, only the last suds must be encouraged with a little Provence wood suds, till it is deep enough; then wring it out as above.
Like everything in fashion, stomachers came in and out of vogue, but during the 18th century they were very much statement pieces especially those made for the wealthier members of society and the newspapers always deemed elaborate stomachers worthy of mention when describing the outfits worn by the nobility.
A stomacher is a triangular shaped panel that fills the front of a woman’s gown and was worn from around the 15th century, but of course today we’re going to take a look at some of the ones worn in the 18th century.
By the end of the 18th-century stomachers could be as deep as 10 inches below the waist which would have made them slightly more uncomfortable for a woman to sit down.
In this painting, we can clearly see the beautiful stomacher worn by Madame de Pompadour, renown for her love of fashion.
They were often embroidered or covered with jewels, none more so than those designed for royalty as shown in this newspaper article.
St. James’s Chronicle or the British Evening Post, August 13, 1761
The rich diamond stomacher for our intended Queen is quite finished, and is the richest thing of the kind ever seen; the capital stone of which is worth about fifteen thousand pounds and the whole piece is valued at one hundred thousand pounds.
Morning Post and Gazetteer, Thursday, March 13, 1800
Fashions vary here as often as the wind; Negligés are now worn, the stomacher of which falls lower than the girdle. The robes are very open at the bosom. The girdles are tied either before or behind.
General Evening Post, October 8, 1778
On Thursday evening about seven o’clock their majesties set out from St James’s to stand sponsors for the newborn daughter of the Duke and Duchess of Chandos: her majesty was magnificently dressed in white, flounced with silver and a superb stomacher; the Countess of Hertford, as Lady of the Bedchamber and Miss Vernon and Jefferys, all dress in white, attended on the occasion. His majesty was dressed in a French grey with silver trimming.
Morning Post and Daily Advertiser, Wednesday, January 18, 1792
The stomacher to be worn today by the Duchess of York is valued at twenty-two thousand pounds – it consists entirely of diamonds; the centre stone alone is supposed to be worth £10,000. The top is festooned, and the centre diamond is set brilliant fashion, as are all the others, pendant in rows from the festoon, in the most elegant manner that can be imagined.
And finally, we came across this sad story in World and Fashionable Advertiser, Monday, July 16, 1787.
The following are the particulars of the unfortunate girl who hung herself last Wednesday week in South Moulton Street: She had been to the Haymarket Theatre with her friend and constant companion Miss Edwards; upon the latter intimating a wish to retire, Miss Charlotte Wood requested she would, and said she should follow shortly. Upon her friend retiring, she sent the maid to bed, and bolted the dining room door. Nothing was heard that night; the next morning she was found hanging in her garters from a peg in a closet with a paper pinned to her stomacher, expressing she had committed this rash act from the love she bore to a Mr A____r, who, we understand is a musician in this town.
We have previously looked at hair powder tax, glove tax and now for the next instalment we have, drum roll please – you’ve guessed it – shoe and boot tax. So far as finding ways to generate much-needed revenue the government of the day were completely unstoppable.
We came across an article in the General Advertiser May of 1785 in which Alderman Sawbridge put to William Pitt the Younger another possible tax that had been bought to his attention, the idea of taxing shoes as an alternative to the planned shop tax.
‘a paper had been put into his hands and he had been desired to ask the question; and, with leave of the House he would state the particulars of the proposed tax. It was made on a supposition of there being eight millions of persons in this country, and that four millions of them were either children or poor persons, whose shoes were under the prices meant to be taxed; then, the remaining four millions were calculated as follows: –
Two millions of persons, who wear two pair of shoes per annum of between four and five shillings value, on each paid a stamp duty of two-pence was to be paid which would produce £33,333, 6 shilling and 8 pence.
One million, who wear three pair of between five and six shillings value, on them four-pence each £50,000
One million, who wear three pair, value six shillings and upwards, on them six pence per pair £75,000.
One million pair of boots at 1 shilling per pair £50,000
The whole tax to produce £208,333 6 shilling and 8 pence’.
A week later it appears that this proposal had initially been suggested to Mr Pitt by a Dr Jones, who made it quite clear at the time to Pitt that he wished to
‘have himself concealed as the projector; at the same time, he avows that he shall be the Minister’s friend to the last’.
Well, that went well, as his name was plastered across the newspapers as the potential instigator of yet another levy on the public who were already struggling with all the other taxes that had been imposed.
For some reason it took a further 18 months before implementation but sure enough on 26th January 1787 the shoe tax was implemented courtesy of Dr Jones (how popular must he have been with the average person, one wonders?) and by this time the tax was expected to generate around £400,000, quite an increase in predicted revenue. It was at the time reported as being ‘neither obnoxious nor unproductive’.
Quite how much it raised in reality or how long it existed for we’ve no idea, so far we can find no evidence of it being repealed unless over time it was amended and became known as the leather tax. If anyone can shed any light on this we would be most interested in hearing from you.
We finish with an observation made in 1790 which just about sums up the taxation that was taking place at that time:
In everybody’s mouth, in and out-of-doors, the conversation is tax dogs, tax shoes, tax boots, tax heads, tax everything eatable, drinkable, wearable or moveable; in short, the curse of Ernulphus is nothing in comparison of the calamities which a set of Gentlemen are ready to impose on their country.
General Advertiser (1784), Tuesday, May 31, 1785
Morning Herald and Daily Advertiser, Tuesday, June 7, 1785
World and Fashionable Advertiser, Friday, January 26, 1787
We have taken a look at cosmetics previously in a series of blogs, but we couldn’t resist sharing some of these beauty recipes with you that we came across in ‘The Toilet of Flora’, although its title is not strictly accurate, as it contains far more than just flora.
A beauty regime was just as important in the 18th century as it is today, so we’ll start at the head and work downwards, although we’re not quite sure if the first two were meant specifically for women or not, although arguably they would work for either sex.
Receipt to thicken the hair and make it grow on a bald part
Take the roots of maiden vine, roots of hemp and cores of soft cabbages, of each two handfuls’ dry and burn them; afterward make a lye with the ashes. The head is to be washed with this lye three days successively, the part having been previously well rubbed with honey.
A powder to prevent baldness
Powder your head with powdered parsley seeds at night, once in three or four months, and the hair will never fall off.
Next, for those ladies of ‘a certain age’ who want to turn back time without the aid of cosmetic procedures! We haven’t tried them … yet … but if they work we’ll be sure to let you know.
A Pomatum for Wrinkles
Take juice of white lily roots and fine honey, of each two ounces; melted white wax, an ounce; incorporate the whole together, and make a pomatum. It should be applied every night, and not be wiped off till the next morning.
A secret to take away wrinkles
Heat an iron shovel red hot, throw on it some Powder of Myrrh and receive the smoke on your face, covering the head with a napkin to prevent its being dissipated. Repeat this operation three times, then heat the shovel again, and when fiery hot pour on it a mouthful of white wine. Receive the vapours of the wine also on your face, and repeat it three times. Continue this method every night and morning as long as you find occasion.
Good luck with this next one! We won’t be testing it out it for you!
A pomatum to remove redness or pimples in the face
Steep in clear water a pound of boar’s cheek till it becomes tolerably white. Drain it quite dry and put it into a new-glazed earthen pan with two or three Pippins, quartered. An ounce and a half of the four cold seeds bruised and a slice of veal about the size of the palm of one’s hand. Boil the whole together in a vapour-bath for four hours, then with a strong cloth squeeze out your pomatum into an earthen dish placed upon hot ashes: adding to it an ounce of white wax and an ounce of Oil of Sweet Almonds. Stir the pomatum well with a spatula till it becomes cold.
Why pay for those expensive teeth whitening kits when you could use this method? Sadly, this recipe fails to explain how you actually use the product.
A method to make the teeth beautifully white
Take gum tragacanth, one ounce; pumice stone two drachms; Gum Arabic, half an ounce; and Crystals of Tartar, finely powdered, and adding to it the powder, form the whole into little sticks, which are to be dried slowly in the shade, and afterwards kept for use.
We are always being advised to protect our skin from the harmful rays of the sun, clearly those Georgians were ahead of us with this idea and to assist they devised this product.
A preservative from tanning
Infuse in clean water for three days, a pound of Lupines, then take them out and boil them in a copper vessel with five quarts of fresh water. When the Lupines are boiled tender and the water grows rather ‘sopy’, press out the liquor and keep it for use. Whenever you are under a necessity of exposing yourself to the sun wash the face and neck with this preparation.
So, if you’ve exposed yourself to too much sun and wish to get rid of the tan you could try this method –
An excellent receipt to clear a tanned complexion
At night going to rest, bathe the face with the juice of strawberries and let it lie on the part all night and in the morning wash yourself with chervil water. The skin will soon become fair and smooth.
A liniment to promote the growth and regeneration of the nails, given that this recipe contains arsenic we would strongly advise against it.
Take two drachms of Orpiment, a drachm of Manna, the same quantity of Aloes and Frankincense and six drachms of white wax. Make them into a liniment and apply to the part with a thumb stall.
Next we move to the feet for a cure for sweaty feet, but it does seem like a waste of good wine and finally a corn treatment.
A remedy for moist feet
Take twenty pounds of Lee made of the ashes of the Bay tree, three handfuls of Bay leaves, a handful of Sweet Flag, with the same quantity of Calamus Aromaticus and Dittany of Crete; boil the whole together for some time, then strain off the liquor and add two quarts of wine. Steep your feet in this bath an hour every day, and in a short time they will no longer exhale a disagreeable smell.
Why pay for corn removal treatments when you could try this method – onions/garlic – who knew?
A remedy for corns on the feet
Roast a clove of garlic or an onion, on a live coal or in hot ashes; apply it to the corn and fasten it on with a piece of cloth. This softens the corn to such a degree as to loosen and wholly remove it in two or three days. Foment the corn every other night in warm water, after which renew the application.
The Toilet of Flora by Pierre-Joseph Buc’hoz. 1779
So, just how did those Georgians cope with cleaning delicate fabrics? They couldn’t simply nip along to a dry cleaner to have them chemically cleaned. Well, we came across this wonderful little book from 1753, packed with all types of useful information including top tips for cleaning clothes, ‘Madam Johnson’s Present: Or, Every Young Woman’s Companion in Useful and Universal Knowledge’ so we thought we would share some of them with you. We have no idea as to how effective some of these methods are so ‘approach with caution’. Some of them sound very dubious, so please do be careful if you try them one at home as we accept no responsibility!
To take iron mould and all sorts of spots and stains out of linen
These are removed by holding the linen, where they are, round a silver or stone mug containing boiling water, and by rubbing them with a slice of lemon. In the middle of summer, when the sun is very hot, the soaping them on both side will take them out; and if the linen be soaped all over it will be very white. Rubbing the stained places with juice of sorrel, or dipping them in the hot juice will take out the spots. The same may be done by rubbing them with salt and vinegar and squeezing; or by dipping them a few times in sharp vinegar boiling in an earthern, tin or silver pipkin over the fire; after which they should be well rubbed with soap, dried before the sun or fire and washed. Boiling milk will take the stains of fruit out of linen.
To take paint out of linen
Stains of that kind are extracted by rubbing them over with butter, hanging them in the sun, or before some heat to dry and then washing them.
To wash thread and cotton stockings
Let them have two lathers and a boil, having blued the water well. Wash them out of the boil, but don’t rinse them. Turn the wrong sides outwards and fold them very smooth and even, laying them one upon another and a board over them, with a weight of press them smooth. Let them lie thus about a quarter of an hour, after which hang them up to dry and when thoroughly so, roll them up tight without ironing by which means they will look as new.
To clean gold and silver lace
This is performed by taking some Talk, finely pounded and moistened with the spirit of wine, and then rubbing it with a brush over the lace every way. The same will do also for gold and silver stuffs highly raised, but lace turns black, if rubbed with Talk by itself.
How to make starch for small linen
Having wetted a quarter of a pound of starch, mixed with a little Powder Blue, so as it will bruise, add it to half a pint of water, and then pour them into a quart of water boiling on the fire. Stir well, and let the starch boil at least quarter of an hour, for it cannot be boiled too well, neither will the linen iron or look well, unless the starch be thoroughly boiled. After the starch is strained, dip the linen into it and then squeeze it out. Dip first those things you would have stiffest, but do not rub them in the starch; and as you want the starch stiff or thin, add or diminish. Some put Gum Arabic, Allum and Candle into the starch as it boils, but these are prejudicial; and if anything be added let it be Isinglass, about an ounce to quarter of a pound of starch, for that will help to stiffen and make them clear, but not to be used for laces. A kettle of Bell-Mettle is the properest vessel to boil starch in.
To take dirt from any silk
This is done by wetting it with a cloth dipped in clear water, and then wiping it, till the stain is out; then rubbing it first with a wet cloth, and next with a dry one and afterwards rolling it up dry in another clean cloth; but no air must come to it, for it would change the colour or crumple it. If the pieces of dirt be thick, they should be let dry and then shaken off; after which the silk should be rubbed with crumbs of bread and then with a clean cloth. If it be stained with coffee, rubbing with milk and then with fair water and a cloth will clean it.
How to take out spots of oil or any grease spots in silk
Let the spot be covered with French chalk, scraped and then rubbed well with a clean cloth. Pure spirit of lemon, without the essence, will extract any stain; but spirit of Sal Ammoniac is though preferable; for although the silk be all over stained with oil, it will take it out, at least on the second application if the silk be dry.
To take spots out of thin silk
Dip a piece of black cloth in a pint of white wine vinegar, pretty well heated and rub it over the stain; after which scrape Fuller’s Earth on the stain and putting dry woollen cloths above and below, place and iron, moderately hot on the upper part and the spot will vanish.
To clean satins and Damasks
A suit of these may be cleaned by rubbing them with the crumb of a three-penny loaf, two days old, mixed with a quarter of an ounce of Powder-Blue.
And, to finish, we couldn’t resist a Thomas Rowlandson caricature, courtesy of the Lewis Walpole Library.
Madam Johnson’s Present: Or, Every Young Woman’s Companion in Useful and Universal Knowledge
We’re all aware of the elaborate ladies’ hairstyles of the Georgian period, and the chance of a little visitor or two becoming lodged inside them. Fleas yes, we knew that was a possibility, but we’ll freely admit that getting mice inside your hair whilst sleeping was not one of the dangers of living in Georgian Britain that had ever occurred to us. However, according to the Ipswich Journal (25th January 1777) and the Society of Arts, it was a constant and worrying hazard.
The many melancholy accidents that have lately happened in consequence of mice getting into ladies hair in the night time, induced the society of arts, at their last meeting, to offer a premium to the person who should invent the neatest and most useful bed-side mouse-trap.
Well, indeed! We can foresee all kinds of further melancholy accidents ensuing here when a recently woken lady fumbles around, completely forgetting she’d set a trap for her little night-time companions…
The following uncommon circumstance is authentic. On Monday morning, about three o’clock, the Lady of a well-known Gentleman, whose name we are desired not to publish, waked suddenly in a fright, and screaming out aloud, also waked her husband. He desired to know the reason of her being thus alarmed, when she told him, she felt something in her hair behind alive. On searching, a poor innocent mouse was found, who, it is supposed was invited there by the amazing quantity of powder and pomatum. The mouse made its escape, and no dangerous consequences ensued; which was very fortunate for the Lady, as she is very far advanced in her pregnancy.
Bath Chronicle and Weekly Gazette, 18th March 1773
Mr Moses Martingo, a silversmith from New Bond-street, came to the rescue. He invented a silver trap (unfortunately the newspaper advertisement doesn’t say how it differed from a normal trap, other than obviously looking a little prettier) and began to sell these for three guineas a pop. He didn’t stop there though, oh no…
He also sells night-caps, made of silver wire, as flexible as gauze, and yet so strong that no mouse, or even rat, can gnaw thro’ them. The present demand for these articles is incredible, Mr Martingo employing no less than 40 hands in that branch only. The caps if made of plain silver wire, are sold at 3 guineas each, but the ton have them of gilt wire, from six guineas to ten.
Nightcaps made of stiffened linen were worn to protect lady’s coiffures, which could last many weeks. Perhaps Mr Martingo and the Society of Arts felt that these were not protection enough against the nocturnal activities of nibbling little rodents?
OK, hands up. We believe the 1777 advert is a fake and poking fun of the elaborate hairstyles of the day but if there really was a Mr Martingo, then fair play to him for cashing in on the fashion. So, Georgian fact or Georgian fiction? We’d love to hear your thoughts.
Sources not mentioned above:
Cambridge Sentinel, Volume XXXI, No. 29, 18th July 1936
Having seen Faith Evans on the red carpet of the 2016 Grammys, sporting a sleek black ‘fur’ accessory, we thought we would take a look at the muffs, tippets and the use of fur, which were extremely popular in the Georgian Era even though today the wearing of fur is somewhat controversial, to say the least.
The tippet was an item of clothing worn that today we would refer to as a stole or scarf but was largely made from fur.
Porcupine, Tuesday, December 2, 1800
Fashion for December 1800 – Miscellaneous Observations
The fashionable colours are scarlet, purple, puce and Mazarin blue. The fancy article generally adopted are blends of various colours, as amber, scarlet, pink and rose; plain and figured, feathers of all kinds, flowers, gold and silver trimmings. Weymouth tippets instead of long tippets.
Oracle and Public Advertiser, Monday, January 15, 1798
The front hair dressed very low upon the forehead; the sides cut very short and combed straight; full plain chignon. Polish cap of black velvet, trimmed with white fur, and a tassel of black bugles on the top of the crown; three rows of black bugles across the head-dress, on the left side, with a tassel of the same; two large black ostrich feathers in the front. Black satin striped dress; short sleeves trimmed with black fringe; black crape trimming round the neck, looped on the shoulders, and fastened before with bugle buttons. Black necklace and ear-rings. Black gloves; and black satin shoes. Swandown tippet.
We have yet to find out what a Weymouth tippet was and how it differed from the long tippet – maybe one of our readers will know.
Morning Herald, Saturday, November 9, 1799
The cold weather has begun to make an extraordinary change in the dress of the Ladies of Haut Ton: a tippet or two yesterday appeared in Bond Street and some females in defiance of fashion, had actually made to their chemise the addition of a petticoat!
We were quite interested to find out the cost of such items and thought you would be too, even then they were using fake fur rather than the real thing. Sable tippets and muffs price from 1 shilling, 5 pence (around £5 in today’s money) up to 16 shillings (around £60 in today’s money).
Morning Post and Fashionable World, Thursday, November 19, 1795
Muffs, Tippets, Trimmings of fur of every denomination: Very handsome bear muffs at 12 and 14s such as have always been sold at 18s and 21s. Fox muffs at eight shillings.
The muff was a ‘must have’ fashion accessory, maybe one that we should revive for cold winter’s days. It was a cylinder of fabric or fur which was open at both ends but provided a way of keeping the hands warm. The concept dated back to the 1500s and was used by men and women. Muffetees were a type of shortened muff, worn not only for warmth but also to protect the wrist ruffles when playing cards. There were also small muffs which were closed at one end with a thumb section.
The newspapers regularly carried ‘fashion of the month’ reports so that women knew exactly what was in vogue – hairstyle, dress colour, shoes, muff or no muff … so that one wouldn’t be caught out wearing the wrong outfit! Have times changed, probably not!
At the other end of the spectrum was came across a book entitled Instructions for cutting out apparel for the poor which provided the cost and instructions of how to make cheap tippets for poor girls in 1789, priced at 3 old pennies, that’s a mere £0.70 in today’s money!
We always find that our research leads us in the most unexpected directions and this time we ended up in the law courts. At the Old Bailey, we came come across quite a few cases of theft of muffs and tippets. If found guilty the sentence ranged from prison/hard labour or transportation for a period of 7 years.
13th December 1786
Ann Ward was indicted for feloniously stealing, on the 24th day of November, a red fox fur muff, value 20 shillings, the property of Joseph Thomson, a haberdasher in Oxford Street. Ann stole a red fox skin muff. – Verdict Guilt – Sentence – Transportation
25th February 1789
Amelia Morley, alias Amie Lovel, was indicted for stealing, on the 3d of February, one muff, value 18 s. and one tippet, value 5 s. the property of Daniel Bumstead. Verdict Guilty, Sentence imprisoned for 6 months
Possibly one of the most iconic images of a woman of the Georgian era wearing a riding habit has to be that of Lady Seymour Worsley. So, with that in mind, we thought we would take a look at this fashion statement outfit. We know from Grace Dalrymple Elliott’s receipts that she purchased her riding habits from the tailor to the Prince of Wales, one Louis Bazalgette, as did Mrs Fitzherbert, and it is more than likely that Lady Worsley did too.
The outfit would consist of a tailored jacket or redingote, possibly one of the most glamorous garments a woman could wear, so much so that even today fashion designers such as Jean Paul Gaultier use it for inspiration.
With a long skirt, tailored shirt or chemisette, a hat, low heel boots, glove and a necktie or stock, based on the male coat and waistcoat of the day. Needless to say, though the breeches would have been totally unacceptable. As you can see in the portrait though of Lady W, she was clearly sporting a very elegant pair of shoes, hardly suitable for riding in.
We came across this interesting letter about the wearing of riding habits in ‘The Ladies Complete Letter-writer – a collection of letters written by ladies’ of 1763 – the writer was clearly not a fan of this type of attire!
Censure of the Ladies Riding-Habits
I was lately, in a beautiful evening, admiring the serenity of the sky, the lively colours of the fields, and the variety of the landscape everywhere around me, a little party of horsemen passing the road almost close to me, arrested my attention, and a fair youth, seemingly dressed up by some description in romance. His hair, well curled and powdered, hung to a considerable length on his shoulders, and was wantonly tied, as if by the hands of his mistress, in a scarlet ribbon, which played like a streamer behind him. He had a coat and waistcoat of blue camblet, trimmed and embroidered with silver; a cravat of the finest lace; and wore in a smart cock, a little beaver hat, edged with silver, and made more sprightly by a feather.
His pacing horse was adorned in the same airy manner, and seemed to share in the vanity of the rider. As I was pitying the luxury of this young person, who appeared to be educated as an object of sight alone, I perceived, on my nearer approach, a petticoat of the same with the coat and waistcoat; and now those features which had before offended me by their softness, were strengthened into as improper a boldness; and she, who in appearance was a very handsome youth, was in reality a very indifferent woman. These occasional perplexities, and mixtures of dress, seem to break in upon that propriety and distinction of appearance in which the beauty of different characters is preserved, and would, if much more common, turn our assemblies into a general masquerade, the model of this Amazonian hunting-dress, for ladies, was first imported from France, and well enough expresses the gaiety of a people who are taught to do anything, so it be with an assurance; but I cannot help thinking it fits awkwardly on our English modesty.
The petticoat is too a kind of encumbrance upon this dress, and if we go on in thus plundering the other sex’s ornaments, we ought to add to our spoils, methinks, the more commodious breeches. There is so large a portion of natural agreeableness among the fair-sex of our island, that they seem betrayed into these romantic habits, without having the fame occasion for them with their inventors: All that needs to be desired of them is, that they would be themselves, that is, what nature designed them; and to see their mistake when they depart from this; let them look upon a man who affects the softness and effeminacy of a woman to learn how our sex must appear to the men , when so near approaches are made by us to their resemblance
Your most affectionate servant
The average cost of a riding outfit was around £5, which is around £350 in today’s money (the equivalent of just over 1 month’s wages for a craftsman of the day), so not exactly a cheap purchase. Then, of course, there was the cost of keeping the outfit clean and needless to say there was money to be made by inventing a powder that would be perfect for the task, as this advert for Williams’s Kerseymere and woollen cloth powder shows.
We thought it might be nice to finish with a few of the portraits painted during the Georgian era depicting women in a riding habit, we hope you like our choice.
Everyone loves stylish shoes and needless to say those lovers of fashion, the Georgians, were no exception. As they are today, they were, as well as being obviously practical they were very much about making a statement despite being somewhat hidden below those wonderful long gowns.
The manufacture of shoes required great skill, no mass production existed in the Georgian Era, and each pair would have been crafted by hand. A shoemaker ‘if he be a good hand, sober and industrious will earn thirty shillings a week’ that equates to about £70 a week today.
For many shoemakers, it was a relatively solitary life, working in their own workshop, for others they would have a large shop in which to exhibit their work.
The work involved in making a pair of shoes required the shoemaker to cut out a leather upper to a pattern. A small weight would then be placed on the skin to keep it from slipping; a hammer was then used to beat down any rough parts which lay on the inside of the shoe. Then using a pair of pincers the leather was stretched. The upper was then joined to the sole of the shoe. The parts were then sewn together and waxed. He would then use an awl to make holes for laces to fit through if required. The best and strongest thread being that made from hemp.
Women were employed to bind shoes of all kinds and sew together those made of silk and satin. Women’s shoes were highly ornate often with curved heels and a strap to keep them in place. The streets, of course, weren’t clean and paved as they are today so it was common for women to wear a ‘clog’ or ‘patten’ over her shoes in order to keep them clean, quite a good idea, if somewhat uncomfortable to walk in!
By the advent of the Regency Era women’s shoes changed in style from heels to the equivalent of today’s ballet pumps, much lighter in substance and fastened with ribbons. These shoes were unusual in so much as they were straight and therefore there was no right or left shoe – would this have made them easier to wear?
With the advent of the Napoleonic Wars, huge quantities of boots and shoes were required and this saw the advent of methods of mass production. Handcrafted boots and shoes continued to be manufactured, but obviously, a premium price would have been paid for them, much as is the case today.
We couldn’t possibly write a blog about shoes and not include a pair worn by the doyenne of fashion, Marie Antoinette, which sold at auction in 2012 for 50,000 euros (£40,600; $65,600) on the anniversary of the French queen’s execution.
Our final offering is one of the usual caricatures courtesy of the Lewis Walpole Library, this young lady, however, appears to be showing off slightly more than just her new shoes!!
Given the length of the Georgian era we thought it might be fun to take a peek at how the Georgian ideas of what was fashionable and how it changed over the period. The comments have been taken directly from English Costume, Volume 4, by Dion Clayton Calthrop (1878 – 1937) so here goes.
George I (reigned 1707 – 1727)
The ladies were little lace and linen caps, their hair escaping in a ringlet or so at the side and flowing down behind, or gathered close up in a small knob on the head.
George II (reigned 1727 – 1760)
The hair is very tightly gathered up behind, twisted into a small knob on the top of the head and either drawn straight back from the forehead or parted in the middle, allowing a small fringe to hang on the temples. Nearly every woman wore a small cap or a small round straw hat with a ribbon around it.
In the middle of George II’s reign fashions and hair styles changed. Now the lady would puff her hair at the sides and powder it; if she had no hair she wore false, and a little later a full wig. She would now often discard her neat cap and wear a veil behind her back, over her hair and falling over her shoulder.
George III (1760 – 1820)
This was period of immense change in fashions both in terms of clothing and also hair styles. The writer of this book’s description of hair styles and hygiene is highly amusing:
Those piles of decorated, perfumed, reeking mess, by which a lady could show her fancy for the navy by balancing a straw ship on her head; for sport, by showing a coach, for gardening, by a regular garden on flowers. Heads which were only dressed, perhaps, once in three weeks, and were re-scented because it was necessary. Monstrous gatherers of horse-hair, hemp-wool and powder, laid on in a paste, the cleaning of which is too awful to give in detail. Three weeks, says my lady’s hairdresser, is as long as a head can go well in the summer without being opened’. With the fashion of 1786 came the broad brimmed hat and the turban.