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!).
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.
With the weather improving and summer on the way, the fashion colours for 2017 according to Vogue, are ‘Eye-popping fuchsia, zingy yellow and tropical green’ … ‘an array of all the colours of the rainbow’.
Whilst the ‘eye-popping and zingy‘ colours didn’t exist as such in the Georgian era, women did wear strong, vibrant colours as we’ve already seen in our 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 to 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 be 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 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.
A slight variation on the term appeared in The London Chronicle of 1781.
The Parisian fashion report for June 1779 confirms for us the existence of the colour turquoise in clothing.
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.
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 accessorize, 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.
The World, January 19, 1793
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.
Below we have a description of the pink dress worn by Princess Augusta, courtesy of The Oracle and Public Advertiser, April 18, 1795.
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 modernized for the 21st century!
Featured image: Maria Luisa of Parma by Anton Raphael Mengs.
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 realized 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 realized 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 very 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 installment 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.
So, just how did those Georgians cope with cleaning delicate fabrics? They couldn’t simply nip along to a dry cleaners 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 acceptable 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.
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
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
Our final newspaper article is a somewhat sad one, someone had gone to a great deal of care to ensure that the infant was well dressed. Sadly we’ll never find out what happened to the child.
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 shoe maker ‘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 shoe makers, 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 shoe maker 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 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.
We simply couldn’t resist including this caricature!
George IV (1820-1830)
By the 1820’s it was all change again in fashion and hair styles.
Young ladies wear their hair well arranged … the curls again appear in numerous clusters around the face; and some young ladies who seem to place their chief pride in a fine head of hair have such a multitude of small ringlets that to give what is a natural charm all the poodle-like appearance of a wig.
Header image: Mrs Richard Brinsley Sheridan by Thomas Gainsborough, National Galley of Art
We often take our feet for granted until we suddenly find that we have corns, bunions or hard skin and it was no different in Georgian times. Did you know that ‘four fifths of people are afflicted with complaints in the feet’? No, neither did we; so we thought we would take a quick look at 18th century views and treatments for the age old problem of corns, what a delightful topic, hope you’re not eating whilst reading this!
We all know what corns are and how painful they can be and clearly they are an age old problem and those clever Georgians found their own way of treating them.
What causes corns?
Today we believe that they are as a result of wearing shoes that fit poorly or certain designs that place excessive pressure on an area of the foot.
During our research we came across a fascinating little book written by a chiropodist in 1818 who agreed with this theory to a certain extent, but also added that the wearing of high heels and the use of hard leather also contributed to the problem. The writer though says that ‘even when buckles were in fashion, though they certain produced callouses on the upper part of the foot, corns were never seen to arise from their pressure’.
He was also convinced that corns were mainly due to thin skin and that people who lived in the countryside and walked more, developed harder skin as they exercised more and as such suffered far less from corns than those living in the city, true or false we’d love to know! Maybe this is a good reason to take plenty of exercise.
Apparently he also understood that people could predict the weather by how painful or otherwise their corns were.
How to treat them
Easy, take a penknife or razor and remove them … NO that never was a good idea, even in Georgian times, and the writer of this book strongly advised against such self-treatment of the condition. He also noted the variety of ‘quack treatments’ such as plasters that could be applied either to relieve or remove the corn of which he was sceptical about their effectiveness.
He also talked about and advised against was to use ‘infallible cures from grandmama’s recipe book’. After writing at length about the perils of such treatment the author strongly advises that the only solution is to seek medical help from a qualified professional person.
We did manage to find one of the ‘quack’ adverts he referred to.
Morning Post and Daily Advertiser, Wednesday, March 14, 1791
Under no circumstances would we advocate this method!
How many of us can honestly say that we don’t feel good when wearing a beautiful piece of jewellery. The Georgians were no different, the bolder the better in many cases. So we thought we would take a look at the ‘bling’ of the day.
There were certain items of jewellery that were designated for certain times of the day. Day wear would consist of a necklace, small understated rings and the most important item which arguably would still be useful today – the chatelaine or chain, known as ‘equipage’ until the 1830’s, as shown below which would be attached to the waist of the dress.
Today this item seems to have been replaced by the familiar ‘bottomless’ handbag. In the 18th century is would have worn about the waist and would have been used to hold everything you could have possibly needed for the day – scissors, a thimble case, needles, a small purse, seals, a watch, a small booklet to write notes on, a pencil, etc.
Eighteenth-century gents would display their status by wearing shoe buckles and buttons studded with gems such as these.
Evenings required a completely different type of jewellery – diamonds were the order of the day, the bigger and brighter the better, usually set in silver. Diamonds were often mounted in silver, rather than gold, with the aim being to enhance the stone’s colour and would have been an essential part of court life. To be at the height of fashion you would wear Girandole earrings. These featured a central bow from which hung three dangling jewels that resembled the chandeliers of the period. For those who chose not to have pierced ears, the Georgian era saw the advent of the clip-on earring.
During the French Revolution many women chose to wear a red ribbon as a choker in support of friends and family who had died during the revolution, or as a sign of their own close call with death. For those more affluent then rubies would have been the equivalent, both indicative of the blood shed at executions.
This item from the British Museum was too fascinating not to include. The description reads:
Heart shaped pendant locket with a lock of hair, traditionally said to be that of Marie Antoinette, set under glass or rock-crystal with an inscribed card and mounted in a gold filigree setting. A small gold padlock is suspended from the base with a key on a chain attached to the suspension loop. The filigree in the form of tight spiral discs forming ‘spectacles’ shapes, placed within the flat wire rim.
A lock of hair of MARIE ANTOINETTE, Queen of FRANCE given by her to Lady Abercorn by whom it was given to her sister Lady Julia Lockwood, whose daughter Lady Napier gave it to W.S. 1853
The inscription is wrongly transcribed in the catalogue of the Hull Grundy Gift: Lady Abercorn is given as Lady Abercrombie.
For more information about this item use the highlighted link to the British Museum webpage.
Moving on to possibly the most macabre items of jewellery, we take a brief look at mourning rings. In many wills that we have read it seems commonplace for the deceased to leave enough money for some sort of mourning ring to be purchased as a keepsake, usually bearing the name and date of death of the person, and possibly an image of them, or a motto.
And finally we take a look at an item of jewellery that seems unlikely ever to return to fashion – Lover’s eye brooches or eye miniatures. It is reputed that they became popular in the late 1780’s when the Prince of Wales decided to send Maria Fitzherbert a token of his love for her. The idea that he should wish to do such a thing was frowned upon, so he commissioned Cosway simply to paint only the eye to preserve anonymity.
Our post would not be complete without including something light hearted from the Lewis Walpole Library, so if finances were running low due to gambling debts a lady could always sell her jewels!
Georgian fashion dictated that women wore ‘big dresses’ accompanied by the even bigger hair so with all that fabric and ‘high hair’ fashion it should come as no surprise that accidents happened. With that in mind, we thought we would take a peek at the fires caused by the fashions of the day.
We had no idea that there were so many incidents reported in the newspapers about hair and fabric being set alight by the open fires and so many deaths resulting from these incidents, so here are just a few.
London Chronicle (London, England), September 28, 1776 – October 1, 1776
Edinburgh, Sept 25. We hear from Dundee, that a few days ago, as a young lady was writing, the candle set her head-dress on fire. It burnt some time before she was aware; the then wrapped a handkerchief round her head to smother the flame, but it also catched fire; it was, however, extinguished with having scorched the lady much; but the fright affected her so much that she died in two days. Her name was Wedderburn*, an amiable young lady and her death is deeply regretted.
St. James’s Chronicle or the British Evening Post (London, England), March 17, 1778 – March 19, 1778
Last week a very melancholy accident happened to Miss Vane, daughter of the Hon. Mr Vane of Bielby , in Yorkshire; being sitting by her fire she dropped her keys within the fender and, stooping to take them up her head-dress took fire, and she was burnt so dreadfully before it could be extinguished, that she expired in a few hours.
Public Advertiser (London, England), Monday, January 7, 1793
Lady Elizabeth Pratt is out of danger from her late unfortunate accident, which very deeply affected the venerable Earl, her father. Her Ladyship had her head scorched by her head-dress catching fire while she was reading.
Morning Chronicle and London Advertiser (London, England), Wednesday, July 8, 1778
An evening paper has the following whimsical article: amongst the many accidents which happened on Sunday evening last from the lightning, the following, however extraordinary, may be relied on as a fact. About half past nine, just as the thunderstorm began, three ladies took shelter under one of the trees in St James’s Park : One of their heads was erected to an enormous height, and consequently stuck full of long wire pins : unfortunately these acted as conductors, and set her head-dress on fire, by attracting the lighting. Her two companions screamed with horror, but so stupefied with fear and astonishment were all parties that not one had presence of mind to remove her from the shelter of the tree into the rain. In spite of every efforts made by those distressed ladies, the fire raged with great violence for above ten minutes, destroying in that time above eight yards of gauze, a small quantity of hair and a prodigious load of wool, powder and pomade. At last two young fellows, supposed by their being furnished with syringes, to be apothecary’s apprentices, seeing the fire from an adjacent tree, and apprehending it might set the whole park ablaze, sallied forth to the poor lady’s assistance, and levelling their syringes with infinite adroitness and success both before and behind in a little time happily extinguished it.
As soon as the storm abated, she was bought to a house in Spring Gardens, where our correspondent saw her. All her hair was burnt down to a black crumbling stubble and her face was singed with the flopping of the flames over it, that she cut a most shocking figure. It being intimated that she lived in Threadneedle Street, a coach was called, and she was conveyed home to her family. The writer of this article cannot dismiss it without earnestly requesting his fair countrymen would drop, at least for this summer, so dangerous a fashion as high heads.
Clearly as these instances of hair or clothing being set alight were not rare as a very a sensible couple advised their daughters to how to cope with such an event:-
Bath, March 1809.
A beautiful young lady, in a neighbouring city, was lately rescued from the most imminent danger of being burned to death. As the method of her preservation from this dreadfully calamitous situation might be successfully adopted in like cases, a minute detail of all the circumstances ought to be generally known. Her muslin dress, being touched by a candle; caught fire, and the flame instantly blazed above her head. Fortunately two of her sisters were in her chamber. One sister with a long and strong pair of scissors, blunt at both points, with great expedition and steady resolution, cut through all her clothes on the hind part of her neck all down her back; that is, through her gown, her stays in the space between two whalebones, her shift, and the bindings of her petticoats.
As one sister was thus employed, the other slit up the gown at the wrists; and then immediately, with a pair of tongs from the fender, took firm hold of the clothes on fire, upon the fore part of the neck, and pulled them forcibly forward and downward from the shoulders; when all the garments instantly dropped off upon the floor, and were thrown into the chimney in a blaze. The time between the commencement of the fire, and till the young lady was rescued from all danger, was less than two minutes.
The flame, had scorched her face and neck, so as to be very painful for some hours; but not even a blister had arisen. A delay of but a few minutes longer, would have occasioned incurable mischief; either death or deformity must have been the inevitable consequence.
It may be proper to explain how these measures of prevention were so promptly and successfully executed. All the sisters had previously received complete instructions from their parents in what method to proceed in such a dreadful emergency, if their muslin dress should catch fire. They had frequently consulted together how to act in the moment of alarming danger. Each of them had provided a proper pair of scissors for the purpose. It is impossible to describe the exact of joy, which the sisters and the parents expressed upon this happy occasion. They united in fervent thanksgivings to Providence for this wonderful deliverance from so dreadful a calamity.
To end on a slightly cheeky note, this young woman must have heard about the perils of setting your clothes alight and wasn’t prepared to take any chances!
* It appears highly likely that Miss Wedderburn was Miss Susanna Wedderburn, the daughter of Sir John Wedderburn of Blackness, a Perthshire gentleman who joined the 1745 rebellion of Charles Edward Stuart and, captured at the Battle of Culloden, was afterwards hanged as a traitor; there is a burial date of the 18th September 1776 in Dundee for a Susanna Wedderburn.
Well, it appears that, courtesy of celebrities such as Kim Kardashian and others that we’re heading back to the 18th century idea of tiny waists, so we had to take a quick peek at the 18th designs; not the best piece of news for those of us that enjoy our cakes and chocolate, or maybe an essential item!
These items of undergarments are often mistakenly referred to as corsets, so let’s begin this blog by correcting the term ‘corsets’. Corsets did not in fact exist until the 19th century, until that time they were known as ‘stays’ and were an essential part of a woman’s wardrobe. The most fashionable stays were designed to pull the shoulders back until the shoulder blades almost touched. The resulting silhouette, with shoulders thrown back, very erect posture and a high, full bosom, is characteristic of this period and no other. They were used to support and create the fashionable shape of a woman’s body and to provide a rigid form on to which a gown could be arranged and fastened.
They were originally made from thick linen on to which cane or whalebone was sewn, thereby making the garment extremely rigid. The garment was so tight around the waist and rib cage that it’s no wonder women were prone to fainting as it must have been almost impossible to breathe. It was more common for stays to be worn in England than it was in France and this applied to all classes of society, although the ‘working classes’ usually only possessed one, often made of leather which was worn constantly without washing!
Getting dressed must have been quite a performance, perhaps the only saving grace was that knickers hadn’t been invented at that time. Not something we would advocate doing in polite society today, but apparently, it was not unknown for women to expose part of their breasts. It was socially acceptable to do this at that time, but to expose your calf could have had you expelled from polite society.
By the 1770s steel was being used in stay to increase their strength, but this, of course, made them even more rigid. This combined with tight lacing began to cause concern amongst doctors and others who voiced their concerns about this fashion – does that sound at all familiar?
The alternative to ‘stays’ was the use of ‘jumps’. These were less boned and much softer and comfortable to wear. They laced up the front but still provided support for the bust making them far easier for a woman to put on herself without assistance. These became very fashionable and were more accepted by the medical profession.
We came across the following publication ‘The enormous abomination of the hoop-petticoat, as The Fashion Now is‘ looking at the hoop petticoat and stays from the perspective of a gentleman who proclaims himself ‘not to be a woman hater‘, so quite why he felt compelled to write about this subject we have absolutely no idea!
His article written 1745, described how the fashion had changed over recent years with the petticoat getting larger and larger to the point where it makes it impossible to sit close to a woman as her petticoat had taken over all available space. The sight of the curved hoop, he said was ‘enough to turn one’s stomach.’ He went on to say
‘In general, can anything be more out of nature, grosser insult upon reason and common sense, than this monstrous disproportion between the upper and lower part of a woman? It is an old observation that women by their laced bodices, or stays, as they are now call’d, make themselves the reverse of what nature made them. Men are bigger about the chest and more slender about the waist than women: and there is plain reason for it, which I need not mention. Yet the females have skrew’d and moulded their bodies into a shape quite contrary’.
As always our blog would not be complete without a caricature or two, so we have a couple of 19th century satires, courtesy of the Lewis Walpole Collection.
We end with a video showing an eighteenth-century lady getting dressed.
We know from our research into the life of Grace Dalrymple Elliott, one of the fashion icons of her day, that she spent a considerable amount of money on clothes, hats and finery. Looking at some of her receipts we noticed that stockings featured on them, so with that in mind we simply had to do some more investigating into stockings of the day. Clearly not a subject not to be discussed in polite society, but how else should a Georgian lady keep her legs warm? A glimpse of the calf was regarded as shocking and tantalizing.
Following a recent visit to the Wallace Museum this image was far too good not to include – wonder what the gentleman on the ground was admiring?
Here on the left of the painting we have one of the prostitutes in Hogarth’s The Rake at Rose Tavern, Scene III of The Rake’s Progress, 1733, displaying her stockings whilst she adjusts her shoes, not a practice that would have been acceptable for a lady!
Many women today wear tights, although stockings are still extremely popular, especially the ‘hold up’ variety which sit toward the top of the thigh, although for some the suspender belt remains an important feature of the underwear as a means of holding the stocking in place. There was no such item in the 18th Century, so how were stockings worn and supported? For those who are not aware, neither did pantaloons, drawers, knickers, pants etc. Pantaloons first put in an appearance in 1806.
The Georgian era saw both men and women wearing stockings, usually brightly coloured, especially for the men as generally theirs were on show whereas respectable women kept theirs covered. It wasn’t until 1758 that we saw the invention of the Derby Rib machine by a Jedediah Strutt of Derbyshire, that allowed elastic to be added to stockings, but these were expensive so only the more affluent could afford them.
How were they worn?
Well, unless you were wealthy enough to afford stockings with elastic then you had to fasten them with a buckled garter or ribbon. The general consensus seems to be that they were tied just above the knee, although as we’re sure you’re can imagine that would probably have been quite uncomfortable, so it seems most likely that there was no right or wrong way to wear them and that women aimed for comfort, so either just above or just below the knee, in the way that we would for instance wear ‘knee highs’ today. The garter or ribbon would have to have fastened fairly tightly to stop the stocking from sliding down the leg as she walked.
This portrait by Francois Boucher seems to demonstrate that the stocking was worn just over the knee. However, this one indicates that one was above the knee, whilst the other was possibly on or slightly below the knee. It isn’t possible to be sure as to whether the artist was trying to simply paint a risqué picture or whether the positioning of the stocking was factually accurate. Given that the use of elastic was not that common the stocking would have moved around quite freely on its own, so a degree of ‘slippage’ would occur.
The description is taken directly from the V&A website –
Pair of knitted pink silk stockings with dark green clock and gusset. The welt is finished with four thin bands of green and there are three gauge holes. One stocking has the welt finished in white, and the other in yellow and green.
They are shaped but not fashioned, and have a green gore let in at the ankle. Around this they are embroidered with an undulating floral trail with a triangular spot design surmounted by a formal flower above which is a crown.
Many stockings at that time would have been manufactured in Nottinghamshire, home of the lace industry in England. The stockings were made using a framework knitting machine and by the early 1780’s the East Midlands over 90% of these frames were in Nottingham. To find out more about framework knitting we recommend these two websites The Nottinghamshire Heritage Gateway and The Framework Knitters Museum.
One of the major supplies of stocking in London was Collyers, of No 41, The Poultry, who, according to The True Briton, 1799, produced ladies china white stockings with cotton feet at only 7s 6d, which is about £12 in today’s money, so not particularly affordable for many. We did try to find a trade card for them but so far no luck! We could not however resist including one or two that we thought you might enjoy.
Did you know that according to A Classical Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue what we would refer to today as a ladder or run in a stocking was known as a ‘louse ladder’ – delightful, hmm, wonder if there will ever be a revival of that term – perhaps not!
We couldn’t resist finishing our blog in our usual fashion, with the caricature ‘A Leg of Lamb’ courtesy of Lewis Walpole Library.
Some things never change … today the newspapers and magazines are full of Royal & celebrity gossip with images of our royals, aristocrats and celebs. in their finery etc. Was it any different in the Georgian era? The simple answer is ‘no’, the media were just as fascinated with the nobility and aristocrats and one in particular – the Prince of Wales, later George IV who loved to party, as did our very own Grace Dalrymple Elliott along with the other demi-reps, any excuse to don the finery or the fancy dress costume! So with that in mind we thought we’d take a quick peek at how the media covered events such as Royal and masquerade balls.
The masquerade ball season took place indoors during the winter months, with most being around Christmas and New Year, whereas open air balls and ridotto’s were held during the summer months. In order to attend a ball you did of course have to purchase a ticket, these varied dramatically in price according to the event.
So, having purchased you ticket you would naturally require a costume. As you peruse the newspapers you find an amazing number of shops and warehouses offering masquerade costumes at ‘very reasonable prices’ from fancy dresses to Venetian masks to domino’s, hoods and cloaks in assorted colours and fabrics. These balls would have been an amazing sight to behold. The domino was a large cloak designed to cover the whole body, sometimes it had a hood too, but mostly these were purchased separately. They were usually black, but other colours were available. Wardens Warehouse of No.1 Great Pultney Street, Golden Square, London were , in 1785, selling domino’s for as little as five shillings which is about £15 in today’s money. This image is from the Metropolitan Museum of Art and shows a typical beautiful silk domino that would have been worn.
Oracle and Public Advertiser 28th April, 1795
Some very ugly old ladies are labouring to revive the horrible absurdity of long waists; and they ascribe the unnatural innovation to our illustrious Princess. Her Royal Highness has more taste about her than to renovate deformity.
The Princess of Wales wore at the Royal Ball and Supper, a spangled crape dress, exactly like the robe worn by Miss Wallis in Windsor Castle and among the fair styled ‘the Wallis robe’.
The Gazetteer and New Daily Advertiser 5th March 1783 provides us with an article entitled ‘Masquerade Intelligence’ which gives us a detailed account of the events of the evening. The event took place at one o’clock in the morning at the King’s Theatre, ticket prices were extremely high, but it did attract between six and seven hundred people.
The company was composed of mainly young men of fashion plus the usual distinguished demi-reps of the age. These ladies were mainly in fancy dress ‘admirably calculated to display their charms and to fascinate desiring youth’. Food and drink was plentiful, but apparently not to the usual quantity and it was noted that shell-fish was missing – clearly quite a faux pas!
Perdita and Colonel Tarleton were present, the Colonel sporting the costume he wore in the painting by Reynolds. The press missed nothing and noticed that the couple had some sort of argument and Perdita stormed off to her box, just as Florizell (The Prince of Wales) was passing, apparently ‘linked and tantalised by Mrs C_____ll_’ (Mrs Cornely). Whatever the dispute, it was soon resolved. The press had nicknames for many of the demi-reps; Mrs Mahon was The Bird of Paradise, Mary Robinson – Perdita and Grace Dalrymple Elliott was frequently known as ‘Dally the Tall’ among other sobriquets.
Another newspaper Parker’s General Advertiser and Morning Intelligencer described the demi-reps as:
The rest of the Cyprian corps as vestals, virgins, nuns, flower girls, wenches, queens, sultanas, milk-maids, and all that sort of thing, were numerously dispersed through the rooms, and drank, and sang, and danced, and laughed, and seemed to be quite happy.
Courtesy of Lewis Walpole Library
The Morning Herald 24th May 1786:
Opera House Masquerade, King’s Theatre
In point of numbers, Monday night’s masquerade at this place was inferior to any former ones, but equal in insignificant dullness to what we have seen before. Harlequins without wit, clowns known only by the stupidity that is their natural characteristic; nosegay girls, men turned into women and vice versa, equally distinguishable by their impudence, together with a world of characters badly supported throughout, until the fumes of port and other such palatable wines, though we must own the best in their kind, had inspired the representatives with a fictitious glee, composed the whole group of above 600 masks assembled on the occasion. However, the supper was good, the wines answerable and the purveyor, justly commended.
The least exceptionable of the masks in the room was a little brunette, who sung several songs in French and English, with tolerable good humour. His Royal Highness, who came in late, was for a long while pestered, with a little blue eye nun of St Catharine, who was, and remained, masked so very close, that we could not guess at her sex, much less ascertain her real identity.
The dances introduced during the entertainment were highly relished by those who can feel the merit of some of the very best dancers in Europe. He whole, we understand, was under the direction of Mr Degville, the ballet master. We cannot congratulate him on the manner of which the entertainment was conducted, but give him joy of a well-earned and not inconsiderable gain on the occasion.
This image from the National Portrait Gallery depicts a masquerade ball at the Pantheon.
We just had to share these books, available to view for free via The Internet Archive.
They are a six volume set, published between 1876 and 1888 and written by Auguste Racinet (1825-1893), covering historical costumes, furniture, jewellery, weapons and carriages. Everything including the kitchen sink really!
They are written in French but don’t let that put you off if you don’t speak that language because the pictures within them, lots in colour, are truly glorious and speak for themselves. We should really issue this blog with a warning because you are likely to spend quite a few hours flicking through them when you really should be doing other things. We’ve included a few of our favourite images, concentrating, as this blog is about ‘all things Georgian’ on those years but these books cover much more than just that period.
Volume 1 (mainly text) gives a general introduction and a list of all the plates found across the full set of volumes together with an index, bibliography and glossary.
Volume 2 concentrates on L’Antiquité Classique, from primitive times until the fall of the Roman Empire and ‘Barbarian Europe’ before moving on to ‘the world outside Europe’ starting with Oceania, Africa, the America’s, Eskimo’s and Asia.
Volume 3 continues with Asia and on to India, Africa (again), Turkey and religious artefacts and dress.
Volume 4 covers French and European military wear and medieval Europe through to the 16th Century.
Volume 5 begins with the end of the 16th Century and the dawn of the 17th, concentrating on Europe leading on to our favourite period, the 18th Century.
And so to Volume 6, the final one which continues 18th Century European fashions and takes us into the 19th Century, ending with a look at the Nordic countries together with Holland, Scotland, England, Germany and Switzerland.
For ease of translation the books can be viewed in plain text format which then can be copied and pasted into an online translation tool.
Have fun browsing these books! We’d love to know your thoughts on them.
We do so hope the following is true, as it’s a wonderful image, although an outdated gender stereotype. Today the correspondent would no doubt have filmed the antics of the Exquisite and uploaded them to YouTube, or taken a photo to mock him on Facebook or Twitter. But not so back in the days of the Regency. Then, it was a letter to a paper (written in August 1818) and a satirical print (published in 1819) instead.
A correspondent furnishes us with the following picture of an Exquisite alias a Dandy in distress.
AN EXQUISITE ALIAS DANDY IN DISTRESS!
“Walking in one of the squares last week it was my fate to follow an Exquisite, stock’d and stay’d laced and bound collar’d and pilloried in all the fashion, so slender so straight and so stiff that a man of ordinary strength might have used it as a walking stick. This thing flourishing a very nice perfumed handkerchief happened to let it drop; the question then was how to get it up again; stoop it could not, and I confess I enjoyed its distress; for tho’ for any other female I would have raised the handkerchief with alacrity, I wish’d to see how this creature would help itself, then thus it was: having eyed the handkerchief askance, something like a magpie peeping into a marrow-bone, it gently straddled out its legs, and lowering the body between them it brought the right hand in contact with the object sought. What shall we say to the association of ideas, when I assure you, that looking on this unmanly figure, brought into my mind the knights of old, who when once unhorsed, could never from the weight and stiffness of their armour hope to mount again.” N.B. It is found remarkable convenient in such a case for the Exquisite to carry a cane or stick with a hook at the end, as he may fish up anything he unfortunately drops without breaking his back or exciting the pity or risibility of the spectators.
So our readers can appreciate the difficulties presented by the underpinnings worn by an Exquisite, this Robert Cruickshank print from 1818 shows him in his stays.
The Demon of Fashion SIR FOPLING bewitches
The reason his Lady betrays
For as she is resolved upon wearing the Breeches
In revenge he has taken the Stays!
The following definitions of Dandy and an Exquisite, which illustrate the (minor) differences between the two (mainly the use of stays!) are taken from Slang: a dictionary of the turf, the ring, the chase, the pit, of bon-ton, and the varieties of life, 1823.
DANDY – an invention of 1816, and applied to persons whose extravagant dress called forth the sneers of the vulgar; they were mostly young men who had this designation, and they were charged with wearing stays – a mistake easily fallen into, their wide web-belts having that appearance. Men of fashion all became dandy soon after; having imported a good deal of French manner in their gait, lispings, wrinkled foreheads, killing king’s English, wearing immense plaited pantaloons, the coat cut away, small waistcoat, with cravat and chitterlings immense: Hat small; hair frizzled and protruding. If one fell down, he could not rise again without assistance. Yet they assumed to be a little au militaire, and some wore mustachios. Lord Petersham was at the head of this sect of mannerists.
EXQUISITE (an) – another name for Dandy, but of more refined or feminine manners. The Chronicle says, “It is a fact that an Exquisite fainted away on Friday, Dec. 20th, in Bond-street, and was assisted into a shop, where he remained some time before he recovered. Medical aid being sent for, it was ascertained that his valet had laced his stays too tight.” Such were ‘Dandy-prats,’ circa 1750.
Trewman’s Exeter Flying Post, 27th August, 1818
Liverpool Mercury, 28th August, 1818
Lewis Walpole Library
Slang: a dictionary of the turf, the ring, the chase, the pit, of bon-ton and the varieties of life by Jon Bee Esq, editor of the Fancy, Fancy Gazette, Living Picture of London, and the like of that, 1823
We’ve done the dresses, the cosmetics and the beauty tips, so how could we possibly not have one about those amazing Georgian hats that would put Royal Ascot to shame. Large hats were very much the fashion and there were some stunning hats, however, we couldn’t resist a ‘tongue in cheek’ look at the fashionable hats of the period. Large hats often accompanied by large hair were very much in vogue and provided the most amazing ‘fodder’ for the caricaturists of the day too who took great delight in mocking both the British and French styles.
In one of our previous blogs we presented to the world a ‘never before seen hat’ sported by our one and only fashion diva, the beautiful Grace Dalrymple Elliott’s hat, which the majority of our readers agreed overwhelmingly was to put it politely, ‘dreadful’, with that mind we thought we should find some more equally hideous hats for your delectation.
The hats appear in no particular order, but we are sure you will have you own preferences!
After Grace we have another fashion diva and close friend of Grace Dalrymple Elliott – Gertrude Mahon, sporting something akin to a giant tea cosy or one of those hairdryers that were fashionable in the 1950’s, in a fabric which hopefully is far lighter than it appears, otherwise it would have carried a health warning!
The next really should carry a health warning especially if you have a feather allergy; are the three feathers those of the Prince of Wales one wonders?
When it gets too hot in the middle of the Summer we offer an alternative way of keeping cool, is it a bird, plane or simply a superhat?
…and an alternative hat for summer showers, complete with the ‘fake bum‘ for the children to shelter under.
A lodging house lady of Bath, the hat is almost the same size as she is!
Hat Boxes – words fail us with this one
The hat on the right looks lethal
It seems that by 1796 the reign of the ‘larger than life hat’ was all but over for a while at least and according to the Morning Post and Fashionable World dated Thursday, November 17, 1796 in their less than complimentary report, bonnets were now all the rage.
Part 4 of our ‘Secrets of the Cosmetic Art’ looks the use of ‘patches’ as a feature of the Georgian beauty regime. Although in existence prior to this period they were very much a feature of ladies beauty regimes. As early as 1708 in an article regarding morals, Oswald Dykes stated the following:
A good face needs no band: and what necessity of ‘sets offs’ to a perfect beauty : patches do but hide the features and deface nature, as if the fair lady stuy’d deformity, was industrious to make herself ugly or less charming and had resolved to wear the blemishes of her mind upon her forehead.
Clearly a few years later ladies took no heed of his remarks! These facial adornments served various purposes, the primary one being to cover pox marks.
However, the New Lady’s Magazine suggests an altogether different use for them, so please take note and ensure that should you decide to make use of them that you place them in exactly the precise location otherwise you could potentially send a possible suitor totally the wrong message about yourself and that would never do!
From the New Lady’s magazine, or, Polite and entertaining companion for the fair sex: entirely devoted to their use and amusement, January, 1787.
A Correspondent was lately at an assembly where he had the sight of several fine faces, but very improperly patched. Amidst the whole circle, which consisted of more than thirty Ladies, our correspondent saw but two patches properly placed. He had always been a declared enemy against the rage of plastering little bits of black silk upon the human face; but as he has not eloquence enough to persuade the fair-sex to lay it aside entirely, he thinks it a duty incumbent upon him to lay down at least certain rules for judiciously placing the patch, to such of them as think that it heightens their charms.
PATCHES may be reduced to NINE sorts, which ought to be placed in the following manner:
1. The passionate, or smart patch at the corner of the eye.
2. The majestic, almost in the middle of the forehead.
3. The gay, on the brink of the dimple formed by a smile
4. The gallant, in the middle of the cheek
5. The kissing, at the corner of the mouth
6. The brisk, near the nose.
7. The coquettish, upon the lips.
8. The discreet, or prudish, under the lower lip, towards the chin.
9. The concealing, upon a pimple.
Those who avert to these rules may be convinced, that a promiscuous manner of patching may be productive of ill consequences, and ruin many a fair character, as well as lead the enamorate to many a mistake.
It is also reputed that the use of patches indicated your political allegiance, whether this is correct or not, we can’t confirm – if you were a supporter of the Tories you would wear the patch on the left, Whigs on the right. How many of you will now look back at paintings to check the position of patches to see you can work out whether that statement was true or false.
It was fashionable to store these patches in a box similar to this one and positioned as required, taking care to follow the instructions provided above. This one is a Bilston enamel box dated c1780.
Today’s question is ‘What do you make of the positioning of Grace’s patch? Was she ‘Gallant’?’ or does it relate to a political allegiance? We would love to know your thoughts.
In case you missed our previous posts about cosmetics here are the links.
A small bunch of flowers, typically one that it sweet-scented. A nosegay was usually worn at the waist or bodice.
The Fashionable Magazine of September 1786 wrote an ‘Essay on Nosegays‘ that we thought might be of interest to our readers.
Among the different appendages of female dress, none are perhaps more ornamental than the beautiful bouquets so much worn at present by ladies of fashion; and which, it seems, were first introduced into this country by the French ladies. Some years ago, a few ladies began to appear at court with large nosegays in their bosoms; the fashion soon became more general, and has been since universally adopted.
In the latter end of the last reign, the French ladies carried that fashion to an extreme wearing nosegays preposterously large; and even at the present day many continue to wear them so. The size, however, depends greatly on fancy; but certain it is that the larger they are, the more girlish and youthful a wearer appears.
In France and Italy and other parts of the continent, it is still customary for the ladies to wear, on particular days, bouquets of a most enormous size; on their name’s day, for example, which answers to our birthday, and particularly on their wedding day and perhaps for a month afterwards, the new married lady appears in public with a bouquet de marrie, or wedding nosegay, sometimes so monstrous large as to shade the greater part of her face.
On Sundays and principal holidays, in many of their chapels, a young lady, generally very beautiful, goes among the congregation to collect money for the poor. Her dress on this occasion is splendid in the extreme; and a luxurious bouquet de cote, or side nosegay, uncommonly large, always adorns the bosom of the fair petitioner. Such a powerful solicitor, it may easily be imagined, is seldom refused. But the nosegay, on all these occasions, is considered as the most important ornament of the fair, and seems an indispensable part of the dress.
When we consider the natural beauties of flowers, with the luxurious and attractive perfume, it is by no means wonderful that they are so much worn. Some splenetic ladies have attempted to decry them; but they will find it difficult talk to prevent their being encouraged by the wisest and most elevated personages in the kingdom. Though many ladies wear their nosegays in the centre of the bosom, it is certain they have a much more pleasing effect when worn rather high on the left side, which mode seems now to be most generally adopted by ladies of taste and fashion. The French ladies always wear their bouquets on the left side of the bosom as high as the ear.
Those ladies who are fond of flowers and wish to keep them fresh in their bosoms, usually wear them in a large glass or silver fountain, made purposely to fit their stays, by which means they preserve their bouquets quite fresh the whole day.
Continuing our theme of beauty the following extracts from Fashionable Magazine, October 1787 suggests various methods for changing the colour of the hair, we would as usual however add our caveat that these should not be tried at home, as potentially very unsafe!
There are many simple contrivances to make red, or other ill-coloured hair, more pleasing to the sight, by changing it to a black or dark brown, without a possibility of injuring the person even when applied to the eye-brows. Among these may be recommended, the roots of the caper-tree or holm-oak; the barks of the walnut-tree, the willow, and pomegranate’ the leaves of the myrtle, the wild vine, the rasberry-bush, the mulberry-tree, the fig-tree, and the artichoke; the green shells of walnuts or beans; and poppy flowers, ivy berries, or red beet seeds. Either of these articles may be boiled for this purpose in wine, vinegar, or rain-water, with the addition of a little marjoram, sage, betony, balm, or any other cephalic herb; and being strained off, the liquor may be used at pleasure. The usual way is to rub the hair well with the liquid on going to bed.
Alum, and most preparations of lead, boiled and applied in like manner, will produce the same effect.
If, after washing the head with spring water, the hair is every day combed in the sun with a comb dipped in oil of tartar, the hair will become quite black in a week’s time. The hair may be moistened with oil of Benjamin, to give it a fine scent.
FLAXEN DYE FOR THE HAIR
Boil a pint and a half of ley prepared from vine-twig ashes; a quarter of an ounce each of turmerick, celandine roots, and briony; one drachm and a half each of lily roots, saffron, and flowers of mullein, yellow stechas, St. John’s wort, and broom. After straining off the clear fluid, use it frequently to wash the hair, which will in a short time change to a beautiful flaxen colour, which may be easily made more or less light at pleasure, by a very little attention to the several ingredients, and such other circumstances as cannot easily escape notice.
This image shows the natural colour of Grace Dalrymple Elliott’s hair taken from the painting of her in the Frick Collection which seems to confirm her use of hair powders.
Another amazing publication we have come across is the 1773 edition of The Golden Cabinet being the Laboratory or Handmaid to the Arts which again provides with some spectacular solutions to age old problems including a cure for baldness. If anyone tries this at home we would love to know whether the outcome is successful and whether you have any friends remaining after the experiment; given the ingredients used it would seem highly unlikely your friends would stay around for long!!!!
TO REMEDY BALDNESS
This is a hard thing to cure, yet the following things are very good. Rub the head or bald places every morning very hard with coarse cloth till it be red anointing immediately after with bears grease; when ten or fifteen days are passed, rub every morning and evening with onion till the bald places bed red, then anoint with honey well mixed with mustard seed applying over a plaster of labdanum ( which is a sticky brown resin obtained from the shrub Cistus ladanifer) mixed with mice dung.
If the former fail, bathe with a decoction of burdock roots made with a lixivium (of salt of tartar) two parts, and muscadel one part; immediately applying this unguent; take thapsi or turbeth one dracham (in powder) bears grease one ounce, mix them, which use for sixty days. If this mixture make not the hair come, the defect is incurable.
TO MAKE THE HAIR CURL
Wash the hair very well with a lixivium of quicklime, then dry it very well; that done anoint with oil of myrtles or oil of omphacine (oil from an unripe fruit) and powder it well with sweet powder, putting it up every night under a cap. If the party be naturally of cold and moist constitution anointing and powdering must be perpetually used once or twice a week during life, the hair being put up every night.
TO MAKE THE HAIR GROW LONG AND SOFT
Distill hogs grease or oil of olive in an alembic with the oil that comes there from anoint the hair and it will grow long and soft.
TO PREVENT HAIR SPLITTING AT THE ENDS
Anoint the ends thereof with oil omphacine or oil of myrtles, they are eminent in this case to preserve the hair from splitting. Also an ointment made of honey, bees wax and omphacine or bears grease.
Our final offering on this subject is an unusual article that we felt worthy of inclusion which tells us that in 1765 whilst shampooing did not take place in Europe, a procedure known as shampooing was taking place in China, although it most certainly was not shampooing in the way we understand it today and brings a whole new meaning to the term ‘Chinese torture’!
Article by Charles Frederick Noble dated 1765
Barbers that attend the factory shave after the English fashion, with short razors or sharp knives. but those who dress the Chinese go about the streets with a bundle of razors, scizars, combs, brushes, pomatum, tooth-pickers, ear-pickers, corn and nail cutter, and other such instruments upon their shoulder and, as they walk, make such a tinkling noise with an iron instrument as those fellows do who have a show in a box for the entertainment of children in London. The operation of a Chinese barber, which he perfects every morning, is very tedious, in cleaning and plating the hair and in shampooing his customers.
Shampooing is an operation not known in Europe and is peculiar to the Chinese, which I had once the curiosity to go through, and for which I paid but a trifle. However, had I note seen several China merchants shampooed before me, I should have been very apprehensive of danger, even at the sight of all the different instruments that were arranged in proper order on the table before the operator began.
He first placed me in a large chair, then began to beat with both his hands very fast upon all parts of my body. He next stretched out my arms and legs, and gave them several sudden pulls that racked my joints; then got my arm upon his shoulder and hauled me sideways a good way over the chair; and as suddenly gave my head a twitch or jerk around, that I thought he should have put my neck out of joint. Next he beat with the ends of his fingers very softly, but very quickly all over my head, body and legs, every now and then cracking his fingers with an air: then he stroked up my ears, temples and eye lashes; and again racked my joints.
After he had gone through this process he proceeded with his instruments to scrape, pick and syringe my ears, every now and then tinkling with an instrument close to my ears. The next thing was my eyes; into which I patiently suffered several small instruments to be thrust and turned about; by which operation, he brought away half a teacupful of hot, waterish stuff. this was not only the most painful, but the most dangerous part of the whole operation which made me afraid to make the least motion with my head lest I should have suffered more; so I sat with resolute patients, till he pulled out these instruments and was about to use others to my eyes, but I had suffered so much that I would not permit him to meddle with them any farther.
He next proceeded to scraping, paring and cleaning the nails of my fingers and toes and then to cutting my corns. I only wanted to have had a lock of hair plaited to complete the operation. But, after he had spent half an hour with me, it ended here, for which I gave him the value of a penny.
This was part of a four part blog about cosmetics, so in case you missed the others here are the links to them
No readers, we have not ‘lost the plot’ nor has this become a blog about exercise. We have been looking at the ways 18th-century people used enhancements to improve their looks.
Until the mid 1770s skirts were made to appear full by the use of hoops, however, from 1776 onward it would appear from this somewhat amusing article below from Town and Country magazine (January 1776) that the fashion changed courtesy of Henrietta Vernon, Lady Grosvenor and her use of ‘cork rumps’, otherwise referred to as ‘Chloe’s Cushion’ .
The town has been for some time entertained with various accounts of cork rumps; a friend of mine, who lives at some distance from the capital, and who does not believe all that he reads in a news-paper, notwithstanding he is not a cockney, seems to entertain his doubts concerning the real existence of these cork, rumps; I have, therefore, in order to satisfy him, taken great pains to enquire into the existence or non-existence of these cork rumps. In the course of these researches I have traced their origin to lady Gro—nor [Lady Grosvenor], who having had her fortune told a short time before the regatta, was advised to be very careful of water, as the conjurer foresaw danger in the wind; but her ladyship not being able to resist the temptation of so fashionable an amusement, consulted some members of the society for recovering drowned persons. She received little or no satisfaction from them, as they acknowledged they could be of no service to her till she was actually drowned, and not being willing to try the experiment upon whole terms, she had some thoughts of trying a cork jacket but reflecting upon the uncouth figure she would make in such a garb, when conquest was her principal view, her imagination was called into play, and after some days cogitation she hit upon the cork rump.
She wore it upon this occasion, and was a spectator of the regatta, without being under the least apprehension from the prediction of the conjuror. Every one complimented her ladyship upon the elegant appearance she made, the slope of the back, and the striking protuberance beneath, were objects of every one’s wonder and admiration. Instead, she found the cork rump such an amazing improvement to her dress that she resolved to wear it constantly upon all occasions, and to preserve the secret to herself: but accidents will happen.
Dressing in a great hurry for Ranelagh, she forgot to secure this new appendage to grace effectually, and unfortunately she dropped it in the Rotunda. A circle immediately surrounded it, all eyes were fixed upon it, the gentlemen were astonished; the ladies were enchanted with it, and in less than a week, there were very few toasts upon the Ton, whose tails were not as light as Lady Gro—nor’s.
This, Sir, is the rise and progress of the cork-rumps, which being so great an improvement in dress and elegance, must certainly merit the attention (particularly) of your female country readers of taste, who will certainly soon be in the fashion, and thus secured, neither fear the dangers of a regatta, or even an East India voyage.
My country friend having shewn my letter, with this intelligence, to his wife and daughters, I have received orders to procure one of them immediately; which I shall do, without loss of time, as that is great reason to believe that the price of cork will be greatly enhanced, by th: general fashion that will soon prevail all over England ; nay, I am well assur’d that these cork-rumps have already made their way to Edinburgh, and that a cargo of them is only detained by contrary winds at Chester, bound to Dublin.
I am, Sir,
Yours etc, etc.
An old Observor
The December edition of Town and Country magazine wrote the following, presumably a ‘nod’ to the Lady Grosvenor incident.
‘Bum-shops are opened in many parts of Westminster for the sale of cork bums, and report says they go swimmingly on. Tall ladies, and short ladies – fat ladies and lean ladies, must have bums’.
This fashion trend was somewhat short lived, possibly for obvious reasons, as above. By 1788 ‘the bum-less beauties’ had become all the rage.
This one really does beg the question ‘why on earth would you do this?‘ It was apparently quite common practice during the Georgian Era to wear false stomachs, often these were made from either tin or cork, to imitate pregnancy. It gets better … we discovered in the newspapers that men also wore them!
These tin pinafores were described by Archenholtz in the following way
‘This was the most senseless invention, against all decency and delicacy, and disfiguring the female body; it caused a deformity which is only seen in the female sex during pregnancy. These decorations were called pads, and the smaller ones paddies; they were usually made of tin, and were therefore called “tin pinafores”. These artificial stomachs were in great favour, particularly with unmarried women, which caused the wits to say that a revolution had taken place amongst the signs of the Zodiac, and the Twins had come too near Virgo. But above all, these pads were the butt of jokers, who used them unmercifully, and their use soon had to be discontinued. Such a fashion was in too bad taste to last long. It was in existence in London in February 1793, but by the end of the spring it was over in England and went to Dublin, where it was welcomed by the women. During the migration which took place as a result of the French war, it was taken to Germany by refugee English women, but was not copied there.’
The newspapers carried a variety of report about such items including this one from The Morning Post of 1781 that stated that they were in fact worn by the gentlemen and not the ladies at that time for the following reason:-
Our second offering is an extract from a much longer letter written by a country gentleman who was clearly nonplussed by England’s behaviour at the time who took it upon himself to write to the editor of The Tomahawk newspaper on the 5th February 1796.
This article is for the gentlemen with a keen eye for fashion. Downy calves were false calves that were woven into the stockings to produce a ‘manly-looking calf’ and quite in vogue in the 1780’s. As a secondary benefit, they reputedly helped gentlemen afflicted with complaints requiring warmth. Mr Holland, of Broad Street, Bloomsbury developed a type of fleecy hosiery in which fine fleeces of wool are interwoven into a cotton piece of the common stocking texture.
We managed to find an entry in The World newspaper of 1788 advertising them.
The description below from A Dictionary of Arts and Sciences, dated 1816, provides more technical information about how these were made.
FLEECY-HOSIERY, a very useful kind of manufacture, in which fine fleeces of wool are interwoven into a cotton piece of the common stocking texture. The following is the specification of the patent granted to Mr. Holland, of Broad-street, Bloomsbury, in the county of Middlesex, for a method of making stockings, socks, waistcoats, and other clothing, for persons afflicted with complaints requiring warmth, and for common use in cold climates, and for making false or downy calves in stockings.
“Having in the common stocking-frame, twisted silk, cotton yarn, flaxen or hempen thread, worsted or woollen yarn, or any such-like twisted or spun materials, begin the work in the common manner of manufacturing hosiery, and having worked one or more course or courses in the common way, begin to add a coating, thus: draw the frame over the arch, and then hang wool or jersey, raw or unspun, upon the beards of the needles, and slide the same off their beards upon their stems, till it comes exactly under the nibs of the sinkers; then sink the jacks and sinkers, and bring forward the frame, till the wool or jersey is drawn under the beards of the needles, and having done this, draw the frame over the arch, and place a thread of spun materials upon the needles (under the nibs of the sinkers), and proceed in finishing the course in the usual way of manufacturing hosiery with spun materials. Anything manufactured in this way has, on the one side, the appearance of common hosiery, and on the other side the appearance of raw wool. The raw or unspun materials may be worked in with every course, or with every second, third, or other course or courses, in quantity proportioned to the warmth and thickness required. The above-mentioned raw or unspun materials may be fixed also thus: having drawn the frame over the arch, hang them upon the beards of the needles, slide them off the beards upon their stems, and without sinking the jacks and sinkers, draw the frame off the arch, and bring the raw or unspun materials forward under the beards of the needles; then draw the same over the arch, and proceed in finishing the course, as before directed. The said raw or unspun materials may be fixed likewise thus: hang them upon the beards of the needles, without having the frame over the arch, and slide them off their beards upon their stems; then bring forward the frame till the raw or un-spun materials are drawn under the beards of the needles, and, having done this, draw the frame over the arch, and proceed in finishing the course as before directed.
Hosiery may be coated by any of these methods, not only with wool or jersey, but also with silk, cotton, flax, hemp, hair, or other things of the like nature, raw or unspun, but the method first described fixes them most firmly. The common stocking-frame is mentioned above, but any other frame, upon a similar principle, may answer the purpose. The method of making the false or downy calves in stockings is by working raw or unspun wool, or jersey, or any other raw or unspun materials, into the calves of stockings, in the different methods before described, and to any required form or thickness. The latter use to which this invention is applied, we may be allowed to say, is somewhat ludicrous.
Continuing with our ‘Top Georgian beauty tips’ from The Fashionable Magazine of 1786. As before though, this one also carries a health warning – we strongly advise not trying these at home! Judging by Grace’s complexion it seems highly likely that once again she may have tried at least one of these top tips.
A WHITE COSMETIC FOR THE FACE OR NECK
The jaw bone of a hog, well burnt, pounded and sifted and afterward ground on marble to an impalpable powder, and mixed with oil of white poppies, may be laid on the face or neck at pleasure, and will give them a delicate whiteness without the possibility of those dangerous consequence which are known frequently to arise from the use of mineral preparations for this purpose.
A LIXIVIUM TO PREVENT FRECKLES OR BLOTCHES
Boil two handfuls of fresh wood ashes in a quart of water, til one half is consumed; then pour off the clear liquid, and after boil it again, filter it through coarse paper and wash the face with this lixivium twice or thrice every day.
COLD CREAM OR POMATUM FOR THE COMPLEXION
Take an ounce of oil of sweet almonds and half a drachm each of white wax and spermaceti (wax from the head of a sperm whale) with a little balm of Gilead.
Melt these ingredients in a glazed pipkin over hot ashes and pour the solution into a marble mortar, stirring it about with the pestle till the whole becomes smooth and is quite cold. Then, add gradually an ounce of rose or orange flower water, stirring the mixture till all is well incorporated, o as to become extremely light and white and much resembling cream, from it’s similitude to which the name is derived. This pomatum or cold cream is an excellent cosmetic, rendering the skin at once supple and smooth. It is also serviceable in preventing marks from the small pox, especially when it has the addition of a little powder of saffron. The gally pot in which cold cream is kept should have a piece of bladder tied over it.
Take any quantity of houseleek and beat it in a marble mortar, then squeeze out the juice and clarify it. Keep the liquid in a bottle and when you want to use it, drop a tea spoonful of spirits of wine into about a cupful of the juice and it will immediately become milky. This milk not only preserves the skin soft and smooth, but it an excellent and perfectly innocent remedy for a pimpled face.
Storax and gum Benjamin (also known as Benzoin resin) , in equal parts, dissolved in spirits of wine, with the addition of balm of Gilead, and dropped into a glass of water will likewise make an excellent Virgin Milk, equally innocent and efficacious.
Failure to use these products could leave you looking like this by the time you are 70 – apparently!
Just in case you missed the other posts in this series, here are links to them:
In today’s society millions of pounds are spent on cosmetics in the hope of making us appear more beautiful or better still in attempting to slow down or prevent the ageing process. It seems that this is nothing new and Georgian ladies faced the same challenges. The Fashionable Magazine of 1786 provides us with some amazing ‘top tips’ for looking your best with the aid of cosmetics – we do not however, advocate trying these at home as we aren’t scientists so can not validate the claims being made!!
This water, which has long been in the highest estimation with ladies on the Continent, received it’s distinguished name from their experience of it’s unparalleled virtues in smoothing wrinkles, and giving peculiar delicacy to the skin, as well as in mitigating the tooth-ache, adding whiteness and lustre to the teeth, and supplying the breath with a most agreeable frangrance.
The method of preparing Imperial Water has hitherto been little known in England; but the reputation of it’s excellence has given rise to many paltry imitations.
This is the genuine method –
After dissolving, in a quart of French Brandy, gum Arabic, benzoin (the resin from a Styrax tree), sandarach (the resin of a type of Cypress tree), mastic and frankincense, a quarter of an ounce of each add half the quantity of cloves, cinnamon and nutmeg, with an ounce of pine-nut kernels and sweet almonds and a single grain of musk.
These ingredients being well bruised in a marble mortar, distill them in a vapour bath; and the Imperial Water will be drawn off, which must be kept closely stopped in a glass bottle.
The want of pine-nut kernels may be supplied by half the quantity of spruce fir, or even by the mere addition of almonds.
AN EXCELLENT COSMETIC FOR THE FACE
Take a pound of finely powered rice, half a pound of well levigated (reduced to a fine powder) harthorn, three ounces of ceruss and gum Arabic, mastic and frankincense, an ounce of each; dissolve these ingredients in a pro-per quantity of rose water, which may be increased at discretion and wash the face every day with the fluid.
GENUINE HUNGARY WATER
Take three quarters of a pound of fresh picked rosemary flowers, with a quarter of a pound of each of the flowers of penny-royal and marjoram; and put them into an alembic, with three pints of the best French brandy, carefully closing the mouth to prevent evaporation. Then bury it in horse dung, to digest for thirty hours, and afterwards distill the spirit in a water bath.
This Hungary Water is not only useful by way of embrocation to bathe the face or any other part affected with pain or debility, but it may likewise be taken internally once or twice a week, lasting with considerable advantage, in doses of about a drachm, diluted with spring water to recruit strength, dispel gloom and exhilarate spirits. Hungary Water must always be used cold, whether internally or applied externally. It is esteemed very serviceable in weaknesses of the eyes.
APPLICATIONS TO DARKEN THE EYEBROWS
After washing the eyebrows with a decoction of nut-galls, wet them with a camel’s hair pencil, dipped in a solution of gum Arabic, with green vitriol, and they will, when dry appear of a most beautiful black.
Some use burnt cork, or cloves burnt in a candle, to darken their eyebrows; while others prefer the black of burnt frankincense, or mastic. One of the most simple expedients used for this purpose is that of frequently rubbing the eyebrows with ripe elder-berries.
Judging by Grace’s eyebrows it seems likely that she would have used one of these methods.
AN EXCELLENT DEPILATORY WATER, OR FLUID FOR TAKING OFF SUPERFLUOUS HAIRS
Cut any quantity of polipode of the oak into very small pieces, and place them in a glass vessel covered over about an inch higher than the substance with Lisbon wine. Let them digest twenty four hours in a hot-water bath, and then distill off the liquor by the heat of boiling water till the whole comes over the helm. This is the depilatory fluid; with which a linen cloth is to be wetted, and bound on the part where the superfluous hair grows. The cloth is to remain on all night, and the application is to be repeated every other evening till the hair falls off.
A distillation from the leaves and roots of celandine is sometimes used in the same manner, and has a similar effect.
As many of you will be aware we are busily writing the biography of the noted 18th century courtesan Grace Dalrymple Elliott, for a few months mistress of ‘Prinny,’ who was later to become King George IV. Her daughter Georgiana was said to be the Prince’s progeny.
So far much of our work has been researching her life, leaving little time to write any blogs about her. We’re really excited by this research which will shed new light on Grace but in the meantime we felt that it really was about time we began to share something about her with our readers. Whilst we can’t give away too much yet, there are one or two things we can release and so we give you the Bellona Cap or Helmet, as invented by Grace herself which was the height of fashion and taste during the spring of 1786 in Paris.
Firstly a description of the cap from The General Evening Post of the 30th March 1786, and it’s attribution to Grace’s invention:
Bellona’s helmet is the fashionable ornament at present in Paris for the mode comme il faut. The vizor is of tiger spotted sattin, bordered with a narrow black ribbon, the cawl, very high and puffed, of blue sattin, tied round with a broad nakara-coloured ribbon, edged with black. This ribbon forms a large bow before, and another behind, and joins two wide lappets of Italian gauze, descending below the waist. Five feathers, two of which are green, two nakara, and one black, form the crest of this beautiful helmet: The hair flowing behind, and two large buckles falling on the bosom, complete the tout ensemble. The honour of this invention is intirely due to our handsome countrywoman Mrs. E____, still the favourite of the D. of O.
The Whitehall Evening Post, reporting a couple of days later also made mention ofGrace.
Mademoiselle E. the Duke of O.’s mistress, is at present the Perdita of Paris. Her new invented Bellona Cap is the reigning ton there . . .
And now, the cap itself, from Cabinet des Modes, 15th March 1786. As you can see it completely matches the description above, right down to the black edged nakara (bright poppy red) ribbons.
In case you wondered, this is not an image of Grace sporting the hat, sadly! We do know from archive records that not only was Grace an innovator of fashion but that she was also the Imelda Marcos of hats, having purchased in the region of 100 hats and bonnets in a wide variety of colours, styles and fabrics, but predominantly made from silk and taffeta, over a two year period whilst in France, costing in total around 2,000 Francs!
Bellona was a Roman goddess of war, always depicted wearing the military helmet which inspired this cap. In ancient Rome senate meetings were held in the Temple of Bellona (Templum Bellonæ) where the fetiales (priestly advisers) held ceremonies regarding war, peace and foreign treaties which raises the very interesting possibility that Grace was presenting herself as such an adviser to her lover, the Duke of Orléans, in pre-revolutionary Paris?
For more information about hats from the era, you might enjoy our blog ‘Hideous Hats’.
One of the more obscure sources of information for family historians that are looking specifically at the 18th century is hair powder certificates. William Pitt the Younger was responsible for a whole series of taxes at the end of the 18th century, including the first income tax, either directly or indirectly to help fund the expensive war with Napoleonic France. The introduction of a tax on hair powder was one such measure.
Individuals who used hair powder were required to purchase a certificate from their local Justice of the Peace for which they were charged one guinea. The list of those that had paid was lodged at the local Quarter Session court and a copy of the list affixed to the door of the parish church by the parish constable. It was common practice also, to fine those who did not pay this tax.
The information included in the list will provide a date, a parish, a list of names and a description being usually the relationship to the head of the household or another role such as servant. So, like a census return, it is possible to piece together some familial relationships.
The lists however will of course be much less complete than a census because most people were not of a status to wear wigs or hair powder and there were also many exemptions such as clergymen with an income of under £100 a year, non-commissioned officers, militia, mariners, officers in the navy below commander and many others. One payment was acceptable for a group of servants in one household.
Contrary to popular belief women did not wear wigs, but simply had the equivalent of today’s hair extensions added to their existing hair. Women mainly powdered their hair grey or blueish grey and from the 1770’s it was never bright white like men. Wig powder itself was made from finely ground starch to which was added lavender, jasmine, roses and scented with orange flower and was occasionally coloured violet, blue, pink or yellow, but was most often used as off-white.
In 1869 the Act was repealed as less than 1,000 people were by that time wearing wigs – maybe it was the cost of paying such a large amount of duty that led people to change their appearance. Certainly, a more natural hairstyle was adopted by fashionable young gentlemen in Regency England.
It is still possible today to find records around the country of hair powder certificates if you contact the relevant archives.