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.)