Off and on, Susan & I have been discussing those ubiquitous white muslin dresses of the Regency, and trying to decide whether it’s a romance myth that this was the standard attire for the innocent Regency miss. Madame Récamier (note the bare feet--there’s another blog) seems to contradict that concept, but then, she’s French.
Reading Frances Wilson’s The Courtesan’s Revenge, a biography of the famous Regency era ho Harriette Wilson, I came upon this sentence: “It was now that she began to dress in her trademark white muslin and to ensure that she was seen everywhere.”
Trademark white muslin? I’ve read a lot about Harriette, including two versions of her memoirs, but never realized that white muslin was her trademark. Does this mean it was unusual for a young woman to wear it? Are we mistaken to send our Regency misses to Almack’s dressed in white muslin dresses? Or it was she unusual in wearing white muslin exclusively? Or does this simply tell us something about Harriette? She wasn’t married, after all, at least not during the period of her fame, so she’d qualify as a “miss,” albeit no virgin. She did like a joke, and while her substantial bosom (emphasized in many caricatures) was certainly an attraction, so was her sense of humor.
Maybe, when she adopted the white muslin dress, Harriette was just being funny.
There’s a big difference in how we use history. But we’re equally nuts about it. To us, the everyday details of life in the past are things to talk about, ponder, make fun of -- much in the way normal people talk about their favorite reality show.
We talk about who’s wearing what and who’s sleeping with whom. We try to sort out rumor or myth from fact. We thought there must be at least three other people out there who think history’s fascinating and fun, too. This blog is for them.