We've mentioned before the riding habits favored by fashionable 18th c. ladies, and the extravagant hats that accompanied them. But we recently came across this indignantly stuffy letter by a gentleman (at least I'm guessing it's a gentleman, hiding behind the nom de crankiness of Senex) writing in a ladies' magazine, who doesn't like the stylish military-inspired cut of these habits at all, especially not in church:
"With your permission, I will just hint at an impropriety which has lately been very visible amongst us, I mean the custom of the ladies wearing hats in church – I mean those riding-hats, with large bands of gold and tassels, which are part of the riding-habit. These appear to me to be very irreverent in a place of divine worship; for although long custom has established that the ladies' heads shall be covered with bonnets or hats in church as well as elsewhere, yet I do not conceive that this privilege extends to the wearing of riding-hats, which are part of the riding-habit....I am of the opinion...that we ought to keep fashion as much as possible out of the church; there are so many other places, indeed, such as the opera, the theatres, balls, concerts, ridottos, routs, drums, and hurricanes, where we may be as fashionable, and as properly fashionable as we please, that I would be for reserving a plain simplicity and a decency in garb for our places of religious worship.
"Of the riding-habits lately become so common with those who never ride, I shall only observe, that however befitting it may be to ladies in the character of Diana, it is still a masculine garb, and in our eyes does not add those graces to the female appearance which have been by some supposed peculiar to it. When first introduced into this country it was worn only by ladies when intending to go on horseback, and has many conveniences for that exercise, to put it on, therefore, when one pays a visit, or goes to church, is such a deviation from the original design, that I hope the ladies will take the matter into serious consideration."
Letter by Senex, from The Lady's Magazine, or Entertaining Companion for the FAIR SEX Appropriated solely for their USE and AMUSEMENT, London, 1790. If you wish to read the entire letter and the magazine with it, it's here, thanks once again to Google books.
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.