We've seen ladies before in 18th c. riding habits (including here and here), all with a jaunty quasi-military air. Riding habits were a version of Georgian "sportswear," a practical style of dressing suitable for all kinds of outdoor activities and traveling.
And, apparently, for indoor activities as well, if the alluring creature, left, is any indication. Of course she is not A Lady, so her breast-baring interpretation on the riding habit can't be taken too seriously. Still, she is lounging in an officer's tent with a purpose, a letter (which, sadly, seems to be gibberish) in one hand and a whip in the other, with her ankles on display along with her bosom. It appears that she's been riding near the camp, became over-heated with exertion, and is now waiting to surprise her officer-inamorato. One can only guess what his reaction will be, and what his fellow-officers will say to him later in the day.
In reality, the majority of the women who followed 18th c. armies weren't anywhere close to being this fashionable. They were more often connected to the enlisted men than the officers, and were often, too, wives, sweethearts, and mothers who served as hard-working cooks, nurses, seamstresses, and laundresses. Generals like George Washington ordered the ones who were there only as prostitutes to keep their distance from the soldiers, fearing the disease and discontent that accompanied them. As for this particular "man-trap": I'm not sure any orders are going to keep her from trapping her man in his tent.
Which is my attempt at a clever segue regarding General Washington and tents. This summer, the tailors of Colonial Williamsburg's Historic Trades program will be overseeing a major project to replicate General Washington's Sleeping and Office Marquee. The tent will be constructed and sewn entirely by hand, using 18th c. techniques, and they're currently looking to hire seamsters and seamstresses as paid student interns for this project. If you're as handy with a needle as you are with your history, this could a dream summer internship! See the job listing is here.
Alas, there don't seem to be any openings for Man-Traps....
Above: Military Man-Trap, mezzotint by Robert Sayer, London, 1788. The Anne S.K. Brown Military Collection, Brown University Library.
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.