With summer officially here, it's time to spruce up the warm-weather wardrobes. Here are some suggestions from one of our favorite Georgian caricaturists, Thomas Rowlandson (1756-1827), showing what the trendiest Londoners might have been sporting in 1801.
Well, maybe not exactly like this. But while these are surely current styles exaggerated for comic effect, there still are elements in these outfits that would have been practical for summer weather.
The lady's scoop-brim bonnet and parasol would have kept away the sun from her face in those pre-SPF summers, with that added flap protecting her neck. Her dress appears to be a lightweight cotton muslin, and she's clearly wearing it without heavy petticoats underneath. The oversized, lightweight scarf (which is also in style for 2015) would also help keep the sun from her decolletage, and those flat shoes would be perfect for summer strolls. As for the poufs on the top of her hat: I can think of no excuse or explanation for those except that they're there to amuse.
I can't imagine that the man's twisted walking stick would be of much use on any serious hike, but his wide-brimmed hat would definitely offer plenty of shade, plus it would have the added advantage of being made from breathable woven straw. While his close-fitting jacket and waistcoat might have been of cooler linen instead of the more usual wool, I can't see much summer-time relief in a neckcloth wrapped that tightly around his neck.
But his flapping white linen trousers would have been wonderfully cool in comparison to the tight-fitting knee-length breeches that had long been in style. Adapted from the full trousers worn by planters in the Caribbean, traders in the East Indies, and sailors around the world - all men who knew how to keep cool and easy - they must have been both comfortable and jaunty. Keeping them snowy-white must have been impossible, but that's another blog post....
Above: Light summer cloathing for the year 1801. Below: Light Summer Hat and Fashionable Walking Stick for the Year 1801. Both by Thomas Rowlandson, published 1801 by R. Ackermann. Lewis Walpole Library, Yale University.
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.