Thursday, May 19, 2011

Fashions for May 1820

Thursday, May 19, 2011
Loretta reports:

A pretty lilac spencer & bonnet & an alarming lowering of the waistline in Paris.

MAY, 1820.
FRENCH. No 1.—Ball Dress. Frock of tulle over white satin, elegantly ornamented with blond and full blown roses. The hair adorned with silver ears of corn, full blown red roses, and rows of pearl. White satin zone. Necklace formed of two rows of large pearls. White satin sandal slippers, white kid gloves, and carved ivory fan.

ENGLISH. No. 2.—Walking Dress. Round dress of fine cambric, ornamented round the border with three distinct rows of rich embroidery let in in scollops. Spencer of lilac gros-de-Naples, ornamented in a most tasteful manner with narrow rouleaux of white satin; the collar standing out, and the vacancy filled up by a Spanish collar of fine blond. Bonnet of figured white satin in the village shape, trimmed at the edge with lilac Italian gauze, in bias puffs, each puff confined by a narrow rouleau of white satin, and the crown ornamented with a full bouquet of lilacs.

By a Parisian Correspondent.
I Am sorry to have to record the still immoderate length of the fashionable waists; every drawing I can make that has the least modish appearance, gives such a disproportion to the human shape divine, that I tear more than I finish: the little figure in the ball dress sent herewith, is a portrait of a young lady who sets all fashions that are really monstrous at defiance, and makes use of her own taste and good sense in wearing what cannot be termed ridiculous in either way, as she would not wish to appear wholly different from others: this portrait has appeared in Le Journal des Dames, in hopes to give a check to the frightful mania of long waists; but they continue as usual, and, indeed, are so lengthened that they are arrived at the worst, and therefore will, I hope, according to the proverb, mend of themselves.

—La Belle assemblée, 1820


Anonymous said...

It seems that the writer was complaining that waistlines were coming down to what we think of as its natural place...or do I have it backward?
Waistines-- if one can call something that hits under the bust, a waistline-- had been high for more than a decade by 1820. No doubt, many ladies thought it was a natural fashion.
The fashion picture is a bit more Regency than many others of that date. Quite a few show skirts starting to bell and upper sleeves to swell. However, I never have claimed to understand fashion.

Meg McNulty said...

God I love descriptions like this, they make my mouth water! As with the other commenter - is the text referring to waists dropping?

Isobel Carr said...

I read it the same way: He is despairing fashionable waists descending toward the natural waist. I guess revealing your figure in such a manner could certainly have been seen as scandalous to those used to only a hint of form beneath layers of columnar skirts. Great fodder for gossipy old women of the ton.

Jane O said...

If the picture weren't there, that complaint about the waist would sound like a description of one of those portraits of Elizabeth I with that deep V between the farthingales.
I believe the corset to provide that V shape was made of metal. That always sounded even more uncomfortable that the Victorian tight lacing.

LorettaChase said...

The high waistline becomes fashionable in the 1790s (somewhere around 1794-1795). By 1820, this means a quarter of a century in which women's waists were hidden. Like any other extreme fashion change (e.g., the preceding one, from the full skirts & natural waist, to what we think of as Regency style, with the high waist and vertical line), it shocked and upset some people. There were some ups and downs in the 1820s, but gradually, the dress waistline moved down to the natural waist. My interpretation (not necessarily correct) was, the writer liked the "classic" lines of the Regency styles--which was quite a graceful look, especially on someone young and slender (that doesn't mean supermodel thin!). The lower waistline, with the form-fitting upper half, might have seemed more rigid and artificial. You can compare with the dress I posted for 1824

Isobel Carr said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Isobel Carr said...

@Jane O: No, the Elizabethan corsets were not made of metal. The metal ones you see from the period are medical, if they were even worn at all (there is some doubt on this point). An extant corset of they type that WAS worn can be found here:

Jane O said...

@Isobel Carr: Thank you. I would try to imagine having something metal stabbing down on my hips and wonder how the queen could stand it! Now at least I won't blame her less kindly actions on the discomfort of her clothing.

Susan said...

I remember seeing a hinged iron corset at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. I have no idea the time period (this was back in 1984), but it appeared Victorian in shape.

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