Regency Era Fashion Chit Chat - May 1812 La Belle Assemblee
General Observations of Fashion and Dress
Fashion, that imperious Deity, who owns no sway, has however been obliged to bend before a power as changeful as herself, namely, the uncertainty of the climate in that island where she has been pleased for several ages to erect her throne.
In vain, during three or four days of spring-like appearance, in the month of April, did our fashionables throw off the warm pelisse, the Polish wrap, and close Indian coat, adopt the tasteful spenser, and fold carelessly around their forms the elegant drapery of the cachemire scarf shawl; the keen easterly wind again recalled the comfortable pelisse, with fur tippets, velvet caps, and all the other appendages of winter's frozen reign. Fashion was at a stand; nothing novel in the pelisse way was invented. A new kind of Spanish cloth mantle, however, made its appearance, elegant in its formation, and in such universal favour, that many ladies resolved, at first, not to throw it off; but the elbows were cold, it looked comfortless, and the more close shielding out-door dresses resumed their station: this mantle, called the Madajoz cloak, and the Pilgrim's hat and long mantle of fine kerseymere, are now again very universal, and the present pelisse, in compliance with ancient custom, which renders velvet very outre at this season of the year, is made of sarsnet, and furs are no more to be seen; unless they are round a pelerine of satin to suit the colour of the dress they are worn with, and this bordering is then generally of swansdown; the Parisian method of wearing the hat and feather, or bonnet and flowers entirely of one colour, is much adopted.
The bonnets are in various forms, but the sempstress bonnet takes place of the cottage; it ties under the chin with long and broad strings, which crossing under the chin are brought to the summit of the crown, where they tie and form a bow: these bonnets are a close and convenient shade to the face for walking; the crowns of all morning bonnets are made much more high and spiral, than they have been for some years. The Yeoman's hat, Regency hat, and French college cap, are yet much worn.
The mode of dressing the hair has not been much altered for some months; some ladies, but very few, become it, draw the hair entirely away from the face, and bring it, in the Chinese style, to a raised knot on the summit of the head, which is ornamented with a wreath of grouped flowers. White satin caps are worn with green ornaments; leaves without flowers, such as oak without acorns, geranium without the blossom, deadly night-shade with its green berry, and the trefoil or shamrock made of silk and green foil, did not expire with St. Patrick's day, but is still worn by some of our English as well as Hibernian ladies.
The make of the gowns, frocks, and slips have varied but little within these last three months; only that in full dress the robe is made rather lower in the back than formerly; the frocks in sarsnet have a small fullness; in muslin or leno they are made quite plain: trains and demi trains are only worn when the dresses are made of sarsnet, crape, or gossamer satin; muslin and leno frocks still continue to be made a walking or dancing length, and are trimmed round the bottom with lace High morning dresses continue to be made to lace up the front of the bust with cordo of various colours, to suit the robe, over a stomacher of the same material as the gown: the only dinner dress which is made high is that of the Grey Nuns; a simple and elegant attire, consisting of French grey sarsnet or satin, trimmed round the bottom, sleeves, and down the front with two rows of narrow black velvet and buttons of jet; over this a large rosary and cross of Egyptian rosewood, ebony, or ivory stained of a bright black, is an indispensible ornament, the cross descending below the girdle: if any cap is worn with this, it is the Agnes mob, but the hair elegantly dishevelled, without any ornament, is the most general with this costume.
White crapes embroidered with silver and bright coloured sarsnets, such as Burgundy, rose colour, and Maria Louisa blue, are in universal favour for evening parties; the Maria Louisa blue is a dye of peculiar eclat, between the bright cerulean and the Clarence blue: sarsnet and satin gowns of these colours are trimmed with Regency crape trimming, pearls, bugles, white or coloured beads, according to the taste of the wearer; but fine India muslins are invariably trimmed with lace of almost a cobweb texture, and in profusion.
Jewellery is much worn; and the Opera, the grand midnight rout and gala present sometimes a complete blaze of splendour; especially in the variegated coloured gems, which, with the white dresses, will ever be unrivalled favourites; a new article in cornelian has also been introduced, which from the difficulty attending its attainment, makes some necklaces of that article of immense value; each bead of the necklace and bracelets is as large as a sparrow's egg; and is half a bright red and half white cornelian. Diamonds with black dresses, black velvet college caps, or small elegant hats, turned up in front, with a large diamond crescent, and white gossamer feathers falling over the left side, are yet prevalent as an Opera head-dress: bandeaux also of diamonds, set in close clusters, form a rich and glittering ornament on very dark hair, while pearls and emeralds intermingled with the bright chesnut tresses, rubies, amethysts, and sapphires with the flaxen curls of la belle blonde, form together, at a public spectacle, a most brilliant and enchanting coup-d'oeil. Solitaire necklaces, with suspended crosses, generally of diamonds, pearls, or topaz, are much worn; the rich dark topaz should never be thrown aside; in vain the pink and pale topaz were brought forward to rival it; the orange-coloured topaz has regained its former pre-eminence; it is becoming to all complexions.
Half-boots continue to be worn in the morning, and are most prevalent in cloth than kid, those of French grey, fringed and laced with the same colour, are now most in requisition. Our fair countrywomen have entirely exploded the sandal for the more elegant light Italian slipper, for full and half-dress: the colours of these slippers are various; for full-dress chiefly white kid, pink or white satin; for half dress they are of different colours in kid, jean, and chagrin silk.