Regency Era Fashion Chit Chat - April 1812 La Belle Assemblee
General Observations on Fashion and Dress
Fashion renews her form a thousand times in every season; yet swift and changeable as she is, we boast the power of catching her as she flies, for London must ever be acknowledged the seat of her empire, and the place where her laws are most scrupulously executed; yet her power is unlimited, distant climes bow before her shrine, and though many affect to smile at her changes, yet she finds imitators everywhere, even amongst the natives of our African colonies.
The three quarter pelisse, and the yeoman's hat, is the most favourite dress for walking; and the cold month of March has again caused the warm velvet, and other winter articles of dress, to be as much in requisition as in the more gelid season of winter's reign: though India muslins, of every description, particularly the fine Decca, are in peculiar favour, notwithstanding the inclemency of the weather in the commencement of the month of March; and, indeed, under the three quarter pelisse, there is no dress so appropriate as those which are either fabricated either of cambric or muslin. A large coat of Merino cloth, of the wrapping kind, is also much worn, and on a few mild days we have remarked some light pelisses made of washing silk, of a shawl pattern.
The Henri quatre hat, the Carnarvon hat of velvet, and cottage bonnets of quilted satin or variegated straw, ornamented with willow-green ribbands, are much worn; and the Regency hat seems to continue a lasting favourite; it is, however, now formed of lighter materials than those worn the two preceding months, and is generally made of sarsnet or satin, neatly quilted, of various colours, according to the dress they are worn with; the left side is relieved by a tasteful bow of ribband, and a light feather falls over the front.
Shawls and spensers have differed but little since last month, which, though belonging to a bissextile year, and owing to the season of Lent, is but short, and has not made much variation in the rules of fashion; some sarsnet mantles have appeared; they are made to sit close to the waist, like a pelisse, and are trimmed at the bottom with a very broad black lace, they are generally of a willow or grass green, or of purple, lined with amber. A few tippets have appeared in carriages and at the Opera, of coloured crape, puckered over satin; they have an elegant appearance on the woman of high fashion, and they are so tastefully and artificially puckered, as to appear as if they were composed of small feathers.
The morning dresses, which are the only dresses now worn high, are laced up the front, with a stomacher, over which the lacing made of cordon, by which the colour of the gown is diversified, is fancifully laced. Evening dresses are made rather shorter in the waist than formerly, but still very plain. For full dress, lace and crape aprons are much worn, and the short sleeves of the gown are made of the same materials as the apron, as in Plate 2. The Regency trimming of puckered crape, down the front, sides, and round the bottom of evening dresses, has a very beautiful effect, when made to suit, and yet be contrary to the colour of the robe which it ornaments. Velvets, satins, and sarsnets, are most worn of an evening; but fine India muslins of almost a cobweb texture, are often seen on a great number of ladies, where there are large parties; they are worn with white satin bodies or cymars, with Arcadian points, the muslins elegantly trimmed with lace, and the points of the cymar trimmed with tassel fringe or beads. Sarsnets of various colours, with the Alibala and thicker sort of India muslins than those worn on evenings, are most prevalent at friendly meetings or social home parties: these sarsnets are generally ornamented with feather gymp, and the muslins with lace; and round the bottom of sarsnet gowns, both black and white lace is much worn, and set on rather full. Trains and demi-trains are now only seen in full dress.
Turbans and caps are more worn than they have been for the two preceding months: some of the turbans are quite a-la-Turque, and are very becoming to most faces; a row of simple curls only, is discovered beneath them, on each side the face. The Anne Bullen cap has again made its appearance, and is formed of lighter materials than formerly; being instead of satin or velvet, of very fine lace, lined with coloured sarsnet, and edging of fine lace round the front, relieves the heavy row of beads, with which it still continues to be ornamented. To these may be added the Arabian cap, made something in the Hulan form; ladies, however, who have very fine hair, content themselves with only a bandeau of jewels, bugles, or two rows of beads, or merely with a simple half-wreath of flowers, of garden daisies, or scarlet geranium, placed on the left side of the head.
With white dresses the most appropriate and elegant ornament in jewellery are, variegated coloured gems, elegantly set in gold. Pearls and rubies, and pearls and amethysts intermixed, take place even of diamonds. Diamonds are becoming only to the majestic brunette, whose sparkling eyes scintilate, in rivalry, with this most valuable and brilliant treasure of the earth.
The hair is dressed rather more from the face than it was last month, and at the same time more dishevelled; but when worn with the Arabian cap, which is formed of black velvet and satin, in alternate waves, it is much exposed, in profuse curls, on the right side, and the cap brought entirely over the left side of the face, and very low on the forehead: the same style is observed with the Agnes mob.
The half-boot laced behind, does not much gain ground; it looks well in front, but an English lady is so exquisite a pattern of neatness, that she would be distressed if those who followed her were not equally charmed with her appearance as those she might chance to meet; and certainly the boot, by being laced behind, soon loses that tight appearance at the heel which is always so becoming to a well-turned ancle.
Slippers of silk-coloured jean, and kid of various colours, are worn of an evening: but for morning walks the half-boot still continues the most genteel and fashionable wear.
The most prevailing colours are willow and grass green, ruby, jonquil, and Cinnebar brown.