Regency Era Fashion Chit Chat - March 1810 La Belle Assemblee
Description of Several Dresses Worn by Ladies of Distinction
1. A white satin dress ornamented with a silver chain trimming round the bosom and sleeves; a girdle of pink japan, large before, but graduating toward the end. The head-dress a silver chain in the octagon form, bound twice round the head; it is worn under the hair on one side the face, which is dressed very full in ringlets, and falls over; on the other, it is confined under the band, and merely curled in simple round curls. Earrings and necklace of pink topaz.
2. A gown of Egyptian brown velvet, embroidered round the neck with shaded brown chenilles, a small shell silver trimming round the bosom and sleeves; a drapery of yellow crape showered with spangles, crossing the shoulders, and confined to the waist before by a silver band. The head-dress a band and crescent of topaz. Diamond necklace and earrings.
3. A gold coloured satin dress, embroidered round the bosom and sleeves with silver. The head-dress a gold elastic chain band, with a demi-train of yellow foil. Necklace and earrings of diamonds or pearls.
4. A satin robe of maiden's blush, confined to the waist by a clasp or girdle of diamonds; a silver spangled handkerchief thrown over one shoulder. Head-dress, two rows of large pearls confined to a diamond loop in front; a demi-tiara of pink foil placed across the band on the left side; the hind hair brought forward, and disposed by a pearl comb so as to fall low in ringlets over the face. Necklace of pearls, diamond earrings and cross.
5. Pale green crape train dress, with white satin body and short sleeves, embroidered in silver and shaded green chenilles; worn over a white satin petticoat; head-dress, a band of oblong French pearl beads, set with brilliants, brought low on the forehead; the hair in light Theresa ringlet curls on each side the face; a small richly spangled silver hankerchief thrown over the head; necklace of emerald or ruby.
6. White crape train dress, with pale pink satin body showered with silver; head-dress, a band of pearls with a diamond ornament in the oblong or loop form in the centre, the hind hair brought forward on the left side, falling in light ringlets over the band which is thus partly shaded; necklace of pearls, with a pink topaz cross, earrings in the drop form to correspond.
General Observations and Reflections on Fashion and Dress
An eminent writer addressing himself to the female sex, observes, - "Dress is an important article in female life. The love of dress is natural, therefore it is proper and reasonable. Good sense will regulate your expence in it, and good taste will direct you to dress in such a way as to conceal any blemishes, and set off your beauties, if you have any, to the greatest advantage. But much delicacy and judgment are required in the application of this rule. A fine woman shows her charms to meet advantage when she seems most to conceal them. The finest bosom in nature is not so fine as what imagination forms. The most perfect elegance of dress appears always the most easy and the least studied."
The same writer goes on to recommend, "That attention to dress be not confined to public appearance. Accustom yourself to an habitual neatness, so that in the most careless undress, in your most unguarded hours, you may have no reason to be ashamed of your appearance. You will not easily believe how much men consider your dress as expressive of your characters. Vanity, levity, slovenliness, folly, appear through it. An elegant simplicity is an equal proof of taste and delicacy."
Speaking on elegance, the same writer says, "This is not so much a quality itself as the high polish of every other. It is what diffuses an ineffable grace over every look, every motion, every sentence you utter. It gives that charm to beauty, without which it generally fails to please. It is partly a personal quality, in which respect it is the gift of nature; but here it is treated of as a quality of the mind. In a word, it is the perfection of taste in life and manners: every virtue and every excellency in their most graceful and amiable forms."
Having selected a variety of the most elegant dresses worn by women of the most approved taste, as well as of the first rank and fashion, we shall proceed, according to our usual method, to some few observations on their more particular formation. Pelisses and mantles have undergone no variation since our last communications. A mantle of very pale fawn colour Merino cloth, with large hood, lined with pink silk, worn with a Highland cap of the same material, ornamented with two small flat ostrich feathers of the same colour, is a most becoming dress to a fair complexion. We have observed several in very dark green, lined with pink or orange, with straw cottage bonnets trimmed with velvet flowers or shaded ostrich feathers. Pelisses are made to fit tight to the shape without a band, with a broad trimming of sable or of the Nootka Sound otter. They are mostly made in velvet of the colour of rubies, garnet, royal purple, or puce: some are ornamented round the bottom with a very broad embossed figured ribband.
Morning dresses are still made in plain cambric, with oblong spots or sprigs of lace let in on the bosom and sleeves. Small lace caps tied down with coloured silk or gauze handkerchiefs, ornamented in front with a demi-tiara of fancy flowers, or a knot of pinks or ranunculus. Gloves and shoes of correspondent colours.
Dinner, or home dresses, are mostly composed of stuff, cloth, or velvet, embroidered or trimmed with gold, with long sleeves and moderate trains; either high in the neck with a falling collar of worked muslin, or full twill of lace, or just above the rise of the bosom with a white crape habit-shirt, or standing frill of lace plain round the neck. Velvet Turkish caps, gold hands, and spangled nets, are much worn on the head.
Bands in every species of jewels are now the prevailing ornaments for the head; they are worn low over the face, with a diamond or other open work, clasp or loop in the centre of the forehead. The hair curled on each side in ringlets, the hind hair brought forward, and disposed so as to fall over the left side of the face.
No variety has taken place in shoes; they are still embroidered in gold or silver, in the device of a star.
In respect to the jewellery, the greatest novelty is the band for the head; they are formed by two rows of coloured stones or pearls fastened to an ornament in the centre. Girdles in coloured gems distinguish the woman of fashion. Earrings are made in the top and drop fashion. Brooches in the form of sprigs or flowers, with gems of appropriate hues.
The prevailing colours for the season are ruby, garnet, puce, purple, orange, grass-green, and coquelicot.