Regency Era Fashion Chit Chat - June 1820 Ackerman's Repository
French Female Fashions
My dear Sophia,
Since I wrote last, cambric muslin dresses have become more generally fashionable for the promenade than those of any other material: silk and French cachemire are, however, still fashionable; but they are more worn in dinner or evening, then in promenade dress. Promenade gowns have not altered much in the form; waists are still very long, sleeves are very tight to the arm, and the skirts of dresses are, I think, more scanty then they have recently been. Dresses are once more trimmed almost to the knee: there is very little variety in the style of trimming, flounces or deep tucks being the only ornaments of dresses: if the former, they are narrow, and are placed three together, and almost close to one another at the bottom of the skirt: this triple flounce is surmounted by two or three deep tucks, and another flounce to correspond, and over that are tucks and a third flounce. If the dress is ornamented with tucks only, there are sometimes eighteen or twenty of them. Sometimes the bottom of the dress is ornamented with a single deep flounce, over which tucks on tucks arise half way at least up the skirt. This ridiculous fashion has been, as you know, several times revived within the last few years, but I do not think it ever was carried to such an excess as at present.
The bodies of gowns are in general made tight to the shape: I have observed, however, within the last few days, several high gowns with tucked bodies, and others in which the corsage had a little fulness; but I will speak of them presently, because, though worn for the promenade, they also form the morning dress. Out-door covering is now light, and appropriate to the season; spencers, sautoirs, and canezoux being all equally fashionable. This last part of out-door dress will surprise you, because I dare say you will recollect, that formerly we gave that appellation to little silk bodies which were worn in full dress; now we give it to what you, I think, would call a spenceret; that is, a silk body made partially high, and with short sleeves, which are very full, and are composed in general of a mixture of satin and blond: it laces behind, and is usually finished by a deep fall of blond at the bottom of the waist.
Sautoirs are composed either of French cachemire or net silk. PLaid gauze cravats with satin stripes, which are rather long, and are tied coquettishly on one side, are worn by some belles instead of sautoirs; but the latter are upon the whole more fashionable.
The only alteration in the form of spencers is, that they now begin to be peaked before; in other respects, they are made and trimmed as I described to you last month.
We still continue to wear large bonnets for the promenade. White straw, or white paille-coton, is at present more fashionable than any thing else; but gauze and crape are still worn; and gros de Naples, finished at the edge of the brim with straw intermixed with artificial flowers, is beginning to come very much into favour. I think bonnets are a little smaller than they were last month, but the difference in that respect is very trifling. Some bonnets are now bent a little on one side, in such a manner as that one part of the brim may sit rather close to the face, while the other part stands out very much from it. There is something so whimsically coquettish in this fashion, that one could think it was first introduced for the sake of displaying a pretty side-face. This kind of brim is confined to straw or paille-coton chapeaux; those made of other materials have the brim closer to the face than last month.
Chapeaux are so variously ornamented, that one would be puzzled to tell what style of trimming is most fashionable. The crowns, which are high, and either round or of a dome shape, are decorated either with flowers or feathers: in some instances, with a mixture of both; in others, with flowers and ribbons. Some have a large bunch of flowers placed in front, or a little on one side of the crown; the stalks of the flowers are inserted in a band composed of coques of ribbon: others have a bunch of flowers placed in such a manner as partly to stand up in front of the crown, and partly to droop over the brim. Half-wreaths, composed of various grasses mingled with heath-flowers, are also disposed in this way. Those that are adorned with feathers and flowers, have a plume of Marabouts, to the middle of each of which is attached a bunch of lilac. Many are ornamented only with a bunch of different kinds of wheat, fastened by a knot of satin, in such a manner that one half of the bunch stands up in front of the crown, and the other half falls on one side of the brim. A good many hats have a wreath of Provence roses, mingled with wild flowers and ears of wheat; and others have a garland composed of different kinds of flowers, so large that it nearly covers the whole front of the crown.
So much for chapeaux, me thinks I hear you say. Softly, my dear Sophia, we have but half done yet: we must now speak of the decorations of the brims, a matter of no small consequence, I assure you, in the opinion of the fair Parisian fashionable. Besides the quantity of trimming which I described to you in my last, and which still continues to be worn by some elegantes, there are three or four other trimmings in favour, which I will endeavour to describe to you as well as I can.
The most fashionable is, a fulness of gauze interspersed with loops of ribbon: each loop is ornamented with two ends; one stands up on the edge of the brim, the other hangs over the edge: next to this in favour is a plaiting of spotted, shaded, or mosaic gauze ribbon; this is formed in large hollow plaits, and there are often three rows one over the other; this triple plaiting is also worn in plain gauze, and in blond. Satin rouleaus, with rows of blond between, are also partially in estimation, as are also plain broad bands of satin.
I was interrupted by a visit from the three Misses S---, each of whom had on a bonnet differing from any that I have seen, and very well worth your attention. Miss S----'s was of white gauze; there was nothing peculiar in the shape, but the brim was covered with a white gauze drapery, disposed in deep folds; this drapery was edged with three very narrow rouleaus of lilac satin, and between each of the folds a bunch of lilac was partially visible. The crown was oval; the top of it was decorated with three satin rouleaus, to correspond with the brim; a full bunch of lilacs was placed on one side of the crown; a band of ribbon, to correspond, encircled the bottom of it, and a broad lilac ribbon passed under the chin, and tied in a bow at the left side.
Charlotte S. the second sister, had a bonnet composed of white crape over white satin; the crown was low, and of a dome shape; it was adorned round the top by two rows of white satin coquings; a twisted roll of lilacs and white satin surrounded the bottom of the crown, and also ornamented the edge of the brim; it was finished by white strings, which tied in a full bow under the chin. I am certain you would like this bonnet; it is, in my opinion, the most tastefully simple head-dress that I have seen for a length of time.
The youngest of the sisters had a chapeau of white gros de Naples; the crown of a dome form, but high, and rather raised in the top; the middle of the crown was decorated with straw points, edged with satin; they are placed perpendicularly, and a bunch of rose-buds was partially seen between each point; the edge of the brim was finished to correspond with the crown, except the hind part, which was deep and square, and ornamented only with a rouleau of satin. I should have observed to you, that the satin which edges the points is pink; this rouleau corresponds: rich white strings tie it under the chin.
Morning dress is always composed of cambric muslin; in some instances, the body is entirely covered with tucks, which are either large or small according to the fancy of the wearer: the tucks are run straight and lengthwise; the sleeves are tucked across. Dresses are now made without collars; their place is supplied by ruffs, which are open in front, or sautoirs, tied carelessly in such a manner as to display a little of the throat. Aprons continue to be worn, but only partially. I have no occasion to speak to you of trimmings, as I have already mentioned them in the promenade costume.
Dinner gowns are now in general cut low; we see a good many in perkale, but a greater number in silk or French cachemire. White is considered most fashionable; rose-colour is next in estimation. We see sometimes a few lilac and citron dresses; but in general out tonish elegantes confine themselves to white or rose-colour.
Many dinner, and almost all full-dress gowns, are now peaked in front: this fashion, preposterous and unbecoming as it formerly was, when the waist of the dress was made to the length of the natural waist, is now ten times more so, because the body of the gown being still something shorter than the natural waist, it absolutely destroys the symmetry of the figure. The robes a la Sevigne which I recollect to have formerly described to you, and those made en coeur, are most fashionable both in dinner and full dress. The robe en coeur is pretty, and when worn without a peak, is very becoming to the shape. The back of the corsage is tight to the figure; the front slopes down gradually on each side of a stomacher in the shape of a heart; the stomacher is let in full to the dress, but the fulness is confined in the middle by a band consisting of three narrow folds, of the same material as the dress, which, I should mention, laces behind. A very broad sash, with short bows and ends, which reach below the knee, ties at one side. The sleeves are very short and full; they are confined to the arm by a narrow band of the same material as the dress, beneath which is in general a very full roll of white satin.
Gauze and white satin are very fashionable in full dress; and flowers are a good deal used for trimmings, not more so, however, than flounces or tucks: the former are principally employed to decorate satin dresses, and are either of blond, lace, or gauze; they are put on in a similar style to those I described to you in speaking of promenade dress; the tucks are always of white satin.
Our mania for flowers has abated a little; some, even youthful belles, are now seen in toques and dress hats; the former are composed of gauze with a mixture of satin, or satin and blond; they have, what we call, a good deal of drapery; that is, the materials of which they are composed are set on very full: they are low, and are ornamented either with down feathers or flowers; if the former, the band which encircles the bottom of the toque, is usually mixed with pearl; if the latter, it is plain or wrought silk.
Dress hats are made with very small brims, in the Mary of Scotland style; they are composed of gauze, tulle, or white satin, and always adorned with down feathers.
Fashionable colours are the same as last month, with the exception of ponceau, which is not worn. Flowers also continue the same, but we have added to them the rhododendron, the snuff-flower, and the lilac; the last is particularly fashionable.
I meant to begin my letter by scolding you for being so idle: your letters are so short, that you really do not deserve the pains I take in recording for you, with scrupulous accuracy, the changes of the fickle deity Fashion. Remember, I give you notice, that if you do not mend, you will lose the services of your Eudocia.