Friday, April 18, 2014

Casual Friday: Dressing for the Easter Ball 1819

Friday, April 18, 2014
Loretta reports:

Whether you plan to show off your Easter finery in a parade or at a ball, or simply wait patiently for a chance to wear some spring clothes (we're still bundled up here in New England and the daffodils are shivering), I hope this image will amuse.

Dandies and Dandizettes dressing for the Easter Ball
Published by Thomas Tegg, 1819

Thanks to Isabella for bringing it to my attention, and to the Rijksmuseum for making it available through the Rijksstudio.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

A Rare Pair of Embroidered Silk Sandals, c. 1805

Thursday, April 17, 2014
Isabella reporting,

Western women's fashion relaxed towards the end of the 18th c., incorporating classically inspired silhouettes and soft fabrics like cotton muslin and fine linen. But the gowns weren't the only things that changed: the heeled, buckled shoes that had been in style for the previous hundred years gave way to heelless slippers and, for the most fashion-forward ladies, sandals that tied around the in the ankle in the antique manner.

These silk slippers – they would also have been called sandals – are a stylish compromise that look surprisingly modern. Hand-stitched for an American lady in the first years of the 19th c., they feature pink satin two-piece vamps embroidered with twisting flowered vines, and open sides, backs, and toes. They might have been made to match a favorite gown, or simply to provide a touch of color with an all-white ensemble.

Green satin ribbons that echo the vines lace the vamps together, as well as holding the shoe on the foot by tying around the wearer's ankles. (I hope you'll also excuse my haphazard positioning of the laces for this photo; I only had a few moments to arrange the slippers for the picture, and alas, there were no ladies about with sufficiently dainty feet to model them.) The soles are flat, stitched suede, and there are removable quilted silk insoles. These were sandals meant for informal indoor wear, and with their flat soles and adjustable lacing, they must have been as comfortable as they were stylish.

Above: Slippers/sandals, early 19th c., embroidered silk satin with suede soles. Chester County Historical Society.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

A London Gaming Hell in 1825

Wednesday, April 16, 2014
Loretta reports:

Gaming hells make frequent appearances in historical romances.  In case our readers were wondering how these might compare to our modern-day casinos, here’s Charles Molloy Westmacott’s* (aka Bernard Blackmantle) 1825 verbal sketch.  The illustration is by Robert Cruikshank.
The principal game played here is French Hazard, the director and friends supplying the bank, the premium for which, with what the box-money produces, forms no inconsiderable source of profit. It is ridiculous to suppose any unfair practices are ever resorted to in the general game; in a mixed company they would be easily detected, and must end in the ruin of the house: but the chances of the game, calculation, and superior play, give proficients every advantage, and should teach the inexperienced caution. "It is heart-rending," said Crony, whom I had smuggled into one corner of the room, for the purpose of enjoying his remarks free from observation, "to observe the progress of the unfortunate votaries to this destructive vice, as they gradually proceed through the various stages of its seductive influence. The young and thoughtless are delighted with the fascination of the scene: to the more profligate sensualist it affords an opportunity of enjoying the choicest liqueurs, coffee, and wines, free of expense; and, although he may have no money to lose himself, he can do the house a good turn, by introducing some pigeon who has just come out; and he is therefore always a welcome visitor. At Crockford's, all games where the aid of mechanism would be necessary are cautiously avoided, not from any moral dislike to Rouge et Noir or Roulette, but from the apprehension of an occasional visit from the police, and the danger attending the discovery of such apparatus, which, from its bulk, cannot easily be concealed. In the space of an hour Echo had lost all the money he possessed, and had given his I O U for a very considerable sum; although frequently urged to desist by Transit, who, with all his love of life and frolic, is yet a decided enemy to gaming.
The English Spy

*Another view of him here.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

A Little Boy's Suit with a Military Air, c. 1800-1830

Tuesday, April 15, 2014
Isabella reporting,

As Loretta and I have described before (see here and here), little boys in the past were dressed much like their sisters, in loose-fitting frock-style garments that made diaper changes easy. Reaching the age to be "breeched" and shifting to wearing miniature versions of adult male clothing was a major milestone for 18th c. boys.

In the late 18th c., however, there was a general relaxing of children's clothing. Instead of stiff little waistcoats and breeches, boys wore a practical two-piece garment that made the transition to adult clothes a bit easier. This was called a "skeleton suit," a jacket and trousers that buttoned together at the waist for the sake of neatness and ease. The name came from the clean lines and snug fit of the suit, which gave the wearer a narrow silhouette - ostensibly like a bare-bones skeleton. Skeleton suits were often worn with a shirt with a soft, ruffled collar, and were usually made of plain wool or linen, like this one from the collection of Colonial Williamsburg.

And then there's this unusual example, left. Dating from the early years of the 19th c., this wool skeleton suit was worn by John Worthington Williams, Sr., of Wethersfield, CT. For an American boy, the suit represents the elaborate military uniforms being worn by European officers in the Napoleonic Wars. Compare the silk embroidery on John Williams's skeleton suit with that on the uniform worn by Waterloo hero General Henry William Paget, Earl of Uxbridge, lower right. Obviously some doting parent or grandparent wanted their young future hero outfitted in the latest military style, and it's easy to imagine young John leading imaginary charges through Connecticut orchards and vegetable gardens. (As always, click on the images to enlarge them.)

This skeleton suit is part of an outstanding exhibition, Profiles: Chester County Clothing from the 1800s, currently on display at the Chester County Historical Society, West Chester, PA, and running through August 30. I highly recommend it if you're in the Philadelphia-Wilmington area (or visiting nearby Winterthur Museum to see the costumes from Downton Abbey.) This past weekend, I attended a symposium on historic clothing in conjunction with the exhibition; look for more blogs about what I heard and saw.

Left: Skeleton Suit, 1800-1830. Brown wool, cream silk embroidery. Collection of the Chester County Historical Society. Photograph copyright 2014 Susan Holloway Scott.
Right: Field Marshall Henry William Paget, 1st Marquess of Anglesey, by John Hoppner & Sawrey Gilpin, 1798. National Trust Collection, Plas Newydd, Anglesey.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Return Engagement: The School of Manners

Monday, April 14, 2014
Loretta reports:

In the 1750s, during a dinner with foreign dignitaries, Henry Fox’s toddler son Charles was brought in--to be admired by the guests, undoubtedly.  The boy said he wanted to bathe in the huge bowl of cream sitting on the table.   His father had the bowl put on the floor and little Charles put into the bowl to splash around.  I think about scenes like that when I encounter manners-challenged children.  Overindulgent parents are nothing new.

Thus the need for THE SCHOOL OF MANNERS or RULES for Childrens Behaviour.  I think this 1701 publication offers interesting insights into the culture of earlier times, some amusing bits, some curiosities and puzzlers, and many proofs that the fundamentals of manners haven’t changed all that much. 

CHAP. I.  Short and mixt Precepts.
3.  Reverence thy Parents.
4.  Submit to thy Superiors
5.  Despise not thy inferiors.
6.  Be courteous with thy Equals.

CHAP. III  Of Behaviour at Home1.  Always bow at coming Home; and be immediately uncovered.
3.  Never sit in the presence of thy Parents without bidding, though no Strangers be present.
4.  If thou pass by thy Parents or by any place where thou seest them, either by themselves or with Company, bow towards them.
6.  Never speak to thy Parents, without some Title of Respect, viz. Sir, Madam, Forsooth; &c.

CHAP. IV  Of Behaviour at the Table.
5.  Ask not for any thing, but tarry till it be offered thee.
8.  Feed thy self with thy two Fingers and the Thumb of the left hand.
9.  Speak not at the Table; if thy Superiors be discoursing, meddle not with the matter.
19.  Take not salt with a greazy Knife.
25.  Smell not thy Meat, nor move it to thy Nose; turn it not the other side upward to view it upon the Plate.

View at source
CHAP V.  Rules for Behaviour in Company.3.  Put not thy hand in the presence of others to any part of thy body, not ordinarily discovered.
6.  Stand not wriggling with thy body hither and thither, but steddy and upright.
9.  When thou blowest thy Nose, let thy Handkerchief be used, and make not a noise in so doing.

CHAP. VIII  Rules for Behaviour Abroad.

5.  Always give the Wall to thy Superiors, that thou meetest; or if thou walkest with thy elder, give him the upper-hand, but if three walk together, the middle place is most Honorable.  [And if anyone can figure this one out, please enlighten me.  L.]

Painting: Arthur Devis, The John Bacon Family (1742-43), courtesy Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection  
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