Be the foot eminently handsome, or the reverse, it alike requires to be arrayed soberly...On brilliant assembly nights, or court drawing-rooms, the spangled or diamond-decorated slipper has a magnificent and appropriate effect. But for the raiment of the leg, we totally disapprove, at all times, of the much ornamented stocking.
The open-wove clock and instep, instead of displaying fine proportion, confuse the contour; and may produce an impression of gaiety; but exclude that of beauty, whose rays always strike singly. But if the clock be a coloured or a gold one, as I have sometimes seen, how glaring is the exhibition! how coarse the association of ideas it produces in the fancy! Instead of a woman of refined manners and polished habits, your imagination reverts to the gross and repelling females of Portsmouth-point, or Plymouth-dock; or at least to the hired opera-dancer, whose business it is to make her foot and ancle the principal object which characterizes her charms, and attracts the coup d'œil of the whole assembly.
If I may give my fair friends a hint on this delicate subject, it would be that the finest rounded ancles are most effectually shown by wearing a silk stocking without any clock. The eye then slides easily over the unbroken line, and takes in all its beauties. But when the ancle is rather large, or square, then a pretty unobtrusive net clock, of the same colour as the stocking, will be a useful division, and induce the beholder to believe the perfect symmetry of the parts. A very thick leg cannot be disguised or amended ; and in this case I can only recommend absolute neatness in the dressing of the limb, and petticoats so long that there is hardly a chance of its ever being seen.One cause of thick ancles in young women is want of exercise, and abiding much in overheated rooms. Standing too long has often the same effect, by subjecting the limb to an unnatural load, and therefore to swelling. The only preventive or cure for this malady is a strict attention to health You might as well expect to see a rose-bush spring, bud, and bloom, in a closely-pent oven, as anticipate fine proportions and complexion from a long continuance of the exotic fashions of these days. —The Mirror of the Graces, 1811
Illustration from An analysis of country dancing, 1811, courtesy Library of Congress American Memory, Washington, D.C. 20540 USA.