Uninformed Comment

Complicated follower of fashion

Posted in Art, Grammar & usage, History by uninformedcomment on May 27, 2010

Fashion illustration, 1841

Ever wondered how society ladies in the provinces knew what to wear (and what not to wear) before the days of glossy photographs in magazines? Even illustrations such as the one above, from 1841, were beyond the scope of newspaper presses.

So, they had to read all about it. At considerable length, and partly in French.

From the Hull Packet, Friday, January 1st, 1840:


(From the “London & Paris Ladies’ Magazine of Fashion.”)

The make of dresses will not vary this winter; the corsages are all with points, consequently without ceinteur, having folded drapery on the top, unless when intended to be worn with berthes; they are then quite plain, the sleeves formed of three small trimmings or bouillons, which do not much increase their size, but sustain the manchettes or pagodes. The skirts continue to be made very long. Lace still constitutes the general style of trimmings, being placed in every variety of form and make; every description of it is fashionable. Bouquets of velvet flowers are much used in every colour to ornament ball dresses and combine the drapery or feston of a flounce or lace; demi-couronnes of roses placed en echelon on the side of gauze dresses, or roses cent feuilles, intermixed with bouillon of alet or gauze, ornament the bottom of satin dresses. The new materials for coach dresses are of the most splendid description, the grounds of silver or gold, embroidered in sprigs, shaded with corresponding richness; satins watered of dark colours; brocher with gold, or pale blue broche with silver. Satins pompadour, a colonner of roses or carnations on white, blue or green grounds, are equally new and elegant; satins huguenots, marron ground, or oreille d’ours broches, with gold and coloured silks having flounces, berthes, and pagodes of dentelle d’or.

Velvets are much work for soirees, concerts &c.; blue, dark brown and pale pink are the favourite colours; white, blue and pink satins are also very fashionable. But organdys and embroidered muslin are also in favour, and coral ornaments are worn with them. For the promenade, taffetas, striped with red or green on brown grounds, are worn. The bonnets are of velvet of violet purple or deep blue, ornamented with velvet flowers of the same shade, and noeuls of lace inside. Coiffures composed of small crowns of velvet, have lappets placed quite flat, each side vandyked. A pretty novelty in coiffures are the caps of tulle, embroidered in paille with all the edges liseres with a fine straw, and ornamented with wheatears of straw colour. Many turbans are of point lace, enlivened with flowers and jewels; they are not made quite so low at the ears.  Those for court are of gold tissue.

The Foutange cap is formed of lace lappets. Coiffures of hair are in every style! ringlets, bandeaux Clothilde, plaits with flowers, diamonds,  noeuds of dentelle d’or or d’argent, epingles, wreaths of coral, pearls &c. wreaths of seed coral, twisted in the plait and confined by epingles in the same style. Genoese epingles of gold filigree, or stones of various colour, are fashionable in the head.

I trust that’s all clear, then. Grab your enlivened, high-eared lace point turban and your demi-couronnes of roses en echelon, we’re going for a soirée on the promenade.


[Any transcription errors are mine; a few words were near-illegible. Printed article facsimile here; corrections welcome.]


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