Tag Archives: Georgian fashion

Can You Tell Your Dandy From Your Tulip or Your Corinthian From Your Swell? (And what about Pinks, Gilliflowers, Kiddys and Dandyzettes?)

In 1823 Slang, A Dictionary of the Turf, the Ring, the Chase, the Pit and of Bon-Ton and the Varieties of Life… by ‘Jon Bee, Esq.’ appeared in print.John Bee front

John Bee was actually the pseudonym of John Badcock, a sporting writer and contemporary of the much more famous Pierce Egan, for whom he appears to have felt intense antagonism.

This was an era of popular slang dictionaries, the most well-know of which was Grose’s The Vulgar Tongue, and in the same year as ‘Jon Bee’s’ effort Egan produced what he said was the third edition of Grose, although it was more of a straight lift with some additions.

Bee’s dictionary, as well as including a vitriolic attack on Egan in the preface, contains many quite discursive and highly prejudiced definitions and I was entertained by his descriptions of gentlemen of fashion.

At the pinnacle of well-dressed sporting gentlemen is the Corinthian:

A man highly togged was so termed, by reason of the supereminence of that order of architecture. In process of time (1761), the term was applied to superlative articles of dress… We would confine the word to nobility and gentry of education, who join heartily in the sports of the turf or the ring, the latterly particularly: but well-dressed prigs assume the envied name, or seedy sordid knaves, who have no soul for those things.

Corinthians must, by definition be Gentlemen:

None can be considered a true English gentleman by us, who has not stored his mind with English lore, spells every word rightly, and is capable of forming a sane off-hand judgment upon every subject that may come upon the carpet.

And they are undoubtedly Pinks:

One above the common run of mankind in his manful exertions is a pink.

morning

(left) A Corinthian in his many-caped greatcoat waits atop the mailcoach for an opportunity to take the ribbons and ‘wagon it’.

Rather less impressive than the Corinthian, but related, is the Swell:

A man highly dressed, in white upper tog* and lilly shallow**, (for example,) is a swell, however circumstanced in pocket; but to keep up the name he must lay out his blunt freely; bet, and swear ‘damme, Sir.’ If he does not fight, at least he ought to know how, and take lessons – or give them. No fighting man by profession can be a swell, he is a tulip, if he dresses thereafter, and looks swellish: – ‘tis esteemed the first grade towards Corinthianism, which he can never reach by any possibility whatever. No man who ever performed any duty or service for hire (except doctors, lawyers, parsons, and statesmen) can possibly be a real swell, certainly not a Gentleman, most indubitably not a Corinthian.

*Upper tog – a great coat ** Lilly shallow – a white, low-crowned driving hat

So who is this lesser-ranking Tulip?:

Fine habiliments of various colours and strong ones, compose the tulip… Tulips compared with Swells are what gilt gingerbread is to a gilded sign-board; the one fades soon, the other is at least intelligent to the last.

A variety of Tulip is a Gillyflower:

None can be a gillyflower, who does not wear a canary* or belcher** fogle*** round his twist****: if he put up many more colours, he becomes a tulip.

*Yellow ** yellow silk handkerchief with a little white & black. Named for Jem Belcher the pugilist *** a silk handkerchief **** neck

But what about Dandies?

Lord PetershamAn invention of 1816, and applied to persons whose extravagant dress called forth the sneers of the vulgar; they were mostly young men who had this designation, and they were charged with wearing stays – a mistake easily fallen into, their wide web-belts having that appearance. Men of fashion became dandy soon after; having imported a good deal of French manner in their gait, lispings, wrinkled foreheads, killing king’s English, wearing immense pleated pantaloons, the coat cut away, small waistcoat, with cravat and chitterlings* immense: Hat small; hair frizzled and protruding. If one fell down he could not rise without assistance. Yet they assumed to be a little au militaire, and some wore mustachios. Lord Petersham was at the head of this sect of mannerists.

*Shirt frills

Above: Lord Petersham and his eponymous trousers

Our Dandy may very well be seen with his female counterpart – the Dandyzette – on his arm:

Her characteristics were, a large poked bonnet, short petticoats much flounced, and paint. When she walked she kept the step with her Dandy, as if they had been drilled together in Birdcage-walk.

And finally those ancestors of the modern Kidult – the Kiddy:

Big bum 2Kid, Kiddy and Kidling implies youth; but an old evergreen chap may be dressed kiddily, i.e. knowingly, with his hat on one side, shirt-collar up on high, coat cut away in the skirts, or outside breast-pockets, a yellow, bird’s-eye-blue , or Belcher fogle*, circling his squeeze**, and a chitterling shirt*** of great magnitude protruding on the sight, and wagging as its wearer walks. These compounded compose the kiddy; and if father and son come it in the same style, the latter is a kidling.

*Yellow or blue-spotted or black-spotted yellow silk handkerchief ** neck or throat *** large shirt-front frills

 

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The Great Parasol Mystery – or Which Way Is Up?

I have a large collection of original fashion prints 1795-1825. All right, I admit it, an indulgently large collection and a bit of a fashion print habit. But having so many does allow me to notice trends I wouldn’t normally spot – how the way long evening gloves are held up changed, how fans were held – and, something that has mystified me ever since I first saw it – the way parasols were carried.

These days we carry our umbrellas (and parasols, if we have them) by the curved handle which finishes the long shaft. At the other end, protruding from the top, is a short extension of the shaft ending in a metal ferrule to protect it when it touches the ground.  The lady wearing a Walking Dress in this print of July 1819 (Ackermann’s Repository) is holding her parasol in this way (Note the ring around it to keep the folds under control).

1819But before about 1816 the vast majority of the prints I own show the parasol being held either at its body like the pair of prints below, or by the short length of shaft at the top.

 

Ladies' Monthly Museum 1804 (pair to the left) and detail from 1805

I’ve included a variety of prints below to illustrate the ‘upside down’ way closed parasols (and I can only assume umbrellas also) were held.

From The Ladies Own Memorandum Book 1806

From The Ladies Own Memorandum Book 1806

London Walking Dresses July 1807 for La Belle Assemblee

London Walking Dresses July 1807 for La Belle Assemblee

Promenade Dresses Ackermann's Repository August 1809

Promenade Dresses Ackermann’s Repository August 1809

The 1807 print shows a carrying loop at the top of the open parasol and the tasselled design for 1809 shows an opening mechanism just like a modern umbrella. Even when a hooked handle appears (1812 & 1813 prints) it is at the top end.

Then gradually I find them being shown the ‘right’ way up from 1814 onwards, although not exclusively – it doesn’t seem to settle down to the modern way of doing things until about 1817.

But what I can’t understand is why the upside down way of holding the closed parasol persisted for so long. Surely this method meant that the lady risked soiling her gloves with dust, mud or grass when she carried the parasol/umbrella open? None of the books I’ve looked at even mentions this. What do you think?

Promenade Costume Ackermann's Repository September 1811

Promenade Costume Ackermann’s Repository September 1811

Promenade Dress Ackermann's Repository 1812

Promenade Dress Ackermann’s Repository 1812

Morning Walking Dress Ackermann's Repository 1813

Morning Walking Dress Ackermann’s Repository 1813

Journal des Dames et des Modes 1816

Journal des Dames et des Modes 1816

Walking Dress July 1818 La Belle Assemblee

Walking Dress July 1818 La Belle Assemblee

 

 

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