Tag Archives: Regency fashion

The Georgian Muff

I wanted to write this blog last week when the blizzards were howling, but I couldn’t get across the back garden to my studio and my print collection. Now the need for a muff has reduced I’ve managed to wade across and retrieve the volume covering 1795-1805. I found it was absolutely stuffed with illustrations of muffs.

For the early history of muffs, and the origin of the name, I can’t do better than refer you to this interesting post by The Costume Historian (snufskins anyone?). During the 17th and 18th century men used muffs too (Samuel Pepys borrowed his wife’s last-season muff and had to buy her a new one) but by the end of that period they were coming to be seen as effeminate and positively French (Horrors!).

Muffs could be made of fur, swansdown or padded fabrics, although all the ones in the prints in my collection look like either fur or the skin of very long-haired sheep, with the occasional one that might be feather. Infuriatingly, even when I have the description with the image they don’t describe the muff. Even if lined with silk and padded with down these vast muffs must have weighed a great deal and it is difficult to see how one could have put both hands into the biggest ones without your elbows sticking out like jug handles. There would certainly be room inside for other things – it was even possible to buy muff pistols, although confronted by a foot-pad it might have been more effective simply to smother him with the muff itself. In one or two images you can see that they are being held by the rim – the idea of a loop handle or strings around the neck doesn’t seem to come in until they reduced greatly in size with the Victorians.

The image at the top of this post is from Heideloff’s The Gallery of Fashion for February 1799 and show large, long-haired fur muffs, the brown one with walking dress and white one used inside. This next plate is from Phillip’s Fashions of London and Paris (February 1800) and shows two Full Dresses, one accessorized by a vast fluffy white muff. Presumably this was simply carried for effect – or would cold rooms have made it necessary?

I have a number of plates from The Lady’s Monthly Museum which are notable for their rather plain ladies and decided lack of elegance! Here is a pair of Morning Dresses for February 1800.

And for December that year two more Morning Dresses with very shaggy muffs. In the descriptions details right down to stockings are described – but not the muffs.

For March 1801 The Lady’s Monthly Museum has a charming pair of Morning Dresses with a poodle who seems to think the large white muff might come from a relative of his and an Afternoon Dress with the muff discarded on the sofa while the very nattily-dressed gentleman makes intense eye-contact.

For February 1802 here are two ladies from a very lovely Gallery of Fashion plate with below it Morning Dresses from the much less exclusive Lady’s Monthly Museum.

For March 1805 The Lady’s Magazine has a London Walking Dress with a very curly muff and a feather to match and The Ladies’ Monthly Museum a figure in Full Dress with a positively enormous white muff.

And finally, here is a rare plate from Le Miroir de la Mode by the mysterious Madame Lanchester. I blogged about her here with some more examples from my collection. In this example of a Walking Dress from January 1803 the muff is so large that it seems almost as long as the wearer’s legs!


Filed under Fashions

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.


(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



Filed under Fashions, Gentlemen, High Society, Sport

The Road to Waterloo: Week 15. Napoleon Swears An Oath, Wellington is Laid Back & London Boycotts French Bonnets

On Sunday 4th June Napoleon presented his new army with regimental colours and on the 6th he ordered his generals to begin to assemble on the Belgian border. Perhaps critically, he decided to leave behind his “Iron Marshall”, Louis-Nicolas Davout, to be Minister of War. One of his most experienced generals, Davout’s presence on the battlefield as chief of staff in place of Marshal Soult might have made all the difference to the outcome of the battle.
On Wednesday 7th Napoleon opened Parliament, swearing on the Bible to uphold the troubled new French constitution which made him a constitutional monarch.
parc mapMeanwhile in Brussels Wellington was putting on a masterly show of relaxed imperturbability, entertaining, attending balls, strolling in the Parc (shown left) and flirting with ladies. Besides this attitude being good for morale in Brussels (except possibly for the husbands of his flirts), he would also have been aware that spies were reporting his behaviour back to Paris and he must have seemed to Napoleon (or Buonaparte as Wellington always dismissively referred to him) to be over-confident or simply dangerously unaware of what he was up against. Meanwhile Wellington let it be known that he was planning a grand ball for the 21st June to celebrate the second anniversary of his victory at Vittoria.
In London readers of Sunday’s Examiner would have found several items of interest in the Deaths column including the report of the decease of Mr Steele of Round Green, Durham, aged 102, leaving over one hundred descendants living. James Hare, labourer of Beaconsfield, died of hydrophobia from a dog bite, despite having been dipped in the sea to cure it. This was a considerable journey from Beaconsfield and, as a result, the paper concluded, the delay resulted in this usually reliable cure for the bite of a mad dog not being effective.
The Examiner also contained a lengthy report on fashions, including the essential information that “The only novelty in colour this month is that called the Maria Theresa, which is as yet too little known to be generally adopted. The most prevailing colours are lilac, peach blossom, imperial-green, Saxon-green, pale pink, straw or primrose.” It quoted the patriotic opinion of The British Ladies Magazine that, “Our fair countrywomen are to be congratulated on the improvement made to the fashions this month. Those frightful French bonnets etc have given place to the more simple but elegant English taste.”

The print is from Ackermann’s Repository for June 1815 and shows a lady in a Carriage Dress, apparently viewing pictures at an exhibition.
June 1815 carriage dressOn Monday the most recent Paris newspapers in the hands of the London press were those for June 1st, so as far as readers were concerned, Napoleon and his troops were still in Paris. On Friday the report of the House of Commons showed a remarkable lack of concern about the French threat, with debates about a petition against nude bathing in the Thames, the increase of begging in London and the building of ships by the East India Company. The House spent some valuable time considering the vexed question of the importation of clover seed.
Friday’s papers also included a report of the Prince Regent’s Levée held the previous day at St James’s Palace with the band of the Coldstream Guard appearing in a magnificent new court uniform. The American Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary to the Court of St. James’s, John Quincey Adams, was “most graciously received” by the Regent and presented his credentials. (To this day, foreign ambassadors are still accredited to the Court of St James’s and not Buckingham Palace.) The U.S. Legation in those days consisted of the Envoy and two secretaries based in a small office in Craven Street. The post was not well paid and Adams and his wife lived a house called “Little Boston” in the village of Ealing to save money to spend on the expensive trappings required by the court. Adam’s later move to the White House must have made an interesting contrast in accommodation.


Filed under Battle of Waterloo, Fashions

The Road to Waterloo Week 11: Voter Apathy Hits Napoleon, London Debates Marrying Actresses and Spring Bonnets Are in the News

Despite everything that was happening politically, and the threat of war, Paris remained at the cutting edge of fashion as these delightful bonnets from Le Journal des Dames et des Modes show. (see also the end of this post)

Paris bonnets 1

This was not a good week for Napoleon. Having sent out his new constitution for a plebiscite it was greeted with profound apathy. Organisation for the vote was poor verging on chaotic. In one Breton village the mayor noted day after day in his diary, “No votes… rang the bell, nobody came.” In the end only 20% of the electorate voted. In Paris it was 13%.
Paris was jam-packed with troops, so perhaps the civilian population thought there was no point in voting and that they were living in a military dictatorship.
Napoleon did have support from a group called the Fédéres, a movement harking back to the days of the Revolution – “Terror advances us, death follows us; conquer or die,” ran the blood-chilling motto of one group. They were strongest in areas which had seen foreign invasion, such as Alsace Lorraine, and this week their influence reached Paris. Napoleon promptly harnessed their fervour to dig earth ramparts and fortifications to defend the capital.
Mrs MountainOn Sunday the London papers described the farewell performance of Mrs Mountain (shown left), not a name a glamorous actress would take today! Mrs Rosoman Mountain (c1768-1841) was the daughter of circus performers named Wilkinson and she made her debut in musical pieces at Covent Garden, then toured the provinces at the end of the century, returning to London in 1800. In that year she sang Polly in the Beggar’s Opera at Drury Lane, beginning a career there as one of the top London performers until ill-health curtailed her appearances.
“Mrs Mountain who has for so long and so deservedly been a great favourite of the public, took her farewell of the Stage last Thursday night, at the King’s Theatre. In the course of the evening Mrs Mountain delivered, or rather attempted to deliver, an Address of respectful gratitude to the public, for the long and warm patronage which she has experienced – her feelings during the recital powerfully affecting her utterance. This Address, as well as the whole of the entertainments, were received with the warmest applause, and she retired, or rather was borne off the stage, amidst the fullest testimony that the occasion admitted, of public respect and esteem. The pressure was so great that much of the iron railing in the passage to the Pit was broken away, and many persons were in imminent danger for some time, but happily no serious accident occurred.” (The Examiner)
On the subject of actresses, on Monday the Morning Chronicle carried an advertisement:
“Green-Room Wives! At the British Forum, removed to the Athenaeum Assembly Rooms, Duke’s-court, Bow-street, facing Covent Garden Theatre, on Tuesday next, the following interesting Question will be discussed, viz: “Is it any Degradation for a Nobleman or Gentleman of rank to marry an Actress? Doors open at seven. Chair taken at eight precisely. Admittance one shilling. Early attendance is earnestly requested, as a Gentleman of distinguished classical attainments has undertaken to open the debate.” In the scene below the audience is leaving Covent Garden theatre and Bow Street is crowded with their carriages.
1822 Covent GardenThe Monday papers also reported that “A little miserable Dwarf was exposed before the Queen and Princesses, the Prince Regent, the Dukes of York and Clarence etc on Friday. His name is Simon Paap, a native of Zandvoort, near Haarlem in Holland. He is 26 years of age, weighs only 27 pounds and is 28 inches in height.” (Morning Chronicle) The “little miserable dwarf” was actually a highly successful performer and I will blog about his London visit at more length in another post.
The country may have been bracing itself for war, but fashionable ladies were still agog to hear about the Paris modes. On Wednesday the Morning Post reported on Paris millinery. Here is another plate from Le Journal des Dames et des Modes, which would have been available in London. Other journals, and London milliners, plagarised it freely!

Paris bonnets 2“Rose is the prevailing colour, and we still see roses in many hats. Fashionable milliners sometimes put at different distances up the bonnet bands of gauze, or ribbands, broadly plaited. The fashion of striped ribbons in one breadth, or in large squares, continues. The edges of these ribbons are almost always white, and the stripes are rose coloured, lilac or green. The white straw bonnets are less common than those of yellow straw. Last year a yellow straw bonnet always has a border of frizzed straw. This year the edging is either of ribbon or a half veil of lace.”
On Saturday the Morning Post’s Fashionable World column informed readers that the next ball at Almack’s would be on Thursday the 18th, and that, “The Duke of Wellington having given a Ball [ie a rout] at Brussels, he will next (it is hoped), give a grand route to the enemy.”
The big Society event of the week, however, appears to have been,“The Hon. Mrs Knox’s Ball. In Upper Grosvenor-street on Thursday night, the above Lady gave a superb Ball and Supper, to a host of fashionables. The mansion is fitted up in all the splendour of modern taste; it was on the above evening lighted up with unrivalled brilliancy. Precisely at eleven o’clock the dancing commenced. There were groups waltzing together in the one drawing room; and two sets, of twenty-five couples each, at the commencement of the country dances, in the other. At two in the morning the company sat down to a sumptuous cold collation, arranged with nouvelle elegance, in several rooms. Dancing re-commenced at three in the morning and concluded at six o’clock.” The guest list included two royal dukes, six duchesses, “the Foreign Ministers”, two marchionesses and endless other nobility.
Fashionable London was certainly managing to divert itself from the threat looming on the continent.


Filed under courtship & marriage, Entertainment, Fashions, High Society, Love and Marriage

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




Filed under Fashions, Women