February Fashion Plates: 1809 & 1815
For the month of February, I have two Fashion Plates from magazines of the Regency Era. As always, the descriptions are from the magazine itself and from contemporary commentaries, if available.
Half Dress from February 1809—
Fashion plate; hand-colored aquatint from Rudolph Ackermann’s “Repository of Arts” Series 1, Volume 1, Plate 5, No. 2, February 1809.
Depicts woman in a pink and white half dress with a tight-fitting hat sitting on a divan. The dress is a red empire waist with dark red dot design and a line of five decorative jewels to the waist line. The neckline is a square design with a lace frill appliqué. A white trim accents the waistline with a small white bow in the center. Puff sleeves in dress fabric have white trim with white translucent sleeves extending down to the wrist. A white trim lines the hem and train of the skirt. On her head is a toque style headdress with floral and berry attachments. Her hair is tucked into the headdress with curls framing the face. The necklace, earrings, and bracelets are round dark colored jewels. White gloves cover her hands and she holds a collapsed fan. Rouge and pigmented lips match the pink of the dress. The shoes are a light pink with a white flower and rounded toes. She is sitting on a divan and there is drapery in the background.
Original 1809 description from page 122:
“An Egyptian head-dress of silver and pearls, one point falling on the left shoulder, finished with a tassel; the hair in loose ringlets; pearl earrings, bracelets, and necklace; a train dress of brocaded sarsenet, trimmed with silver and vandyked; lace round the neck in form of tucker, long sleeves of Mecklin or Brussels lace; white gloves and fan; shoes the same as the dress, of brocaded silk, with silver bows.”
SARSNET – A thin twilled fabric which uses different colors in the warp and weft, thus allowing the fabric to subtly change colors as it moves. Though it is sometimes spelled sarsenet or sarcenet, the fashion magazines of the Regency period almost always use the spelling sarsnet.
VAN DYKE – A trim or edging deeply cut into sharp points. Named after Sir Anthony Van Dyck, a 17th-century Flemish painter (and popular portraitist for British royalty and the upper crust), who was known for painting elaborate V-shaped lace collars and scalloped edges on both his male and female sitters. The pointed vandyke beard was named after him.
BRUSSELS LACE – A type of lace or sheer muslin, from Belgium, which was handmade of course (most lace was at this period) and had a pattern.
MECHLIN LACE – In this description written as “Mecklin” lace, the most common spelling is Mechlin. Also called Point de Malines, it is an old bobbin lace, one of the best known Flemish laces, originally produced in Mechelen. Worn primarily during summer, it is fine, transparent, and looks best when worn over another color.
TOQUE HAT – Refers to a style of hat with a very narrow brim or no brim at all. A popular style from the 13th to 16th centuries in Europe for a wide variety of hats. Today a toque hat is primarily referring to a chef’s hat and the knit cap in Canada (what in the US is a “beanie”).
It isn’t immediately clear why Ackermann’s description notes an “Egyptian head-dress” in this plate. Classical cultures (most notably Greek and Roman) were heavy influences in fashion style with the names added for an exotic flair. I searched, but these labels weren’t always obvious and rarely universal. In this case, the “Egyptian” descriptor probably applies to the trail of lace falling over one shoulder, which is reminiscent of the long lapels on traditional headdresses for Egyptian royalty. Then again, it might have been added simply as a marketing ploy!
Carriage Dress from February 1815—
Fashion Plate No. 2, The Lady’s Magazine; or Entertaining Companion for the Fair Sex, Appropriated Solely to Their Use and Amusement.
For this fashion plate, I could not find a digitalized copy of this volume of The Lady’s Magazine and none of the digitalized images of the fashion plate included a quoted text. Perhaps that means the magazine did not have a description, as is typical with Ackermann’s for instance. I do not know, but loved the look of this ensemble so went ahead and chose to share.
This fashion plate depicts an ensemble suitable for riding in a carriage, which was a major form of transportation in the early nineteenth century. It has a high collar, long sleeves, and a sizable red shawl to keep the wearer warm. The wide-brimmed, tall hat sports several large feathers, probably ostrich. She is wearing tan-colored gloves, likely of nankeen or kid leather. She is wearing thin slippers, so clearly not intending to walk at Hyde Park!
SIDE NOTE: The Lady’s Magazine; or Entertaining Companion for the Fair Sex, Appropriated Solely to Their Use and Amusement was a woman’s magazine published in England from 1770 until 1847. Priced at sixpence per copy, it began publication in August 1770 by the London bookseller John Coote and the publisher John Wheble. It featured articles on fiction, poetry, fashion, music, and social gossip. The magazine dominated the market for most of its run, claiming a readership of 16,000, a figure considered a success when analyzing the country’s contemporary literacy levels and underdeveloped printing technologies.
The magazine evolved in the 19th century, changing its name to Lady’s Magazine or Mirror of the Belles Lettres, Fine Arts, Music, Drama, Fashions, etc. in 1830 and merging in 1832 with the Lady’s Monthly Museum.