March Fashion Plates: 1809 & 1815
For the month of March, 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.
Opera Dress from March 1809—
Fashion plate; hand-colored aquatint from Rudolph Ackermann’s “Repository of Arts,” Series 1, Vol. I, Plate 11, No. 3 March 1, 1809.
Depicts woman standing in a blue velvet dress with a square neckline trimmed in pearls, looking to the left. Front of the bodice is covered in open work white satin, also trimmed in pearls as well as fastened down the front with large white round pearls. Paned short sleeves exposing white satin. Floor length blue velvet skirt with short train. Blue velvet hat with large plumes trimmed in pearls, styled like Henry the Eighth. Pearl earrings and a pearl necklace. A white satin mantle loosely draped around the shoulders trimmed with swan feathers. Long elbow length white satin gloves and white satin shoes.
Original Description from page 186:
“Henry the Eighth hat of purple velvet trimmed with pearls, a dress of the same colour, with a satin front trimmed with pearls, and fastened down the front with large white round pearls; a white satin Spanish mantle trimmed with swan-down; white shoes and gloves, pearl ear-rings and necklaces, white and silver fans.”
NOTE: The original entry from The Repository of Arts magazine describes the colors of both the hat and dress as “purple” as opposed to the deep navy blue in the plate and contemporary commentary. I searched for every version of the image, particularly those which are direct digitalizations from the magazine, and in all of them the color is as above. I am unsure if this is the result of aging to the 1809 magazine(s) which still exist —although usually I’ve not seen huge alterations in most digitalizations— or if it has to do with names of colors —although “purple” and “blue” are standard colors, so….?? Point is, these are not typos! And the dress sure looks navy blue to me!
Full Dress for the Opera from March 1815—
Engraved for N 62 of La Belle Assemblée 1st. March 1815. Invented by Mrs. Bell, No. 26 Charlotte Str. Bedford Square.
This fashion plate is captioned “Full Dress for the Opera, Theatre.” It was published in March 1815 in La Belle Assemblée, one of London’s most important women’s magazines of the early nineteenth century. The look was designed by the dressmaker Mrs. Bell, perhaps a relation of John Bell, who published La Belle Assemblée.
The woman in the fashion plate is wearing a dress in a pinkish-purple color described in Regency literature as “puce,” which is French for “flea.” The dress features the long-lasting tubular silhouette with high waist, round neckline, and double sleeves. The double sleeves are puffed at the top and fitted from the upper arm to the wrist, ending in a ruffle. The neckline has Van Dyke trim and the hem has horizontal decoration at the hem, both of which are found in fashions from the 1810–1820 period. Hats were an important component of evening dress, and this ensemble includes a matching hat with gold trim and a prominent feather.
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.
PUCE — The Oxford English Dictionary (OED) dates the first English use of “puce” as a color to 1778. The name comes from the French word puce, or flea, which comes from the Latin word for flea. The color is said to be the color of bloodstains on linen or bedsheets, even after being laundered, from a flea’s droppings, or after a flea has been crushed. … Which is really disgusting!
Both dresses are lovely but the hats not so much. I know feathers were popular in these times but I just don’t like them. They remind me too much of 1995 Caroline Bingley! If I could only pick one of these dresses I would go with the blue one as I’m not as keen on the sleeves on the red one.
Wow! How fancy and pretty these gowns are!