Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Ackermann's Fashion Week ~ Wednesday - May 1809

I’m running late today. Today I look at May’s fashion plates and description of men’s fashion plus the general observation which is rather long.


White satin slip, under a crape dress, made to fit the figure very exactly, cut open in front, and bound all round with white satin ribbon and a row of beads, linked together in front with bands of beads loosely suspended at distances; short sleeves the same. Fan richly spangled. Pearl necklace, with diamond clasp in front; ear-rings and bracelets to suit. White shoes striped in scarlet or blue. Hair in ringlets on the forehead, and lightly turned up behind with a diamond comb. Petticoats very short.


            Dress of white Scotia washing silk. Bishop’s mantle of sage or olive-green striped and plain silks, made entirely without seams; border of the same colour. Hat to correspond, and decorated with artificial flowers. Shoes sage or olive green, also to correspond.

Spanish hats, which have been worn all the winter. With feathers, for full dress, are now converted into walking hats, substituting flowers instead of feathers. Straw hats and bonnets, ornamented with flowers, and white silk hats, are making their appearance for the season. Light silk mantles, of all colours, are much worn. Spencers, of a beautiful grey, ornamented with silver, not buttoned, but tied loosely at the neck, form a most elegant dress. The Scotia silk, introduced in the last number, is now in great request for dresses, as is also spotted muslin. Colours vary with the taste of the individual; silver grey is unquestionably the most elegant and most fashionable. The attempt to introduce waists has completely failed; they have not, nor will they ever become fashionable. The full dress of this number is the present standard.

I happened to be in a family party of ladies on the evening of the publication of last month’s Repository:  the moment it was introduced. The dresses became the subject of critical animadversion, and the essay attached to them under the title “General Observation,” was read aloud for the entertainment of the company. Various (as many be suppose) were the comments of the fair hearers. I was pleased to find that scarlet was given up to its fate without a pang: the colour, however, was out of fashion and out of season, so that I could not congratulate myself much on the victory. Green, on the contrary, found its admirers and supporters. Green! Cool, lovely, refreshing green! – Green, the universal livery of nature!  These and similar exclamations from the lovely lips of accomplished beauty, made me almost waver in my opinion, and tempted me to recal the anathema pronounced against it. This was not all.

The passage soon occurred in which the writer looks forward to the time when the “dress of the British fair shall be established on the simple and unerring principles of nature.” -  Here the lovely reader made a sudden pause. – “Principles of nature,” she repeated (as if to ascertain whether she had read the author aright), and at the same instant the “principles of nature” was echoed through the room, accompanied by all marks of confused apprehension.  The whole of the passage was repeated – still nothing could be made of it. At length a maiden lady, with a prudish gravity of aspect and contemptuous elevation of nose, observed that, in her opinion, it was mere impudence. – “Nature indeed!” said she. “It would make the ghosts of our grandmothers blush, could they see how much of nature is already exposed – and has this fellow the assurance to which to which for more? For my own part, I was not without the hope of seeing the modish innovation of the present day set aside, and the hoop petticoat, with all its modest and becoming appendages, again introduced into the circles of fashion:- but if this fellow be permitted to go on – really I have not patience to think of it – I will write myself to the Bishop of London, or to the Society for the Suppression of Vice and get a stop to his impudence.

All this, and much more, was I, in my character of incognito, compelled to listen to; and now I again make my appearance, to defend myself from dreadful a charge. I only entreat to be heard out, and I promise that even the fastidious delicacy of “Cælebs” (who is now become the fashionable monitor) shall find nothing to object to in all that has been advanced.

It has been the aim of all nations to convert those garments which the climate renders necessary, into something decorative and ornamental; and as long as the decorations are kept in subordination to the object decorated, they will be in good taste, but no longer; the moment dress become principal, all beauty and consistency is lost. That dress, then, which displays as much of the form as is required by grace, without infringing the laws of modesty – which shall leave the limbs to act with the greatest ease to the wearer, and the most agreeable effect on the eye of the beholder, and admit only such ornaments as will add to, rather than diminish the beauty of the face and figure, may, in strict propriety, be said to be composed upon the principles of nature.

But my limits will not admit of enlarging at present on the idea. I will resume the subject next month, and will endeavour then to lay down some general rules for the adaptation of the colours introduced in dress to the various characters and complexions of the lovely wearers.

            Under this head we have no other alteration to record in the present month, except that leather breeches, of a very deep colour, approaching to brown, and boot, are much worn by gentlemen. It will be recollected, that, in our number for March, we announced the probability of such a change.

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