April 1815 returns us to dresses of white, with both a white satin evening gown and a white muslin morning robe. In fact, the most colorful item in either print is the yellow and green parrot sitting on the finger of the lady in the morning gown; one might be forgiven for mistaking the green ribbons adorning the lady’s mob cap for feathers plucked from her favorite pet! Her white robe of demi-length is described as a négligé (another fashionable French import due to the cessation of French/English hostilities?), and is flounced with “French trimming.” The colored silk handkerchief tied “carelessly” around her neck gives the outfit a hint of informality uncommon in Regency-era fashion plates.
This morning dress’s négligé hides the bodice of the petticoat below, but the bodice of the evening gown dips just as low in front as in previous fashion plates featured in 1816. The white satin gown features a double hem border, the lower of white satin trimming, the upper of blond lace gathered “into a narrow heading of corresponding trimming, and tastefully laid on in festoons above the lower.” Plaited blond lace also trims the deep-V neckline, which is echoed on the dress’s back.
In response to last month’s letter to the editor, Arbiter Elegantiarum makes a cameo appearance, to bemoan, like the earlier writer, the current state of English female fashion. Apeing French styles, as AE and his predecessor accuse Englishwomen of doing, is not only a mistake in taste; it is also, he implies, a sign of their lack of patriotism: “Where can be the good sense of those who will blindly and stupidly adopt the dress of a people whose manners we ought to execrate, and whose feelings we abhor?” AE once believed that “women were reasonable beings, and that English women were superior beings,” but now despairs as he watches the speed with which the “mania” for foreign fashions has swept his homeland. The only way he can possibly imagine influencing such empty-headed creatures is by appealing to their “passion for admiration”: all Englishmen feel “a disgust bordering on horror” at their countrywomen’s attempts to dress in a manner that renders them “all that is ugly, monstrous, and deformed.” Ah, the personal (or the fashionable) as political…
Regency women uninterested in being fashion-policed might instead sit down with this month’s Needlework patterns, two wider borders with myriad tiny leaves to occupy one’s hand and one’s mind.