After the whites and pale pink of the dresses in the previous two months of Ackermann’s Fashion Plates, it feels like a breath of fresh air—holiday air—to gaze on the crimson red slip and silver-striped French gauze evening gown of December’s plate 33. Trimmed with white flowers and green leaves, the gown conveys a decidedly festive air. The three-quarter length frock is “drawn up in the Eastern style” on the bottom, the slit “confined by a cluster of flowers” that matches those adorning the hem. The white satin trim, edged with crimson ribbon, trims the hems of both gown and slip, as well as the bodice and sleeves. And to top it all off, the evening gown features a negligé, this one not an item of intimate apparel, but rather a necklace of irregularly set beads or pearls.
I can’t remember seeing evening gloves trimmed with a quilling of tull before, as are the ones in this plate.
Plate 34’s Walking Dress also features a splash of color, this time the dark blue of a twilled sarsnet pelisse. Look at those large ribbon bows adorning the front opening of the pelisse! And I’m amazed by the border of leaves decorating the hem; it is difficult to tell from the picture, but the description suggests that they might be appliquéd onto the pelisse itself, rather than simply embroidered (“a border or leaves formed of the same sarsnet, edged with white satin”). The slashed sleeves at shoulders and wrists, as well as the elaborate collar (not described in the copy), must have added hours and hours of work for whichever seamstress was assigned the task of crafting this gown. Not to mention the way the hem is drawn up into small festoons, almost like a curtain…
Mrs. Bean, the creator of this ensemble, was, according to her trade card, dressmaker to both the Duchess of Kent and to Princess Charlotte. It must have been a mark of distinction to rate a “special appointment” with “the ever-varying and approved taste of Mrs. Bean.”
December 1815’s needlework patterns are also quite unusual: six circles, each with its own design. They remind me of the hex signs you see adorning the barns in Pennsylvania Dutch country. What do you imagine they were intended to adorn? Seat backs? Screen covers? Pillows?