This month’s two fashion plates are really two views of one outfit: the Promenade or Carriage Costume of plate 40, which, when “divested of the spencer, or jacket, exhibits” the Evening or Opera Costume pictured in plate 41. Both here are crafted of “morone or crimson-colored Merino, kerseymere, or queen’s cloth,” to keep the wearer warm during the first month of winter. Fairchild’s Dictionary of Textiles defines “queen’s cloth” as “a term used in Jamaica, West Indies, for a type of fine, bleached cotton shirting,” which seems an odd alternative for Merino or kerseymere; perhaps “queen’s cloth” meant something different to the readers of Ackermann’s?
While the slippers depicted in plate 41 are described as “of crimson velvet, ornamented with gold fringe and rosettes,” our writer “recommend[s] those of white satin in preference.” Said writer also recommends a different pair of shoes be worn once the spencer of plate 40 is donned for outdoor travel: “half-boots or Roman shoes.” Did footmen typically take and store not only coats and hats, but boots as well after ladies changed into their more dainty footwear? Or did the ladies somehow tuck them inside their reticules?
The subject of footwear continues in the curious article which follows the fashion plate descriptions, entitled “Hints to Females on the Preservation of Health” from one signed “A Pedestrian.” Pedestrian notes that while boots made from jean, velvet, or similar light stuffs are appropriate for summer wear, women should take a page from men’s fashion and adopt footwear made from sterner stuff for the winter months. In particular, our author recommends Spanish leather, which, “from its more compact substance, close grain, and the oil used in its preparation” is “infinitely better adapted to repel the moisture and keep out the wet.” Ladies need not worry that they will have to trade fashion for utility, for “there is no doubt, that in a boot or shoe of leather the foot and ankle may be effectually displayed; and that this captivating part of the female form will best preserve its symmetry and neatness when it is so decorated.”
One of the fabric samples from this month’s volume seems to have been torn out of the page from the Philadelphia Library of Art’s volume. But the two remaining samples are jaunty enough to compensate somewhat for its loss. The first, a “new pattern for furniture,” “admits of almost every shade of lining and fringe, from the brilliant rose-colour to the more cool and softer shades of pea-green and jonquil.” I never thought of rose as a more brilliant shade than green or yellow, but perhaps those who lived at the time of the Regency did? Even more brilliant is the orange of the superfine Merino cloth of sample #3, “which we expect to be the favourite colour of the season, in compliment to our new friends the Dutch.” Napoleon had named his brother Louis Bonaparte king of Holland in 1806, then later forced him to abdicate and annexed the kingdom to France. But Napoleon’s defeat at Leipzig in October 1813 led to a Dutch uprising. And on November 21, 1813, a provisional Dutch government was created on behalf of the William of Orange, who was then living in England.
Will 1814’s fashion plates feature orange gowns?