The death of the Queen’s brother sent the court into mourning in late 1816, but the fashion plates from the December issue do not shy away from bright colors. Court mourning may have “retarded the appearance of those novelties” in fashion, but as mourning is “expected to be short,” Ackermann’s columnist feels no compunction at describing “what is expected to be most in request among belles of taste at its close.”
Both of this month’s dresses are, in fact, both French, “but in the best style of Parisian costume,” reassures our columnist. Was there a “worst” style of Parisian costume?
Plate 34 features a Promenade Dress, one almost entirely hidden under a crimson “Angouleme pelisse.” Candice Hern suggests the style is named in honor of the Duchesse d’Angloulême, the eldest daughter of Marie Antoinette and Louis XVI, who lived in exile in England from 1807 to 1814. Its bright color certainly appears appropriate for the December holiday! I’m particularly drawn to the model’s “ridicule” or reticule, which is described as being made of “black silk… exquisitely worked in imitation of the ends of an India shawl, and trimmed with black silk fringe.” Its boxlike shape, with its triangular top, makes it look like a little house, don’t you think?
Were ladies on the road during December, traveling to visit relatives for the holidays? Plate 35 also features an outfit for out of doors time, a carriage dress made of “pale faun-colour cloth, made a walking length, and trimmed round the bottom with four rows of rich blue silk trimming.” The front (although we can’t see it in the plate) is reported to be “cut very low,” is also trimmed with the same rich blue silk, although “but very narrow.” The “tasteful half sleeve, over a plain long sleeve, made tight at the wrist,” is also “bound with blue trimming.” The description mentions the usefulness of an India shawl when actually riding in a carriage, although no such shawl appears in the plate. And while no mention of it is made in the description, a small but quite colorful red reticule features prominently. Makes me want to visit the Museum of Bags and Purses in Amsterdam…
General Observations on Fashion and Dress for December include the following:
• For “juvenile and hardy élégantes,” high dresses made of poplin or levantine will be in style
• Cloth shawls will be matched with such dresses; those featuring narrow gold bindings and gold tassels are “likely to be most prevalent,” although ermine and other costly furs are also likely to be popular
• Bonnets of black straw, beaver, and velvet are “all talked of,” while “feathers, to correspond, will be universal”
• Fancy velvets and white merino cloths will dominate carriage costumes
• For evening dresses, fancy gauze, and white net spotted with white silk, “are likely to be in the highest estimation for juvenile belles,” while “white satin, white and figured velvets” will be “generally adopted by mature élégantes”
I don’t remember Ackermanns’ columnists making distinctions between the dress of young girls and older women before; is this where the idea that young girls only wore white comes from, I wonder?
Instead of a needlework pattern, this month’s issue features “Ornaments for Painting on Wood and Fancy Work.” Puffing its own wares, Ackermann’s notes that “painting and ornamenting Tunbridge and fancy ware” has become “an elegant and useful amusement” among the fair sex, and that anyone interested in pursuing such a recreation may find the materials necessary at the Repository of Arts.