Thursday, November 12, 2009

Regency Fashion 1809
'Ladies Dresses on Her Majesty's Birth-Day'

"Ladies Dresses on Her Majesty's Birth-Day" is the headline of an article in the January 1809 issue of "The Lady's Magazine' which is subtitled 'Entertaining Companion for the Fair Sex Appropriated solely to their Use and Amusement'.

Her Majesty in this case is Queen Charlotte of England, Queen Consort of George III for fifty-seven years. On this birthday in 1809 she was sixty-five years of age. Her birthday was May 19; she was born in 1744. The portrait, right, by Beechy shows her in a lovely gown in 1796.

The particular birth-day celebration mentioned in 'The Lady's Magazine' in 1809 is not reported upon in any way. The reader, it is assumed, knows about the event. It seems evident that it was a ball, and that it was a winter event from the preponderance of velvet gowns that were worn. Queen Charlotte's Birthday Ball became an important event in the social calendar, but I am having difficulty discovering the dates on which it was held over the years.
This unflattering portrait of Queen Charlotte (left) was painted in 1807 by Stroehling. It shows a considerable weight gain over the above picture, but of course the lady did have fifteen children! That would take its toll on the figure without question.

Although the circumstances and the location of the birth-day event are not described in this article, the gowns worn by the ladies in attendance are, and they are wonderful. There was a great deal of velvet worn, especially by the royal princesses. Head-dresses seems mostly composed of diamonds and feathers, although pearls are mentioned once, and even a 'bonnet a l'Espagnol'.

I've chosen a selection of the descriptions though it was a difficult choice. The Queen herelf wore scarlet and gold velvet with black lace, and the Princess of Wales (the later disgraced Caroline of Brunswick) was gowned in gold tissue with white and royal purple details. Other ladies included:
Countess Effingham--Body and train of moss-velvet, trimmed with point and gold; petticoat of purple crape, intermixed with draperies of orange, fastened up with bands of gold chain at the bottom, a border of the same to correspond.

Lady Macclesfield--Wore a rich chestnut brown satin robe and petticoat, richly embroidered in gold, snake pattern, in angles most tastefully dispersed across the petticoat, and elegantly enriched with massy embossed border, and ornamented with fine gold balls. Head-dress, diamonds and white feathers.

Lady Mary Parkes--A puce-colored velvet robe and petticoat with drapery embroidered with gold, in a most magnificent style, elegantly trimmed to correspond and tastefully looped with superb tassels. Head-dress, white feather and diamonds.

Lady Radstock--Brown Merino cloth petticoat and drapery; the border of the petticoat and drapery of scarlet and black velvet, with coral beads, and tied up with scarlet cords; the body and train to correspond. Head-dress, scarlet velvet and feathers.

Lady Bruce--A white satin petticoat, trimmed with swansdown and matted gold beads; crape drapery, intermixed with satin, richly embroidered in bright and matted gold, tastefully ornamented with gold beads; white satin train, trimmed with swansdown; body and sleeves, ebroidered to correspond. A white satin cap, embroidered in gold and plume of ostrich feathers.

Hon. Lady Hood--A violet velvet, splendidly embroidered with wreaths of gold oak, and festooned with robes of the richest gold, supported with gold doves. Head-dress, feathers and diamonds.

Countess of Carlisle--A most superb dress of ruby velvet and white satin; the draperies in every part trimmed with a rich imperial gold border, and a profusion of splendid gold tassels, rope, etc.; robe trimmed with point-lace. Head-dress, ruby turban, jewels, and feathers.

While there is a great deal of white satin and white crepe detailed, there are likewise many extremely colourful and heavy fabrics used as well. The article is a fascinating microcosm of high-end fashion in 1809. If you would like to read the descriptions in their entirety, go to Google Books and search for 'The Lady's Magazine' 1809.

I would love to wear a gown like one of these. I wonder if I am old enough for a turban--or shall I just stick to diamonds and feathers? Which would you prefer?
'Til next time,


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