As well as the material I discussed in one of my previous articles, there is plenty of interesting fashion news tucked away in “The Date-Book of Remarkable and Memorable Events connected with Nottingham and its neighbourhood” by John Frost Sutton. This time, it is for 1776, and it concerns, if I interpret it correctly, informal wear for ladies.
“The Nottingham Journal of this date gives the description of ladies’ undress for August:
“The ladies’ fashionable undress, commonly called a dishabille (sic)”.
Here is a satirical portrait of dishabille entitled “The Three Graces in a High Wind”:
Some young gentlemen also clearly appreciated that there were varying degrees of dishabille:
Back to the story:
“(Ladies’ fashionable undress is…) to pay visits in the morning, also for walking in the country, on account of its being neat, light and short, consists of a jacket, the front part of which is made like a sultana; the back part is cut out in four pieces; the middle part is not wider at the bottom than about half an inch; the sides in proportion very narrow”:
“The materials most in vogue, are white muslins with a coloured printed border chintz pattern, printed on purpose in borders about an inch deep. The silks, which are chiefly lute strings, are mostly trimmed with gauze, The gauze is tucked upon the bottom of the jacket, and edged with different coloured fringes. The petticoat is drawn up in a festoon, and tied with a true lover’s knot, two tassels hanging down from each festoon. A short gauze apron, striped or figured, cut in three scollops (sic) at the bottom, and trimmed round with a broad trimming closely plaited; the middle of the apron has three scollops reversed. The cuffs are puckered in the shape of a double pine, one in front of the arm, the other behind, but the front rather lower.”
“To complete this dress for summer walking, the most elegant and delicate ladies carry a long japanned walking-cane with an ivory hook head, and on the middle of the cane is fastened a silk umbrella, or what the French call a parasol, which defends them from the sun and slight showers of rain. It opens by a spring, and it is pushed up towards the head of the cane when expanded for use”:
“Hats, with the feathers spread, chiefly made of chip, covered with fancy gauze puckered, variegated artificial flowers, bell tassels, and other decorations are worn large. No alteration worth notice has taken place in gentlemen’s dress except that they increase the size of their hats, and cock it in the German military style.”
I’m afraid that there is quite a lot here that I do not understand. I suspect that many of the technical terms have been lost in the intervening 240 years. To me, for example, “sultana” is either a brown fruit or a large woman who is the wife of the sultan. Neither of them are much of a match for the front of a jacket. Anyway, I have not been able to put too many pictures in, because much of the text remains unintelligible to me. On the other hand, this is what the world of the cinema offered as their version of the informal dresses of the late eighteenth century and the Regency periods:
It’s so sad, though, that they couldn’t find the eighteenth century countryside to go with it. And couldn’t they have avoided including a group of caravans when they did the filming?