Fashions for females in the Georgian Era changed dramatically, from wide skirts and narrow waists, high-piled coiffures, and fussy decoration to simple, high waisted gowns — and back again in the space of a few decades. Marie Antoinette (1755-1793), Queen of France, right, might have been the most extreme. She was painted in 1778 by Elisabeth Vigee le Brun (1755-1842) in a huge hooped skirt and hair powdered, drawn high and topped off with a fountain of feathers. In an upcoming post, we will look at some of the fashion plates from various lady’s magazines of the Georgian era. In this post, however, we will indulge in the representations of fashion shown in portraits by celebrated artists.
Left is Grace Dalrymple Elliott, subject of Jo Manning’s excellent biography. My Lady Scandalous: The Amazing Life and Outrageous Times of Grace Dalrymple Elliott, Royal Courtesan. She was painted by Gainsborough in the late 1770’s. One of the outstanding features of Gainsborough’s portraits is the depiction of the sumptuous silks and satins worn by his subjects. Again, the hair-do is exaggeratedly high and powdered to a pewter shade rather than the white powdering of a few years earlier. Imagine how many hours had to be spent by these ladies while their minions teased each strand up and over whatever bird-cage-like platform was used.
In the 1780’s and 1790’s, the styles became simpler, perhaps bucolic. Even the French Queen favored a version of the simple muslin chemise. The mode, color and fabric were copied by aristocrats on both sides of the Channel. Hair is more naturally arranged, though still powdered a little, and one could hardly say the hat would be worn by a peasant. Again, the painter is Vigee le Brun.
|Jane Elizabeth, Countess of Oxford, 1797 by John Hoppner
Gradually the gowns evolved into looser skirts with high waists just below the bosom. The two portraits below by Sir Henry Raeburn(1756-1823) show the exact changes.