What were the ladies of London wearing 200 years ago? According to the Fashion plates from La Belle Assemblee, Ackermann’s Repository, and others, here are some examples from my collection.
La Belle Assemblée July 1815, on my office wall: Waterloo Walking Dress
As I have posted before, the publishers of this magazine must have raced to find a suitable dress to commemorate the battle, something in the colors of mourning for the dead, yet expressive of the victorious celebration throughout the nation.
From the magazine: “Waterloo Walking Dress
This very beautiful dress, which answers the double purpose of walking or dinner dress, is composed of clear muslin and is made in a most original and tasteful style: the petticoat, as our readers will perceive by the Print, is ornamented in an elegant and appropriate manner with a tasteful black trimming. The body and sleeves, composed of an intermixture of black satin and clear muslin, are exquisitely fancied; they are made in a style of novelty, elegance, and simplicity which we never recollect being equalled in the mourning costume. The Waterloo dress, when worn for dinner parties, has no shirt, but some ladies shade the neck a little by a narrow frill of white crape round the bosom. In the walking costume it is worn with a shirt invented for the occasion, and trimmed in a very novel and appropriate style. Of the hat worn with this dress we can only observe that it is the most elegant and striking headdress ever invented for mourning; it is an intermixture of white satin and black crape, most tastefully ornamented with either black or white feathers. Black or white kid sandals and white kid gloves finish the dress, the effect of which altogether is much more elegant than our fair readers can conceive either from the Print or from our description. The above dress was invented by Mrs. Bell, Inventress of the Ladies Chapeau Bras and the Circassian Corset, and of whom only they can be had, at her Magazin des Modes, No. 26, Charlotte Street, Bedford-Square.”
Now, moving into 1816:
from Ackermann’s, an Opera Dress, April 1816
A few years ago, I was fortunate enough to acquire the two bound copies of 1816’s La Belle Assemblee and one of 1815, each containing six monthly issues complete with fashion plates. For years, I read and copied material from them, a wonderful opportunity. Though the bindings were in poor condition, they were entirely readable and usable. The fashion plates, once scanned and framed, are hardly distinguishable from the originals.
La Belle Assemblee: Riding Dress, June. 1816
Sometimes when one goes to a library, the issues of the old magazines have had their fashion plates razored out. All those plates for sale on ebay and elsewhere come from someplace and many have been stolen. A pox on anyone who steals from libraries!!!
So I was eager to donate my three volumes to a place where they would be protected. To me, the best spot was Chawton House Library. Below, I am handing them to then-librarian Jacqui Grainger.
Victoria and Jacqui
Don’t you love the shelves of books in the background and
the computer at the right?
In order not to take the plates out of their frames, I found a few versions of those I own on other websites. A hunt will turn up most of them. Try Pinterest, for example, and the websites/blogs of experts and collectors like Candice Hern, Regency Encyclopedia, Rachel Knowles, Jane Austen’s World, E.K. Duncan, and others.
Coeffure a la Romaine, Robe de Perkale, from Costume Parisien, 1816
Above, I think she is far more interested in her book than in her appearance, though the hem decoration is unusual and may attract some comment on the ballroom floor.