You are currently browsing the category archive for the ‘Jane Austen and Fashion’ category.
Kerry Taylor’s fashion auction today has two dresses that might interest you ( breaking away from our Pride and Prejudice theme for a moment)
The first is Lot 192:
A cotton printed cotton day dress, circa 1820,
roller-printed with teal-blue flower heads and wine coloured scrolling grasses,
Empire line with puff sleeves, flounces to neck and cuffs, piped bands to hem.
The estimate for this lot is between £500-900.
altered in the 19th century for fancy dress, of pale green/ivory changeable silk taffeta woven with scattered posies of blossom,
closed-front bodice, with furbelows of undulating, twisted ribbons of matching fabric with added padding to the bodice, with floss silk tufts, thick baleen bones to the front closure, ruffled close-fitting engageants, ivory floss silk covered buttons bust approx 71cm( 28ins);
together with a pale blue quilted silk petticoat and a whitework sprigged muslin apron.
The estimate for this dress is between £500 and £800. It will be interesting to see what figures these raise. Do go here to read the rest of the catalogue: there are some wonderful clothes and accessories for sale, especially a wonderful collection of antique lace.
If you are in the vicinity of Hampstead next weekend, you might like to try turning you hand to making a Regency reticule or even a pocket. There will be a Regency Sewing Workshop at the Keat’s House Musuem, below, which was the home of the poet, John Keats from 1818 to 1820, and was, of course, the place where he met the love of his life, Fanny Brawne who was quite literally the girl next door.
The workshop runs for one day and you can find all the details here. Who knows, you might end up with an elegant item such as this one, below, “owned” by Elinor Dashwood (played by Emma Thompson) in the 1995 adaptation of Sense and Sensbility.
If you’d rather make a Regency style dress, then there is a four day workshop at the Museum, commencing on the 7th July, which will help you make a delightful confection, perhaps something like this ball gown which was worn by Charity Wakefield (no relation!) as Marianne Dashwood in the BBC’s 2006 version of Sense and Sensbility. Go here to find all the details of the course.
Sadly the workshop where you could have made a Regency Bonnet, like the one below, worn by Elinor Dashwood (Emma Thompson) to her sister Marianne’s wedding in the 1995 adaptation of Sense and Sensibility
has already taken place, last weekend. But if you’d like to see more photographs of the Sense and Sensibility costumes which were on show at the Jane Austen House Museum last year to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the first publication of Sense and Sensibility, then click here to see the hat and the reticule, and click here for the ball gown.
You might also be interested to see this ensemble, which was also on show, and which was worn by both Charity Wakefield and KAte Winslet, in both adaptations of the book.
The next “Passion for Fashion” sale at Kerry Taylor Auctions takes place on the 26th June, and there are some wonderful pieces to interest us in it. Let’s look shall we?
The first is Lot 72, a French Gentleman’s ensemble which dates from the early 19th century:
This is fascinating: a green wool hunt coat, circa 1810-1820, which has lapels with sharp “M” notches. The coat is cut high and square at the waist. It has pocket flaps concealed in the tails. The breeches are made from soft white leather. The lower legs have “extenders” for wearing inside boots, and have mother-of-pearl buttons. This set is estimated to fetch £3000-5000 at auction.
Next is lot 74, a Gentleman’s ensemble dating from the late 18th century:
The coat is made of ivory silk and is lined in mustard twill silk, and dates from 1780-90. The waistcoat is made of striped orange silk, and is double-breasted and has mother-of-pearl buttons. The breeches are made of sapphire blue silk and date from 1760-1770. This ensemble has a sale estimate of £1000-1500.
Lot 75 is a rare find: a French Fencing ensemble from the late 18th century:
The jacket is made of padded linen with a chamois leather breast and upper right arm. The breeches are made of tan calico.
The helmet/mask is made of wire mesh with red morocco leather bindings, and red morocco leather also covers the head brace. This is estimated at £2-3000.
My favourite Lot is Lot 82:
is this elegant Lady’s Summer coat.made from “Holland”, a coarse unbleached linen. This has an integral caplet to the shoulder which is edged in black velvet ribbon. It is lined in flannel for warmth…well, it is a summer coat after all ;) This has an estimate of £800-1000.
The auction contains some wonderful modern clothes, and some of the Alexander McQueen items are very tempting. If you would like to see the virtual catalogue of all the items then go here, and go here to the main page for the auction.
During my holiday a few items related to Jane Austen and Fashion have been brought to my attention, and I thought you might like to share them. Here goes…
First , Andrea Galer continues to sell some of her Austen adaptation costumes from her very stylish site, which is now linked from Austen only in the links section to the left of this page. Currently on sale ( in addition to Matthew MacFaddeyns waistcoat from the BBC adaptation of Trollope’s novel, The Way We Live Now) is this Spencer which was worn by Rosamund Stephen in ITVs adaption of Persuasion (2007). She played Henrietta Musgrove in the film.
Also for sale is this outfit worn by the marvellous Oliva Williams who portrayed Jane Austen in the BBC’s bio of Jane Austen’s last few months in Miss Austen Regrets.
The outfit consists of the dress, blouse and spencer, all which were worn in the programme. Now wearing that outfit would certainly be a talking point at the next Bath Festival Promenade, don’t you think?
Next, Winchester Fashion Week is fast approaching, and they have a new blog to keep everyone informed of events and developments. Jane Austen had, of course, many associations with Winchester, and the blog has a new post which discusses her links with the city and her interest in fashion.
If you go here you can read this interesting article written by Alys Key, ”Sense, Sensibility and Style:Fashion in the Time of Jane Austen. This post includes an interview with Louise West, the Curator of the Jane Austen House Museum. I think you will all find it a fascinating read.
In 2006 I was privileged to see this suit, shown below in its restored state, just before it went to be stabilised and restored, while I was on a visit to Chawton House Library. It is now the subject of an appeal, for it needs a special display case in order that the public can have access to it, to view it in all its restored glory
Chawton House was, of course, known to Jane Austen as The Great House in Chawton village and it was once owned by Edward Knight, her brother, shown below in his Grand Tour portrait, which is now also on show at the Library.
Edward inherited the Godmersham estate in Kent and the Chawton estate in Hampshire from Thomas Knight. He was a relative of George Austen, Edward and Jane’s father. Thomas and his wife were childless and had “adopted ” Edward, and made him their heir. This grand inheritance enabled him to provide a productive and happy home for Jane Austen her sister, Cassandra, their mother, Mrs Austen and their friend Martha Lloyd from 1809, at what is now the Jane Austen’s House Museum in the village.
This silk suit- a suit of two pieces, frock coat and breeches- has been in the Knight family since the 1790s.
It is said to have belonged to Edward, and the suit is now on loan to Chawton House Library by kind permission of Richard Knight, Edward’s descendant. Since I saw it the suit has been restored. Louise Squire, the textile conservator, prepared a report on it in 2009 and commented:
“The matching silk frock coat and breeches are dated to approximately 1789. The coat is fully lined with a yellow silk taffeta fabric,with the sleeves being lined in a white plain weave linen fabric. The olive green breeches are constructed in ribbed silk and feature a wide waistband, loose fitting seat and finish below the knee with narrow cuffs. The coat and breeches are a good example of the fashion of the day, with Edward’s penchant for oversize buttons!”
The Library has had a bespoke mannequin made for the suit, which you can see here, below, displaying the restored olive green silk breeches.
The suit is very small by modern standards, hence the need for the bespoke mannequin, and it is a fascinating object in its own right, without the added interest of its Austen family connections. For the suit to be put on display and for all us all to be able to enjoy it, it now needs a special conservation-grade display case, not only to display it but to protect it. This will cost around £5000, and the Library has raised nearly half the sun required for it. But just over half of the sum still needs to be raised, hence their current appeal for funds.
So, if you think you might be able to help the library with financial contributions towards the cost of displaying this very interesting Austen relic, you can contact Eleanor Marsden, the Development Director, on telephone number 01420-541010 or you can e-mail her on Elanor.firstname.lastname@example.org, for she would be delighted to hear from you with any offers of help you can afford to give.
Today I would like to give you advance notice of a conference to be organised by Serena Dyer and which is to be held at the University of York’s Centre for Eighteenth Century Studies at the historic Kings Manor in the very heart of the city.
It will take place on Saturday 23rd June from 9.30 until 5.00p.m.
Serena, as you know, is the owner of the Dressing History website, and makes wonderful recreations of historic costumes. On her blog she tells us a little of what we can expect of the conference:
This day conference brings together academic and curatorial work on the desire to dress fashionably in the eighteenth century. From faces to feet, the fashionable men and women of the eighteenth century strove to achieve aesthetic perfection. This series of papers explores the process of fashion dissemination, production and consumption which enabled the fulfilment of these desires, and how this related to the concepts of desire, gender and beauty. The papers to be presented cover subjects such as cosmetics and beauty, fashion plates, silk manufacture and the relationship between dressmaker and client. A small exhibition of fashion plates and accessories from the period will accompany the conference.
Serena, who is studying at York, will be giving a talk on ‘A Beautiful Bargain: Lady Sabine Winn’s relationship with fashion’
The others speakers will include Professor Aileen Ribeiro of the Courtauld Institute, talking on Desiring Beauty: women and cosmetics in the eighteenth century, which will no doubt be based on her latest book,
Facing Beauty: Painted Women and Cosmetic Art, which I reviewed here. I am looking forward to hearing her speak very much indeed, as I last heard her speak at the Costume Society’s AGM in Bath a few years ago.
Another of the talks which will be of interest to Janeites is one being given by Hilary Davidson of the Museum of London – ‘Recreating Jane Austen’s Pelisse-Coat’
This is a garment that is in the care of the Hampshire Museum service, and here is a link to their webpage about it. Though it is known as Jane Austen’s pelisse, there is no absolute proof it was hers, as their website states:
Sadly there is no absolutely definite link between the pelisse and Jane Austen although the family association is quite strong. Jane died unmarried in 1817 and left the bulk of her estate to her sister, Cassandra, who took charge of her papers and other belongings and later distributed them amongst other members of the family…This particular pelisse was presumably given to Edward by Cassandra and it would no doubt have brought back vivid memories of Jane wearing it. It was handed down to his daughter, who also loved Jane and spent considerable time with her and could also have seen her aunt wearing it towards the end of her life. That she gave it to her friend, Miss Glubbe, who made sure that it was returned to the Austen/Knight family argues an acknowledged obligation on her part. The pelisse was then handed down through the family until 1993, when it was given to the Museums Service.
However, I will be very interested in the talk, so see what secrets this garment may be concealing.
The Conference webpage can be accessed here, and the registration details can also be accessed via this page. I will, D.V. be reporting back to you on this topic.
This is the last post in my series on the costumes worn at the coronation of George IV in 1821, and the final post in the Dress for Excess exhibition series, and we are going to take a look at teh costume worn by the Barons of the Cinque Ports.
The Barons of the Cinque Ports had a specific role in the coronations of the English monarchs: they carried a canopy over the heads of the monarch during the pre-coronation procession and during the coronation ceremony. The first time they are recorded as participating in a coronation was in 1189 for the coronation of Richard I.
The Cinque Ports are a very old and interesting association, a confederation of ports on the Sussex and Kent coasts formed by Royal Charter in the 12th century. The confederation was very important historically, both for defence and for trade with mainland Europe, and had many rights and privileges in return for service to the Crown. The Cinque Ports Court of Admiralty still has jurisdiction over an extensive area of the North Sea and the English Channel, including the Straits of Dover which are amongst the busiest shipping lanes in the world, although the Court has not sat for many years. The Barons of the Cinque Ports part in George IVs coronation,
is detailed in my anonymous record of the coronation, shown above:
The first thing we observed on having entered the Hall( Westminster Hall where the participants in the coronation procession assembled prior to the Coronaiton ceremony- jfw ) was the canopy which was to be bourne over the King by the Barons of the Cinque Ports. This Canopy was yellow- of silk and gold embroidery, with short curtains of muslin spangled with gold. Eight bearers having fixed the poles by which the canopy was supported, which were of steel, with silver knobs, bore it up and down the Hall, to practise the mode of carrying it in the procession. It was then deposited at the upper end of the side table of the Hall, to the left of the Throne. The canopy was very elegant in its form and was well calculated to add to the effect of the Procession…
The canopy was now removed from the side table where it has been placed, and was brought into the middle of the Hall. The Barons of the Cinque Ports were then marshalled two to each point of the support, they now bore the Canopy down the Hall by way of Practise…The Barons now took another march in the Hall.
The order of the procession was as shown in this extract from the account of the Coronation:
Here is a close up of the part that refers to the Barons of the Cinque Ports and their position, with their canopy:
However, some reports of the procession back to Westminster Hall after the Coronation suggest that George IV walked in front of the canopy so that the onlookers could get a good sight of the newly crowned king . This departure from the script was obviously not discussed with the Barons , and an undignified sight ensued:
“At first all seems to have gone well, but on returning to Westminster Hall, the elderly bearers began to tire at their task, causing the canopy to sway from side to side. The King feeling nervous that it would descend on his head, thought it safer to walk slightly in front of it. This however, did not suit the stout hearts, though weak bodies, of the Barons, whose privilege and duty it was to bear the canopy exactly over the king, so they hastened their steps, the canopy swaying more and more with the increased pace. The King now became genuinely alarmed, and though of portly habits quickened his pace, and, as the canopy surged after him, as last broke into a somewhat unseemly jog trot, and in this manner they all arrived at Westminster Hall”
The costume worn by Thomas Lamb, who was the Lord Mayor of Rye at the time of the Coronation, is in the Brighton Museum collection and was on show in the Princes Gallery at the Royal Pavilion.
As you can see, it was yet another costume that took its inspiration from the past. It is designed to look like a Tudor costume. The account of the Coronation describes it as follows:
The dresses of the Barons were extremely splendid: large cloaks of garter blue satin, with slashed arms of scarlet and stockings of dead red.
This is a view of the front of the costume,with all its detailing, gold coloured buttons and gold lace:
I have to say that this costume, while impressive at a distance, is very much like a theatrical costume or , indeed, even a fancy dress outfit. It does not really give the impression of being very substantial, or of being made of fine and weighty fabrics. It is, in my humble opinion, a little bit flimsy.
The shoes worn by Thomas Lamb were also on show-: they were made of white kid leather decorated with red satin rosettes:
And so this ends my posts on the Dress for Excess Exhibit. I do hope you have enjoyed reading them. Once again I would like to take this opportunity to thank all at the Royal Pavilion, Brighton and the Brighton and Hove Musuem services for all their kindness and help with access and providing me with additional photographs.
George IV’s coronation included some details of ceremonial which were never repeated by any subsequent coronation. The Kings Herb-woman was one such element. This was a post that had first been created by Charles II on his restoration to the Crown in 1660. The first King’s Herb-Woman was one Brigit Rumney. She held the position from 1660 until 1671, and her family had close associations with service in the Stuart household, and had also remained faithful to them throughout the difficult years of the Interregnum.
The position was an important one in the Stuart Court for, in the days before proper sanitation, the Herb Woman’s main duty was to strew sweet smelling herbs and flowers around the King’s apartments to mask the rather foul smells that could then emanate from the dark corners of Whitehall Palace, from uncovered sewers and drains and from the London rivers, notably the Thames.
Bridgit received a salary of £12 per annum for being the
garnisher and trimmer of the chapel, presence and privy lodgings
She also received another £12 per annum for strewing herbs around the private apartments of Queen Catherine of Braganza, who was Charles II’s wife. It might interest you to know that in addition to her salary, the Herb-woman received two yards of superfine scarlet woollen cloth for a livery uniform. The last full time Herb Strewer was Mary Rayner, who was employed in the Royal Household from 1798 until 1836.
However, she was obviously not smart enough socially for Geroge IV, who, as we know, wanted to present his very particular vision of monarchy at his Coronation. He appointed a friend, Miss Anne Fellowes, to replace Mary Rayner as the Herbs-woman in the Coronation Procession. Miss Fellowes was about 50 years of age at the time of the Coronation in 1821. One of her duties was to choose six young attendants, who would follow her in the Coronation procession.
In fact, the Herb-woman and her attendants led the procession from Westminster Hall to Westminster Abbey. In my anonymous account of the Coronation, published in 1821 there is a description of the Herb-woman and her attendants assembling in Westminster Hall, just prior to the Coronation taking place, and it give us some idea of their appearance :
Soon after 8 o’ clock Mr Fellowes led into the hall Miss Fellowes who afterwards preceeded the procession on the royal platform as His Majesty’s Herb Woman; she was attended by Miss Bond, Miss G. Collier, Miss Caldwell, Miss Hill, Miss Daniel and Miss Walker, in the character of assistant maids. Miss Fellowes was attired in a magnificent dress of white satin with a mantle of the finest scarlet cloth, trimmed with gold and lined with white satin, and she bore a splendid gold badge and chain. The head dress was of gold wheat intermixed with grapes and laurel leaves. This was appropriate and elegant in the highest degree.
The attendant maids wore white crape dress over rich white satin, with an appropriate sash of flowers suspended from the shoulder to the bottom of the skirt and flowers tastefully arranged in the trimming, with Gabriel ruffs; the head dresses of these ladies consisted of chaplets of flowers to correspond with the general designs of their dress.
Miss Fellowes carried a most beautiful basket, filled with the choicer and most rare flowers and the attendant young ladies bore, in pairs, three baskets of elegant construction, formed for two persons and filled with a similar profusions of Flora’s bounty. The flower baskets were brought into the Hall and placed opposite to the ladies, who were accommodated with chars at the extremity of the Hall.
Here from the same pamphlet, is the Order of the Coronation Procession, showing the Herb-woman and her attendants leading the way: One of the Attendant’s costumes was on show along with George IV’s Coronation Robe at the Dress for Excess Exhibit at the Brighton Pavilion which ended last Sunday:
The delicate pleating of the crepe material can be seen in this photograph of the rear view of the costume.
The garland- with its pink fabric roses- is terribly delicate and I am amazed it has survived. This dress was worn at the Coronation by Miss Sarah Ann Walker.
Though the Herb-woman no longer has any ceremonial or practical functions in the Royal Household, you might be interested to note that she still exists. Ms Jessica Fellowes, whom I believe is the niece of Julian Fellowes and is also author of the Downton Abbey book, claims the title by descent, and if you go here you can see her opening the Herb Society’s garden at Sulgrave Mnanor.
Regency ephemera buffs will also like to see this panorama roll of the Coronation , which shows some illustrations of the Herb-Woman’s attendants in the procession to Westminster Abbey, and which is in the collection of the South Australian Government. I covet it very badly.
Next, the costume worn at the Coronation by the Barons of the Cinque Ports.
Liveried servants were the preserve of the rich, and were a status symbol. Their very presence in a household serving at the dining table, answering the door etc, or more importantly, being visible outside the household- going on their masters’ errands in the street, or adorning a coach- indicated wealth and status on the part of the employer. We have learnt about the heraldic and historic background to liveries in our last three posts.Today we shall look at these special uniforms as they developed throughout the 18th/early 19th centuries.
The uniforms were expensive, and in the late 18th/early 19th centuries, they certainly stood out, for they were becoming archaic in style, harking back to a past era. Liveries of the early to mid 18th century still retained a relation to military uniforms and court drew, but that all changed as the century wore on:
At the start of the century the footman’s livery was still relatively close to its origins in military and court dress, evocative of the gentleman retainer. As the century progressed fashions changed while livery ossified. ..By the 1790s..the kind of silver lace decorations that adorned a velvet livery coat stolen in London in 1795 was almost entirely confined, among civilians at least, to footmen. Livery had become a sartorial fossil albeit one that…was becoming increasingly elaborate and ostentatious in the second half of the century, a trend that may of some way to explain its fossilisation.
(John Styles, The Dress of the People, page 300-301.)
You can see this progression, from fashionable to arctic, in these illustrations, again, all taken from John Styles’ book.
Above is a painting by John Collet from 1763, illustrating a scene from Townley’s 1759 play High Life below Stairs. Both male servants wear restrained liveries…
Above is a mezzotint from 1772 showing another below-stairs scene in a grand household: the livery worn by the male servant, shown trying to impress the maid seated at the table, is now much more elaborate, his waistcoat adorned with much gold lace, as are the facings on his coat, which also sports gold buttons.
And finally we come to our favourite, (well my favourite) debunker of pomposity , Thomas Rowlandson in 1799. Here were have two Country Characters being rather forcibly ”impressed’ by a fancy London footman in his full regalia, gold lace trimmed, note, topped with his powdered wig and bag.
This hair powder was an additional expense for the employer. As we have seen, footmen, in full regalia, wore powdered wigs. A tax on hair powder was levied between 1797 and 1869. This tax was introduced by Pitt and it was originally envisaged that the tax would raise £200,000 per annum for the Treasury. Virtually every man at that time either wore a wig which was powdered, or added powder to his own hair. Charles Fox, in opposition to Pitt, thought that the idea was delusional. He understood, quite rightly, that only half a dozen leaders of fashion needed to decide to change the mode of dressing their hair and the object of the tax would be frustrated. The effect of the introduction of the tax was quite dramatic, and was as Fox predicted: most people simply gave up wearing powder in their hair/wigs. Very soon only die-hards and liveried servants wore hair powder. Thus adding to the ever archaic appearance of servants in livery.
It might amuse you to know that the political opposition ceased to wear hair powder immediately on the introduction of the tax, and took to calling those who still wore the powder “guinea pigs“( in reference to the fee payable to the Treasury). In 1796 the yield for the tax was £210,136 but from then on the number of registered tax payers fell dramatically. By 1855 only liveried servants wore the powder. In that year only 997 servants were registered to be taxed on their powder( 951 in England, and 46 in Scotland). The yield by that time was £100 per year and it was discontinued as being unproductive, and too expensive to collect.
(See : A History of Taxation and Taxes in England by Stephen Dowell).
Not only did the use of powered wigs in livery uniforms add to the archaic effect, it also, among the ranks of the noveau riche, with their newly commissioned coats of arms, newly purchased houses in town and newly bought country estates, produced the desired effect of being from ancient lineage and of old money.
In addition to the cost of the livery and the tax on hair power, from 1777 male servants were subject to a special tax. An annual tax of one guinea per male servant was levied by the government. This tax was originally intended to help finance the war against the American’s struggle for independence, but, not surprisingly, the tax was retained after that war had ended. In fact, it may surprise you to learn that it was not repealed until 1937.
So, you can see just how expensive it was for an employer to set up a household with liveried servants.The extra expense of the uniform and the additional taxes paid on them mad ether expensive walking status symbols. And before I end this small series on livery, I have to share with you a set of photographs of some outstanding and extravagant livery,which explain all the elements I have tried to explain in the last four posts.
This set of livery was commissioned by the 3rd Earl of Ashburnham of Ashburnham Place, Sussex, in 1829 for his installation as Knight of the Garter at St George’s Chapel, Windsor. Here are his footmen, in all their splendour, adorned with their powdered wigs, and wearing a costume(what else can you call it, seeing how theatrical it is?!) based on the colours used in his Arms- Gules(red) and Vert (green); and in addition, the gold lace or trimming is replaced by a woven braid made of a repeating pattern of a depiction of the Arms themselves.
You can see all the heraldic elements are very noticeably in place: he has taken the heraldic themes and run with them, to be brutally honest.
Even the braid festooned from the epaulettes has been woven in his heraldic colours. There is no mistaking that these servants are very definitely in his service, for they are walking advertisement for his ancient and costly lineage.
Yesterday we talked about coats of arms, heraldic colours and how important they were for determining the colours of liveries. Today, let’s look at the practical application of all we learnt. We know that the colours on a family’s coat of arms (or, more simply, Arms) were to be used as the colours of their livery uniforms, for…
A gentleman may wear garments of any colour his fancy may dictate but he is not permitted such license with regard to the uniforms of his servants: the colours of these depend entirely upon the tinctures upon his Escutcheon.
(J. Cussans, The Handbook of Heraldry (1869) page 314.)
But how did this work? Cussans tell us…
In both ( the Escutcheon and the livery-jfw) the dominant colour should be the same: the subsidiary colour of the livery ( or as a tailor would call it, the trimmings - that is, the collar, cuffs, lining and buttons) should be the colour of the principal charge.
So, Cussans now gives us some examples:
For example, a gentleman bears arms Azure( Blue-jfw) a Fess Or ( Gold-jfw); in this case the coats of the servants should be blue faced with yellow. But, supposing the tinctures were reversed and that the Field were “or” and the Fess “azure”, how then? Would the coat be yellow and the facings blue? No, custom has decided that we must not dress our servants in golden coats. Instead of yellow we should employ drab.
So, in George Austen’s case, had he ever possessed the resources to dress a footman in livery, we can see, from the Austen family coat of arms below,
his livery would have taken the form of a drab coat with red facings. This is because,,on his coat of arms the field( the principal part) is coloured Or (gold) and as we must not dress our servants in golden coats, the coat would be made in a coat of drab coloured cloth. Note that Drab was not just a single color, but rather a range of colors in the grey-brown family. It is originally thought to refer to the natural color of linen cloth. The Chevron on the arms is gules(red) and so the facings of the Austen livery coat- the collar, cuffs etc would be red, for that is not the dominant but the secondary colour.
Cussans give us some more examples:
Argent ; a Lion rampant azure. Coat light drab; Facings, blue.
Gules; an Eagle displayed or, within a Bourdure argent Coat, claret or chocolate; Facings, yellow; buttons and Hat-band, silver.
Or; a Fess cheque argent and azure, bewteen a Mullet in chief gules, and a Crescent of the the third in base. Coat, dark drab; Facings, blue; Buttons and Hat -band, silver; and to represent the Mullet, the edges of the coat might be bound with red, or the rim of the hat looped up with red cord.
(Cussans, as above, page 315)
To get back to one of Jane Austen’s characters, we know that Sir Walter Elliot has orange cuffs on his livery:
”Then I take it for granted,” observed Sir Walter, “that his face is about as orange as the cuffs and capes of my livery.”
Persuasion, Chapter 3
Therefore, applying the rules we now know, this would indicate that the stain ( colour), Tenné ,which is similar to the untutored eye to the colour orange, was included in a secondary way on the Elliot coat of arms. Patric Baty tell us here that this Heraldic colour or tincture had a specific attribute; ambition. I suppose this is very fitting for the socially ambitious Sir Walter, as evidenced by his desperate attempts to be received by Lady Dalrymple in Bath. I’m sure Jane Austen would be aware of what she was insinuating when she gave his livery orange cuffs and capes.
The details of the livery were also decided by heraldic rules.
Buttons should always be of the dominant metal in the Arms and charged with the master’s Badge- not his crest. The latter belongs exclusively to the bearers of the Arms; servants have no right whatever to them.
(Cussans, as above, page 316)
Therefore, George Austen’s servants would wear gold coloured buttons and not silver. Here are some examples of Livery Buttons, from the early to mid 19th century:
It might interest you to note that there were special rules for widow’s servants liveries:
The uniform Livery of widows is white with black facings.
(Cussans, as above, page 315)
Im sure that Lady Russell’s liveried servants at Kellynch lodge would have worn this livery.
There are also special rules regarding the wearing of cockades by servants in their hats:
It is usually held that the privilege ( of a wearing cockades-jfw) is confined to the servants of officers in the Soverign’s service, or those who by courtesy may be regarded as such; the theory being that the servant is a private soldier, who, when not wearing his uniform retains this badge as a mark of his profession. Doctors’ servants, though frequently to be seen wearing Cockades, have no right to them whatsoever, unless their master’s names are to be found in the Army or Navy List.
The Cockade worn by the servants of military officers is composed of black leather, arranged in the form of a corrugated cone and surmounted by a cresting like a fan half opened ( fig 327, above). The servants of naval officers, deputy-lieutenants and gentlemen holding distinct offices under the Soverign bear a plain Cockade as at fig.328. In both cases the ribbon in the centre may be either black or of the Livery colours.
Epaulettes could also be part of the livery uniform: but they were only worn by servants of gentlemen who were entitled to have their servants wear Cockades.
The male servant in the double portrait above, one Daniel Taylor, wears a livery coat of blue with yellow facings, silver buttons and epaulettes of gold. That would indicate that his master was a gentleman, in military service, whose arms had the dominant colour of Azure,(blue) with a secondary colour or Or ( gold) and with some use of Argent ( silver),and this would accord with the fact that his master was John Frederick Sackville, 3rd Duke of Dorset (24 March 1745–19 July 1799), a rather dissolute character, but who never the less served teh Crown as an ambassador and was as Lord Lieutenant of Kent.
This is a fascinating portrait for it shows Daniel and another female servant, Elinor Low. She does not wear a specific uniform, note. It was painted in 1783 by Arnold Almond and is included in John Styles book, The Dress of the People.
Next, in this series, why servants dressed in liveries were seriously expensive status symbols ;)
In our last post we discussed the historical background to liveries. Today, we will look at the rules regarding the colour schemes of these liveries -uniforms if you like- for the footmen and coachmen in Jane Austen’s era.
It may interest you to know that the colours of a family’s livery was not a matter of choice:
A gentleman may wear garments of any colour his fancy may dictate, but he is not permitted such license with regard to the uniforms of his servants: the colours of these depend entirely on the tinctures upon his Escutcheon. In both, the dominant colour should be the same: the subsidiary colour of the livery ( or, as a tailor would call it, the trimmings- that is, the collar, cuffs lining and buttons) should be the colour of the principal Charge.
(The Handbook of Heraldry etc., (1869, John Cussans, Page 314.)
Lets examine how this works. First, in order to proceed, we are going to have a short heraldry terminology lesson. This is a ferociously complex subject, but for you to understand how livery colours were used, I’ve tried to simplify the essential descriptions / terms. Do remember that most heraldic terms derive from Norman French or Latin. An Escutcheon is a shield or shield-shaped emblem, which displays a coat of arms.
A Charge is any figure placed on a shield, which is then charged with the device. There were two classes of charges, Ordinaries and Common Charges. Ordinaries can be incredibly simple, as in the Chief-an ordinary which occupies the upper third of the shield, shown below:
or can range to the extremely complex: as in this example of a Gyron of eight, below: a Gyron is formed by a diagonal line bisecting a quarter bendwise.(see below)
Here is a page from Cussan’s book showing some of the more simple Ordinary Charges:
Common Charges are anything depicted on a shield other than the ordinaries. Anything animate ( lions, birds, fish, serpents) or inanimate (a castle keep, for example) : even imaginary creatures like Dragons qualify. Here are examples of Lions, shown Salient (fig.144 : With both hind legs on the ground and fore paws elevated equally, as if he is about to spring on his prey), Sejant ( fig. 145: Sitting down)
Heraldic colours, or Tinctures, are important,because there were so few of them. There were two Metals, Or ( Gold ) and Argent ( Silver). The most commonly used were Gules(Red), Azure (Blue), Sable (Black ), Vert (Green) and Purpure ( Purple) There are two other colours, Stains, which were rarely used: Tenné ( bright chestnut)and Sanquine (maroon)If you go here to the wonderful Patrick Baty’s page on Tinctures you can see exactly how these tinctures were used, and read about their attributes.(In addition, there was also colurs or patterns called FURS: these were patterns suggesting ermine and other costly furs worn by the rich-we don’t need to worry ourselves about these here)
These colours were engraved in specific ways , so that expensive coloured paints and inks did not have to be used when depicting them, but that the depiction could still be accurate:
If we apply this to George Austen’s Coat of Arms (via Wikipedia):
you can see that the escutcheon- the shield- (and I’m not giving a technically correct description, or blazon, here , please do note!) is of Or ( Gold) with a Gules (Red) Charge in the form of a Chevron. It also has three lions paws- Gambes or Jambes erased ( i.e. cut off at the middle joint) coloured Sable( Black). You can see an example of this in Anne Austen’s ( neé Matthews) memorial in Steventon church:
Her arms, on the right are impaled ( that is, shown on the same shield) with those of James Austen, her husband. He was George Austen’s eldest son and Jane’s eldest brother. His arms- of his branch of the Austen family – are on the left. You can see the gold background, the red chevron and the three black lions paws.
Next, how these colours were used in liveries.
”He is rear admiral of the white. He was in the Trafalgar action, and has been in the East Indies since; he has been stationed there, I believe, several years.”
”Then I take it for granted,” observed Sir Walter, “that his face is about as orange as the cuffs and capes of my livery.”
Persuasion, Chapter 3
My mention of liveried servants in yesterday’s review of the book, Vauxhall Gardens: A History has prompted quite a number of you to contact me to enquire about liveries.There seems to be some confusion out there- some thinking the these were merely fancy costumes, picked out on a whim by employers-others not knowing what they looked like at all, so I’ve decided to write about them in the next few posts. I do hope you won’t be bored.
Liveries are mentioned by Jane Austen in Pride and Prejudice and in Persuasion. What exactly were they ? For this answer we have to undertake a little history lesson. My authority for most of today’s content is The Handbook of Heraldry (1869) by John E. Cussans, and I’m using this mid-19th century book because it refers to the 18th century use of liveries, and also because changes in the world of Heraldry, like the mills of the Gods, grind exceeding slow:
This is a fascinating book; a well written, plain explanation of this rather complex subject. Today we will look at what it has to say about the history of livery uniforms.
The custom of distributing clothes -or what in the present day would be styled uniforms- amongst the servants of the Crown- such as Judges, Ministers ,Stewards etc- date from a period nearly coeval with the Conquest.( circa 1066A.D.-jfw) This distribution was termed a “Livreé”: hence the more recent expression, “Livery”.
…the great feudal barons subsequently distributed liveries amongst their dependants and retainers. It must not be considered that the wearing of liveries was confined exclusively to the menial servants of the household, as at present, or was considered in any way more degrading than an officer of the Crown regards his distinctive uniform. The son of a duke would wear the livery of the prince under whom he served; and an earl’s soon might don the livery of a duke, without derogating from his dignity.
The practice of allowing some servants to wear liveries eventually became the only example of such marks of distinction being worn:
The primary purpose Liveries were intended to serve has long since been forgotten amongst us, and our coachmen and footmen alone remain as representatives of the splendour which once marked the households of the feudal nobility.
It ought to be remembered that during the late 18th century/early 19th century most household servants did not wear a distinctive uniform, such as we are used to seeing in adaptations of fictional Edwardian households such as in Downtown Abbey and Upstairs, Downstairs. Female servants wore what was practical, and often wore cast-offs from their mistresses, though moralists detested this practise. Sophie von La Roche wrote, during her travels in London in 1786 of the serving girls she saw in the streets of London:
…the maids, women of middle class and the children. The former almost all wear black taminy petticoats and heavily stitched, and over these long English Calico or linen frocks, though not so long and close-fitting to the body as our tailors and taste cut and point them. Further they mostly wear white aprons; though the servants and working women often appear in striped linen aprons
Never did a landlord seem so beloved, or indeed deserve to be so, for he is a most worthy man, and in however high a stile( sic-jfw) a man lives in in town, which he certainly does, real benevolence is more distinguishable in a family at their country -seat, and none do more good than where we now are. Then everything here is regularity itself , but the master’s method is, I take it, now become the method of the servants by use as well as choice.
Nothing but death make a servant leave them. The old housekeeper has now been there one-and-fifty years; the butler two or three-and-thirty……I was surprised to see them all ,except on Sundays, in green stuff gowns, and on my inquiring of Miss Jackson how they all happened to fix so on one particular colour, she told me a green camblet for a gown used for many years to be an annual present of her mothers to those servants who behaved well, and had been so many years in her family, and that now indeed, as they all behaved well, and had lived there much longer than the limited term, this was constantly their master’s New Year gift.
I thought this in Mr Jackson a pretty compliment to his lady’s memory, as well as testimony of the domestics still deserving of his good opinion.
See page 4, Passages from the Diaries of Mrs Philip Lybbe Powys of Hardwick House, OXON(1756-1808) edited by Emily Climenson (1899)
Some people,Daniel Defoe amongst them, thought that female servants should all adopt a modest uniform, as quoted in Anne Buck’s magnificent book , Dress in Eighteenth-Century England. Female servants very often received fine dresses as perks of the job. And many employers didn’t seem to object to those dresses being worn by the said female servants. As Anne Buck concludes:
Contact with well dressed women developed the eye and taste of many serving maids and helped them to dress with understanding of the fashion they followed. The absence of any uniform, on or off duty, left them free to follow fashions according to their own taste and means.
If they dressed too finely for their station they might be censured, but the readiness of women to pass on their own clothes to their servants shows there was no sharp division of dress, nor even a social convention against servants occasionally buying the same garment at the same time as their mistress :
“Nancy bought of Bagshaw this mornings…a very genteel Shawl at 10 shillings. Both my maids brought 2 Shawls the same as Nancy.”
Parson Woodeford records this as a fact without any judgement or comment.
For some male servants, however as we have note, the situation was different and a uniform was provided by the employer. Footmen and coachmen wore liveries, if they were entitled to by the social rank of their employer. In our next post, we shall look at these uniforms and their colours in more detail.
Last week I wrote about an auction of vintage clothes held by Kerry Taylor Auctions, that included some gems from the 18th and early 19th century. I thought you might like to know that
the gold brocaded dress a la Francaise had a sale price of £3,400. The marvellous banyan
was sold for the magnificent sum of £24,000 and the early 19th century Honiton lace dress
was sold for £1400. Do note that all prices quoted above are the hammer price and do not include the buyer’s premium.
Princes Diana’s replica shoes realised the sum of £30,000. Must get mine out of storage….
In keeping with this weeks unexpected theme of antique clothing, I thought you might like to view this ever changing treasury of wonderful vintage clothes: Kerry Taylor Auctions.
I’ve been fan of this site for some time(I can’t trust myself to go to one of the auctions for fear of the bankruptcy court!). Kerry Taylor is a consultant at Sotheby’s, where she trained, and after a specatular career at that auction house, set up on her own account in 2003. As her website states:
In her career, Kerry has worked on historic, landmark auctions such as the wardrobes of Duke & Duchess of Windsor, the stunning haute couture wardrobe of Princess Lilian of Belgium (where early 50s Diors looked as fresh as the day they were made complete with matching accessories), the historically important wedding suit of King James II and VII of 1673 which now form part of the Victoria & Albert Museum collection.
Since Kerry Taylor Auctions was established the firm has handled the collections of style icon – the Honorable Daphne Guinness, supermodels Jerry Hall and Marie Helvin, the actress Leslie Caron’s collection of Haute Couture including 1950s Givenchy and 60s Saint Laurent. We have also sold landmark collections of gowns by Audrey Hepburn (the largest group of garments ever to come onto the open market) and the historic Emanuel Royal Archive which included the black dress worn by Lady Diana Spencer on her first public engagement with Prince Charles in 1981 for a record £192,000.
Her auctions are always happy hunting grounds for those amongst us who are interested in the history of clothing. Her current auction has these amazing goodies on offer, amongst other treasures:
Lot 28: A fine gentleman’s banyan, circa 1730-40, of blue Chinese damask, woven with large-scale repeats of Chinese censors on stands, amid acanthus scrolls and exotic fruits, of simple kimono-like construction, lined in blue taffeta, with fold-back cuffs, no fastenings, the back panel formed from a single 28in, 71cm wide loom width with additional silk to form the side skirts, the front panels with the woven pattern showing upside down, chest 143cm, 56in.
Lot 25: the remains of a luxurious gold brocaded lampas robe à la Française, mid 18th century, the silk circa 1730-40 with large-scale design of foliate palmettes in predominantly gold with deep salmon satin and lime brocade highlights, comprising: complete back and front sections, unpicked and re-sewn hip sections, but lacking sleeves.
Lot 31: A Honiton bobbin appliqué gown, circa 1800, but later altered for fancy dress, the bobbin net ground sprigged with Honiton leaves,
the neck similarly edged with deep Honiton border to the hem, relined in the 1930s in blue crepe, bust 82cm, 32in.
This action is to take place next Tuesday, and Im eagerly watching it to see what prices these items raise.
Although not strictly relevant to Jane Austen’s era, you might be intestate to know of some other items in the sale. In this year of a rather lovely Royal Wedding(and wedding dress!) Kerry Taylor is auctioning the replica wedding dresses made for Princess Diana, Sarah Ferguson and The Countess of Wessex, form the collection of Madame Tussards. I remember being very disappointed with the overall appearance of Princes Diana’s wedding dress on the actual wedding day, but when I saw her shoes (when the wedding dress made a tour of museums later in the year) I was entranced. The replica shoes are included in the sale. And I now confess that my own wedding shoes were based on this design ;)
And on that wistful note may I take this opportunity to wish all my reader in the United States a very happy and peaceful Thanksgiving. I am very thankful for all your comments and your many visits :)
Amanda Vickery brought this site to my attention, and I thought you would all love to add it to your sources list. The Australian Dress Register is a collaborative online project, based in New South Wales, and its aim is to collate information about dress and costume dating between 1770 and 1945.
As its website states:
Museums and private collectors are encouraged to research their garments and share the stories and photographs while the information is still available and within living memory. The Register encourages people to consider their collections very broadly and share what they know about members of their community, what they wore and life in the past. This provides access to a world wide audience while keeping their garments in their relevant location.
At present the scope is limited to New South Wale and by date, but the organisers hope to expand this. From the results I’ve seen thus far I fervently hope they do.
You can examine individual garments by searching on a keyword or by clicking on the interactive time line. Clothes that survive from our era are few, but fascinating. Australia was a penal colony during Jane Austen’s life time and, in my opinion, she would have been acutely aware of it. Her aunt, Jane Leigh Perrot faced possible transportation to Australia had she been found guilty of stealing an amount of lace from Mrs Gregory’s shop in Bath in 1799. She stood trial for larceny and was acquitted. But I’m sure the family must have been fully aware of her possible fate. We know they were very supportive of her, for we know that Mrs Austen wrote to her bother and his wife suggesting Jane and Cassandra accompany them while they were being kept on remand at Ilchester Gaol. Her cousin, Montague Cholmeley of Easton in Lincolnshire, wrote this letter to her in January 1800, which gives a summation of that extraordinary offer:
You tell me that your good sister Austen has offered you one or both of her daughters to continue with you during your stay in that vile place, but you decline the kind offer, as you cannot procure them accommodation in the house with you, and you cannot let those elegant young women be your inmates in a prison, nor be subjected to the inconveniences which you are obliged to put up with.
What is wholly absorbing to read on the website are the stories behind the clothes. It is fascinating and humbling to realise that these ladies, who lived genteel lives in this new and, to them wholly alien country, still wanted desperately to “keep up appearances”. That is what distinguishes this site from many others: the sheer amount of information attached to each garment. For not only does the site contain many good photographs of each garment, from an overview to close-ups of important details, but, as far as they are able, a detailed history of the person who wore the clothes is added too. Notes on the individual pieces of clothing which place them in their historical context are full and fascinating. Allow me to show you two examples. Below is Anna King’s evening dress dating from 1805
From the site we learn that Anna King was the wife of the Governor, and most probably wore this dress at receptions at Government House.
Above is Elizabeth Marsden’s pale green silk wedding dress which she wore on the occasion of her marriage to the Reverend Samuel Marsden in Hull, Yorkshire in 1793. They emigrated to New South Wales where the Reverend Marsden was Chaplain to the colony.The dress was later remade into the dress we see now for their daughter, Ann’s marriage in 1822.
What is fascinating about this dress is that not only are we given marvellously detailed photographs of it and an intriguing history of its owners, but also included are photographs of some of her other clothes. An unexpected bonus are images of Elizabeth Marsden and some of her clothes. I find all this detailed information stunning.
I have so enjoyed reading this absorbing and fascinating website and really strongly recommend it to you, if you are at all interested in the costume of our period.
I thought you all would love to know that Serena Dyer has a new project : a blog. Serena is a dress historian, the owner of the Dressing History Website, author of the fabulously interesting (and affordable) book ,”Bergere Poke and Cottage: Understanding Early Nineteenth Century Headware
and is currently a member of York University’s Centre for Eighteenth Century Studies.This is a wonderful, well-respected institution, and is somewhere I have enjoyed attending lectures and conferences on the long 18th century.
I am so pleased we can now follow her work on a blog. She has a Facebook page and is on Twitter, but I love the scope the blog platform will give her to tell us all her news. Her first post details her impressive CV and the work she has undertaken, including that at the recent Revolutionary Fashion exhibit at Fairfax House in York.
Here she is , above, with some of the period clothes on show at Fairfax House.
I do hope you will join my example and follow her blog. I am so looking forward to reading future posts, for Serena’s work is wonderfully detailed, and I’m sure we are going to enjoy reading about her research, and looking at the clothing she works with and creates.
Brighton Pavilion, George IV’s seaside folly, has a wonderful new exhibit space, The Prince Regent Gallery which will be used to house exhibits relating to the Prince’s rather extravagant life and times.
The current exhibit is of some of his clothes, to coincide with the Dress for Excess Exhibition, which I have covered extensively in the past few months. Some of the items on display relate to his Coronation in 1821, and I will be writing about these in a few weeks time. The others garments are more personal item of clothing, and it is these clothes I am going to be writing about today.
The first is a superb Banyan:
©Royal Pavilion & Museums, Brighton & Hove
It dates from between 1770-1780. It is made of a beautiful Indian cotton printed with a floral design very typical of the late 18th century. The fabric has been quilted for extra warmth:
©Royal Pavilion & Museums, Brighton & Hove
Here is a close-up of the collar:
©Royal Pavilion & Museums, Brighton & Hove
and here is a closeup of the Banyan showing the way the banyan jacket fastens, with silk frogging:
©Royal Pavilion & Museums, Brighton & Hove
The Banyan was worn in informal situations in George’s homes, similar really to a dressing gown. At the Pavillion it would most likely to have been worn in the Kings Private apartments than in the public rooms.
An interesting feature of this banyan is that a waistcoat, made of the same fabric, is attached to the jacket of the banyan, inside the side seams. This would have allowed the banyan to be worn open, with its front pieces tied back, thus giving the appearance of wearing a coat and a waistcoat.
This is a nightshirt which was worn by George IV circa 1830, near the end of his life.
©Royal Pavilion & Museums, Brighton & Hove
It is made from fine linen:
©Royal Pavilion & Museums, Brighton & Hove
Embroidered on the right hand side of the nightshirt in red silk is the Royal cypher- the crown, together with the initials G. R .(which is an abbreviation of the Latin phrase, Georgius Rex-, which translates as King George) and the date.
©Royal Pavilion & Museums, Brighton & Hove
Both the night-shirt and these breeches, below, give a good indication of just how corpulent George IV became towards the end of his life. Always prone to weight gain, these breeches, made circa 1827, measure 55 inches around the waist.
©Royal Pavilion & Museums, Brighton & Hove
It is interesting to note that by this date trousers and become fashionable but George , once a follower of fashion and disciple of Beau Brummel’s diktats, still clung to wearing breeches, in a slightly dated manner
The label inside the breeches reveals them to have been made by Jonathan Meyer, the famous Regency tailor. An Austrian by birth he first specialised in making military uniforms. His premises were at 36 Conduit Street in Mayfair in London. He began making clothes for Beau Brummel and then for The Prince Regent in 1800. He was awarded a Royal warrant by George IV when he ascended the throne in 1820. interestingly, he pioneered the fashion for wearing trousers and was instrumental in the design of that garment, though. as we have seen. this was one fashion that George IV was loath to adopt. Jonathan Meyers tailoring business survives today, under the name Meyer and Mortimer,which was the firm he established in the 1830s along with John Mortimer of Edinburgh who was also a tailor to the royal family. They still practise bespoke tailoring at their premises of 6 Sackville Street, Mayfair in London.It is in this street, of course you will recall, where Grey’s the jeweller also had premises, a fact that is mentioned in Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen. This was the place where the dandy, Roberrt Ferrars, ordered a toothpick case, and where
Elinor was carrying on a negotiation for the exchange of a few old-fashioned jewels of her mother.
Greys was also patronised by George IV when he was Prince of Wales.
This is a picture of the beeches, taken in the Gallery with, from left to right, Martin Pel, Curator of Fashion and Textiles at the Royal Pavilion and Museums, Councellor David Smith, Brighton & Hove City Council’s Cabinet Member for Culture, Recreation and Tourism, and designer and tailor, Gresham Blake
©Royal Pavilion & Museums, Brighton & Hove, photographer Jim Holden
The final piece of clothing is in fact an undergarment: a replica of the body belt or corset that George IV wore circa 1824.
The replica has been made form a card pattern made by one of George IVs tailors. It was worn as part of his undergarments. He famously wore one at his coronation in 1821 and he nearly fainted as a result of the combination of severe constriction caused by wearing the corset and with the great weight ( and heat) caused by wearing his magnificent and opulent his coronation robes. And we shall be discussing them in the next post in this series. I do hope you have enjoyed looking at theses extraordinary garments as much as I did.
If you are lucky enough to be in the Lakes this half term week, you have the opportunity to see an exhibition of some of the most interesting costumes from recent costume drama films.The Reghed Centre near Penrith in Cumbria is hosting the Dressing the Stars exhibit, of award-winning British film costumes. Included in the exhibition are costumes worn by some Jane Austen related stars. On show will be Colin Firth’s uniform which he wore as George VI in The King’s Speech , and the wedding dress and wedding suit worn by Keria Knightley and Ralph Fines in The Duchess, in which they portrayed the 5th Duke and Duchess of Devonshire. The most important news for us is that the wedding dress and uniform worn by Alan Rickman and Kate Winslet in Ang Lee’s version of Sense and Sensibility will also be on show, once again.
You will recall that I had the good luck to see these magnificent costumes last year at the Austen Attired exhibit of CostProp costumes from Austen adaptations at the National Trust’s magnificent Peckover House in Wisbech, Cambridgeshire.
I confess was stunned by the exquisite workmanship in the very detailed costume worn by Kate Winslet, as Marianne Dashwood:
This was made all the more astounding as the costume appeared only fleetingly on the screen. The embroidery and straw-work on the coat was simply sublime and the imagery evoked by the use of straw had previously been undetected by me.
Alam Rickman’s regimentals, worn s he portrayed Colonel Brandon, were also lovely-and I really coveted his citrine fob…A full account of the exhibit, and a detailed look at these costumes (and many others from other adaptations!) can found here. The Dressing the Stars exhibition is in its last week of being open to the public: it ends on the 30th October, so I do hope that if you are in the area of the Reghed Centre you will take this opportunity to go and see these amazing costumes.
For Jane Austen hats were important items of clothing. She took great delight in wearing and purchasing them, as this arch extract from her letter to her sister, Cassandra dated 18th April 1811 clearly demonstrates:
Miss Burton has made me a very pretty title Bonnet- & now nothing can satisfy me but I must have a straw hat, of the riding hat shape, like Mrs Tilson’s; & a young woman in this Neighbourhood is actually making me one. I am really very shocking; but it will not be dear at a Guinea.
The admirable new Subject Index to the Fourth Edition of Jane Austen’s Letters has copious entries for mentions of bonnets, caps, hats and veils. Understanding the differences between the type of hat Jane Austen and her characters would have worn, how and where she would have bought such hats, for herself or on commission, has recently been addressed in a new book written by Serena Dyer of Dressing History.
This is a slim but well written-volume packed full of fascinating early 19th century hat facts and information. Do you know the difference between a Calash or a Capote? You will after reading this very informative book. The book is illustrated with black and white renditions of period fashion plates and very clear, helpful line drawing by Christine Dyer. Here is a Gypsy Hat such as may have been worn by the odious Mrs Elton on the day of the Strawberry Picking Party at Donwell Abbey:
Serena also gives a short account of Milliners and how their trade was carried out in the early 19th century. An interesting snippet she includes in their section is that many ladies paid to learn how to trim their own bonnets: a Miss Elizabeth Woodhouse ( no relation I’m sure)
who would become the wife of a Yorkshire vicar,paid her milliner, Miss Volans, ten pounds to instruct her in the art
This small book is very reasonably priced at £5.00 and is available direct from Serena herself, go here to buy it. Serena,who is now studying at the Centre for Eighteenth Century Studies at York University, is an accomplished milliner herself and trims a mean bonnet. You can buy some of her examples from her shop, go here to see. This is one of her confections, a straw poke bonnet:
Hard to resist isn’t it?
In our last post in this series,we travelled up the stairs in the Gallery. This week we discover where those wonderfully pink stairs and their faked bamboo stair rail led…to the Gallery on the Chamber floor. Below is John Nash’s view of the Gallery, painted circa 1816 (do remember you can enlarge all the photographs in these articles by clicking on them)
I love the way George IV is included in many of these watercolours, just to reinforce the impression that the place really was his…you can see him ascending the stairs with a lady upon his arm…the question of the moment being, of course, which lady? We can be certain it was certainly not his estranged wife, Caroline of Brunswick, whose part Jane Austen took. As she wrote in a letter to her friend, Martha Lloyd, which was dated 16th February, 1813:
Poor woman, I shall support her as long as I can, because she is a Woman and because I hate her Husband
The gallery is a central corridor, similar to the gallery on the ground floor. Doors lead from it to the different main bedrooms in the Pavilion,with the exception of the King’s Apartments, with which we will deal in our next post ;)
The gallery is lit by skylights, again painted in the oriental fashion by artists employed by Frederick Crace, the famed Regency designer. The bamboo pattern on the walls is created by pasting strips of printed paper onto the painted blue background, to give the effect of begin in a bamboo walled room set in the sky. This airy space was used not only for access to the bedrooms, but also as a place where breakfast was taken by the guests staying in the Pavilion. Madame de Boigne ,the daughter of the French ambassador wrote, while staying at the Pavillion in the 1820s that she was
…much astonished when I came out of my room to find the table upon the staircase landing. But what a landing and what a staircase! The carpets, the tables, the chairs, the porcelain, the china as exquisite as luxury and good taste could find.
Books, newspapers and excellent fires were also provided. I think it must have been quite a delightful space in which to breakfast. I have to point out to you one of my favourite aspects of the chamber floor : the recreated Brussels weave carpet, which covers the Gallery floor and is also in some of the bedrooms.
It has the most delightful floral pattern, and looks startlingly modern. The original would most probably have been made in Axminster in Devon, by Thomas Whitty who began making his famed Axminster method carpets there in 1755. He made the other carpets in the Pavilion and had first come to the Princes of Wales attention when he was commissioned to made carpets for the Prince at Carlton House. For example, he made the carpets that graced the Throne Room, below:
He was also patronised by George III and Queen Charlotte and also by the Duke of Devonshire at Chatsworth.
I do wonder what time the guests and the King would rise and exit from their bedrooms, however, if we consider they would have spent the previous night eating in the Banqueting Room and after enjoying after dinner entertainment in the Music room…I am convinced it would not be particularly early…
In one of the bed chambers, the last of the costumes in the Dress for Excess Exhibition are displayed. This was in fact the suite of rooms that the Prince Regent occupied until 1821,when he moved into a new suite of private apartments in the north-west wing of the Pavilion. We will look at them in our next post.
I again apologize for the darkness of the these photographs. But I hope you can see enough detail to satisfy yourselves. The three dresses on show are interesting because they delineate the history of the rise and fall of the waistline on females dresses during the Prince’s life time.
The cream dress on the left dates from the early 1800s, and its waist is elevated, to lie under the line of the bust.
(©Royal Pavilion & Museums, Brighton & Hove)
In this much clearer photograph, which I have been given special permission to use by the Brighton Museum service, you can see the detail of the fabric, which is embroidered by tambour work. This was made on a taut, drum-like frame, hence the term “tambour”. This is the type of work Mrs Grant was undertaking at the Rectory at Mansfield in Chapter 7 of Mansfield Park.
(©Royal Pavilion & Museums, Brighton & Hove)
The dress in the middle of the trio, shown below, dates from circa 1825.
You can see that by this date the waist is moving back down towards the natural waistline, but in this case the corsetry involved is far more restrictive than in the early 1800s and a small waist is now becoming the more fashionable shape to attain.
The last dress on show dates from the mid 1780s to 1790s. The waist is beginning to rise from the natural line of the was it but it is not as high as the example of the 1800s dress. Do note the dark printed patterned fabric: not everyone wore white all the time!
Next in this series, we go back downstairs to the Kings Apartments on the Ground Floor of the Pavillion.