The 1820s in Fashionable Gowns: A Visual Guide to the Decade

1820s Gowns Collage
Individual Images of Gowns via Met Museum

There were many important, transitional years for women’s fashion during the 19th century.  For example, in a single decade sleeves might transform from slender and straight to enormous gigot or leg o’mutton style sleeves.  While skirts which began a decade flowing loose around the legs might end the decade standing several feet wide atop a crinoline.  In my previous post on the evolution of 19th century gowns (available HERE), I gave a brief, decade-by-decade visual overview of the ever-changing silhouettes of women’s silk dresses in the 1800s.  For the transitional years, however, a single image can never sum up an entire decade.  With that in mind, I bring you the first in my new series of visual fashion guides to those decades of the 19th century during which women’s fashion underwent the most extreme change.[…]Continue Reading

Kissing an Italian Greyhound: A 19th Century Attorney Cites the Law

Un lévrier reposant sur la chaise by Jacques Raymond Brascassat, 1836.
Un lévrier reposant sur la chaise by Jacques Raymond Brascassat, 1836.

An 1860 edition of England’s Bedfordshire Mercury reports a “curious scene” from Paris.  An attorney was walking his Italian Greyhound on the Boulevard Beaumarchais when he realized that the delicate little dog had strayed.  Retracing his steps, he found his pet in the arms of a dog thief.  The villain had already removed the dog’s collar and identification tags and was attempting to stifle its cries.  The attorney was, according to the article, “a man of great muscular power” and quickly “mastered the delinquent.”  Once he had the thief within his grasp, he gave him two choices – he could either be consigned to the police or he could kneel down on the street and kiss the little dog.[…]Continue Reading

The Evolution of the 19th Century Gown: A Visual Guide

Individual Images of Gowns via Met Museum
Individual Images of Gowns via Met Museum

The silhouette of women’s gowns changed a great deal over the course of the 19th century. Most of us can easily identify the lines of an early Regency gown or the shape of a late-Victorian dress with a bustle.  But what about those transitional years?  The 1820s, 1830s, and 1870s, for example.  Sometimes styles of these decades are harder to pinpoint.  With that in mind, I present you with a decade-by-decade visual guide to silk gowns of the 19th century.[…]Continue Reading

Penny Dreadfuls, Juvenile Crime, and Late-Victorian Moral Panic

Dick Turpin, Penny Dreadful, 1866-1868
Black Bess or The Knight of the Road, featuring Dick Turpin, 1866-1868.

The 1840s ushered in an era of luridly illustrated gothic tales which were marketed to a working-class Victorian audience.  These stories, told in installments and printed on inexpensive pulp paper, were originally only eight pages long and sold for just a penny – giving rise to the term “penny bloods” or “penny dreadfuls.”  With titles such as Varney the Vampire and Sweeney Todd: the Demon Barber of Fleet Street, these types of publications were wildly popular, especially with young male readers, and it was not long before the Victorian public began to make a connection between various juvenile crimes and misdemeanors and the consumption of this (allegedly) depraved material.[…]Continue Reading

The Dog’s Nursemaid: An 1840 Case at the French Police Correctionelle

A Welcome Change by Henri Guillaume Schlesinger, mid-19th century.
A Welcome Change by Henri Guillaume Schlesinger, mid-19th century.

A September 8, 1840 edition of London’s Morning Post reports the “humorous story” of a case that came before a French Police Correctionelle.  The plaintiff in the case, a young nursemaid by the name of Virginie, is described rather flatteringly as “an exceedingly pretty little bonne.”  The defendant in the case, Virginie’s employer, a woman by the name of Madame Duchatenest, is cast in a somewhat harsher light.  Described as “a meagre and parchment-cheeked virgin,” she had been called to answer the charge of having brutally assaulted Virginie with a pair of fireplace pincers.[…]Continue Reading

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