Tag: Gowns

A Victorian Lady’s Guide to Cleaning Dresses of Muslin, Silk, Velvet, and Lace

Musee Des Famille, 1852.
(Met Museum)

In the Victorian era, women’s clothing was just as likely to spot, stain, and soil as it is today. For fine fabrics, this posed a particular dilemma. Ladies couldn’t simply throw their printed muslin dresses into a washing machine or send their silk ball gowns to the dry cleaners. Instead, they relied on their lady’s maids to keep their clothing clean and in good order. Not only would a competent lady’s maid know how to sponge and press a gown for wear, she would also know precisely how to wash a delicate muslin or remove an oil stain from silk.[…]Continue Reading

The 1830s in Fashionable Gowns: A Visual Guide to the Decade

Individual Images of Gowns via Met Museum and V&A Museum.
Individual Images of Gowns via Met Museum and V&A Museum.

The 1830s was another transformative decade in 19th century fashion.  Like the 1820s, it was a span of years which stood between the Regency era (1811-1820) and the Victorian era (1837-1901), providing a bridge from the often extreme, gigot-sleeved confections of the 1820s to the tight-sleeved, form-fitting bodices of the 1840s.  The 1830s was also the decade in which the pendulum of fashion swung from large, ornate sleeves to large skirts embellished with various pleats and trimmings.  Or, as fashion historian C. Willett Cunnington describes it, the decade in which women’s gowns moved from the “exuberantly romantic” to the “droopingly sentimental.”[…]Continue Reading

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

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

Elizabeth Bennet, La Belle Assemblée, and Early 19th Century Fashion

“Votaries and observers of fashion, but not her slaves, we follow her through her versatile path; catch her varied attractions, and present her changes to our readers as they pass before us in gay succession.” La Belle Assemblée, 1812.

Portrait of Elizabeth, Mrs Horsley Palmer, by Thomas Lawrence, early 19th century.
Portrait of Elizabeth, Mrs Horsley Palmer, by Thomas Lawrence, early 19th century.

Somehow, I cannot picture Elizabeth Bennet reclining on the drawing room sofa, idly flipping through the pages of the latest issue of La Belle Assemblée or The Lady’s Magazine.  And yet, if she had indulged in a bit of frivolous fashion magazine perusal, what advice might she have read there and what images might she have seen?

Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice was first published in 1813.  The story itself begins in the year 1811 and concludes at the close of 1812.  In June of 1812, Elizabeth Bennet is home at Longbourn, anxiously awaiting the July arrival of her aunt and uncle, Mr. and Mrs. Gardiner, who are to take her travelling in Derbyshire.  Whenever Mrs. Gardiner visits Longbourn, she delivers to her country relatives “an account of the present fashions” in London.[…]Continue Reading

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