From the Regency era to the end of the 1860s, there was no fashion accessory as versatile and ubiquitous as the shawl. Available in all weights of fabrics, including silk, lace, muslin, and cashmere wool, and priced for all budgets, shawls graced the shoulders of women in every strata of society. They were no less well-represented in art and literature of the day. Shawls were referenced in the novels of such literary luminaries as Elizabeth Gaskell and William Makepeace Thackeray. They were also featured in countless portrait paintings, draping the figures of fashionable 19th century ladies of every age.[…]Continue Reading
“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.
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