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Fashion And Dress From 1815-1830

( Originally Published 1926 )

Fashion again became an affair of state. Napoleon having been banished, the house of Bourbon returned to the throne of France. White, the Bourbon color, predominated in dress, and the fleur-de-lis, or lily of France, was the favorite decoration.

The people were still restless, and the country was nearly ruined by the continuous wars that had been carried on for a generation. The middle and lower classes had had a certain amount of independence during this period, and it was difficult to establish the caste system again. With the introduction of machinery in the textile industry, the merchants and shopkeepers had made fortunes, and had become a political power; they were interested in raising the status of the working classes, and establishing a real democratic government. The working classes were beginning to feel their independence and were demanding more consideration. On the other hand, the landowning class was nearly ruined, the whole population of France was diminished, and there was a general desire for peace.

The invention of the printing-press and the establishing of the free press in 1815 added to the general feeling of unrest. News was spread more rapidly and the general public was becoming better informed through the medium of books.

This led to the final downfall of the house of Bourbon in 1830.

Materials.—These circumstances had their influence on dress. The invention of machinery had made materials more plentiful and less expensive. England was supplying nearly all the countries, especially with cotton cloths. Light-weight unbleached batiste, watered muslin, embroidered organdy, and checked barege, a wool-and-silk material, were much used for the costumes. Among the heavier materials were cashmere and white merino. A light-pink silk called Levantine, gros de Naples, and plush and velvet were used principally for hats and bonnets. Gauze, crepe, and tulle were the favorites for trimming. Materials and colors were named from events, and often from books. "Ipsiboe," "Trocadero," "bronze, smoke, Nile water, solitary, amorous toad, and frighted mouse "1 were some of the strange names. After the first giraffe arrived at the Jardin des Plantes in 1827, fashions and colors were called "a la girafe."

Women's Dress.—As England was furnishing many of the materials, she was also influencing the fashions to a great extent, and a more conservative style of dress resulted for a short period. For about twenty years the classic or undressed style had prevailed, showing a desire to return to nature. "Then gradually for another twenty years dress left nature farther and farther behind, until it became truly grotesque."

Looking at the fashions of that day from the present day, we agree with this statement, but Robida, whose book of costume was published in 1891, says: "Grace, distinction, originality, a supple and natural elegance, well-hung skirts, extremely becoming head-dress, were among the delightful feature of that period, and the women of the 1830 have a right to a high place among the most charming figures of the past.In recalling of 1891. they will be found to be an almost exact replica, of 1830, which accounts for his view-point. Looking at these fashions with the principles of design in mind, they will be found to violate nearly every one.

The skirt remained practically the same from 1814 to 1822, when it began to be fuller and to be held out at the bottom. The trimming at the lower edge changed slightly; it was ornamented more or less elaborately with puffs, flounces, tucks, folds, and bands cut in various shapes. It just cleared the ground, showing the feet and ankles. The greatest change came in the bodice and sleeve; the former was still short in the waist, but was fitted more closely to the figure, and it gradually lengthened to the normal waistline. It was either very high in the neck and finished with a full ruche, or very low and finished with a turned-down collar. Sometimes both collar and ruche were worn, especially on the street. Sleeves were developing into the "leg-o'-mutton," very large at the top and tapering to the hand, as the name implies. As the sleeve increased in width at the shoulder, so did the collar or "bertha" which finished the very low neck, and the waist became more constricted.

Stays returned to favor; their manufacture was quite an art, and for the first time we find them made in two pieces, laced together at the back, similar to the modern corset, and with steel busks to fasten them in front; a small satin cushion or bustle was worn at the back to make the waist look smaller. They cost the equivalent of twenty-five dollars. The hour-glass silhouette was again in favor, the skirts having broadened at the bottom, and the doctors were starting agitations, this time against tight-lacing.

Shawls were still much in demand, although the extreme craze for them was over, and the spencer and the pelisse with three capes were taking their place. These had long sleeves to the wrist and were high in the neck; the spencer stopped at the waistline, but the pelisse reached to the bottom of the skirt ; the latter was worn in winter and was generally edged with fur. Long fur or curly feather boas, and huge muffs of chinchilla and fox fur were coming into fashion. The boa was a characteristic of the dress of 1830; it was usually black and of a snake-like appearance ; it was wound around the neck and the body, and the ends floated in the breeze.

Head-gear.—If there was only slight changes in dress, there were various changes in the arrangement of the hair and the style of the head-covering. Fashion papers paid especial attention to this part of a lady's toilet. During the early years of the Restoration the hair was arranged in curls held flat around the face and looped up in the nape of the neck; it was ornamented with small artificial flowers, in bunches or wreaths, for full dress, and even in the house in the daytime.

In the '20s it was parted in front, and made into puffs or curls which extended on each side of the face; at the back it was drawn up tight and smooth from the nape of the neck and arranged in a high loop or bow at the top of the head; from this towered all sorts of decorations, such as feathers, artificial flowers, and bows of ribbon. A high comb of carved tortoise-shell held this edifice in place.

The close coal-scuttle bonnet that had been worn during the classical period had developed into a bonnet with a flaring brim, which showed the face and hair in front only; this was tied down under the chin with broad ribbons and was generally trimmed with a bunch of ostrich feathers standing high in front. The crown was often bell shape, similar to the beaver hat worn by the men, and the decoration on the edge matched the ruff that was worn around the neck.

As the height of the hair-dressing increased, the shape of the bonnets changed ; the strings, instead of holding the brim down, were put on under the brim; this allowed it to stand out at the side; gradually the strings were given up, and a hat with a wide, straight brim developed. This was elaborately and heavily trimmed with ribbons, laces, feathers, and flowers, and was perched on the back of the head, the hair showing all around the front. The strings hung down the back for trimming. "It rested proudly on the head " ; "it would need a poet fitly to extol the grandeur and bewail the decline of the feminine hat."

Besides this large hat, the "beret," or tam-o'-shanter, was extremely popular; it was made of gauze, or Scotch plaid in silk or wool, and generally ornamented with an aigrette. Caps of muslin or lace with large frills were worn in the house; these were called "rumpled," and were almost as large as the hats; the crown was high in order to accommodate the small comb, the lace ruffle falling rather gracefully about the face.

Footwear and Accessories.—Low slippers without heels and with rather square-cut toes went ,vith these costumes. As the dresses became shorter, more attention was paid to the dressing of the feet. The slippers were generally laced on with crossed ribbons. The fashion-plates show them in black and colors to match the costume, but the stockings seem to be nearly always white; high shoes, or gaiters, as they were called, appear occasionally, and seem to be made of cotton rather than kid; prunella, a twilled material with a satin finish, was much used; these gaiters were made with elastic on the sides, or were laced on the side of the foot; the soles were of leather, but extremely light in weight.

With the short-sleeved gowns, long gloves of chamois-colored kid were worn; they were very expensive, and fashionable ladies were obliged to have a new pair every day.

The day of elaborate jewelry had passed, and necklaces of pearls or garnets were about the only ornaments worn with' low-necked dresses.

Men's Dress.—Since men had adopted the plain dress, very little change is noticed in their styles, or perhaps they are too subtle to be realized by the casual observer. The trousers were full at the waist and hip, to keep pace with the broadening out of women's skirts, and were looser the entire length of the leg; some finished straight at the ankle and some were held down under the foot with a strap. They were of a contrasting color to the coat and were of wool or cotton.

Coats were still short in the waist and cut away in front, with long, narrow tails in the back. They had broad collars and revers, and two rows of buttons in front; the collar was usually of velvet. The waistcoat, or vest, still received the major part of the decoration, and was often of figured silk; it was double-breasted and shaped into the figure at the waistline. They were low-cut to show the ruffled shirt. Some still had rolled-over collars, which stood out slightly from the neck, and some were made without collars. High linen collars were held up about the neck with black silk or satin stocks.

Overcoats had long, full skirts, and were made in gray, buff, green, or blue broadcloth. The sleeves were rather full at the shoulder, and tapered to the wrist, where they buttoned with several buttons.

Long, full capes with deep collars were also used by the men. The hats continued to be high, with bell crown, and were made of a silk beaver, similar to the dress-hat of the present time, but with a long nap.

Boots and slippers, or low shoes, had low heels and rather square toes.

The hair was cut short in the back and left rather long in the front, where it was curled, and small side-whiskers continued the frame of hair around the face.

Men's manners were changing; instead of the familiarity and lack of respect that they had shown women under the Directory, they were returning to the more courteous consideration that they had shown them under the monarchy. This may have been due to the attitude of the women, who were becoming an intellectual force and a political influence. Many of the most brilliant women renewed the salons of former days, and these became centres where all the intellectuals, poets, artists, and novelists, met and formed the opinions of the masses of people. Life in many ways became more simple as the middle classes gained power, for it was this class that embraced the opportunities that were opening in the field of science, arts, and letters.

With the introduction of the steamboat in the early part of the century, travel had become more easy, and many people availed themselves of the opportunity to see foreign countries, thus broadening their outlook on life.

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