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Dress Of Women - Gloves, Shoes, And Stays

( Originally Published 1902 )



OUR colonial ancestors wore many varieties of gloves. We find among the importations from time to time : worsted and kid gloves, 1743 ; shammy and glazed gloves and silk mittens, 1750 ; women's and maid's black ruff gloves, white kid and lamb gloves, glazed kid and lamb, unbound and ribbon-bound gloves, and coloured flapped mittens, 1751 ; French gloves, black, white, and coloured silk mits, and neat tanned and glazed satten gloves, 1754; satten gloves, black silk mits, trimmed glove-tops, purple and black kid gloves and mits, and silk and worsted mits, 1761 ; and purple, black, white and cloth-coloured mits and gloves, silk, worsted, kid, and lamb's gloves, and black and coloured mits, 1769. In addition to these gloves worn for dress, there were "chicken skin " gloves made of a thin strong leather and dressed with almonds and spermaceti. These were worn at night to make the hands "plump, soft and white."

The laces and ribbons of the day have already been described with the hats and caps. We must re-member that lace was used for ruffles which were an important finish to the sleeve. Ruffles were also made of the popular gauze and lawn, and were plain, checked, or flowered. " Dresden ruffles" for men and women were advertised in 1754. Gauzes, Paris net and catgut came in colours, as well as in black and white ; and lawns were clear, flowered, spotted, checquered, or of the kind known as " minionet." Hand-kerchiefs were of silk, lawn, satin, linen or gauze. We find them designated as flowered bordered, flowered Kenting, Barcelona, culgee, rosette, satin check, and also made of black and light-coloured gauze, of striped flowered and spotted lawn, of white with flowered borders, and with flowered and striped borders.

We must not forget to mention the important apron, which was often worn on dress occasions. This article became extremely fashionable in England during the reign of William III., when it was small and edged with lace. In the reign of George II. it was worn very long and, sometimes, was quite plain in comparison to that fashionable in Queen Anne's day. Then it was embroidered and ornamented with gold or silver lace and spangles. Beau Nash, the autocrat of Bath, very properly objected to the apron, and he forbade any lady wearing one to be admitted to the assemblies at Bath ; for he said " none but Abigails appear in white aprons." For some unknown reason aprons lingered ; and we find them in New York, just as we do in London, made of flowered and plain lawn, gauze, gauze with trollys (evidently a kind of lace) and finely flowered. In 1751, a New York lady offers a pistole reward for a lost " fine flowered muslin apron."

The belle of the Eighteenth Century paid much attention to the dressing of her feet. Owing to the shortness of her hoop petticoat, which subjected her to so much ridicule, her shoe was always visible, and as long as the wide spreading skirt remained in fashion, the style of shoe or slipper changed but little. From the many examples contained in Hogarth's pictures, we are familiar enough with the slender, pointed toe, high vamp, large buckles and enormous heel,—the type that lasted from about 1753, when we read :

" Mount on French heels when you go to a ball—'
Tis the fashion to totter and show you can fall "

to 1771, when a lady was described as wearing heels that were three inches and a half high.

These delicate and uncomfortable shoes—for the high heels pitched the body forward and forced the wearer to adopt a slow and mincing gait—were frequently embroidered with flowers on silk or satin and ornamented with a diamond, paste, or silver buckle. Again, they would be made of satin, figured silk, dam-ask, calimanco, russell, or everlasting. London sent very handsome shoes to New York : rich gold and silver-point shoe-shapes and embroidered shoe-tops appeared in 1750, with the cheaper red and drab shoes, and women's and girls' damask, russell and everlasting shoes ; silk and stuff shoes were imported in 1751; women's leather shoes and pumps, 1760; women's satin shoes, 1761 ; and women's and maids' calimanco shoes and children's Morocco pumps, 1769.

There were several fashionable shoemakers here. In 1765, one announces : "Women's best silk, russell, callimanco and everlasting shoes made in New York, equal if not superior to any made in London, by James Wells." Another, was John Lasker, who lived in Bowling Green, next door to Mr. Samuel Bayard's ; a third, was John Milligan in Beaver Street ; and a fourth was Benjamin Burras, silk and stuff shoemaker in Broad Street, in 1773. Clogs and pattens, and goloshes and silk ear'd clogs appear in 1760.

Cloaks were worn all through our period. We find short cloaks, in 1751 ; scarlet drab and blue cloaks, 1753; and women's fashionable short cloaks, 1754. The most popular of all were the capuchin, which, as we have already seen, had a hood, and the cardinal. The latter was a cloak like a cardinal's which the ladies began to wear about 1760. Sometimes they were very handsome, being made of buff, black, blue, and green figured modes.* Frequently we find special advertisements of capuchin and cardinal silks of all colours. Cardinal fringe and gimp were specially made to trim these garments. The cardinal was a kind of evening wrap. In 1764, we read :

Lost out of a sleigh last Tuesday evening, or taken by mistake from the Assembly Room, a new figured black satin cardinal with spotted black and white fur trimmings. Likewise, lost at the ball at Mr. Francis's a plain black satin cardinal with figured brown and white fur trimmings, somewhat worn."

In 1774, fashionable cloaks were of sage green and light brown trimmed with ermine.

Among the miscellaneous articles, were fans and girdles, 1732 ; nonesopretties, 1743 ; bone and coco stick fans, fine silver tippets with French flowers, a rich silver net shape, cauls, and silk belts, 1750 ; velvet masks, black patches, and an assortment of fans and necklaces, 1751 ; Paris net and catgut pompoons, bugles, bugle stomachers, painted bone and ivory stick fans and black velvet masks, 1754 ; enamelled snuff and patch-boxes, 1760 ; ivory stick fans and fan-mounts, 1761 ; china, silver, snuff and patch-boxes, 1761 ; tortoiseshell pocket-books with ivory leaves lettered, 1762 ; muffs and tippets, tortoiseshell, horn and ivory combs, black feathers, all sorts of Italian and French flowers, velvet collars, Italian head-dresses, and plumes and breast flowers, 1767 ; ostrich feathers for riding-hats, Italian breast flowers and plumes, great variety of ivory fans, smelling-bottles, ivory bodkins, green silk purses, crystal bosom buttons, fringe, black and blue feathers, skeleton and cap wire, and fashionable fans, 1769.

The fans of the period were almost invariably of beautiful design. The sticks were of carved wood, or ivory ; sometimes they were imported from the Orient. The mount was of vellum, silk, gauze, or paper, and beautifully painted. Nearly every conceivable subject was thought appropriate for its decoration, from pastorals, fetes-champetres, classical figures, mythological fancies, allegorical conceits, emblems, scenes from operas and plays, royal marriages, christenings, and victories to caricatures and portraits. There were also fortune-telling fans, riddle fans, calandar fans, etc. Two handsome French fans of the time, belonging to Mrs. Henry Draper, are shown on page 223 and below. Another, from the Museum in Cooper Union, appears on page 263.

Throughout our period, woman was very particular about her figure. She felt it necessary to conform to the fashionable shape, which, generally speaking, was a long narrow bodice very tightly laced. Young girls and portly matrons alike squeezed themselves into the stiff cases of whalebone, or buckram, or some-times steel, that could produce the desired form. In 1734, stays were extremely low, but fashion decreed that the position of the waist should vary every few years, and stays were sometimes worn outside. Stay-makers were constantly arriving from London with the latest fashions, and every change in shape was quickly followed.

In 1764, " Joseph Beck, staymaker, who served his apprenticeship with Mr. Samuel Panton of Dublin, and for several years wrought with several of the most eminent Masters in London and Bath, removes to Smith Street, and makes " English, French turn'd and Mecklenburg Stays and Jumps, in a new easy Method that's now used in London, Children's Coats and Slips. Ladies that reside in the Country by sending their Measure or the Lining of their Stays, may depend on having their commands executed with the greatest Care and Despatch." A little later, he assured his patrons that he would " always make it his constant Care to have the newest Fashions early from London." As a proof that they did get the newest shapes, we may note that in June, 1765 McQueen " has a quantity of the newest fashioned diamond cut bone stays ; they were made in London since the be-ginning of December last."

In 1767, John McQueen called himself "stay-maker, at the Sign of the Stays." He has " a fresh assortment of new fashion'd stays, children's pack thread stays from one to eight years old, children's bone stays from one to twelve years old, women and maids' stays of different sorts and sizes, a few neat polished steel collars for Misses, so much worn at the boarding schools in London."

At this date, stays were as tight as ever ; but were high behind and low before, and the figure was carried with a peculiar fall of the shoulders and elevation of the bust. Young girls were taught to hold them-selves very stiffly, and frequently a long needle was stuck uprightly in the front of the dress, so that if the head was bent over too far, the needle would pierce the chin. The steel collars " mentioned above were, in all probability some device of this nature. Much attention was paid to the holding of the body and the rigid attitudes of the portraits were not at all uncommon positions.

It is noticeable that these stay-makers fashioned children's clothes, but did not seem to undertake any other outside garments for ladies save jumps, a kind of sleeveless coat, and " Mechlinburg waistcoats."

A very interesting child's costume appears on this page, in a portrait of Catharine Elmendorph (1747—1787) painted in 1754. The dress is brown and the stomacher white.

The bodice was cut to fit tightly over the stays ; and was low both back and front for evening dress, and often high in the back and square in the front for ordinary dress. Lace, or gauze, ruffles frequently framed in the neck and ornamented the sleeves. An excellent idea of a typical dress in George II.'s reign appears on page 297.

The stomacher was an important adjunct to the bodice. We find it sometimes of stiff linen like the one that Mrs. Vallete wears on page 206. Stomachers were of gold and silver ; there were bugle stomachers (glass beads) ; white dimothy stomachers ; and many others. In front of the bodice was hung the stay-hook " upon which the watch or etui was hung. This frequently appears in the jewellers' lists. There were also breast-flowers, pompons, crystal bosom-buttons, breast-buckles, and many other articles that adorned the front of the dress, and very often a bow of ribbon was worn, as in the portrait of Mrs. Ray on page 202, who is dressed in a sea-green satin gown. This portrait was originally in the King Mansion at Jamaica, L. I. Some of Mrs. Ray's silver appears on page 138.



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