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Dress Of Women - Hoops And Mantua Makers

( Originally Published 1902 )

FROM the beginning of the Eighteenth Century until 1789, the most distinguishing feature of woman's dress was the hoop. It was so large in Queen Anne's time, that no-one could imagine it increasing in size. However, despite the caricatures and the protests of the satirists, hoops continued to distend. In 1746, Mrs. Delany wrote : " I expect soon to see the other extreme of thread paper heads and no hoops, and from appearing like so many blown bladders, we shall look like so many bodkins stalking about." But Mrs. Delany's prophecy was not fulfilled until sixty years later.

The hoop was really a great bell-shaped petticoat, or skirt of the dress, stiffened by whalebone. The material was placed directly upon it, so that being a part of the gown itself, it was quite correct to speak of it as a damask hoop, or a brocade hoop. Of course, there were simple petticoats for everyday wear; but, as a rule, the hoop was made of rich flowered brocade, silk, satin or velvet. The great expanse of the hoop showed off the rich and heavy materials of the day ; and certainly the ladies must have made a ball-room look very brilliant in these rich clothes.

It may be interesting to examine some of the goods for sale in the Georgian age in New York, remembering that the damask was a rich material that came originally from Damascus ; Persian was a thin silk much in vogue for linings ; taffety, or taffetas, also a thin silk, generally changeable ; poplin, silk shot with worsted ; sarcenet, a thin silk ; lutestring, a fine corded silk ; alamode (or mode) a plain silk something like lutestring ; paduasoy, a smooth silk, originally made in Padua ; ducape, a corded silk ; russell, a woollen cloth ; callimanco, a glazed linen stuff. Certainly the ladies of the period had a large selection. The articles upon the following list arrived from 1723 to about 1769 in increasingly large quantities :

Broadcloths, callimancoes, silk and worsted camlets, mourning crapes, English damasks, India damasks, China taffeties, plain, striped and flowered Persians, Cherryderries, ginghams, grograms, satins, churconnies, Soofeys, Atchabannies, mohairs, muslins, fine Spanish cloths, 1732 ; Venetian poplin, allapeen, worsted damask, Indian dimities, muslins, bandannuses, chelloes, light and cloth coloured sarcenet, striped dimity, printed camlets, watered grogram, worsted damask, 1743 ; striped satins, and silk poplin, 1745 ; Irish silk poplins, satin stripes, silk cords, Turkey Tabby, buckrams, silk and cotton gowns, cotton Erminetta gowns, white sarcenets, white, black, brown, lemon, blue, plumb and pink coloured 1/2 ell and 3/4 wide lutestring, green, blue, and pink coloured English damask, white watered tabby, black alamode, blue, brown, and black rich paduasoys, white and pink coloured ducapes, fine flowered russells and damasks, fine china printed linen gowns, Genoa silks, English dam-asks, ducapes, mantuas, striped lutestrings, watered and flowered tabby, changeable taffeties, brocades, and black Persian watered grograms, 1750 lemon coloured paduasoy, 1751 ; yellow paduasoy, green ducape, black velvet, scarlet and Saxon blue flowered damask, striped callimancoes, Hungarian stuff, fine striped poplin, 1752 ; plain and watered tabby, figured black, blue, pink, green, and white peelong satins, 1760 ; rich yellow and white satin, 1764 ; green, blue and pink satin, straw-coloured brocade, beautiful striped and figured lutestring, satins for cloaks and gowns, pee-longs and modes, black and brown peelong, satins, figured sarcenets, Saxon green and red naps, brown, blue, and scarlet new-fashioned Bath coating, blue and scarlet German serges, paduasoy, ducape, lute-string, mantua and armozine silks, black, white, drab, green, crimson and sky-coloured satins and peelongs, flowered satins and figured modes, blue, green, brown, drab, Tyrian and pompadour broadcloths, crimson Aurora cross - barr'd and plain camlets, a variety of figured sarcenets, black and cloth-coloured peelong satins, scarlet, blue, green, black, brown and mixt broad cloths ; blue cloth for women's wear, scarlet, blue, claret colour and grey mixt Bath beaver coatings, scarlet and blue silk and worsted cord for cloaks ; blue, red, green, yellow, brown and embossed serges ; plain Venetian, striped and flowered poplins, black taffeties, satin pelong, Persians, taffeties, sarcenets, paduasoy, ducape, lutestring, mantua, armozine silk, black, white, drab, green, crimson and sky-coloured satin and peelongs, flowered satins and figured modes, and fine moreen, loretto, and silk damask for jackets, and Manchester and Genoa velvets, 1769.

In addition to these beautiful lutestrings, paduasoys, alamodes, mantuas etc., the ladies of the Georgian court wore much silver and gold brocade and rich silks embroidered in gold and silver. In 1739, the Duchess of Bedford had a green paduasoy, heavily embroidered in gold and silver ; Lady Dysart, a scarlet damask, worked richly with gold ; Lady Percival, a white satin, embroidered in gold and silver ; and, in 1740, Mrs. Delany describes a dress she greatly ad-mired, which the Duchess of Queensberry wore at a reception. The material was white satin embroidered :

"The bottom of the petticoat was brown hills covered with all sorts of weeds, and every breadth had an old stump of a tree that run up almost to the top of the petticoat, broken and ragged, or worked with brown chenille, round which twined nasturtiums, ivy, honeysuckles, periwinkles, convolvuluses, and all sorts of twining flowers, which spread and covered the petticoat. Vines, with the leaves variegated, as you have seen them by the sun, all rather smaller than nature, which makes them look very light : the robings and facings were little green banks with all sorts of weeds, and the sleeves and the rest of the gown loose twining branches of the same sort as those on the petticoats: many of the leaves were finished with gold, and part of the stumps of the trees looked like the gilding of the sun."

On the birthday of George II., one of the Princesses Royal wore a white paduasoy embroidered with gold ; another, a pink damask worked in silver.

Occasionally, some of these rich materials were seen in New York. On this page appears a portion of a dress that was worn by Mrs. William Smith (the wife of Judge William Smith) at a ball given at Fort George in honour of the birth of the prince who became George III. The silk is a heavily corded, pinkish lilac. It is richly embroidered with wreathing pink and red roses and bows of ribbon. At regular intervals, the three Prince of Wales's feathers are heavily worked in silver and raised nearly an inch above the silk. The lace in the same illustration was worn with the dress. These valuable relics are owned by Mrs. W. W. Shippen of New York.

On page 230 a simpler piece of brocade is shown. This represents red roses with their green leaves and buds or seed-pods upon a white ground. It is a sample of the wedding dress of Mary Van Cortlandt, daughter of Jacobus Van Cortlandt of Yonkers, who was married to Peter Jay in 1727. This belongs to a descendant, Mrs. John Rutherford Matthews of Van Cortlandt Manor, Croton-on-Hudson. Two other bits of old brocade, belonging to Mrs. Wilmot Town-send Cox and Mrs. French Ensor Chadwick, appear on page 273. The former is cherry-coloured, with the figure of a white carnation, and belonged to Mrs. Henry Bowers. The second, which has been fashioned into a reticule, was worn by Mrs. Samuel Jones of New York. It is white with gay flowers.

Later in the century, thin materials sprigged with silver were worn. Two old dresses appear on pages 238 and 242. The first belonged to Mrs. William Smith. The other dress was the property of Mrs. Theodorus Van Wyck Graham of Albany, and is owned by her descendant Mrs. C. E. Orvis of New York.

The large flowered brocades were copied in cheaper goods, which were also valued.

The constant succession of attractive goods exhibited in New York shows how the ladies found one of their diversions in shopping. Sidney Breese was one of those who always published an attractive advertisement. He evidently knew just how to appeal to feminine taste. He began airily enough in 1761

"Looking-glasses upon Looking-glasses, Pictures upon Pictures, rich brocades gaily flowered in the newest Taste, flowered Tabbies, English Damask, Paduasoys and Ducapes of various Colours, rich black, blue, yellow, green, pink, and white pee-longs, cardinal silks, striped and plain Lutestrings, changeable Mantuas, watered Tabby ribbons, black velvets, gauze hand-kerchiefs, India damasks and Taffeties, a large assortment of Irish linnen lawns, long lawns, cambricks, worsted hose, broad-cloth, with a variety of Persian fashioned carpets."

Josiah Vavasor, in 1761, sold "black and white gauze, gauze caps, ruffs, and handkerchiefs, Roman cloaks, round hats of all colours, children's of all sizes, Jockey caps and feathers, earrings and necklaces, China and silver snuff and patch-boxes, seals, stone buttons and buckles, pangs and a variety of the newest Fashion ribbands, black, white, buff, blue, green and figured modes, ivory stick fans and fan-mounts, all sorts of laces, edging, and footings, French trimmings, gimps of all kinds, black and white Persian, neat black Barcelona handkerchiefs, purple and black kid gloves and mits, silk and worsted mits, children's worsted morocco shoes, best black satins and peelongs, chintz and cottons, and a variety of other goods."

One ardent shopper acquired fame in 1754:

"Last week, a woman named Hannah Davis began to display her ingenuity in this city by going into shops and after buying a trifle would always give a dollar to change and whilst the change was procuring would pick up the dollar, persuade the people of the shop she gave it them, and so carry off the goods, dollar and change, but being negligent in her business was at length detected and publicly whipped for the same. This not being sufficient to deter her from following a business in which she thought herself so great a proficient, began again on Saturday last, in the market, and in changeing her dollar with a countryman found means to convey a two shilling piece into her mouth, but the man perceiving the fraud, seized her, and endeavouring to take the money out of her mouth, she bit his fingers in a terrible manner, for which she is now confined in gaol."

Fashionable tailors made ladies riding-habits and josephs, or jackets. Mantua-makers also made all sorts of loose garments, cloaks, cardinals, capuchins, etc., and sometimes they included a few articles for gentlemen. For instance, in 1757 :

"Mary Wallace and Clementia Ferguson, just arrived from the kingdom of Ireland, intend to follow the business of mantua-making, and have furnished themselves from London in patterns of the following kinds of wear for ladies and gentle-men and have fixed a correspondence so as to have from thence and London the earliest fashions in miniature. They live at Mr. Peter Clarke's, within two doors of William Walton's, Esq., in the Fly. Ladies and gentlemen that will employ them may depend on being expeditiously and reasonably served in making the following articles, that is to say, Sacks, negligees, negligee-night-gowns, plain night-gowns, pattanlears, shepherdesses, roman cloaks, cardinals, capuchins, dauphnesses, shades Iorrains, bonnets and hives."

The sack, or sacque, was introduced about 1740, and was a wide loose gown that hung from the shoulders to the ground and was gathered in folds over the great hooped petticoat. The nightgown, mentioned above, was not the garment that we know by that name ; the word was used in the Georgian period for evening dress. In 1737, the Countess of Shaftesbury remarked that Lady Ranelagh had on at her wedding " a straw-coloured night-gown with silver and col-ours that was extremely pretty, which cost thirty shillings a yard."

The negligee was a loose open gown that be-came popular about 1750 A London lady lost her trunk in 1751, and described " a scarlet tabby negligee trimmed with gold, a white damask negligee trimmed with a blue snail blond lace with a petticoat of the same, and a silver brocade negligee trimmed with pink -coloured silk," among the contents. The hive was a straw-bonnet shaped something like a bee-hive.

The advertisement on page 237 is further interesting on account of an item that must not be missed. The Fergusons say that they have arranged to get from Ireland and London " the earliest fashions in miniature." At this period and for many years before, it had been the custom to dress dolls in Paris in the latest style and to send them abroad. In 1727, Lady Lansdowne sent to one of Queen Caroline's Ladies of the Bedchamber, "a little young lady dressed in the Court dress, which I would desire you would show to the Queen, and when she has done with it, let Mrs. Tempest have it." Mrs. Tempest was a milliner. In 1763, the famous hairdresser, Legros, exhibited in Paris thirty dolls wearing his latest arrangements of coiffure, and in 1765, no fewer than a hundred small puppets showed the new fashions in headdress.

One cannot fail to notice the constant mention of muffs and tippets. Feather muffs were very fashion-able after 1760 and were worn with full dress. Muffs were constantly changing in style, and were used by men as well as women. An advertisement in this year gives us some idea of the luxurious uses of fur. John Siemon, who has " new-fashioned muffs and tippets" and "fur travelling and sleighing bearskin blankets" for sale, trims ladies' robes and riding-habits with fur and lines gentlemen's coats, caps and gloves. He calls especial attention to his choice black marten throat tippets. The tippet must have been in style, in 1775, if we may judge from advertisements : " Lost, supposed to be between the City Hall and the Bowling Green, a lady's tippet of a large size, a dark colour and made of martin's tails." Again : " Lost, in or near Broadway a lady's tippet made of dark brown martin skins."

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