Jane Austen and Her Times
Chapter 13 - Dress and Fashion
Jane Austen had a lively and natural interest in dress, and her letters abound in allusions to fashions, new clothes, and contrivances for bringing into the mode those that had fallen behind it. She cannot have had much chance of seeing new fashions at Steventon, but when she went to a town her instincts revived. During her visit to Bath, 1799, when she was staying with her brother Edward and his wife Elizabeth, and some of their children, she writes--
"My cloak is come home, I like it very much, and can now exclaim with delight, like J. Bond at hay harvest, 'This is what I have been looking for these three years.' I saw some gauzes in a shop in Bath Street yesterday at only fourpence a yard, but they were not so good or so pretty as mine. Flowers are very much worn, and fruit is still more the thing. Elizabeth has a bunch of strawberries, and I have seen grapes, cherries, plums, and apricots. There are likewise almonds and raisins, French plums, and tamarinds at the grocers', but I have never seen any of them in hats. A plum or areengage would cost three shillings; cherries and grapes about five, I believe, but this is at some of the dearest shops."The fashion to which she refers was soon carried to excess; Hannah More in her Diary says that she met women who had on their heads "an acre and a half of shrubbery, besides slopes, grass-plats, tulip beds, clumps of peonies, kitchen-gardens,and green-houses," and she "had no doubt that they held in great contempt our roseless heads and leafless necks."
"Some ladies carry on their heads a large cluantity of fruit, and yet they would despise a poor useful member of society who carried it there for the purpose of selling it for bread."
This fashion continued to increase until it was mimicked by Garrick, who appeared on the stage with a mass of vegetables on his head, and a large carrot hanging from each side, and ridicule killed the folly. It seems quite certain that fashion, which never reached such grotesque monstrosities as in the lifetime of Jane Austen, hardly touched, in its extremer modes, herself and her sister, who kept to the simpler styles with good taste. In fact the jest about the grocers shows that Jane herself saw the humour of the thing even when living in the very midst of it, a most unusual acuteness. She describes her own hat in the same letter as being "A pretty hat,--a pretty style of hat too. It is something like Eliza's, only, instead of being all straw, half of it is narrow purple ribbon," which seems simple enough.
Dressing to Go OutWhat one would like to get is some mental picture of Jane as she appeared indoors and out of doors, and this is extremely difficult. In the illustration "Dressing to go Out," by Tomkins, we get some idea of everyday fashions. The simple style of a plain material, with perhaps a little spot or sprig upon it, of soft muslin, made with a flowing skirt, and a chemisette folded in, and with sleeves reaching only to the elbow, was doubtless the most ordinary kind of indoor dress for women; add to this a cap, and this is as near as we can get to Jane's usual appearance. The caps, however, varied greatly, being worn both indoors and also for driving. Mr Austen-Leigh remarks that Jane and her sister took to wearing caps earlier in life than was generally the custom, but, on the contrary, caps were worn by very young girls at this period, for Mrs. Papendick says in her Journal, which is contemporary, that no young girl of eighteen was seen in public without some head-covering of this description. We learn many particulars of the different kinds of cap worn by Jane from her own letters.
"I have made myself two or three caps to wear of evenings since I came home, and they save me a world of torment as to hairdressing which at present gives me no trouble beyond washing and brushing, for my long hair is always plaited up out of sight, and my short hair curls well enough to want no papering."The word "mamalouc" was used at this time to describe many articles of dress; it had come into fashion after Nelson's great victory in Egypt, and there were mamalouc cloaks as well as caps, but whether these articles of attire bore the most distant resemblance to those worn in Egypt, or whether the word was tacked on to them merely for the purpose of advertisement, I do not know. Another cap Jane mentions seems to have been much more pert: "Miss Hare had some pretty caps and is to make me one like one of them, only white satin instead of blue. It will be satin and lace and a little white flower perking out of the left ear, like Harriot Uyron's feather. I have allowed her to go as far as one pound sixteen." "My cap has come home, and I like it very much, Fanny has one also, hers is white sarsenet and lace, of a different shape from mine, more fit for morning carriage wear, which is what it is intended for, and is in shape exceedingly like our own satin and lace of last winter, shaped round the face exactly like it, with pipes and more fulness and a round crown inserted behind. My cap has a peak in front. Large full bows of very narrow ribbon (old twopenny) are the thing. One over the right temple perhaps, and another at the left ear."
"I took the liberty a few days ago of asking your black velvet bonnet to lend me its caul, which it readily did, and by which I have been enabled to give a considerable improvement of dignity to the cap, which was before too nidgetty to please me. . . . I still venture to retain the narrow silver round it, put twice round without any bow, and instead of the black military feather shall put in the coquelicot one as being smarter, and besides coquelicot is to be all the fashion this winter. After the ball I shall probably make it entirely black."
"I am not to wear my white satin cap to-night after all; I am to wear a mamalouc cap instead, which Charles Fowle sent to Mary, and which she lends me. It is all the fashion now, worn at the opera, and by Lady Mildmay at Hackwood balls."
Some ladies used to hang at the back of their turban-like caps four or five ostrich feathers of different colours. But apparently a bow or a bit of ribbon sometimes was worn instead of a cap, and supposed to represent it, just as a bit of wire and gauze a few years ago was supposed to be a toque. In one place Jane says--
"I wore at the ball your favourite gown, a bit of muslin of the same round my head bordered with Mrs. Cooper's band, and one little comb."The fashion of caps for middle-aged ladies has so recently gone out that it is well remembered, but the fashion of night-caps, which belongs to a much older generation, seems to us now curious. They were then an essential part of a wardrobe; Henry Bickersteth, afterwards Lord Langdale, writes to his mother in 1800, "I must give you my thanks for the supply of linen you have sent me; it was indeed seasonable, as that which I had before was completely worn out. I am still obliged to solicit some night-caps." He was then only a boy of sixteen, and the vision of all the boys in a school going to bed in night-caps is a funny one.
Head-dresses reached their climax of absurdity at the end of the eighteenth century, but the styles varied so much that almost everyone could please themselves. At a famous trial only a few ladies were dressed in the French taste. "All the rest, decked in the finest manner with brocades, diamonds, and lace, had no other head-dress, but a ribband tied to their hair, over which they wore a flat hat, adorned with a variety of ornaments. It requires much observation to be able to give full account of the great effect produced by this hat; it affords the ladies who wear it that arch and roguish air, which the winged hat gives to Mercury." And Sir Waiter Besant says: "The women wore hoods, small caps, enormous hats, tiny milkmaid's straw hats; hair in curls and flat to the head; 'pompoms,' or huge structures two or three feet high, with all kinds of decorations-ribbons, birds' nests, ships, carriages and waggons in gold and silver lace--in the erection."
"Nothing can be conceived so absurd, extragavant, fantastical, as the present mode of dressing the head. Simplicity and modesty are things so much exploded, that the very names are no longer remembered. I have just escaped from one of the most fashionable disfigurers; and though I charged him to dress me with the greatest simplicity, and to have only a very distant eye upon the fashion, just enouoh to avoid the pride of singularity without running into ridiculous excess, yet in spite of all these sage didactics, I absolutely blush at myself and turn to the glass with as much caution as a vain beauty, just risen from the small-pox, which cannot be a more disfiguring disease than the present mode of dressing." (H. More, 1775.)But in 1787 a great change occurred in the mode of hair-dressing, the huge cushions disappeared and the main part of the hair was gathered together at the back in a chignon from which one or two loose curls were allowed to escape.
The long feathers, which have already been commented on, varied in number from three to one, and continued to be worn well on into the nineteenth century. These feathers appeared in turbans, bonnets, and head- dresses of all kinds, and hardly a picture of the period representing ladies at a card-table does not show one or more of these ludicrous quivering monstrosities.
Samuel Rogers says that he had been to Ranelagh in a coach with a lady who was obliged to sit on a stool on the floor of the coach on account of the height of her head-dress.
Fantastic headgear was not in Jane's line, all the accounts of her hats and bonnets are simple. "My mother has ordered a new bonnet and so have I; both white strip trimmed with white ribbon. I find my straw bonnet looking very much like other people's and quite as smart. Bonnets of cambric muslin are a good deal worn, and some of them are very pretty, but I shall defer one of that sort until your arrival."
In the last ten years of the century, poke bonnets and Dunstable hats were much in evidence, and with flowing curls, and flowing ribbons tied in a large bow under the chin, were sometimes not unbecoming to a pretty face.
But in Jane's lifetime the strangest fashion, that ever caused discomfort to a whole nation, gradually died down, that is to say the use of wigs. Yet that they were worn so late as 1814 is shown by Jane's remark in one of the letters. "My brother and Edward (his son) arrived last night. Their business is about teeth and wigs."
Nothing quickened the departure of the wig so much as the tax put on hair powder by Pitt in 1785; people argued that they did not mind the money, but they thought it so iniquitous to tax powder that they left off wearing powdered wigs to spite the Government, and probably, once having discovered the comfort of doing without these hideous evils, they would never return to them. Yet that the wig, even in its heyday, was not universally worn is shown by the fact that King George III. himself refused to wear one. The king's "hair, which is very thick, and of the finest light colour, tied behind with a ribband, and dressed by the hand of the queen, is one of his most striking ornaments. Notwithstanding this, the peruke makers have presented an address to the king, requesting His Majesty that, for the good of their body and the nation, he would be pleased to wear a wig." (Grosley.)
No one has rriven a better account of the wig than Sir Walter Besant, he says: "The wig was a great leveller . . . with the wig it mattered nothing whether one was bald or not. Again the mig was a great protection for the head; it saved the wearer from the effects of cold draughts; it was part of the comfort of the age like the sash window and the wainscoted wall. And the wig, too, like the coat and the waistcoat, was a means of showing the wealth of its owner, because a wig of the best kind, new, properly curled and combed, cost a large sum of money. Practically it was indestructible, and with certain alterations descended. First it was left by will to son or heir; next it was given to the coachman; then, with alterations, to the gardener; then it went to the second-hand people in Monmouth Street, whence it continued a downward course until it finally entered upon its last career of usefulness in the shoeblack's box. There was lastly an excellent reason why in the eighteenth century it was found more convenient to wear a wig than the natural hair. Those of the lower classes who were not in domestic service wore their own hair. Their heads were filled with vermin--these vermin were very easily caught--now the man who shaved his head and wore a wig was free of this danger." (London in the Eighteenth Century.)
We know that Dr. Johnson's wigs were a constant source of trouble, for they were not only dirty and unkempt, but generally burnt away in the front, for being very nearsighted, he often put his head into the candle when poring over his books. Whenever he was staying with the Thrales therefore the butler used to waylay him as he passed in to dinner, and pull off the wig on his head, replacing it with a new one.
Ladies rarely appeared without head-dresses of some kind, be it only a bow or an ornamental comb, they seemed to think that a woman should be seen with her head covered in every place as well as in church. Near the end of Cecilia the flighty Lady Honoria cries, "Why you know sir as to caps and wigs, they are very serious things, for we should look mighty droll figures to go about bareheaded," which shows how entirely custom dictates what appears "mighty droll" or quite ordinary.
Wigs were sometimes the cause of ludicrous incidents, as when in the House of Commons Lord North suddenly rising from his seat and going out bore off on the hilt of his sword the wig of Welbore Ellis who happened to be stooping forward.
Many people, when wigs began to go out of fashion, powdered their own hair, and of this Besant gives us also an unpleasant but speaking picture: "Among the minor miseries of life is to be mentioned the slipping and sliding of lumps of the powder and pomatum from the head down to the plate at dinner."
Even boys at school wore queues. Of a master at Eton it is said that his management of the boys, excellent in other respects, was in some things amiss, for "he burnt all their ruffles, and cut off their queues."
The Times of April 14, 1795, mentions that: "A numerous club has been formed in Lambeth called the Crop Club, every member of which, on his entrance, is obliged to have his head docked as close as the Duke of Bridgewater's old bay coach horses. This assemblage is instituted for the purpose of opposing, or rather evading, the tax on powdered heads."
The use of powder is mentioned in Jane Austen's story The Watsons, and is one of the very few touches she gives that carry us backward in time. Mrs. Robert Watson is speaking to her sisters-in-law,
"'I would not make you wait,' said she, 'so I put on the first thing I met with. I am afraid I am a sad figure. My dear Mr. W. (addressing her husband) you have not put any fresh powder in your hair.'Later, when Tom Musgrave arrives, "Robert Watson, stealing a view of his own head in an opposite glass, said with equal civility, 'You cannot be more in deshabille than myself. We got here so late that I had not time even to put a little fresh powder in my hair.'"
"'No, I do not intend it, I think there is powder enough in my hair for my wife and sisters.'
"'Indeed, you ought to make some alteration in your dress before dinner when you are out visiting, though you do not at home.'
"Dinner came, and except when Mrs. Robert looked at her husband's head she continued gay and flippant."
The powders used were very various.
"And now we are upon vanities, what do you think is the reigning mode as to powder? only tumerick, that coarse dye that stains yellow. It falls out of the hair and stains the skin so, that every pretty lady must look as yellow as a crocus, which I suppose will come a better compliment than as white as a lily." (Mrs. Papendick.)
Flour was frequently used for powdering heads, and in 1795 flour was very scarce and enormously valuable. In the same year when the powder tax was passed, the Privy Council "implored all families to abjure puddings and pies, and declared their own intention to have only fish, meat, vegetables, and household bread, made partly of rye. It was recommended that one quartern loaf per head per week should be a maximum allowance. The loaf was to be brought on the table for each to help himself, that none be wasted. The king himself had none but household bread on his table. In 1801 the Government offered bounties on the importation of all kinds of grain and flour, and passed the Brown Bread Act (1800) forbidding the sale of wheaten bread, or new bread of any kind, as stale bread would go further (Mary Bateson in Social England). This scarcity and dearness of bread is a thing never felt in the present day, when lumps of the best white bread are flung in heaps in the squares and streets of London, and disdained even by tramps and beggars, and when boys in the North Country go round with sacks begging bits of bread which they afterwards use for feeding ponies or horses!
Many epigrams and bon mots were made on the new powder tax; a tax on dogs had at that time been generally expected, so one wit wrote--
"Full many a chance or dire mishap,Of the inconveniences attending the use of powder the following anecdote is an instance--
Ofttimes 'twixt the lip and the cup is;
The tax that should have hung our dogs,
Excuses them, and falls on puppies."
"At one of Lady Crewe's dinner parties, Grattan, after talking very delightfully for some time, all at once seemed disconcerted, and sunk into silence. I asked his daughter, who was sitting next to me, the reason of this. 'Oh,' she replied, 'he has just found out that he has come here in his powdering coat." (Samuel Rogers, Table Talk.)The Act claimed one guinea a year from every user of powder, and was calculated to bring in about £400,000 per annum. The Royal Family, clergymen whose incomes were under a hundred pounds, subalterns and all below that rank in the army, officers in the navy under the rank of commander, and all below the two eldest unmarried daughters of a family were exempt.
Walter Savage Lander was the first of undergraduates at Oxford to do without powder, and was told he would be stoned for a republican.
"The regular academic costume, so late as 1799, consisted of knee breeches of any colour, and white stockings. The sun of wigs had not even then set; they covered the craniums of nearly all dens and heads of houses. The gentlemen wore their hair tied up behind in a thin loop called a pigtail; footmen wore their hair tied up behind in a thick loop called a hoop." (Sydney, England and the English.)In regard to the rest of the costume of ladies, the most noticeable points of the mode were the high waists and long flowing skirts clinging tightly to the figure. This, if not carried to excess, was certainly becoming, but fashion cannot be content with mediocrity, it must be extravagant. Consequently, "With very low bodices and very high waists, came very scanty clothing, with an absence of petticoat, a fashion which left very little of the form to the imagination. I do not say that our English belies went to the extent of some of their French sisters, of having their muslin dresses put on damp--and holding them tight to their figures till they dried--so as absolutely to mould them to their form but their clothes were of the scantiest, and as year succeeded year, this fashion developed, if one can call diminution of clothing development." (John Ashton, Old Times.)
It is difficult to give any consecutive account of fashions extending over such a long period, for they varied as frequently then as they do now, however, here are a few notes.
Coquelicot, that is poppy colour, was very fashionable, Jane as we have seen adopted it; at one time no lady's dress was considered complete without a dash of coquelicot in sash or trimmings.
Jane frequently mentions her cloak; this would not be what ladies call a cloak now, but more what would be described as a fichu or tippet, covering the shoulders and having long ends which fell like a stole in front, some of the modern fur stoles are in fact made very much on the same pattern; no lady's wardrobe seems to have been complete without at least one black silk cloak of this sort. Dresses were cut low in front, either in V shape or curved, and even in winter this custom was followed; a silk handkerchief was sometimes folded crosswise over the opening, but very generally, though warmly dressed in other respects, a lady had her neck quite uncovered. The short sleeves which went with low necks necessitated the use of long gloves, which reached above the elbow and were tied there with ribbon. The high waists made the bodice of the dress so small that it was of very little consequence, and sometimes was formed merely by a folded bit of material like a fichu. This was covered by that fashionable and characteristic garment, the pelisse. It was not considered proper for very young girls to wear pelisses, they wore cloaks, but the pelisse did not really differ very greatly from the cloak, for it was like a long open coat, fitting closely to the arm, but falling straight in long ends from the armholes, thus leaving the front of the dress exposed in a panel; later, pelisses became more voluminous and completely covered the dress, fastening in front.
Fashions for Ladies in 1795
Mrs. Papendick says, "The outdoor equipment in those days, when pelisses and great-coats of woollen were not worn by girls, was a black cloak of a silk called 'mode,' stiff; glossy, wadded, armholes with a sleeve to the wrist from them, a small muff, and a quaker-shaped bonnet all of the same material."
Huge muffs were very common, and this is one of the features of the dress of that date which is generally remernbered because of its singularity.
The small girls were dressed in long skirts plainly made, and their robes must have precluded any possibility of romping; the short skirts and long stockinged legs of our present mode would have made them stare indeed.
As for the materials for dresses, they were of course much less varied than the inventions of printing and machinery allow women to use nowadays. Plain muslins, or muslins embroidered at the edge, were most common, though there were other materials such as taffeta, sarsenet, and bombazine. We must realise also that any lace used in trimming must have been real lace, there was no machine-made stuff at 2 3/4 d. a yard as in our own time the distorted sleeves or ever-changing with which every servant girl could deck herself as she does now. India muslins were extremely popular, and seemed to have been worn quite regardless of the climate, which according to accounts, our grandmothers notwithstanding, does not seem to have changed remarkably.
When Lady Newdigate was at Brighten in 1797 she writes to her husband: "Do ask of your female croneys if they have any wants in the muslin way. Nothing else is worn in gowns by any rank of people, but I don't know that I can get them cheaper here, but great choice there is, very beautiful and real India."
In January 1801, Jane writes from Steventon, "I shall want two new coloured gowns for the summer, for my pink one will not do more than clear me from Steventon. I shall not trouble you, however, to get more than one of them, and that is to be a plain brown cambric muslin, for morning wear; the other, which is to be a very pretty yellow and white cloud, I mean to buy in Bath. Buy two brown ones, if you please, and both of a length, but one longer than the other--it is for a tall woman. Seven yards for my mother, seven yards and a half for me; a dark brown, but the kind of brown is left to your own choice, and I had rather they were different as it will be always something to say, to dispute about, which is the prettiest. They must be cambric muslin."
Ten years later muslins are still fashionable. "I am sorry to tell you that I am getting very extravagant [she was at this time in London] and spending all my money, and what is worse for you, I have been spending all yours too; for in a linendraper's shop to which I went for checked muslin, and for which I was obliged to give seven shillings a yard, I was tempted by a pretty coloured muslin and bought ten yards of it on the chance of your liking it; but, at the same time, if it should not suit you, you must not think yourself at all obliged to take it. It is only three and six per yard, and I should not in the least mind taking the whole. In texture it is just what we prefer, but its resemblance to green crewels I must own is not great, for the pattern is a small red spot."
That silly and affected nomenclature for the dress fabrics was in use then as it is still, is apparent from Hannah More's remark, "One lady asked what was the newest colour; the other answered that the most truly fashionable silk was a soupĉon de vert, lined with a soupir etouffée et bradée de l'espérance; now you must not consult your old-fashioned dictionary for the word espérance for you will there find that it means nothing but hope, whereas espérance in the new language of the time means rose-buds."
The most particular description of a dress Jane ever gives is almost minute enough to be followed by a dressmaker: "It is to be a round gown, with a jacket and a frock front, to open at the side. The jacket is all in one with the body, and comes as far as the pocket holes --about half a quarter of a yard deep, I suppose, all the way round, cut off straight at the corners with a broad hem. No fulness appears either in the body or the flap, the back is quite plain--and the side equally so. The front is sloped round to the bosom and drawn in, and there is to be a frill of the same to put on occasionally when all ones handkerchiefs are dirty, which frill must fall back. She is to put two breadths and a half in the tail, and no gores--gores not being so much worn as they were. There is nothing new in the sleeves; they are to be plain, with a fulness of the same falling down and gathered up underneath. Low in the back behind, and a belt of the same."
It is of course most obvious that the ludicrous fashions and enormous erections, which were carried by the leaders of fashion, did not affect quiet country girls; just as in our own time the distorted sleeves or ever-changing skirts, and all the vagaries of the smart set are known and seen by hundreds who daily go about in perfectly simple clothes which yet can not be called unfashionable because they conform in main points to the dictates of the fashion of the moment without going to excess.
Two more characteristic quotations from the letters must be given--
"How do you like your flounce? We have seen only plain flounces. I hope you have not cut off the train of your bombazine. I cannot reconcile myself to giving them up as tnorning gowns; they are so very sweet by candlelight. I would rather sacrifice my blue one for that purpose; in short I do not know, and I do not care," and in the following year, "I have determined to trim my lilac sarsenet with lilac satin ribbon just as my chine crape is. Sixpenny width at bottom, threepenny or fourpenny at top. Ribbon trimmings are all the fashion at Bath. With this addition it will be a very useful gown, happy to go anywhere."In one small point the lady of the eighteenth century resembled her successor of to-day.
The Times of November 9, 1799, notes: "What is still more remarkable is the total abjuration of the female pocket . . . every fashionable fair carries her purse in her workbag, and she has the pleasure of laying everything that belongs to her upon the table wherever she goes."
Hoops were worn in Court dress long after they were abandoned elsewhere, someone describes them as the "excrescences and balconies with which modern hoydens overwhelm and barricade their persons." Apart from this survival at Court, dress was generally long and clinging.
At one of the Drawing Rooms of 1796 crape was all the fashion; Princess Augusta was dressed in "a rich gold embroidered crape petticoat in leaves across, intersected with blue painted foil in shaded spots, having the appearance of stripes from top to bottom; ornamented with a rich embroidered border in festoons of blue shaded satin and gold spangles. Pocket holes ornamented with broad gold lace, and blue embroidered satin bows; white and gold body and train." There are many other costumes described at the same Drawing Room, from which we gather that the hair was dressed very full and high, and quite off the ears, and that bandeaus of gold or silver lace, or black velvet embroidered with gold, were run through it. Gold and silver artificial flowers were also very commonly worn, and some ladies had plumes. There were also a few caps. "The ladies all wore full dress neckerchiefs with point lace, sufficiently open to display irresistible charms."
Men's dress of the same period was most magnificent, and perhaps the feature of it that would strike one most in contrast with modern fashions, would be its variety of colour; coats and waistcoats were always coloured, black was only donned for mourning. Gold and silver lace and figured brocades, with lace cuffs and ruffles, were essential to a beau. Horace Walpole notes at the wedding of a nephew that, except for himself, there wasn't a bit of gold lace anywhere in the dress of the men, and he considered it altogether as a very poor affair.
Inigo Jones, Hon. H. Fane, and C. Blair
A fairly good idea of the different degrees of plainness and ornament in the clothes worn by gentlemen may be gathered from Reynold's portrait group of Inigo Jones, Hen. H. Fane, and C. Blair which was done at this time.
The following is the wordrobe of a fashionable man of the time. "My wardrobe consisted of five fashionable coats full mounted, two of which were plain, one of cut velvet, one trimmed with gold, and another with silver lace; two frocks, one of which was drab with large plate buttons, the other of blue with gold binding; one waistcoat of gold brocade, one of blue satin, embroidered with silver, one of green silk trimmed with broad figured gold lace; one of black silk with fringes; one of white satin, one of black cloth and one of scarlet ; six pairs of cloth breeches, one pair of crimson, and another of black velvet; twelve pair of white silk stockings, as many of black silk, and the same number of fine cotton; one hat laced with gold Point d' Espagne; another with silver lace scalloped, a third gold binding, and a fourth plain; three dozen of fine ruffled shirts, as many neckcloths; one dozen of cambric handkerchiefs, and the like number of silk. A gold watch with a chased case (it was the fashion to wear two watches at one time during the century), two valuable diamond rings, two morning swords, one with a silver handle, and a fourth cut steel inlaid with gold; a diamond stock buckle and a set of stone buckles for the knees and shoes; a pair of silver mounted pistols with rich housings; a gold headed cane, and a snuff box of tortoiseshell, mounted with gold, having the picture of a lady on the top."
In The New Guide already quoted, the following account is put into the mouth of a young gentleman of fashion:--
"I ride in a chair with my hands in a muff,
And have bought a silk coat and embroidered the cuff.
But the weather was cold, and the coat it was thin,
So the tailor advised me to line it with skin.
But what with my Nirernois hat can compare,
Bag-wig, and laced ruffles, and black solitaire?
And what can a man of true fashion denote,
Like an ell of good ribbon tied under the throat?
My buckles and box are in exquisite taste,
The one is of paper, the other of paste."
Fox, when a very young man, was a prodigious dandy, wearing a little odd French hat, shoes with red heels, etc. He and Lord Carlisle once travelled from Paris to Lyons for the express purpose of buying waistcoats; and during the whole journey they talked about nothing else. (S. Rogers, Table Talk.)
Jane Austen's brother Edward would dress, as befitted his position, with greater variety of colour and style than his clergyman father and brother. It was the usual thing for a clergyman to dress in black, with knee-breeches and white stock, but it was not essential. In Northanger Abbey when Henry Tilney is first introduced to Catherine in the Lower Rooms at Bath, there is nothing in his attire to indicate that he is a clergyman, a fact which she only learns subsequently.
In ordinary civilian dress, men wore long green, blue, or brown cloth coats with stocks and frilled ruffles. In the Man of Feeling a man casually met with is wearing "a brownish coat with a narrow gold edging, and his companion an old green frock with a buff coloured waistcoat," while an ex-footman trying to play the gentleman has on "a white frock and a red laced waistcoat."
At that time footgear for men consisted of slippers in the house, and riding-boots for out of doors. When Beau Nash was forming the assemblies at Bath, as has been said he made a dead set against the habit some men had of wearing boots in the dancing-room. "The gentlemen's boots also made a very desperate stand against him, the country squires were by no means submissive to his usurpations, and probably his authority alone would never have carried him through, had he not reinforced it with ridicule." His ridicule took the form of a squib, one verse of which was as follows:--
L' Come Trollops and Slatterns,"The keenness, severity, and particularly the good rhymes of this little morceau which was at that time highly relished by many of the nobility at Bath, gained him a temporary triumph. Put to push his victories he got up a puppet show, in which Punch came in, booted and spurred in the character of a country squire. When told to pull off his boots he replies:-- 'Why, madam, you may as well bid me pull off my legs. I never go without boots, I never ride, I never dance without them; and this piece of politeness is quite the thing in Bath. We always dance at our town in boots, and the ladies often move minuets in riding boots.' From this time few ventured to appear at the assemblies in Bath in riding dress." (Life of Nash, 1772.)
Cockt hats and white aprons,
This best our modesty suits;
For why should not we
In dress be as free
As Hogs-Norton squires in boots."
This text was originally digitized by Catherine Dean for her "Jane Austen E-Texts, Etc." website, and is archived at Molland's with Ms. Dean's permission.