Women in Bygone Days
How Scottish Women were Dressed
WOMEN must rejoice in the knowledge
that in one period they were, if not perfect, at least "amiable, good and
charitable," "modest in appearance and deportment," though to be sure they
must mourn that this state was never in their day. It is always in the
past that woman, her dress and her manners, were perfect; her mother, or,
better still, her grandmothers appeared to live in a golden age, and a
halo rests round these days. But draw aside the veil and you will see that
criticism was ever rife ; in all ages woman is ever going down-hill. She
has stepped off her pedestal and is sliding downwards.
1789 a certain Mr. Brown, forerunner of modern
critics, minister of the Gospel at Glasgow, bewails "the growing
extravagance in womens dress." Mr. Arnold, another writer, in 1790
laments that the lower are aping the
middle class and the latter copying the rich. "Fifty years ago," he says,
"few females wore scarlet or silk, but now nothing is more common than
silk and capes and cloaks, and women in a middling position are now as
fine as ladies of quality were formerly."
Mrs. Piozzi, writing to her dear and
learned Doctor Johnson, exclaims
women of pleasure are more impudent than the gentlemen. The ladies vie
with them in dress, or rather undress, dancing in the style of
Eastern girls in a seraglio." So young ladies of the twentieth century may
comfort themselves that in "the good old days when women were modest and
retiring," one of their own sex can thus describe them. Mrs. Delaney,
writing in 1729, says :" Sure the
women were never so audacious as they are now; this may be called the
brazen age"; and Hannah More continues the dirge. In a letter to her
sister, she writes :" The old
are growing young and seventy dresses like seventeen."
Whether women were better or worse
we know not; of this we may be sure, they were from early days fond of
dress. The love of finery, the implicit following of fashions, is no
modern development. In early days men were as blind followers of Dame
Fortune as were women, and both sexes spent money they could ill afford in
decking themselves in the newest and most fashionable clothes. Throughout
the middle ages men vied with women in wearing bright clothes. These
clothes were made of wool, silk or satin, velvet and camelot, and richly
embroidered. Fashions altered then as now, but the rich of all countries
followed the same fashion and were dressed alike.
If we want to know what our
ancestors wore we have but to look up the old records, study
picture-galleries, or pause before some ancient tomb, where we may see the
lady tricked out in the exact fashion of the day, and however
uncomfortable she may be, true to her character and the teaching of the
day, she lies patiently waiting for the great rising, and we can see in
her effigy the exact picture of a bygone age.
Later on, advertisements in journals
and papers shew us what our ancestors bought, and what was fashionable.
In early days we find women of the
upper class wore white woollen robes, and jackets without sleeves. On
public occasions we read they were clothed "in a parti-coloured sacque or
plaid of fine texture, and wore on their necks chains of gold." Jewellery,
such as rings, brooches and chains, were much worn by the fashionable
ladies. Also they paid much attention to their footwear, termed " crakows"
; this was a kind of shoe of light wood, covered with velvet or silk,
ornamented with silver buckles. These crakows had long tapering toes,
which were called "poulaines."
A male dandy wore shoes whose velvet
toes measured from eight to twelve inches beyond the foot. The toes had to
be firmly stuffed to keep them in shape. Ladies toes were also long, but
not as long as mens.
Much attention was paid to gloves,
generally worn for hunting or for riding. They were embroidered with silk
and jewels. Ladies in the fifteenth century, as now, had shingled hair,
wore cloche hats and affected low necks.
In the fifteenth century women wore
kirtle and stomacher, gown and tippet. The kirtle was an indoors dress; it
was tight-fitting, and enveloped the body from neck to heel. The material
used was wool, silk or velvet. Small waists were much admired, and ladies
vied with one another in conforming to this fashion. Over the kirtle and
enclosing the breast came the stomacher, composed of satin or of velvet
and lined with fur. The gown was a loose garment open in the front and
exhibiting the stomacher and kirtle. The tippet was a species of collar,
made of fur and lined with satin; it enclosed the neck and rested upon the
The head-dress or turret was the
English steeple hat, the forerunner of the cloche. It was a steeple
tapering from the broad base which encircled the head to a point that
varied from six to twelve inches and even more. It was made to look like
two horns, and was covered with coloured velvet or silk, and had at the
peak a bunch of white muslin or silk that drooped to the ground behind or
was caught around the shoulder and tucked under the chin.
Over the brim, so as to cover the
hair, was a broad band of silk, called the fillet. At the back of the head
near the neck the hair was closely cut, or, we should now say, shingled.
The head-dress varied between height
and breadth (steeple and sideways). The simplest form of the side-dressing
consisted in the hair being swelled out into the form of a caul on each
side of the head, which was richly cased in a network of gold and covered
with jewels. At times this was carried out sideways to a great length, and
formed into the shape of a barrel.
These fashions appear to have been
perpetually changingeach going out for a short period and then returning,
and sometimes turret or horizontal dressings were used contemporaneously,
so it is difficult to fix any exact period for each. From the allusions in
the poets and other popular writers we know that horned head-dresses were
in use in the thirteenth and beginning of the fourteenth centuries. During
the end of the fourteenth and the beginning of the fifteenth century they
were an object of bitter satire to the writers.
Addison, in the eighteenth century,
says: "There is not so variable a thing in nature as a ladys head-dress:
within my own memory I have known it rise and fall above thirty degrees."
When the low head-dressing came in he remarks: "The whole sex is in a
manner dwarfed and shrunk into a race of beauties that seems almost
another species. I remember several ladies who were once very near seven
foot high, that at present want some inches of five. How they came to be
thus curtailed I cannot learn; whether the whole sex be at present under
any penance which we know nothing of, or whether they have cast their
head-dresses in order to surprise us with something in that kind which
shall be entirely new . . . . is still a secret; though I find most are of
opinion they are at present like trees lopped and pruned that will
certainly sprout up and flourish with greater heads than before."
The common dress of ladies in the
fifteenth century was a very long gown trailing on the ground, with
hanging sleeves. The satirists accused the ladies of this time of having
their dress open so low before and behind as to expose to view the naked
back and breast to an indecent degree.
Fashions were the same in all
countries, and habits much the same. A French moralist gives his views
upon the dress of his day. This would apply to all civilized lands : "One
manner of spoiling and abusing ones vestments is the form, which as
regards women I consider in four parts. The first is the head, which used
to be horned, but is now mitredthe mitres are the shape of chimneys .and
the more beautiful and the younger the wearers are, the higher chimneys
they carry. . . . The battlements to combat God above are the fine webs of
silk, the beautiful figures, the gold, the silver, the pearls, sometimes
precious stones and rich embroidery. . . . The lances are the great forked
pins; the arrows are the little pins. The shield is the large forehead
stripped of hair. . [It was the fashion in this century to pluck out the
hair round the forehead, so as to make it appear larger.] The second is
the great standard which they carry, this great loose kerchief which hangs
down jusques a leur derriere; it is a sign that the devil
has gained the Castle against God; for when the men at arms gain a place,
they hoist their flag upon it. Another evil is the body. By detestable
vanity ladies of rank now cause their robes to be made so low in the
breast and so open on the shoulders, that we may see nearly the whole
bosom and all their shoulders, and much below down their backs; and so
tight in the waist that they can scarcely respire in them, and often
suffer great pain by it, in order to make their body small. And if it is
said in defence, that though they do not cover their breast and neck with
their robes, they cover it with something else, I answer that the covering
is only vanity, for they cover it with a stuff so loose that one may see
the flesh completely through it. The third evil is in the tail. They make
them such long tails, that I see in them four great evils. The first is
useless waste. What is the use of that great heap of cloth and fur and of
silk which drags on the ground, and is often the cause of the loss of the
robe, and of the time which must be employed to clean these long tails, as
well as of the patience of the servants? . . . The fourth evil is when
they cause to be made for their feet shoes which are so small that they
can scarcely walk in them, whereby they have frequently their feet lamed,
sore and full of corns."
Dunbar, the distinguished poet of
the fifteenth century, describes a lady and her dress thus:
She clothes her in a kirtle of
A fair white curch she puts upon her head;
Her kirtle was of silk and silver fine,
Her other garments as the red gold did shine;
On every finger she wears ringes two,
She was proud as any popingo."
In these lines we have a good
picture of the Scottish dame of fashion.
The sleeveless jacket worn over the
woollen dress was copied from the surcote of the knighta linen garment
thrown over the armour by the Crusaders, who found the hot sun shining on
their armour stifling, and adopted this garment to protect them from the
Although poverty prevented the Scots
from making as fine a display as their Southern neighbours, yet they spent
vast sums upon clothes and on occasion could muster a brave show. The
nobility and gentry of Scotland always prided themselves upon their
appearance in public.
A description of Lady Margaret Tudor
of Englands entrance into Scotland to wed King James IV. says:
"Thus this fayre ladie was conveyed
with a great company of lordes, ladies, knightes, esquires and gentlemen
till shee came to Berwike, and from thence to a village called Lambreton
Kyrke, in Scotland, where the King with the floure of Scotland was readie
to receave her, to whom the Erle of Northumberland according to his
commission delyvered her. The Scottes that day, I assure you, were not
behind the Englishemen, but farre above, both in apparell and rich jewels
and massey chaynes . . . Then was this ladie conveyed to the town of
Edinburgh, and there the day after King James IV. in the presence of all
his nobilitie espoused the sayde fayre Princesse, and feasted the English
Lordes, and showed to them Joustes and other pastimes, very honourably,
after the fashion of his rude country. When all things were done and
finished according to their commission, the Erle of Surrey with all the
English Lordes and Laydies returned into their countrie, giving more
praise to the manhood than to the good manner and nurture of Scotland."
[Graftons Chronicle, 1569.]
The King, much to his subjects
satisfaction, cut a fine figure in white satin figured with gold, with
crimson hose and velvet doublet. The marriage and festivities were said to
have been the most magnificent spectacle ever witnessed in Edinburgh. The
bride was fourteen years of age. It was through this alliance that
ultimately the Union of the Crowns was effected.
Throughout the fourteenth and
fifteenth centuries all dresses were made by men, though women from the
earliest days did the embroidery. Wages in these days were not
extortionate. The English tailor who "translated" two gowns for the Queen
of James IV. was paid eight shillings Scots, [Eight shillings Scots=eightpence
sterling.] and for mending two of her kirtles and making her hose another
received eight shillings Scots.
In those early days fortunes were
spent on apparel; so widespread and extravagant had fashion in dress
become in all the civilized countries that special statutes had to be
passed dealing with the matter. The clergy were enrolled to denounce
extravagance, and to remonstrate with their flock, men and women who were
spending out of all proportion upon personal adornment. The clergy
thundered forth denunciations, the lawmakers made laws, all in vain.
In 1429 the Scottish Parliament
passed a statute forbidding all except lords and knights of 200 merks of
yearly rent and their heirs to wear silks, furs, broidery, pearls or
bullion, and they were to restrain themselves to honest array with
collars, belts, brooches and chains. Alack, so deeply was the love of
finery engrained in the human heart that the laws were scarcely more
efficacious than had been the clergy! Wives of yeomen and commoners were
ordered to wear no dresses with long trains, no side-rucked hoods, no bag
sleeves, or costly curches of lawn; these women flouted the law, which was
repeated on various occasions and was followed by one in 1457 which was
directed against the merchants and their spouses, whose love of silk,
costly scarlet gowns and gowns with fur of martens, they were to curb and
to leave off the said gowns. Everyone, then as now, wore as costly clothes
as they could afford, or wore them even if they could not afford it,
bartering away land and credit to do this. During the reign of Mary,
various enactments were made in Parliament relating to womens dress. In
December, 1567, it was enacted that no woman should dress above her
The dresses of the ladies of rank
were rendered costly by the addition of great quantities of jewels in the
sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.
When Queen Mary of Scotland was
prisoner in the Castle of Loch Leven in 1567, she wrote a letter to Sir
Robert Melville asking for some clothes to be forwarded to her, which was
grudgingly done a year after the request was made.
She wrote: "Ye shall not fail to
send with this bearer to me half-ell of blue satin, also cause Servais, my
Concierge (keeper of the Queens wardrobe), send me more twined silk gif
there rests any, and sewing gold and sewing silver, also ane doublet and
skirts of white satin, ane other incarnat, ane other of black satin, and
the skirts with them. Send no skirt with the red doublet. Also ane loose
gown of taffateis; also ye shall send the gown and the other clothes, that
I bade the Lady Lethington gar send me. And also ye shall not fail to send
my maidens clothes, for they are naked, and marvel ye have not sent them
since your departing fra me, together with the camaraige (cambric) and
linen cloth whereof I gave you ane memorial, and gif the shone (shoes) be
not ready made, cause send them with some other after." [The Melvilles.
Poor Queen, having to beg for her
own clothes to be sent to her!
Fashions changed less in the
seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, but still swung back and forwards.
High heads, low heads, extended hoops, no hoops, etc.
Miss Mure, [Family
Papers at Caldwell.] born in 1714, in her
Reminiscences, gives a vivid picture of dress about, 1740. "At the time I
mention hoops were worn constantly four yards and a half wide, which
required much silk to cover them; and gold and silver was much used for
trimming, never less than three rows round the petticoat; so that though
the silk was slight the price was increased by the trimming. Then the
heads were all dressed in laces from Flanders; . . . the price of those
was high, but two suit would serve for life; they were not renewed but at
marriage or some great event."
Critics to-day wage war against the
prevailing short skirts; critics in other days denounced the other extreme
and complained loudly of women sweeping the streets. Robert Ker, [Social
Life in Scotland. Rogers.] who lived at Lasswade, in 1719 issued a
publication entitled: " A short and true description of the great
incumbrances and damages that city and country is like to sustain by
womens girded tails, if it be not speedily prevented, with a dedication
to those that wear them."
The satirist sets forth that
"bordered by metallic cooperage, men walked the streets under hazard of
breaking their shin bones." He declares in mockery that if the fashion
continues, churches, coaches and staircases will have to be altered, and
he further expresses his belief that John Knox would have condemned a
practice which, on account of their wives and daughters, religious
teachers hesitated to impugn. We can well believe that John Knox would
have condemned it; indeed, we can believe he would have willingly issued a
second blast, fittingly to deal with the subject.
Allan Ramsay was not as hard upon
the fashion as the worthy Mr. Ker. He writes : "If Nellys hoop be twice
As her two pretty limbs can stride,
What then? Will any man of sense Take umbrage, or the least offence?"
Throughout the eighteenth century, waists were long
and heels three inches high were worn; hair powder and patches for the
face were used by all.
"Ladies wore long dresses indoors,
but outside did not scavenge the street." [Glasgow Papers.] A long
narrow silk dress trimmed with black lace was the common dress of a
married lady, and a dark or coloured spencer that of the young or simple.
Parasols were unknown, but in their stead was used a large green paper fan
nearly two feet long; when closed it was suspended from the waist by a
ribbon, forming an immense circle when opened, and was used indifferently
as a protection against sunshine or ogling.
For evening dress girls wore muslin,
while married ladies, wives, aunts and grandmothers wore silk and satin.
One writer, [Scotland and
Scotsmen. Ramsay of Ochtertyre.] describing the ladies of Edinburgh,
says it was difficult to know, in 1753, "whether the ladies necks or legs
were most exposed to the public eye." He fears one extreme may lead to
another, and that "ere long the ladles bosoms, or necks as they are
called, may be as much concealed as in the days of Queen Elizabeth," when
nothing was seen of women below their chin. Fashions were ever changing,
and ladies had their work cut out to keep abreast of fashion.
Miss Ann Stuart, writing in August,
1725, describes the marriage-dress of the beautiful Lady Susan Cochrane,
daughter of the Earl of Dundonald, thus : "Lest you have not got a
particular account of my Lord Strathmores marriage, I will give you the
best I can. He was the fondest lover ever I saw, and I believe as fond a
husband. He has got a very fine woman, I am persuaded, and I think extream
handsome; she has a mighty prity face, but indeed the siklyest pale one
that can be; she is tall, well shaped, and has a graceful easie genteel
air . . . My Lady Strathmore had a blue and silver rich stuff gown and
petecoat; a blue silk, trimmed to the pocket-holes with silver net; and a
pale yellow, trimmed with two rows of open silver lace, about three nails
deep each; a green satin, trimmed with close and open silver lace, which
she had before her marriage. She was married in white; her fine Brussels
lace she got from London, and she bought a great deal of lace at
Edinburgh. She made no appearance after her marriage, except seeing the
archers, for their coach was not come down from London, and they staid but
a few days in town..."
The following extract from a letter
of Mrs. Delaney [Life of Mrs. Delaney. R. Brimley Johnson.] in 1739
gives an idea of the dress of the period :" I was curled, powdered and
decked with satin ribbon
The men were as fine as the ladies .
. . My Lord Baltimore was in light brown and silver, his coat lined
throughout with ermine. His lady looked like a frightened owl, her locks
strutted out and most furiously greased, or rather gummed and powdered.
Lady Percival very fine in white satin embroidered with gold and silver .
. ." In a letter dated 1741, comes another description of clothes :" The
Duchess of Queensburys clothes pleased me best; they were white satin
embroidered, the bottom of the petticoat brown bells, covered with all
sorts of weeds, and every breadth had an old stump of a tree,
that ran up almost to the top of the petticoat, broken and rugged and
worked with brown chenille, round which twined nasturtians, ivy,
honey-suckles, 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
made them look very light; the webbings and facings were little green
banks with all sorts of weeds, and the sleeves and the rest of the loose
twining branches of the same sort as those on the petticoat: many of the
leaves were finished with gold, and parts of the stumps of the trees
looked like the gilding of the sun. I never saw a piece so pretty worked .
. . Lady Carteret was in an ugly flowered silk on a dirty yellow ground."
From the pen of this lively writer
one forms an excellent idea of the fashions of her day.
If there are people who dislike
shingled heads, does the head-dress of the eighteenth century please them
better? A fashionable coiffure consisted of wire frames two or three
storeys high, fitted to the head, and covered with thin silk. When the
hair was done up over all this, women appeared to be over six feet in
height. During the opening years of George III.s reign, the head was
usually surmounted with a high cushion over which the front hairreduced
to a cloudy hue by a mixture of powder and greasewas combed to meet the
hair at the back, and when pulled tight was surrounded by ribbons and
jewels of artificial flowers, or sometimes adorned with a plume of
feathers half a yard in height.
Hannah More met some ladies in 1777
who, she said, had amongst them on their heads "an acre and a half of
shrubbery, besides slopes, grass plots, tulip beds, clumps of peonies,
kitchen gardens and green-houses."
Men and women wore wigs; the learned
Johnson defines a wig as "adscititious hair, worn by way of ornament or
concealment of baldness."
In the late eighteenth century wire
wigs were much worn by both sexes, as they "fixed the pomatum, kept in the
powder and preserved the curl." They were made of silver wire to imitate
grey hairs, gold to simulate cheveux roux, and darkest steel for a
black effect. A curry comb was used for dressing them, and they had one
great advantage over the wigs of wool and hair they did not attract mice,
which so often found their way into the powdered and pomatumed erections,
in which ladies even slept at nights rather than disturb their heads. So
many were the melancholy accidents due to depredations of mice, that in
the Society of Arts offered a premium for the "most useful bedside
mousetrap," and Mr. Martings, of Bond Street, patented a silver bedside
trap and also a nightcap of silver wire, "flexible as gauze and yet so
strong that not even a rat could gnaw through it."
What an opportunity the wig gave for
being witty at the expense of friends.
"The enormous head that Celia wears
Is hers, and whod have thought it?
She swears tis hers, and true she swears, For I know where she bought
Byron had in mind the hairdressing and the oils and
pomatums and powders when he wrote :
"In virtues nothing earthly could
Save thine incomparable oil, Macassar ! " [Don Juan.]
The elaborate erections worn by
ladies on their heads had obvious objections. The false hair, the
profusion of pomatum, the greasy wool and the powder had to be often
renewed, but no lady could afford either the time or money for a daily
change. About once in three weeks or so they were pulled down and rebuilt.
In the London Magazine of 1768 we find :
"I went the other morning to make a
visit to an elderly aunt of mine, when I found her pulling off her cap and
tendering her head to the ingenious Mr. Gilchrist, who had lately obliged
the public with a most excellent essay on hair. He asked her how long it
was since her head had been opened or repaired. She answered, Not above
nine weeks. To which he replied it was as long as a head could
well go in the summer, and that therefore it was proper to deliver it now:
for he confessed that it began to be un peu
The discomfort that ladies endured
by this form of head-dress can be easily imagined; one necessary addition
to their toilet and one they all carried was a sort of head-scratcher. It
was used quite openly, and the lady according to her means had this
scratcher of bone, ivory, silver or gold.
After the big pouf disappeared came
turbans, sometimes trimmed with a bird of paradise.
The vogue for wearing feathers was
brought in by the Duchess of Devonshire in the eighteenth century. She
stuck a few in her hair; sometimes they were a yard high. A great outcry
was raised when this fashion came into being, not because it was cruel to
wear feathers, not because they were costly, not at all; the reason was
they were immoral! Ladies who persisted in adding feathers to their
coiffure were insulted, mobbed, and persecuted. They were denounced from
the pulpit, in the manner some clergy protest to-day against short skirts,
and a few years ago against what was known as the peek-a-bo blouse. The
Press protested, a pamphlet was published under the title of " A Letter to
the Duchess of Devonshire." This pamphlet seriously asks what kind of
wives and mothers were these ladies likely to prove who borrowed their
favourite decoration from a creature so unnatural as to leave her eggs
scattered in the sand like the female ostrich!
Ladies must have looked odd in these
days, and must have been conscious of it. Lady Louisa Stuart, a
granddaughter of Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, wrote : "If a North American
Indian had seen a well-dressed ladys stiff stays, round hoop, high heeled
shoes, her hair stuffed with bushels of powder and paste, and her neck
overlaid with ruff, puff, frill and tippet, he could never have suspected
that an animal like his own squaw lurked within the structure."
Every respectable burghers wife of
the middle class had a scarlet cloak with a hood which hung behind, and
which on wet days covered her head. Servant girls had little money to
spend on clothes, the common wages for the half year being twenty
shillings and an apron, so we learn without surprise that they were poorly
clad and bare-footed. On Sundays they wore a long gown of dark calico with
a petticoat of some dark material. In every kitchen hung a dark brown
duffle coat which was used indiscriminately by the servants on wet nights.
Stays were an important article of
dress in the eighteenth century. Even quite small children were encased in
these garments, boned and stiff. A lady, writing in 1773 to a friend about
a little baby not yet baptized, says :" As to the darlings stays, it may
be time eno when you and I have had a conference about them, but
if a good air is not settled from the beginning, it is as difficult to be
attained afterwards as good manners if neglected." [Life of Mrs.
Unfortunate women were kept upright
by stiff whalebone, which encased them like armour. Ladies stays were
made by men. In 1785 in Glasgow no fewer than fifty people advertise and
offer "constant employment to men staymakers."
When a lady appeared in the
Edinburgh streets in undress in the eighteenth century [Social Life in
Scotland. Rogers.] she wore a mask or enveloped her head and shoulders
in a plaid. These plaids were sometimes of plaid, sometimes of scarlet,
crimson or black. Some were of silk, whilst the poorer women wore plain
worsted hoods. On great occasions the ladies wore expensive dresses, but
in the home their dress was simple and cheap, made of stuff of their own
spinning. Ladies made their dresses at home.
After the rising in 1745 there was
in Scotland a great rage for wearing tartan. The Jacobite ladies took that
method of expressing their attachment to their Prince. They used tartans,
we read, not only in plaids, but in gowns, riding-clothes, bed and
window-curtains, even in shoes and pincushions. As the plaids went out of
fashion milliners came into fashion, and by the middle of the eighteenth
century, both Edinburgh and Glasgow had their millinery establishments.
In Glasgow, the rank and fashion
walked on the north side of the Trongatethe ladies in hoops, silks and
powder, accompanied by men in bright coloured coats and scarlet waistcoats
and powdered hair.
The following poem appeared in the
Glasgow Mercury. 1779: it describes the young belle of the
eighteenth century :
A NEW SONG.
"Give Betsy a bushel of horsehair and
Of paste and pomatum a pound;
Ten yards of gay ribbon to deck her sweet skull
And gauze to encompass it round.
Of all the bright colours the rainbow displays,
Are these ribbons which hang from her head;
And her flowers adapted to make the folk gay,
For around the whole width are they spread.
Her flaps fly behind for a yard at the least,
And her curls meet just under her chin;
And these curls are supported, to keep up the jest,
With an hundred, instead of one pin.
Her gown is tucked up to the hip on each side,
Shoes too high for a walk or a jump,
And to deck the sweet creature complete for a bride,
The cork-cutter has made her a rump.
Thus finished in taste, while on her I gaze,
I think I could take her for life;
But I fear to undress her, for out of her stays
I should find I had lost half my wife."
If ladies did not smoke, they at
least carried a small snuff mull in their reticules, and while they talked
they exchanged snuff with their friends. A lover often presented his lady
love with a mull adorned with devices emblematical of constancy.
At the beginning of the nineteenth
century the long waists disappeared and once again short waists were
introduced, with long straight skirts.
About 1830 another swing of the
pendulum brought back the late discarded fashions. Hoops long abandoned
were again required, large bonnets were worn and the hair dressed in curls
in front; it was gathered on the top in a roll and there secured by a high
About this date, elastic-sided boots
worn by women gave way to buttoned ones, though not without adverse
criticism, as the following extract from a ladys letter, written from Ayr,
will shew :" The whole town has been agog with excitement, what next!!!
You will not guess what two bold English women have done to-day, but to
prevent wasting time in guessing, I shall tell you these bold women had
the audacity to walk through the town wearing masculine boots, buttoned
nearly up the leg. Women are indeed becoming bold to copy mens fashions
and brazenly appear in public in these mannish boots . . It must be
confessed these buttoned boots are vastly more becoming than our own
elastic ones and I cannot help hoping that some more women may have the
courage to ape men and wear these boots."
From this letter it will be seen
that buttoned boots were then a masculine prerogative and "the womanly
woman" was some time before she discarded the ugly elastic-sided boots. A
few years later it was considered effeminate for a man to wear this type
In the ever-changing fashions, what
seemed graceful and charming to one generation seemed ridiculous and
old-fashioned to the next, and one can but suppose that this will continue
to be so through the coming years as it has in the past.
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