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Title: Costume: Fanciful, Historical and Theatrical

Author: Mrs. Aria

Illustrator: Percy Anderson

Release Date: March 22, 2015 [EBook #48551]

Language: English

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"It is merely a question of head," said Percy Anderson to me one day, whilst we were discussing some easy method of solving a problem in fancy dress.

And he continued:

"Indeed, I would say that, broadly speaking, of all costume. The fashion of any period is distinguished primarily by the way its wearer dresses her hair."

"And chooses her sleeves," I suggested, and received his approval.

We agreed then that we were both most keenly interested in dress, regarding it as one of the fine and essential arts; and we decided that we would try to preach its best doctrines and traditions to the world at large, while we did not ignore the fact that many more worthy had previously enriched literature with the same object. Realising this most acutely, it came to pass that I found myself searching libraries for information which could serve to point my moral, while Mr. Anderson consented to adorn my tale and help me in my endeavour to present concisely, and with as little ceremony and as much simplicity as possible, the main facts of the fashions which have obtained through the centuries.

A few practical details and suggestions are included in the hope that they may obviate some difficulties of those who fret their hour on the stage or at the fancy-dress ball, while, for the benefit of the next generation, I have devoted a small space to personal reminiscences of theatrical heroes and heroines, and to some facts of theatrical dress, as it has been expressed in classic and popular dramas produced by the leading actors and actresses of our time.





In Classic Times1
In Early Mediæval Times10
In the Thirteenth Century19
In the Fourteenth Century28
In the Fifteenth Century37
In the Sixteenth Century49
In the Seventeenth Century66
In the Eighteenth Century78
In the Nineteenth Century[x]92
Of British Peasants106
Of some Foreign Peasants115
Of some Foreign Peasants (continued)130
Of Oriental Dress147
Of Oriental Dress (continued)163
Of Fancy Dress178
Of Dominoes and Masks190
Of Materials, the Corset, and the Crinoline201
Of Ceremonial and Bridal Dress211
Of Dancing Dresses, European and Oriental, Ancient and Modern225
Of Theatrical Dress236



Coquelin, as Cyrano de Bergerac. (From a Water-Colour
Drawing by Percy Anderson)Frontispiece
In Ancient GreeceTo face 5
In the Twelfth Century"   12
In the Thirteenth Century"   22
The Queen of Richard II."   28
A German Student in the Fourteenth Century"   32
Varieties of the Hennin"   40
In the Eighteenth Century"   78
Albanian Peasants"   120
In Corfu To-day"   126
In China of Old"   147
The Seville Orange"   180
An Egyptian Dancer"   226
Isolde"   240
Lewis Waller as Henry V."   250
Othello"   254
Two Hand-Mirrors4
A Roman Head—A Greek Head6
A Roman Lady7
A Dress laced in the Front—A Dress laced at the Back11
A Coronet—A Brooch13
A Plain Wimple14[xii]
A Shoe15
Dagged Costume in the Twelfth Century16
A Clasped and Jewelled Girdle—A Cloak-Fastener18
Henry III.'s Queen20
A Simple Buttoned Gown21
A Quaint Wimple34
The Head-dress of Henry IV.—A Head Drapery held with Plaited Hair35
Embroidered Gloves36
An Elaborate Head-dress in the Reign of Henry V.38
Elizabeth of Woodville39
The Horned Head-dress41
Head-dress of Jewelled Velvet and Lawn42
The Houppelande43
A Girdle—A Pointed Shoe44
Elizabeth of York45
In the Time of Henry VII.52
A Trio of Ruffs55
Queen Elizabeth in Full Dress56
A Chemisette58
An Italian Lady59
Two Italian Coiffures—An Italian Gentleman60
A Spaniard in the Sixteenth Century61
A Shoulder-Jacket62
The Cape with Buttoned Sleeve63
A Feather and a Chicken-skin Fan67
A Full Apron68
The Lace Commode70
Clogs and Chopines71
A Mob-Cap73
Glove with Jewelled Gauntlet75
A Riding Costume76
Madame de Pompadour79
Marie Antoinette82
A Peignoir83
A Coiffure84[xiii]
A Variety of Head-dresses adopted in the Eighteenth Century85
A Cap and Hood87
Some Sticks89
Some Quaint Examples of Nineteenth-Century Headgear93
Lady Blessington99
Lady Blessington—Lady Dalmeny101
Two Coiffures—Early Victorian Styles102
In the Nineteenth Century103
The Austrian Peasant-Bride in Black123
A Croatian Peasant124
A Croatian Peasant125
A Greek Peasant in Mediæval Days127
A Greek Peasant—A Greek Peasant Woman—A Greek Priest—A Greek Brigand128
A Westphalian Peasant142
A Hungarian Peasant in the Seventeenth Century144
A Chinese Actor152
A Chinese Peasant153
An Egyptian Peasant Woman159
An Egyptian Water-Carrier160
An Egyptian Peasant161
An Old Indian Festival Dress165
A Botticelli Dancing-Dress181
An Eighteenth-Century Pierrot183
A South Sea Islander186
The Knave of Diamonds187
Miss Ellen Terry as Mistress Page239
George Alexander as Guy Domville245
Julian L'Estrange as Hermes247
Beerbohm Tree as Malvolio249
Miss Constance Collier as Viola251
Miss Gertrude Elliot as Desdemona253




Fashion, even under exalted patronage, had scant chance to distinguish herself in the bad old days of the Romans. She, who now must be obeyed, was forced then to take a back seat enwrapped in the toga, and all who would have preached or practised the doctrine of diversified dress remained mute, inglorious modistes. It is not on record that any great personage invented any particular garment, or was accorded the honour of standing godmother to a favoured style. Such privileges as those of Queen Alexandra, who, at the indiscretion of any draper, may be sponsor to a ruffle or a petticoat, or of Queen Victoria Eugénie, whose name has been snatched to honour a face-cream, were not in vogue. This seems a pity when one comes to consider the alliterative allurement of such a title as the "Boadicean blouse," and to remember that the "Poppæan pomade," which might have been justified in the observance, was deliberately committed in the breach.

There was sorry opportunity for any who would have liked to stamp individuality on their costume. Style was a cut-and-dried affair, and save in the[2] elaboration or simplicity of adornment variety was practically without the pale. There was but subtle distinction between the form of the tunic and the stola, yet perchance in the deftness of the adjustment of the drapery of the toga and the exact position of the girdle, taste could play some part. But the world of costume was a dull table-land exalted to a scene of battle only when the stringent laws relating to extravagances were liberally disregarded. It seems to have been a custom throughout the ages for some historian, ruler, or priest to interfere with the existing facts of fashion. One can find traces of such want of sympathy even in the eighteenth century. The Roman laws were arbitrary, and Numa actually forbade any woman to have more than half an ounce of gold on her robes, while he also prohibited the garment of many colours. It is pleasing, however, to realise that his strictures were not taken very seriously.

The one sartorial fact with which my youthful mind was burdened was that the earliest Britons stained their tattooed bodies with woad. Chroniclers are not in accord as to the precise shade of this blue dye, proving that the habits of chroniclers change but little, since fashion-writers of to-day may be accused of like conduct; and as woad is more correctly described as an undress uniform than as an article of clothing, I will not now discuss the question of its exact colour, but note contentedly that all authorities agree that the Britons clad themselves in skins decorated with beads and flowers, which, in conjunction with their painted and punctured persons, lent them a ferocious aspect, quite attractive.


Much as Boadicea detested the Romans, she preferred their graceful garments to those worn by her own countrywomen, and when she led her troops into battle, she was attired in all the glory of a multi-coloured tunic, and her hair fell unbound over her neck and shoulders. Wily Boadicea, her unbound hair proved the woman in the warrior, who would win her triumph as best she could, though history is careful not to attribute to her any but the most legitimate methods!

In those days the Roman women made a rule of wearing a toga, which, hanging from the neck or the head, fell over the shoulders and touched the ground at the back. The toga was either white or yellow for persons of rank, when the border was purple, but the lower orders had the toga dyed, and in times of mourning chose it in black. Within doors the toga was discarded altogether in favour of the simple tunic, which was worn with or without the girdle, and made either of woollen material or cotton or thin gauze. Towards the latter part of the Empire the tunic was lengthened, and bore sleeves adorned with buttons according to Hellenic fashion; indeed, the sleeve seemed then, as now, to indicate style, for the earlier types reached only to the elbow, and gradually they extended to the wrist, and finally to the ground.

When the stola became popular it was always white, bearing long sleeves ornamented with a wide border, and over it fell a mantle with a hood round the shoulders. White was the favourite colour for a long time, and even in those days the Gauls inspired the fashions. They taught the Britons to spin and weave and dye, and purple[4] and scarlet herb dyes were employed with considerable success, though the chief colouring matter was woad. The Roman women allowed their taste in colour to run riot, and purple, scarlet, green, yellow, hyacinth, and blue were all in favour, as well as chequered materials.


The foot-gear at this period was of two kinds, either reaching to the middle of the leg and covering the whole foot, or only protecting the sole of the foot and being secured by leather thongs. Women's shoes were but little less costly than those worn by the men, and were gay with ornament of gold set with pearls and other precious stones.


Jewellery was a great feature; ear-rings, bracelets, armlets, torques and necklaces, and rings of gold, silver, and baser metals, were often set with precious stones, or engraved with the portrait of some dear friend or the representation of some historical event. Such rings, being used for sealing letters and documents, would usually be bequeathed by a Roman on his death-bed to his nearest friend. Ear-rings were a very favourite form of adornment, and three or four would dangle picturesquely from each ear, but only women and boys wore them. The wearing of rings, however, was general. Iron, copper, and ivory played their part in the making of the bracelets, and in the long pins for the hair, which were decorated with massive heads mostly significant, including such odd designs as a fish bearing in its mouth two precious stones, and a hanging basket with a greedy bird pecking at its floral contents. The serpent found[5] his way to favour as an armlet and again as a diadem. The Greeks, indeed, were fond of adorning their garments with beasts and birds, which they embroidered or wove in gold and silver and coloured threads.


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The Greek female dress consisted of the pallium, a cloak-like garment very long and ample, worn plain, or bearing a fringed border, and under this was a chlamys, bearing close kinship in form to the Roman toga, and fastened to the shoulder by a brooch. The Grecian women cut their hair close to their heads, and the married were distinguished from the unmarried by a parting in front, but no Grecian woman ever went without a veil, covering the face. The head-dress and ribbons of matrons differed from those of the virgins, and there was a change in the shape of the tunic before and after marriage. Ribbons in the hair were preferred as decorations by the modest women, while the courtesans covered their heads with a mitre, and carried oval hand-mirrors, which distinguished them, as it were significantly, from their more virtuous sisters, who made use of fans of leaves or feathers.

The art of beauty, it seems, was studied with much interest. The use of cosmetics was greatly favoured. White lead was employed to whiten the skin, and vermilion to produce the rosy bloom of youth; and we have most of us been impressed by the fact that Nero's wife discovered a pomade for the preservation of her complexion—no doubt her urgent needs led to this heroic effort! Much time and attention were bestowed on the hair, and the use of false tresses was very general, slaves being employed to curl the hair, while experts[6] supervised the process. The structures were adorned with pearls and other precious stones, crowns of gold and flowers, ribbons and fillets, while the embroidered net, known as the caul, also had a full share of patronage. The Roman women would paint their hair a gorgeous yellow.


Men and women alike wore the cothurnus, which reached to the knee, where it was fastened, purple being the favourite colour for this. It could not have been possible to obtain a great variety in a costume, and, save in the decoration of the tunic, which was ornamented with spots or scrolls, and in the arrangement of the girdle, of two varying widths, the one placed above the other so that the folds of the gown could pouch between, every one must have appeared very like his brother and his sister.


One of the divergences in the fashion of the tunic worn by the women and that worn by the men was in the former always reaching to the feet and covering the arms.

The actual shape of the garments varied but little, and between the tunic and the stola there would have been some difficulty in seeing any difference, but the stola was worn over the tunic, and it came as low as the ankles, and was fastened round the body by a girdle, broad folds being above the breast: the essential distinction between the two in cut being that the stola always possessed an instita or flounce.




It is a curious fact, and one worthy of note, that the dress of the boys was marked by a change after the age of seventeen. Then they laid aside the purple-bordered toga in favour of the toga purely white, white being, presumably, the insignia of liberty. Boys wore, too, about their necks a hollow ball or boss, the higher classes having this in gold, and the poorer citizens in leather. This boss was also adopted as an ornament for belts or girdles, but in the very ancient days the Roman men had no other clothing than the toga, and it was thought effeminate to appear abroad carelessly girdled.

The Romans in later days wore a chiton, a short woollen shirt without sleeves, and they also bestowed patronage upon long linen garments bearing sleeves, while above the toga they adopted a sort of coat, open in front and fastened with clasps and buckles, this sharing favour with the greatcoat or surtout, which bore a hood and was chiefly used for journeys or by the soldiers. The military robe proper of the Romans was a woollen garment called a sagum, and the men at first wore neither stockings nor breeches, but enwrapped their legs and thighs with pieces of cloth. Later they tried socks of goat's hair and shoes of unwrought leather.

The shoes of the senators flaunted a gold crest on the top, and black was the most general colour, though scarlet and red were also in use.

Gloves too were amongst the possibilities of this early moment, and it is set down that some of[9] these were cut with fingers, and that others were of the pattern of a mitten.

In grief the Romans allowed their hair to grow, even as the Jews did, and the first growth of the beard in youth was consecrated to some god. The hair was treated altogether with much respect, valued and considered with care. Every lady of distinction possessed her own hair-dresser, curling irons were in demand, and a popular shape of head-dressing was copied from the helmet.

For the rest, let my illustrations speak. The coloured specimen represents the classic Greek garb under its simplest aspect, made in white home-spun bordered with yellow, and falling in folds somewhat disguiseful to the figure, and quite simple to achieve. The Roman lady having flattered the Grecian sleeve to the point of imitation, proudly bears her toga traced with purple and crowned with jewels. The two head-dresses are characteristic, and amongst things easy to understand.

Taking the so-called classic period altogether, it must be admitted that among the ancient Greeks and Romans were born the best principles of the art of dress—an appreciation of outline and a sense of grace in drapery.




From the days of the early Britons to the twelfth century is a long jump, but in many countries the growth of new fashions was so slow that to attempt to describe it would mean much wearying repetition and an unnecessary extension of these pages.

For example, the dress worn by the men and women of Italy during the twelfth century was very similar to the old Roman styles, while in Southern Italy the Norman dress found favour as well as the Byzantine. In Sicily Arab costume predominated, and in Northern Italy the German and the Norman fashions shared popularity. Italian women, who all aspired to express their exalted birth by their dress, wore in the house a tunic or stola drawn up under a belt to show the feet, fitting closely to the figure and bearing long or short sleeves, as fancy dictated, and over this a palla, developed into a rectangular piece of cloth, passed under the right armpit with the ends knotted on the left shoulder.

Until the close of the tenth century, costume in England bore more resemblance to that worn in ancient Rome than to any chosen by the Danes.[11] Though the Normans were greatly influenced by the Saracenic and Byzantine fashions prevailing in Southern Europe, an English lady of the twelfth century could scarcely have been distinguished by her attire from a lady of the Lower Empire, or even a modern maid of Athens; and no doubt a contemporary wit of flippant habit would have excused her simplicity by declaring that the study of costume was Greek to her.



The prevailing note in dress in the twelfth century was costliness. The king set the fashion of rich apparel, and his example was followed by both clergy and people, though the former exercised their didactic privileges by inveighing against the most popular eccentricities. The women's dress at this period[12] showed a strong tendency to exaggerated length, and the veils and kerchiefs were so long that the fair wearers were forced to knot them to avoid treading on them, while the skirts lay in great folds on the ground. Much significance might be attached to that precious old MS. where the illuminator depicts the devil in a woman's surcoat with a sleeve and skirts tied up in knots! Robes were laced up in front, and the cuffs of the sleeves embroidered or fur-trimmed, and over the long robe or tunic appeared a shorter garment resembling the sur côte, which was chequered and spotted, presumably to represent embroidery, and finished with an indented border termed "dagged," in a fashion condemned by Henry II. Norman ladies wore their hair plaited, the braids often incased in silk or bound round with ribbon and finished off with three curls; but towards the end of the twelfth century the hair was frequently held in a network of gold set with stones.

The clergy had much to say on the subject of the long beards which reappeared during the reign of Henry I.; and that one, more forcible than elegant in his denunciations, who described the men of his time as "filthy goats," has for the solecism gone down to posterity with the priest who, preaching such a moving sermon on the subject that king and courtiers wept, took advantage of the impression he had made, drew out a large pair of scissors that he had concealed in his sleeve, and cropped the entire assemblage.


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During the latter half of the twelfth century a change for the better came over the spirit of dress, which was now marked by a greater reticence. The extravagant cuff disappeared, and sleeves were[13] worn tight and fastened at the wrist. An effigy of Queen Berengaria, in the Abbey of l'Espan, shows the queen with flowing locks partly covered by a kerchief, surmounted by a gold crown; her robe is held together at the neck by a large circular brooch set with precious stones, her mantle hanging almost to her feet behind, while a small aumônière is pendent from a beautiful girdle. For just so much detail and no more would I pin my faith to a monumental sculptor as a fashion historian. Green was the favourite colour of the robe in the reign of John, and there is a king's warrant for two green robes for the queen, each to consist of two ells of cloth, while there exists a register showing that a green robe lined with condal cost sixty shillings; so common, in fact, was the wearing of the green that Longchamp, the arrogant Bishop of Ely, when he was forced to fly the kingdom to escape John's rage, disguised himself in a woman's green tunic and Norman mantle and hood of the same colour.


It was the harvest-time for the embroiderers, or at least it ought to have been, but it is not on record that their services were rewarded with any magnificent generosity. Embroidery was rampant: all state garments were traced with gold, and vivid colours would adorn robes and mantles alike, a favourite design being a series of circles.


The pelisse now came into existence; in form it was a close-fitting dress, a prototype of the garment which bears the same title to-day. Fur was a modish trimming, and nine bars of fur are[14] mentioned as a trimming of some special grey pelisse which King John bestowed upon Isabella of Angoulême. Obviously the sealskin paletot and the sable cape were not amongst the possibilities of that hour, or His Majesty would not have been let off so cheaply.


But to the enthusiastic chronicler of fashion there was one fact of King John's reign which was pre-eminently worthy and admirable. This was the introduction of the wimple, of all attributes to feminine beauty surely the most becoming ever conceived or accomplished! It was made either in silk or linen, a covering for the neck, chin, and forehead at once disguiseful and provocative, coquettish and demure. At times the wimple was little more than an elaborated veil or kerchief, but in its most alluring form it was a separate article worn under the veil, as in a nun's dress of to-day, which, in fact, in all but colour, bears a striking resemblance to the thirteenth-century dress. Indeed Chaucer distinguishes the two when he says—

Wering a vaile insted of wimple,
As nonnes don in ther abbey.

The wimple was wrapped round the head and chin, and ladies of wealth bound it on the forehead by a golden or jewelled fillet, while their poorer sisters used plain silk. Silken wimples were forbidden to the nuns, who were then as now devoted[15] to white linen. It is not unlikely that the wimple originated with the fashion of wearing the coverchief about the neck, and it was towards the end of the twelfth century that the coverchief underwent transformation, growing smaller and being tied under the chin like a modern cap or bonnet.

Boots and shoes formed an important portion of dress in the twelfth century, and here again the interfering cleric played his favourite rôle of denunciator. The monks, who were denied their wear, abused with vigour the peak-toed boots and shoes, which indeed reached a point exquisitely ridiculous when a courtier could choose to stuff the points of his shoes with tow, so that they might curl up like ram's horns. Dispassionately, I recognise as much wit as wisdom in the notion.


Women wore short boots as well as shoes, but the dresses were so long that only the tips of the toes could be seen, and they were content to embroider these in gold with fanciful or circular devices.

Gloves, jewelled at the back, were chosen by the richer classes, and coarsely-made warm gloves without fingers received a mild patronage from the poor. But women wore gloves very rarely; they were not amongst the trifles which attracted feminine attention, though there was much general love for variety, and a vast amount of money, care, and thought was bestowed on personal adornment.



In the early part of the thirteenth century many beautiful fabrics put in an appearance. Velvet, and silk interwoven with gold, and cloth with many[17] colours were fashionable, while it became a very popular practice to ornament hems of garments by cutting them into indented tabs or leaves, a fashion to which I have referred previously as "dagged," the contemporary expression. How pretty the dagged costume may be is easily realised by glancing at the picture on page 16, which shows it entirely made in cloth, crowned by a white linen turban with a band of linen under the chin.

The turban adorned many a fair and dark head, the Spanish women wearing it exclusively, drawing their inspiration for this, and for their trailing robes and funnel-shaped sleeves, from the Arab fashions.

Frenchwomen asserted themselves as pioneers with the closely-fitting garment that allowed the lines of the figure to be seen, a legitimate ancestress to our princess gown. Sleeves established their right to exist in more than one form, some being wide at the top, others narrow, close-fitting, and fastened at the wrists, and others again narrow at the top and to the middle of the forearm, where they widened and fell almost to the ground.

The cuirass dress was often slightly open at the neck in order to show the under-garment, and a long girdle embroidered in gold was passed round the waist, crossed behind and brought round again to the front a little lower down, where it was tied so that the ends fell loosely. In the twelfth century this style of gown was frequently draped on the hips and worn without the embroidered bodice or the girdle, and a favoured long robe was open from top to bottom and fastened with buttons.[18] Mantles were semicircular in cut and held in divers ways, and their borders were adorned with rectangular metal plaques, each pierced with five holes, a double cord being passed through these holes and fastened behind.


An affection for jewels, rings and collars of pearls, diadems and clasps, was common to all the nobles of all the nations, while caps, wimples, and veils crowned the fair with grace, and permitted some diversity of expression.


In the twelfth century the English historian declares that in France fashion danced the gayest tunes and was uproarious in her demand for extravagance, and, if French chroniclers are to be believed, moderation marked the footsteps of the native mondaine, whose shoes were comparatively low and bore small points. But I doubt not that, then as now, each woman was a profit to her own country, and did her duty to commerce by prodigality with unswerving enthusiasm.




A comparative simplicity marked the raiment of the thirteenth century, when the elaborate detail yielded place to ample folds of drapery, capacious mantles, and flowing trains. It was a simplicity, however, which cannot conscientiously be congratulated upon its economical habits, for the fabrics employed were of the richest and most sumptuous, and the breadth of the garments was prodigious. The dress which is so proudly worn by the Queen in the illustration on page 20, is characteristically splendid, and a glance at it shows that it was fashioned of a thick brocade traced in diamond design, and cut square in the neck and very long in the sleeves, where a few folds of white lawn appear becomingly above the wrists, the veil falling from neck to hem, and the enfolding gorget being fastened tightly under the chin. Pre-eminently typical was another dress honoured by this Eleanor of Provence—a most unpopular lady, by the way, even though her taste in costume might have made for some measure of success, at least amongst her feminine subjects. She chose "a gown of gold brocade, sleeves reaching to the wrists, while over this she wore a mantle bordered with gold and bearing a collar of ermine. The mantle was held up by a brooch of gold set with jewels, the head crowned with a Gothic design of floriated trefoils above a jewelled band."




The following description, commendably brief, which I have read of[21] a dress worn by the wife of Edward I. will bring home the fashion of the day to the understanding of the least initiated:—"A long gown with loose sleeves; held at the breast by a narrow band is a long mantle, folds of this covering the feet; ornaments none." But then no doubt the amiable lady suffered from a popular leaning in favour of conjugal obedience, and it is well known that King Edward himself strenuously upheld all simple garb, though it must be admitted that his descendants showed but small respect for his prejudices when they buried him in "a dalmatic of red silk damask, a crimson satin mantle fastened on the shoulders by a gilt fibula decorated with precious stones; a stola of white tissue ornamented with gilt quatrefolds and knots crossed on the breast, and jewelled gloves upon his august[22] hands. The lower part of his body was wrapped in a piece of cloth of gold."

Some severity also marked costume in France at this time, when there was a suggestion of the ecclesiastical in the high guimpe without which no dress was complete. This was a fancy inaugurated by the second wife of Philip III. for the special benefit of her long throat and flat chest; and worn in company with a pointed head-dress and a flowing veil, a closely-fitting long robe of brocade, and an embroidered mantle, the general effect must have been entirely dignified and impressive. Simplicity, however, did not reign here long, and Louis IX. of France appears to have been quite lenient towards extravagance, and to have had a nice taste of his own, judging from the picture which represents him wearing a velvet cap, a tunic open at the neck, and a robe of brown embroidered with red flowers, and possessing long sleeves trimmed with fur. Fur was amongst his weaknesses evidently, for a deep cape of fur covers his shoulders in another picture, where he is wearing a fur-trimmed robe and has indulged himself with red stockings and black shoes. This was the King who urged his courtiers to dress themselves well and neatly, so that their wives would love them the more, and their people esteem them higher.


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Philip the Fair, or Unfair, of France decreed that "No damoiselle, if she be not châtelaine or dame owning 2000 levies yearly, shall have more than one pair of gowns per year; and if she be, she shall have two pairs and no more"—an edict which was, of course, defied fearlessly. Sumptuary laws come somehow to be disregarded, proving the[23] courage of women in defence of their idol—fashion.

Very curious is a coiffure which obtained in the reign of Philip the Bold, consisting of a covering like a plate in outline worn upon the head, with a veil falling over the cheeks and pendent at the back. Far more attractive must have been the head-dress of peacock's feathers which obtained about that time, when prodigality began to assert itself defiantly in magnificent jewels and gowns of condal emblazoned with rubies and sapphires; and when silken hose, gold and silver embroidery, and furred trimmings were amongst the attainable and the attained.

Lavishness ruled in Italy in the thirteenth century, when women wore long full gowns of silk velvet brocade, and tissues of gold and silver, and woollen materials dyed violet or scarlet. They had very large sleeves, their hands often being more than half covered with these, which touched the ground; and ornaments of pearls and borders of gold edged with pearls were chapters in the story of magnificence, little hoods adorned with gold and pearls and embroidery speaking the final word of splendour. The Italian matron wore a long mantle touching the ground, and open in the front, fastened with buttons or clasps enriched with pearls, and lined with silk and decked with gold, and when the hood was dispensed with, the hair was covered with a light transparent veil of silk.

The kirtle worn in England in the reign of Edward I. was in form plain to the point of severity, but over it on occasions there flowed a robe with a long train, the ladies of rank choosing[24] the kirtle in as rich material as the robe, which they removed as a mark of respect when attending on illustrious guests.

The kirtle was a garment originally common to both sexes, and is best described as a smock frock, although the term at different times has been permitted to signify a cloak, a gown, a waistcoat, and even a petticoat, and in the fifteenth century it was disgraced into a habit of penance. Most frequently the kirtle was laced closely to the body and hung straight downwards to the hem.

In the latter years of this century was introduced the surkuane, which, according to a famous writer, was of Languedocian origin. He describes it as being a bodice cut down the front and displaying in the intervals left by the lacings, very wide apart, a transparent tissue of the chemise elaborately pleated and embroidered in gold and silver. The existence of this has, however, been disputed by no less an authority than Planché, who has failed to discover any trace of a thirteenth-century dress fulfilling such conditions. Yet it was at this time that an edict was passed prohibiting the cottes lacés and chemises brodées, and had there been no such fashion of bodice, there would have been no temptation for such luxuries, and no occasion for legislation to check the indulgence. The embroidered shift was forbidden to all save brides, who were permitted it on their wedding day and for the twelve succeeding months. Surely to have set such limit on the wear of dainty lingerie encouraged that reprehensible being the slatternly wife, whose charms do not outlive her trousseau. The costume of the bridegroom is not specialised, but man under less ecstatic circumstances seems to[25] have been distinguished by a large cloak with full sleeves and a hood, a white linen coif tied under his chin, while a fantastic sort of close cap formed headgear common alike to France, Germany, and England, the origin being doubtful. Beneath the long cloak men wore a long gown reaching to the feet, and fastened at the waist, and as an alternative to this they could choose a tunic to the knee, with wide sleeves to the elbow, the fitting sleeves of the under-tunic terminating at the wrists and fastening with a closely-set row of buttons, or, if the buttons were omitted, sewn tightly round.

Briefly, women's dress in England in the thirteenth century consisted of a wimple and gorget swathed round the neck and fastened by pins above the ears, concealing alike brow and chin; the full gown worn loose had sleeves trailing on the ground, and the under-garment, which was generally darker than the gown, had tight-fitting sleeves turned up from the wrists. The poorer women wore a somewhat shorter gown caught up under the arm to reveal the under-garment, and high boots reaching to the calf of the leg and fastened with a double row of buttons. In France, however, the women of the middle and lower classes wore grey shoes, whence it is supposed the word "grisette" was born, which from modern usage has come to typify "somebody captivating who dwells in the Latin quarter."

There were, however, changes which deserve mention. The hood was still in favour, and the long wide circular cloak was worn fastened at the neck with double cords, and the trains of the dresses became abnormally extended, evoking from idle critics many more or less witty quips which[26] may or may not have influenced the subsequent lessening of the trains. Gradually the width of the dresses decreased as their length increased, and the girdle had the privilege of existing merely as an ornament, while the cuffs of the under-sleeves were adorned with buttons, and the hanging over-sleeve was cut as a long bag from the elbow to the shoulders, where it fastened into the robe and fell to the floor.

Amongst the wise saws of ancient instance was the advice in the Romance of the Rose, "that ladies should let trailing robes hide the feet of those too large and unsightly, but that the more beautifully gifted could hold up their skirts and proceed in comfort." Herein may we realise that wisdom is no new counsellor in the ways of vanity, and I am quite convinced that some such philosopher must have guided the selection of the dame whose picture faces page 22 in draperies of pink over mauve, with a purple mantle lined with red. Nothing could be more becoming than the simple lines of her gown which flow from neck to hem, trimmed at the top with gold jewels set with emeralds, while round her brow is a golden fillet, with a fold of white lawn under the chin holding this from side to side. How attractive are these lawn folds may be noted again on a famous canvas, which portrays a dress of the same period in thick brocade, with a plain over-skirt bordered with embroidery, and the broad flat turban hat flanked on either side by wings elaborately decked with jewels, with a pendent veil from the back.

There is much virtue in the veil, and its length and condition were varied to suit the individual and her circumstance. On state occasions it would[27] be overspread by another veil, and above it by the women of quality would be placed a crown of gold; or it would assert its influence over the hair, which was parted on the forehead, curled or plaited behind the ears, and confined in a gold net known as a crispine; women of highest degree choosing this crispine of gold thread set with jewels and encircling it by a gold band also jewelled, which would form the frame for the veil. This crispine in various forms was the common fashion for a long time, and when discarded the hair was bound tightly to the head with a silken fillet and garlands of flowers.

Alike in the decoration of the head and in the fabrics which were chosen to glorify the simple gowns, it appears to have been quite possible to evade the spirit, while obeying the letter, of the law of simplicity which the rulers demanded at the hands of fashion. Fashion granted it with a difference, and while rigidly austere in cut, clothes were so generally magnificent in their material and so generous in their width, that ruin might wait swiftly upon the prodigal with a pretty fancy in frocks. And to think that the security of a Married Women's Property Act was outside the ken and comfort of the weak and confiding lord, who loved his lady too well to deny her caprice!




Sumptuous and ever more sumptuous grew dress in the fourteenth century, when the outfit brought by Isabella of France, upon the occasion of her marriage with Edward II., was a conspicuous example of the possibilities of extravagance. Historians have it that her robes were of gold and silver and of shot taffeta and velvet, that there were many beautiful furs, and that six dozen coifs and 419 yards of linen, and six dresses of green cloth, six dresses splendidly marbled, and six dresses of rose scarlet were included in her possessions. Sovereigns in those times took unto themselves some pride in leading the fashions, and we have Anne, wife of Richard II., effecting the introduction of the côte hardie, a garment not unlike a waistcoat, fitting closely on the hips and trimmed round with a border of fur and buttoned down the front. This was cut square below the neck and boasted long tight-fitting sleeves, and was made of either plain or embroidered material, or it displayed, as did so many of the garments of that day, an embroidered border. Embroidery flourished in the reign of Richard II., when dress, petticoat, and mantle would be emblazoned with the arms of the wearer's[29] family, and the device of a bird and tree adorned with stately grace many a mantle of Richard's Queen, who must be credited with a most admirable inclination towards beautiful frocks. In the picture given she is shown wearing a train of peacock-blue velvet bordered with gold and embroidered with the fleurs-de-lys, while her head appears to great advantage with a short veil beneath her crown, her hair being braided over the ears and a small lawn band supporting her chin. The sleeve of this frock shows the fancy which obtained for the long scarf held above the elbow and falling with long ends edged with fur; and the little chemisette and the white cuffs give a winning suggestion of simplicity to an attire completely magnificent.


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Her royal consort decked himself with dress no less elaborate, fur, gold, embroidery, and brocade and velvet all having the privilege of adorning His Majesty, whose courtiers wore robes emblazoned and embroidered with precious stones, and mantles sliced in pointed leaf or square indented edges. Parti-coloured garments were their delight, the dress often being divided in two, half in one colour and half in another, hose suffering like treatment; and their wide sleeves, known as "devil's receptacles," trailed along the ground, with many slashings to decorate them. The Troubadours gaily twanged the guitar and other instruments at the tournament, where the dames and matrons rode in parti-coloured tunics, with hoods and long tails to them, and bore small gold or silver swords or daggers in the girdle, which fell over the hips instead of encircling the waist.

Ermine shed its soft influence on many of the stiffest of silks, and dresses were completely lined[30] with ermine, which also bordered the côte hardie. A deep royal blue was a very favourite colour, and jewels obtained in abundance, girdles being encrusted with these, while no neck seemed complete without a necklace of four rows of jewels and a pendent cross.

A good example of the dress worn by the middle class may be taken from Chaucer's Wife of Bath. He tells us she wore on her head on Sundays a fine cloth kerchief which weighed a pound, and scarlet stockings and fine new shoes; she travelled in a wimple and a very broad hat and cloak. The Miller's wife went abroad in a girdle, barred all of silk, and a white apron or barme cloth, as it was then called. Her shift had its collar embroidered in front and behind with black silk, and she covered her head with a white cap tied with strings, above a broad silk fillet. She had a leathern purse with metal buttons and silken tassels depending from her girdle.

Edward II.'s reign welcomed a new mode of dressing the hair, which was parted in the middle; over each ear was a golden basket, and on the top was a band of gold, narrower in the centre and broader towards the ears, and the coverchief was placed on the top of the head. A peculiar method too was the arranging of the hair in sausage rolls, covered with a white veil held in a lattice-work of gold. On the whole, head-dresses were more remarkable than beautiful and becoming. The caput, which came a little later, and might have been called ugly, fitted closely to the head, and had a broad scolloped border, and sometimes, in addition, two lappets which hung to the waist; others were pointed as the bishop's mitre; and most were[31] characterised by a lack of height with no hair visible; and the pendent veil at the back bore an embroidered border. There was much hankering after yellow hair in the reign of Richard II., and those who were unblessed with golden locks would dye them with saffron.

Gloves received the special attention of women in the fourteenth century, and, when not actually on the hands, were placed in the girdle or carried. The gauntlets were jewelled, and embroidery was on the back or round the base of the fingers. Spain and France were famous for their proficiency and industry in the making of gloves, and fur and sheepskin were used for these as well as wool and silk.

In Germany the costume affected during the fourteenth century differed but little from that of the thirteenth. The dress of the women consisted of a long garment with a shorter under-dress, and over this another dress was worn, and over this again a mantle. The loose under-garment was very long, closely fitting to the hips, whence the skirt increased considerably in width; long narrow sleeves were made of white or coloured silk or of fine linen, and the necks of the dresses and the borders of the sleeves were trimmed with tracings of gold; a short chemise was visible from neck to waist, and the Hausfrau bunch of keys hung from the girdle. It is on record, indeed, that German women in this century were buried with their keys, and that divorced women were bound to return them to their husbands. Young girls wore a long sleeveless robe closely fitting to the hips and ample in the skirt, and over this a long gown of equal fulness fell from the neck, extremely wide upon the shoulders, and covering the forearm on both sides as a long[32] tabard, circular pieces being cut out from each side, and the lower portion of the skirt sewn up. The old Teuton mode of hair-dressing with flowing locks prevailed, but plaiting also was in vogue, twisted with coloured or gold ribbons, or held at the back in a golden net. Simple garlands of flowers were placed in the hair, and a fillet of stuff or metal, this being shaped either as a crown, a diadem, or a coronet; and the matron adopted a fur-trimmed cap.

Italy in the fourteenth century showed a decided tendency to return to the classic form of dress. Long robes fashioned like the old tunic and stola fell in graceful folds round the figure to the ground; the sleeves were of moderate width, permitting the under-sleeves to be seen fitting tightly to the wrists. The dawn of the Renaissance brought some changes in costume, notably in the over-dress, then called a "simarre," which fitted closely in the bodice and outspread in a full trained skirt. This simarre was sometimes made open from neck to hem, and held together at the top by a square brooch; and the sleeves were of two varieties, either quite tight or else wider and very long, ending in a point, but invariably bearing some decorative border. The girdle definitely slipped to the hips, and the description of a Florentine dress runs: "A simarre of brocade fastened with small buttons on either side, the back hanging quite straight, the girdle being worn in front of the dress only." Very pretty must have been the cypriane, a gown of French origin which was worn with a high belt and had a triangular-shaped opening low on the bodice, a veil covering the bosom, and a delicate ruffle[33] encircling the neck; the puffed sleeves and the back of the dress were slashed. A semicircular cloak was thrown over the shoulders and fastened in front, and left open or buttoned from throat to hem. The married women chose a sleeveless over-dress, and a long red or blue cloak, capacious and enveloping, and the widow wore this in black, surmounted by a long white veil. Caps, veils, and fillets found equal favour in the eyes of the Italian, whose pretty hair was as frequently seen bound with satin ribbons as with gold or silver paillettes, or arranged spirally, or confined in a caul; and the horseshoe shape of head-dress common in England was also to be seen in Italy, who borrowed it from France, where the skirts were now gradually becoming narrower and the dresses buttoning straight down the front, the skirt and bodice being cut in one, and the sleeves invested with much diversity, being worn tight or loose, buttoned or hanging open, displaying in some cases the forearm and in others a close under-sleeve.


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The sleeveless surcoat was very popular, the upper portion tapering to a small point upon the shoulders, showing the gown worn beneath, and the skirts of these surcoats were decked with ermine and emblazoned with the family arms. The art of embroidery was cultivated assiduously by the rich, whose leisured moments were spent in plying the needle and silk, to accomplish devices which should honour and grace their attire.

Veils of white linen enwrapped the head, and unbound hair was rarely seen except on young girls. A richly embroidered cap that received some attention was so shaped that it partly covered the[34] cheeks, and below it were two ear-cages of metallic tissue in plaited design. A very curious head-dress in France was composed of a closely-fitting cap with a jewelled border, surmounted by a long flat piece of material placed over the forehead and hanging down behind, this being elaborately trimmed and jewelled, and completely hiding the hair.


It is written to the honour of Isabella of Bavaria that she encouraged the ladies of her Court in a great love for dress, and she would seem to have made a study of the subject, if one judges from a picture of her robed in regal array, with a horned head-dress surmounted by a crown, an elaborate robe profusely adorned with jewels, a mantle bordered with ermine, and a train of prodigal extent.

The surcoat received the honour of sleeves in the latter part of the century, and these hung almost to the hem of the skirt, while the côte hardie took unto itself another shape, the shoulders being broader, the bodice cut low, and edged with fur, with folds of white silk to form a collar, a short waist being simulated by the wearing of the girdle high. The last twenty years of the century saw the introduction of high coverchiefs, mostly crescent-shaped or horned, one of the former being contrived of two heart-shaped pieces of silk with rolled edges, the spaces between the two sides being occupied with a veil of cloth.



Henry IV., with tender solicitude for his own comfort and beauty, invented a cloth head-dress which enwrapped his bald pate and bore a gold device on one side, and a fringe on the hem. A novel head-dress for a woman, calculated to show both itself and the hair at the best, shows plaits worn outside the lawn covering, as in the picture. This must have been most attractive; so too would be a lawn head-dress which set outwards and upon a frame at the back, whence it hung straight across to form a most becoming background. The origin of this was German, and its accomplishment was a little complicated, involving the arrangement of the ordinary band of linen round the face, while above was drapery of appliqué work in white or white of silver. The short veil which came above this again was kept in place by a jewelled circlet, the cloth around the throat and shoulders being cut in one with the inner band of the wimple.


Amongst the most attractive descriptions that I have found of dress in this period is one of a Frenchwoman whose hair was entwined with black ribbon, and whose dress was of white embroidered in silver, with small sleeves of red and white check bordered with gold.



Cambric of a sort—not as we know it to-day—must have been indispensable, for it enwrapped the head, and formed the guimpe, and had the privilege of making small ruffles. A dress of decided charm was made of brocade, cut in one piece to the knees, and thence flounced with ermine to the ground. The bodice was low to the waist, and from the waist to the bust was filled in with white cambric, and an ermine collar was round the shoulders. The sleeves were very tight to the wrists, with ermine cuffs extending over the hands, and from the pointed head-dress fell a long veil with embroidered border.

Women had plenty of chance to indulge their desire for variety in the minor accessories of dress, in their embroidered purses, their jewelled girdles, their decorated borders, their guimpes and their ornamented gloves. All of these gave opportunity for the display of the individual taste, and it must be regarded somewhat regretfully that there were no fashion papers in that day, or we who come after would not have been left so high and dry for detail. Still, we may be grateful for the written record that aprons were first seen in this period, and that they were tied with ribbons; that widows were denied the privilege of elaborate costume; and that white gowns were devoted to home wear. And so much may we accept with content, remembering the entirely novel côte hardie with gratitude as one novelty in the century. Perhaps it would be greedy to demand more.




Extravagance to the fantastic point pursued its outrageous way in the fifteenth century; the dresses were tightly belted at the waist, and trailed long lengths upon the floor, while the flat collars of velvet or fur pointed towards the front and were cut to display a square stomacher, and the sleeves indulged themselves with many diversions, small ruffles appearing to finish those which were tight at the wrists. The celebrated, never-to-be-forgotten horned head-dresses stuffed with tow made their appearance in England in the reign of Henry V., the reign of Henry VI. having the privilege of welcoming these in heart-shape; and large turbans in Turkish form found favour with the women during the greater part of the reign of Edward IV.


The fashion of bordering dresses and skirts with deep flounces of fur and velvet was introduced rather late in the century, and silken girdles of conspicuous width were held up by jewelled clasps, and innumerable gold chains fell round the neck. The round cap, covered by a kerchief hanging to the ground, was popular, and the steeple form of head-dress with pendent drapery tucked under[38] the arm was a distinctive feature of the time. Head-dress in the reign of Henry V. was perhaps as exquisitely ridiculous as it was ridiculously exquisite, but, whatever its faults, it possessed the supreme virtue of being becoming. What face would not look well under the influence of such a head-dress as that sketched on this page? Picture it made soft and white beneath a turban of colour, and with jewels flanking it on either side beneath. The horned head-dress looked its best—and that it had a best is no questionable point—in jewelled velvet, when beneath it fell a long veil in graceful folds. The picture on page 42 shows a head-dress accurately planned upon a perfectly fitting frame, with white at the top and back, and jewelled velvet as an outline for the ear-pieces, while the band of white across the front is lawn, again traced with a colour. The sugar-loaf head-dress was[39] usually ornamented with a band of black velvet embroidered in gold.


There is a fine record of Elizabeth of Woodville in the British Museum, her hair pale yellow in colour, arranged with a small curl on the forehead, and brought up under a high crown, with large closed arches whence it falls, the points of the arches being finished with fleurs-de-lys. Her dress is of gold brocaded in blue, and the sleeves are tight-fitting; ermine outlines the shoulders, and a crimson scarf does its picturesque duty as a girdle, and a broad hem of ermine outlines the skirt, which is very full and has an extremely long train; and beneath the dress we are allowed[40] a peep of a blue petticoat and pointed shoes. Several of the ladies attendant upon all this elegance have the privilege of appearing with her in the illumination, in high caps with the hair drawn through the top, short-waisted gowns, and trains with fur borders. Another gown which had the advantage of serving royalty was close-fitting and short-waisted, with tight sleeves, embroidered cuffs, and a collar which took almost the form of a small cape, held in front with a square brooch jewelled in the centre, and bearing three pendants. A row of pearls defined the edge of the décolletage, a necklace of gold encircled the throat, and the flat, close-fitting cap was embroidered in gold.

Elizabeth of Woodville is represented on the previous page in a close, slightly-pointed coif made of a trellis of ribbon and jewelled above the cap of black, the filmy white veil hanging over these with much grace; and the bodice of her velvet dress, which is cut round to show a fine linen chemisette, bears collar and cuffs of embroidery.


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The hennin reached its height of popularity in every sense of the word in the reign of Edward V. Briefly it may be described as a lawn kerchief stiffened with canes or wires, these kerchiefs being plain or diapered with gold, the frame projecting outward from the back of the head, and beneath it the hair is gathered up into a caul of gold or embroidery. The original hennin was a tall funnel-shaped tube in brocade worked in beads and fixed firmly on the head, and from the top floated a fine veil. The "little hennin" was a short head-dress covered by a veil which fell over the shoulders. The hennins—and you can see many examples[41] decorating the coloured page—were large or small, plain or decorated, as the individual fancy might dictate, and their adoption was common alike to England and to France, where they afforded a complete change from their predecessors, the small béguins or hoods, and shared favour with the two-horned head-dresses, with horns about a yard high. The linen for the hennin was stiff, to help the fine wire or cane frames to do their duty with greater success; and to accentuate further their importance there were great wings on either side, so widely set that the passing of a doorway was a difficulty.


Priests and husbands inveighed alike against this fashion, and one monk felt its absurdities so acutely that he rode through the provinces, deploring the excess of the hennin as of equal gravity with that of gambling and the throwing of dice. He preached this doctrine so plausibly that he induced the easily-aroused populace to chase in the streets the women who were wearing the[42] hennin, and even to spatter them with mud or pelt them with stones. Such enthusiasm, however, like the photographs of Hiawatha, "failed completely"; and after the departure of the prophet, hennins grew and ever grew, and they were decked with jewels and hung with chains, and all the best obtainable prodigalities of fashion were consecrated to their honour.


Attention was given, not only to the horned head-dress, which developed into two high points curled inward with pendent veils from the tops, but also to the turban, made after the fashion of those worn in the East. It had thick rolls of silk or velvet round the head, the hair being pulled up the centre and worn hanging down the back, a drapery assisting in the Oriental effect. The escoffion—for which, although it is said to have been introduced by England, there is no English word—is crescent-shaped like a turban; and a cap which received some patronage was heart-shaped, made of[43] embroidered material decked with a trellis-work of braid ornamented with beads, the wide band in front being set with precious stones, which again took the form of a heart as they rested upon the forehead. The women of the middle classes wore cloth caps and bands of material twisted round the head, with wings on either side.

Early in the fifteenth century the scolloped sleeves were introduced, and the dresses were cut in one in front, and separated at the back with a sort of basque.

To France we owe the houppelande, worn alike by men and women, and seemingly obsessed by the virtue of comfort. It bears close kinship to the dressing-gown of to-day, and had at its best a battlemented border outlined by some contrasting stuff or trimming. It developed various extravagances of decorations and breadth, but you may see it well shown in its earliest form in the picture on this page.


At the end of the fifteenth century the dresses,[44] well supplied with large full sleeves, were invariably cut square at the neck, and bore stomachers jewelled or embroidered, and beneath these were buckles, or belts or rich girdles with long pendants, like the one illustrated, which is worn round the hips and fastened in front with three clasps and tassels. Side by side with this appears the pointed shoe of the period; made in red patterned with white, it has charms which are obtrusive if not convincing, though they served to inspire some preacher in France, more violent than holy, to denounce them as "an outrage against the Creator."


The famous Agnes Sorel had considerable influence over the fashions of her day, and she practised exaggeration with audacity: her hennin was taller than any other, her skirts were longer, and her bodices lower; and she would band her forehead and encircle her throat with the most magnificent jewels.


Elizabeth of York had a fancy for veils richly jewelled at the border and arranged to form a hood and fall down either side of the face, the hair being plainly parted on her forehead. The picture on the opposite page shows her wearing a full gown of silk brocade, with a border of ermine decorating the hem of this and the sleeves, and putting in its appearance again straight across the bodice and
down the centre of the front. On her head hangs a stiff mitred head-dress, the inner rim being outlined with jewels, and her pendent veil reaches nearly to the waist.


Not being content with the weight of brocades and silks they had to carry, the women burdened themselves with canes with handles bearing the image of a bird. They carried fans, too, and collected from Spain perfumed gloves made of kid or silk, with the backs embroidered in gold or silver; the glove, however, was punctiliously removed when the hand was given in greeting.

France exhibited a nice sense of colour, and the most popular combination was a veil of white tissue, a girdle of green wrought with gold, and a glimpse of violet under-skirt below a brocaded dress "set off with black shoes."

The côte hardie was improved by being cut open in a point in front, with revers upon the shoulders, and a lappet of velvet or brocade was used to fill in the opening, and, turning back, revealed some delicate tissue of gauze and lace.

The noble ladies of Germany affected much simplicity, adopting this attitude in contrast to that of the burghers' wives and daughters. Their costume was narrow in cut, the close-fitting skirt widening as it reached the ground. The bodices were cut low off the shoulders, laced in front, with tightly-fitting sleeves that buttoned the whole length, and were finished by cuffs extending over the hands. The over-dress had wide sleeves and a long train laced below the waist behind, the fulness held at the bust with a girdle. Mantles were of a semicircular shape, with a long train fastening to the front with a buckle, or finished[47] with a turnover collar held in place with ribbons on the shoulders. The shorter mantle known as the "tappert" was open at each side, and had a large upstanding collar and hood, and married women affected a circular cloak gathered at the neck by a cord and falling in voluminous folds to the hem.

Young girls and matrons braided their hair, or parted it simply in the centre, and rolled it in two portions bound with ribbon or twisted fillets; these rolls, brought over the ears to form a frame for the face, were held in a gold net, with a jewelled pendant in the centre. A favourite cap had a thickly ruched border, and another, known as the Burgundian, had a high conical crown with a rounded point, and was worn over a kerchief with the veil floating behind. Gold bands and crowns rested on the hair, a rectangular kerchief folded in two receiving some attention. Shoes were made open with points, and wooden clogs and goloshes expressed the Teuton caution.

As the century drew to its close further license was visible. High dress was the exception, all bodices being round with slight points, the shoulders uncovered, and the back cut down as low as the waist; and sleeves exhibited much diversity of design, being at times narrow and at others full, and then again falling far below the hands, or reaching up to the elbow, ornamented with slashings. Over-dresses were laced at the back, and invariably the openings were filled in with the chemise, or a folded fichu, or an embroidered plastron. Men and women alike wore wonderful chemisettes with wide borders embroidered with[48] silk, or wrought with pearls, and fur was a decoration beloved of both sexes.

Fur adorns the short over-sleeve of the coat sketched on page 52; and the wearer, it would seem, had infinitely better fortune in the selection of his vest and soft shirt than in his mushroom hat, which, made of cloth and stitched, could not have failed to be at least trying to the most perfect beauty.

Trains extended themselves when the waists of the bodices grew shorter, and the dresses were gathered in front, pleats falling from the bust or just below the short waist. The girdles appeared just below the armpits, and the sleeves were so long that they had to be turned back from the wrists, the scolloped border appearing on those which were wide and wing-shaped.

In France and England splendour followed upon splendour; even the prayer-books did not escape the general craze for elaboration and decoration, their covers being emblazoned with jewels and silken embroidery. Jewels glittered round every fair neck and on every fair head; and all heads were fair, assisted by art when nature denied such grace.

The hair and the train were the conspicuous points of magnificence, and fashion, playing the game of heads and tails, allowed them both to win her best attention.




The Tudor period brought an extraordinary revolution in dress, the first important change taking place in the sleeves, which were now of different material and different colour from the gown. Several pairs of sleeves would be allotted to each gown, and were necessarily made detachable, while in shape they were full and puffed, padded and quilted and slashed and fitting tightly; and the square-necked, short-waisted style of dress was punctilious in a display of a stomacher and a full train.

Cloth of gold was the favourite fabric, being used alike for decoration as for garments, and indeed gold asserted itself on every rich material, and there was a silver taffeta embroidered in gold; and a damask of crimson or yellow wrought with gold offered itself persuasively for fur trimming, lynx and sable and marten accepting the responsibility with zeal.

The fair footed it bravely in low shoes adorned with large ribbon Tudor roses, which were also allotted the delicate duty of ornamenting elaborate garters. The plainer variety of shoe was of wood covered with velvet or leather, stitched[50] with silk and fastened with buckles or rosettes; and a wooden shoe in vogue was known as the pantoffle, and not unlike that chopine worn in Italy at this time and later, when it attained the pinnacle of the preposterous. This shoe was, however, known in England only in a modified form.

None of the fashions of the day could truthfully be called comfortable. Comfort obviously was banished from consideration, and each innovation during the sixteenth century shows its demands more and more disregarded.

The hoop appeared, and held the best affections in its grasp of iron, wood, or whalebone, the indispensable edicts against it following quickly upon its popularity. Rich and poor alike fell victims to its aggressive charms, and alike insisted upon its wear, and, on the occasion of her marriage with Prince Arthur of Wales, Catherine of Medici wore the dress of Spain and a mantilla bordered with gold and precious stones, and her skirt was distended by several hoops.

The wives of that merry polygamist Henry VIII. were sympathetically attached to beautiful clothes, and Anne Boleyn is credited with wearing a cap of blue velvet trimmed with golden bells, and a vest of velvet starred with silver, and over it a surcoat of watered silk lined with miniver, with large pendent sleeves; blue velvet brodequins were on her feet, with a diamond star on each instep, and above her long curls was placed an aureole of plaited gold. It is a well-known fact that Anne, because of some slight deformity of the hand, held affectionately to the charms of the hanging sleeve after it had been discarded in favour of the full puffed and slashed sleeve.[51] There is an attractive picture of her by Holbein, with the hair drawn from her forehead in small curls, and a plait hanging from the top of the head over one ear, the crown being worn rather far back and kept in place by a jewelled caul.

To Spain historians have granted the laurel of the ruff, which became first popular in England in the reign of Henry VIII.; and Anne Boleyn introduced lappets made of velvet and adorned with precious stones, either pointed at the hem or square and broad.

During those days the length of the gown denoted the rank of the wearer, countesses and baronesses and ladies of lower degree stamping their estate upon the dimensions of their train. Embroidery decorated the gowns and petticoats alike, many of the dresses being cut open in front to display a satin kirtle and an apron embroidered in gold and many colours. The bodice of the dress sometimes differed in colour from the skirt, and the sleeves would match the skirt; and there was much variety in head-dress, the velvet cap tasselled and set with jewels above a floating veil being a popular style. But cauls, coifs, and French hoods, and the high bands in front, were in evidence, together with a white three-cornered cap, the original no doubt of the Marie Stuart cap of succeeding years.

The men were as prodigal as the women, and spared no expense or time or thought in their pursuit of the sumptuous and the elegant; their shoes and garters and hats glittered with gems, and they wore rings and chains in profusion, raising the trades of tailors and goldsmiths and cloth-makers to supreme importance. Jack of Newbury,[52] a famous cloth merchant of the time of Henry VIII., is described as appearing before that monarch in a plain russet coat and a pair of white kersey slops, the stockings of the same piece being sewn to his slops. Slops was a term developed from "slip," and signified any garment easily adjusted, and an example of its use occurs in Much Ado About Nothing, a phrase running "as, a German from the waist downward, all slops"; hence may the suspicious glean that the Teuton habit of costume was not mainly trim.


Men yielded to the general craze for an expanded hip, wearing great breeches stuffed with hair or bran or wool, and exhibiting no less than[53] feminine enthusiasm in the width of their ruffles. Their hose, of different detail, was either of cloth or silk, and blazed with colour, being ornamented with gold or threads of Venetian silver, though the King himself preferred cloth hose, which also had the honour of decorating Queen Elizabeth, until she chanced to meet with the silk stocking, to which she thereafter clung with tenacity.

Jane Seymour's coronation dress was of her faithless spouse's favourite material, cloth of gold; all his wives seem to have been obliging enough to yield to his fancy for this extravagance, and this poor lady's choice was decorated with a raised design of embroidery and pearls, and the stomacher beneath was thickly encrusted with jewels, while her surcoat was of purple velvet bordered with ermine and embroidered with gold, and a jewelled velvet caul was on her head. Anne of Cleves endeavoured to popularise the Dutch fashion of a gown without a train, and she was as much a failure in this as in her other ambitions. Catharine Parr, the last of the noble six, had a gown of cloth of gold made with a sleeve quite tight at the shoulder, bordered at the elbow with fur, and showing beneath a slashed and puffed under-sleeve, finished by a small ruffle at the wrist.

Mary inherited her father's love of splendour and costly apparel, and her favourite head-dress was of cloth of gold, and her gowns were generally of velvet trimmed with fur and jewelled. Elizabeth devoted herself to fashion in a frank, whole-hearted way that brooked no half-measures, and amongst her terrors of death must have been parting with her gowns, for she died possessed of no fewer than three thousand dresses. What a harvest for the[54] ladies-in-waiting or the dealers of the day to gather! Her crimson locks she piled high up in curls and puffs, surmounted by crowns of jewels, and her sleeves and hooped skirts were padded into diamond design traced with embroidery, and every point would hold a pendent jewel. She showed no desire to achieve grace or elegance below the waist; nothing more entirely unbecoming to the feminine figure can be imagined than the tight, hard, flat, narrow bodice terminating in a point at the front, cut off at the waist on the hips, above the monstrously distended petticoat. The over-part of the dress and the skirt beneath it were boned and wired, and tight lacing ruled in an injurious degree, though the enormous sleeves, ruffles, and skirts might well have accorded such an effect of slimness as to render stringent measures unnecessary.


Dress was a magnificent affair altogether; velvet and taffeta and fine scarlet cloth were used, lace played its part bravely, and silken scarves fringed with gold and silver were thrown over the shoulders, with deep capes of satin or velvet edged with lace. Every shape and length of garment obtained, and the only extravagance from which dress did not suffer was in the décolletage, which was narrow and straight and of dimensions eminently decent.


Elizabeth introduced the whalebone corset, and hers might well have been called the "wire and whalebone age," for the influence of these was needed for the petticoats, the gowns and stays, and it had a considerable share in the good conduct of the ruffles which extended some nine inches from the neck. In France the ruffles were so enormous that they hardly allowed their wearers to turn their heads at all, and courtiers who affected them were
provided with long-handled spoons to enable them to take their soup in comfort. These huge ruffs were trimmed with lace outlined with wire threads to ensure sufficient stiffness, a demand creating the supply of starch, which made its appearance in this century, being introduced by the wife of Elizabeth's coachman, who established herself as Lady High Laundress of the Court, and made at once a competence[57] and a reputation. Ruffs were of yellow as well as white, and yellow too were some of the extensive lace collars jewelled and embroidered in gold, which with wired edges outlined the shoulders of all dresses worn on state occasions.

Pins and ribbons were first brought into use in the reign of Elizabeth, and really to her interest in the subject of fashion we owe much. Silk stockings amongst other things, such as cosmetics, face washes and perfumes, and embroidered and scented gloves, and fans made of ostrich or peacock feathers with gold and silver handles, were adopted by the men as well as by the women.

Of the many head-dresses favoured by Elizabeth one resembled a cushion, ornamented with jewels; another, known as a ship-tire, left the neck and shoulders bare; and another, dubbed the tire valiant, was made of many kerchiefs, so disposed as to allow only the nose, eyes, and mouth to be visible.

In the early days of the sixteenth century dress in France was somewhat simple, but about 1550 tastes altered and every kind of trimming was eagerly sought and found, and the lappets, which became a popular addition to the head-dress, displayed jewelled borders or golden tassels in the shape of a flower. The hair fell in curls about the face and on the neck, and in a long description which we have from Rabelais, of a dress of the period in Paris, there is mention of a beautiful bouquet of feathers, a panache, which matched the muff, and was thickly spangled with gold. To him also we owe an excellent account of crimson stockings with the edges embroidered three inches above the knee, and of garters of elaborate detail to hold these, and of shoes[58] and slippers of crimson or violet velvet to complete them. Attire consisted of a chemise worn beneath a corset of silk camlet, a hood of silk, and above this a cotte in silver tissue embroidered in gold. In summer the Parisian wore, instead of a dress, wraps made in a loose burnous style of velvet seamed with pearls, and no costume was complete without its rosary, its girdle, jewelled necklaces and bracelets. The most popular head-dress was a velvet hood with a hanging curtain, and the turban wound its graceful way above a network of pearls or precious stones. Muffs received much attention and elaboration, fur and lace and jewels alike being dedicated to their service, and in their depths would nestle the dog or monkey or marmoset whose mistress counted such a pet in her armoury of attractions. A description of a robe montante, which appears to have been comparatively a négligé, not permitted the honour of attending Court functions, shows it cut square in the neck, with a collar of fine cambric finished with a small ruff, the sleeves, puffed and slashed and fitting tightly to the wrists, being of a different material from the dress; and in France, as in England, rank determined the length of the train, queens burdening themselves with no less than six yards.





In the early days of this century turban head-dresses were popular in Italy, and slashed and[60] puffed sleeves were trimmed with ribbon. It is interesting to note that the women of Genoa were bound by law to wear a dress of plain cloth, but that their under-garments were of the richest silks, and shoes and hose were costly details. The sketch on page 59 shows an Italian lady under attractive conditions, with a stomacher and collar traced with a raised design of gold outlined with pearls, and puffed sleeves tied with ribbons tagged with metal; and, covering her hair, is a close coif edged with pearls. Italian also are the two heads illustrated, lace and jewels and ribbons being used for their adornment. The Italian gentleman wears a full-crowned cap of velvet, and a cloth coat showing slashings and collar of velvet, the lawn frill inside the collar being repeated at the wrists of the sleeves, whose detail of slashing may well be left to the imagination.




Spain was faithful to the horned head-dress late into the sixteenth century; and talking of Spain, I am reminded of that illustration opposite, where a[62] sixteenth-century Spaniard is exploiting an unusual form of trunk, in cut-out cloth, showing white beneath, and buttoned with straps on to the hose. His white shirt is slashed, and from the double collar falls a tassel; tassels are pendent from the drapery of the long gold-bordered cloak, and a gold net appears beneath the characteristic cap of velvet.


The picture on page 64 of Maximilian of fame shows him brave in upstanding felt hat, encircled with flaunting feathers, and beneath this a striped scarf is bound round his head, and the monstrous sleeves have slashings of colour. Tassels dangle from the scarf beneath the chin and over either ear, and bold bows assert themselves above one knee, and claim their right to hold the folds of his sash in front.

A sixteenth-century sacque coat in its original sin—or grace—appears illustrated on the left, with sleeves slashed and the armholes bearing padded rolls on the top. The inner vest has a high collar boned to stand out at the back, and the helmet-shaped[63] hat is trimmed with bands of braid buttoned with gold, with two feathers waving at one side.


Another edition of the helmet-shaped hat, far less successful, however, in the interests of beauty, decorates the right-hand figure, which bears round the neck a wonderful ruff, and gives a capital idea of a strange form of cape buttoned down the sleeve, gathered slightly in the process, and bordered with a band of plain colour.



Fair and sweet looks the maiden on page 58 beneath the kilted frill of her cap, and her little[65] bodice shows her chemisette of white lawn tied in front with small bows.

"I will ruffle it with the best of them" was distinctly the determination of the valiant queen who smiles upon you on page 56. Lace forms her huge collar and her pendent lappets, and tightly round her throat sits a lace ruffle; an audacious feather stands rampant on top of her crown, and beneath this is a cap bordered with jewels, curved at one side to allow a good view of her curled head, where the flat cap of jewels holds a golden pendant in the centre of her forehead.

Far more demure are the ruffle and cap which appear on page 55 beneath the closely-hooded mantle, and severity marks the net and lace of the dame whose hair is entwined with pearls; and a typical Medici collar of lace is elaborately wired to form a frame to the fair head, upon which jewels and feathers alike disport themselves.

In this century fashion was playing the woman who often varies, and La Bruyère in reviewing the situation says: "A fashion has no sooner supplanted some other fashion than its place is taken by a new one, which in turn makes way for the next, and so on; such is the feebleness of our character. While these changes are taking place a century has rolled away, relegating all this finery to the dominion of the past." And writing in the twentieth century, I can see some satisfaction in that.




Familiarity has bred respect, even affection, for the typical costume of Charles I.'s reign, and that unfortunate monarch himself, depicted by Van Dyck in sombre coat and lace collar, is amongst the dear intimacies of our daily life. Sir Peter Lely, who followed on the footsteps of Van Dyck, left many modish records of his time, and though he has been rated for dressing his nymphs in inappropriate extravagances of fringes and embroidery, he undoubtedly clothed lovely woman with an excellent fantasy, bestowing height and grace by the length and simple disposition of his drapery. Mignard, the French artist, also wrote a page in fashion's history in his paintings of the Court ladies as Madonnas; covering the vanities of the sinner with the mantle of the saint, he was much sought after for his pains.

The main features of feminine costume in Charles I.'s reign may be realised in recalling the dresses which have so often appeared to delight us in the various presentations of stage plays of his period; the bodice is tight, the basque square and tabbed, and round the waist are a few folds of silk fastened into a rosette in the front; the[67] lace collar falls from the neck to the shoulders in deep points, and the ringleted hair bears a ribbon rosette, or is surmounted by a plumed hat.


Henrietta, Queen of Charles I., is accredited with the introduction of female labour for clothing the outer woman, and from her day mantle-making ranked among female occupations. But the tailor still ruled supreme, and though the sex of the milliner was the more sympathetic, it was left to the next century to popularise feminine services.

The farthingale extended its circumference in the reign of James I., when much effort was taken to suppress it, for the King declared it occupied more room at his court than he himself. The ruff flourished, but less obtrusively than in the preceding reigns, and in its place was adopted what was known as a fall, a loose band overhanging the top of a wide collar starched and frilled at the base—a fancy some merry writer of the period noted with the epigram:

A question 'tis why women wear a fall?
The truth on't is, to pride they're given all,
And pride, the proverb says, will have a fall.


With the farthingale were worn long sleeves, lace coifs, and fluted basques, and stomachers; and later the long sleeves were replaced by those reaching the elbow, made in puffs tied with bows or tightly fitting and bordered with frills. Beneath the panier of the full skirt, which was trimmed with many bands of gold and embroidery, appeared a frilled apron, and the bodices were high at the back, and cut square in front, and over the shoulders was worn a scarf. Muffs were indispensable, and heads were decorated in monstrous disproportion.


The kings' favourites in France influenced dress by their caprices, which made to some extent for beauty, not conspicuously evident when the fontanges head-decoration was in vogue. This was a polyglot erection which owed its birth to the fact that the famous beauty, losing her hat one day in the hunting-field, tied her hair with her garter. The fontanges extended its glories to a framework of wire half a yard in height, which was divided into several tiers, each being covered with a different material; ribbon, chenille, pearls, flowers, and muslin were all brought into service, and beneath these a cluster of curls fell on the forehead. Each tier might take a different name, and amongst these, duke, cabbage, cat, organ-pipe,[69] and mouse were chosen with as much rhyme as reason. But the christening of fashions was a common habit, and when Paris was reduced to misery by the Ligue, and depression was written large upon the dress, which, cut square and heavy in style, bore about it a suggestiveness of architecture, colours were distinguished by such quaint names as "Dying Monkey," "The Sick Spaniard," etc. Like the girl in some comic opera, "I wonder why?"

Mlle. de Ninon and Mesdames de Montespan and de Maintenon each inspired the names of a coiffure, a crown, and a cap, the last lady giving its title to a head-dress in the form of a scarf entwining a helmet. The battle of Steinkirk stood sponsor to a cravat and to a three-cornered fichu trimmed with gold and silver fringes; and the "Ninon" coiffure was parted in the front and flowed in curls at either side, the back being held by a ribbon.

No such distinction was gained by the English "mistresses" and maids of honour, whose names and escapades were legion; nor did they seek much individuality in their clothes, confident that the fashions prevailing were sufficient to excite the envy of the one sex and the admiration of the other; yet Lady Castlemaine, Miss Hamilton, Miss Warmestre, Miss Jennings, Miss Temple, Miss Price, Miss Stewart, and all the rest of the merry gang, were slaves of the mirror, and the joys of the masquerade were high in their favour, and for this no costume was too extravagantly absurd or too absurdly extravagant to obtain their satisfaction.


The distinguishing feature of fashion was the lace commode, which prevailed ubiquitously; its[70] simplest charms are easily realised by the pictures on these pages, where, too, are evident examples of the chopine and the clogs, whose pas de fascination were executed under such disadvantages. High heels were conspicuous everywhere, but it was left to Italy to have the honour of popularising the most ridiculous fashion of the chopines or stilted clogs, which asserted themselves at different heights, mostly outrageous, beneath a covering of gauffered leather, a commodity which looks like the modern poker-work. The idea of the chopines was imported from Turkey to Italy and thence to England, where, however, it is well to mention, it received but the scantiest consideration. The height of the chopines served to indicate rank, and some were of such monstrous inconvenience that they necessitated their wearer being supported[71] on either side while she walked. Every conceivable device was sought for the decoration of the shoes, and a frenzy of extravagance broke out in buckles of gold, silver, paste, and diamonds.


Charles II., from long residence in France, had much sympathy with fashion, which was beloved of men and women, who patronised the lace collar, the muff, the fanciful buttons, and feathers with equal enthusiasm. The sexes, too, shared a love for curls and the hats of broad brims, whose flopping habits proved so inconvenient that they were turned up first at one side and then at the other, and lastly at the back, when they developed into the well-loved cocked hat. Hat-bands were prominently important, made either of cord in silver or gold or silk, and glorified by the addition of jewels for the gay and witty Duke of Buckingham, who changed his love as often as his coat, and showed a prodigal appreciation of the arts of gallantry and costume. He led many of the fashions for men, and added to these a conspicuous number of ribbons, buckles, and cravats. He spared his friends neither his wit nor his money, and Dryden epitomised his fall: "He had his jest, while they had his estate."


Two manufactures which were accorded prominent attention in these times were the linen and button manufactures, the former being made from the yarn obtained in Ireland, while for the latter, inspiration came from various parts of the Continent. Steel, brass and copper, and jet were used to make these buttons, and their value is quoted from 3d. to 140 guineas per gross. Fairholt, writing on the subject, says: "Buttons were made sometimes like a picture, the back dark, upon which, in various degrees of relief, were placed in ivory or bone, figures and flowers. Others showed elegant patterns in white upon gilt, and many most tasteful appeared on Court suits, these being made of mother-of-pearl or ivory, the centre embellished with patterns in gilt."

Muslin came generally into use under such flimsy conditions that it was described by some writer as costing "some 30s. per yard, and being but the shadow of a commodity when procured." India was the happy hunting-ground for muslins till Flanders and Germany took up its cause and, in the eighteenth century, Bolton and Glasgow granted it special attention.

Elegance characterised many of the prevailing modes, which encouraged a conspicuous simplicity, when the superabundance of jewellery and most elaborate trimmings decreased to some extent, and a simple string of pearls was worn round the neck, and the studied négligé became the highest expression of coquetry. The hair was curled into ringlets, and amidst these nestled a single rose or a chaplet of pearls; and at the sides it was slightly puffed over the ears, with some support of pad or wire to secure its righteous bearing.



Women of the lower classes wore muslin caps with ribbons twisted round them, but what lovely hats were obtainable by the wealthy! Above the long ringlets huge plumes waved over a hat of straw, or the velvet cap would be covered with feathers. Hair-dressing was a fine art, and many were the styles in which the ringlets were treated; they would be cut to graduated lengths, short in front and long at the back, or would only obtain at each side of the face and round the neck, the main portion of hair being drawn up on the top; or the hair was cut rather short, and curled over the head, while black ribbons and pearls decorated it.

The cultivation of beauty was earnest and intelligent, and all ladies of high degree owned amongst their retinue starchers and brushers, and the position of patches had a political significance according to the opinions of the fair patched. The patch, by the way, was brought into fame about 1655; though, owing its first existence to the times of the Romans, it cannot conscientiously claim this to be the date of its birth.

The house coats and gowns and petticoats were quilted, and being made of silk from Japan, China, and Persia and trimmed with Flemish lace, may be freely granted a cosmopolitan sympathy. An attractive description of a dress of this time tells of a musk-coloured silk shot with silver, with trails of silver flowers, trimmed with white bone lace, whose importation from foreign lands excited the displeasure of Charles II. Lace was a trium[74]phant feature, being indispensable for the commodes, the frilled cravats, and the collars. It was useful alike to men and women, and beautiful specimens of lace were enriched with gold and silver under the auspices of Venice and Spain. Mazarin had, in endeavouring to stay the popular greed for lace, caused a small social revolution, and the French bought lace from England. Colbert was wiser in his generation, for he set up a factory at Alençon, and Brussels and Mechlin devoted themselves assiduously and most successfully to lace.

Amongst the vain efforts of an earlier period in France was one to kill fashion, whose reckless prodigality had been voted insupportable, and like to bring ruin to the people. A contemporary print shows the funeral of fashion, the design being of fashion led by four women and followed by a crowd of workpeople, while a sarcophagus in the background bears the following epitaph:—

Here lies under this picture, for having deserved it,
Fashion, which caused so much madness in France.
Death has put superfluity to death,
And will soon revive abundance.

But Louis XIV. was so appreciative of the charms of costume that he would distribute all materials, silks and satins and brocades, to his courtiers, and exercise some jurisdiction over the way these were to be made. Painting on silk and satin was amongst the novelties of his reign, but embroidery still held the affections of the prodigal, and at a fête at Vaux, Mlle. de la Vallière is recorded to have worn a gown of white with golden stars and leaves in Persian stitch, and a blue sash tied in a large knot upon her bosom, while her fair waving hair, entwined with flowers and pearls, fell[75] in profusion about her neck and shoulders, and her gloves were of cream-coloured lace. A gold dress embroidered with gold is also included in the chronicles, and there were double borders of gold and silver to many of the under-skirts, which were made of silk or satin with a long train which was carried over the left arm. Bodices were trimmed with galon, ribbon, and lace, and Madame de Sévigné writes of the "transparent gown," whose descendant lives to-day in our lace and jet frocks over tissue.


The Duchess of Bourgogne showed her nice taste in a gown of silver tissue with gold flowers outlined with orange and green, and again in a grey damask bordered with silver; and the same record tells of a mantilla of gold Spanish point lace, and of a coat and skirt of cloth of silver laced with silver, and worn with diamonds and rubies. "All werry capital," as Sam Weller might have observed, had he only heard of them.

Amongst the desirable and the desired was a blue camlet waistcoat embroidered and fringed with silver. Spanish broadcloth of the very finest description was dedicated to waistcoats and to the hunting and riding costumes which were as much masculine as feminine, and mainly picturesque, with small rapiers to emphasise the manly tone. All hats were feathered, and the cravats frilled, a state of affairs which excited comment from that irrepressible critic Pepys, who granted it small admiration when he wrote: "Walking in the galleries at White Hall I find the ladies of honour dressed in their riding garbs with coats and doublets and deep skirts,[76] just for all the world like mine, and buttoned their doublets up to the breast, with periwigs and hats, so that only for a long petticoat dragging under their men's coats nobody could take them for women in any point whatever. It was an odd sight, and a sight which did not please me."


But Pepys, in his immortal diary, did not pay proper respect to fashion. He commented on the clothes of the ladies, it is true, but he showed a lamentable vagueness, if not careless indifference, about their details. Doubtless his notes on dress were quite satisfying to his masculine mind, but I find them practically useless in assuaging the deepest emotions of feminine curiosity. However, I know from him and other sources that Nell Gwynn, the careless slattern, wore a cart-wheel hat when delivering a prologue in a play, and furthermore that she "looked pretty" on one occasion when Pepys passed her as she stood at her lodging door in "smock-sleeves and a bodice,"[77] whatever such description might please to mean. Colours, shapes, and materials this inimitable gossip ignored as unimportant; yet it may be written down to his credit that he confessed he was moved when he saw Lady Castlemaine's smocks and linen petticoats hanging out to dry in the Privy garden at White Hall, laced with the richest lace at the bottom which ever he saw, and he vows, "they did me good to look at them"; and so much may we count for grace, even though I sigh to think of the number of tucks and gaugings he failed to mention.

It is to be hoped that, after that painful interview with the riding garb of the ladies at White Hall, he turned the other way and went back to the Privy garden and his joyful contemplation of Lady Castlemaine's under-wear.




Marie Stuart shares with Madame de Pompadour the honour of standing godmother to fashions which will be known through the ages by their names. The former luckless lady will ever be associated with that coif which is pointed in the front, and curves at either side, while the latter stands eternal sponsor to the rolled coiffure which turns back from the face over a high pad. There may perhaps be other glories better worth attainment, but nobody respectfully imbued with the importance of dress can venture to assert that these ladies lived in vain.


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And in a minor degree their privilege has been shared by others. The art of Gainsborough and of Watteau has immortalised a hat, a pleat, and a flowered sac; Madame du Barry has a special shade of pink consecrated to her memory; the lace collar which expands round the shoulders had at its christening no less a person than Catherine de Medici; and Napoleon gave his name to a hat. Of the more modern garments I could take as examples the cardigan, a waistcoat of wool named after a noble lord; and I could recall that another noble lord, one Spencer, introduced a short woollen[79] jacket; and that the great general Garibaldi is responsible for the loose shirt with open collar; and that a peculiar kind of open-sleeved bed-jacket, known as the nightingale, is sacred to the heroic efforts of that devoted nurse who did such splendid duty at the Crimea.


Madame de Pompadour represented in her century everything that was most beautiful, most desirable, and most alluring, and she played her part as pioneer of fashion with a fierce, reckless enthusiasm, and, from the crown of her rolled hair to the tip of her embroidered shoes, expressed conclusively the prodigal and the pretty. Upon her feet she bestowed considerable attention, and narrow pointed shoes were amongst her innovations;[80] she would have them decked with every conceivable conceit, and kick her red heels in defiance of public opinion. A pair of her shoes are even now kept in the Museum at Cluny, and these are embroidered in a design of green foliage, outlined with silver, clasped with silver buckles glittering with old paste. Fans also were amongst her weaknesses; she had these of every size and shape, with long handles which could not be folded, and mounts of carved and decorated ivory, some of her Chinese fans being worth a small fortune.

Mrs. Delany's letters may be the foundation for a liberal education in the art of costume as practised in England in the eighteenth century, and her description of Lady Huntingdon's dress at a Court ball is as vivid as remarkable, reflecting at once credit on the Boswell and the inspiration:—

Her petticoat was of black velvet embroidered with chenille, the pattern a large stone vase filled with ramping flowers, which spread almost over the breadth of the petticoat from the top to the bottom; between each vase of flowers was a pattern of gold shells and foliage embossed and most heavily rich. The gown was white satin embroidered also with chenille mixed with gold, no vase on the sleeve, but two or three on the tail; it was a most laboured piece of finery, the pattern much properer for a stucco staircase than the apparel of a lady.

She also writes the description of a dress she is going to wear at the wedding of Princess Anne (George II.'s eldest daughter) and Prince William of Nassau and Orange in 1734:—

I have got my wedding garment ready; 'tis a brocaded lute-string white ground, with great ramping flowers in shades of purples, reds, and greens. I gave thirteen shillings a yard: which looks better than it describes, and it will make a show. I shall wear it with dark purple and gold ribbon, and a black hood for decency's sake.


And again she describes:

The Princess of Orange's dress was the prettiest thing that ever was seen—a corps de robe—that is, in plain English, a stiff bodied gown. The eight peers' daughters that held up her train were in the same sort of dress, all white and silver, with great quantities of jewels in their hair and long locks; some of them very pretty and well-shaped, it is a most becoming dress. The Princess wore a mantua and petticoat, white damask with the finest embroidery of rich embossed gold. On one side of her head she had a green diamond of vast size, the shape of a pear, and two pearls prodigiously large that were fastened to wires and hung loose in her hair; on the other side small diamonds prettily disposed; her ear-rings, necklace, and bars to her stays all extravagantly fine, presents of the Prince of Orange to her.

In the same letter she says: "The Queen commended my clothes."

In the reign of Louis XV. the English borrowed all their fashions from France. The beautiful Austrian, Marie Antoinette, came in a blaze of splendour to charm and astonish every one, and the loveliest ladies of her Court, headed by her friend the Princess de Lamballe, vied with her in inaugurating a reign of costume which was to have been "roses, roses all the way." Alas, however, thorns made themselves felt only too soon. In her early days the Queen seemed to have no care save that noble lover of hers and her dressmaker; and she studied the minor details of the etiquette of her Court so assiduously that we have the amusing history of her disrobing, surrounded by a bevy of ladies, each taking their turn in handing their royal mistress her chemise.

Marie Antoinette's delicate beauty called for pale colours, and green and pink and puce were amongst the favoured tones, the last mentioned taking its name from no more attractive source than the back of a flea. Her earlier dresses dis[82]played stiff pointed bodices with stomachers, held with little tied bows of velvet, and paniers bunched liberally on the hips to show the under-dress of lace, bordered with flounces, headed and festooned with roses. The décolletage was square, and the elbow sleeves had frills of lace.


The paniers grew daily in size, and evoked the inevitable denunciation which waits punctually[83] upon the heels of any favourite of fashion. Marie Antoinette varied her corsets to suit her bodices, therein showing much wisdom, since obviously the short-waisted bodice asks beneath it a stay totally different from that needed beneath a bodice which is cut in a long point in front. Her fichus were as elaborate as dainty, and the method of their adjustment varied in half-a-dozen different ways—they would be crossed over the bust and tied at the back, or tucked into the waistband, or fastened high on the bust with bunches of ribbons or flowers.


No garment more attractive can be imagined than the déshabillé galant: a teagown of hers which was ruched from the neck round to the short train, and displayed a frilled front of lace or muslin tied with ribbons, and daintily flounced round the hem. Silks, satins, and brocades were used to make these, but shot silk enjoyed supreme patronage; and the favourite dressmaker, Madame[84] Bertin, was a heroine of vast importance, a genius of diplomatic habits, who played most successfully upon the fancies of her royal patron, bringing her every day some new device in paniers or sumptuous train which it was impossible to resist.


Marie Antoinette adored feathers, and the panache flourished under her favour, and boldly survived her mother's reprimand. "You have sent me the picture of an actress, not of a Queen," she wrote, upon receiving a picture of her daughter in a prodigious head-dress of feathers and jewels. Jewels, it is well known, were amongst Marie Antoinette's weaknesses. Did not they inspire that romance of the Queen's necklace which has pursued us for many years in various works of fiction and drama, and is still regarded as vitally interesting?

But let me return to England, and repeat that French fashions were treated with servility, if not with complete success, for somehow the English women were too ponderously exact in their method of adjustment to toy triumphantly with the many accessories of lace, and ribbon, and velvet, and buckles, and ruchings which were essentially the distinguishing features of these styles. And, also, the small feet of the French women encouraged much attention to dainty shoes, with coloured heels and embroidered toes, and to these the national deficiencies or superfluities of the English women were rather a drawback. However, they followed the French fashions at a distance, and bestowed most earnest attention upon hair-dressing, which[85] assumed formidable proportions during this period, and rose higher and ever higher, to be topped by ornaments as incongruous, as hideous. The skilful hair-dresser who could "build" a head was at a premium; the art of hair-dressing being reckoned as one of the most important, and as rare as difficult. No lady's maid, however clever, was entrusted with[86] this difficult task, and very complicated was the work of constructing the popular coiffure, which was piled half a yard high, and decked with pads, and false hair, and curls so stuck down and plastered with pomades that they might hold for weeks without being pulled down. So monumental were these erections that collapsible frames had to be made, so that ladies could pass through doors and get into their sedan-chairs. Windmills and ships in full sail, fruit and balls were added to the pile, and ostrich plumes nodded boldly amongst a profusion of ribbons and flowers.


The aristocratic was of course the only class that could afford these most elaborate styles, where so much curling and frizzing appeared in large masses in front that iron hairpins were used to keep these in place at the top lest they should fall crushed beneath their own weight.

The hats were worn rather far back to show these curls, and many had long ends of ribbon hanging down at the back, and others had low crowns and wide brims trimmed with flowers. What was known as a "fly" cap was a large butterfly edged with jewels, and crownless hats became the fashion; invented so as not to spoil the high coiffure, they boasted nothing but brim, and were delegated to do duty only in the finest weather. The calash, which resembles comically the hood of a baby's perambulator, could be drawn back or over the face at will, and was tied with strings. Straw hats obtained, as well as those of silk and velvet, and a mob-cap created such a sensation at Ranelagh, the popular resort of the moment, that all the women were crying out for one before the sun had risen and set again. The mob-cap was made of[87] blonde, flowers, ribbons, and muslin; but so great was the craze for hair-dressing and head decoration that every sort of cap and hat gained some attention in turn, and amongst them were hoods of lace or velvet, edged with fur, and crêpe turbans held with jewels, with a group of feathers waving proudly on the top. The famous "Devonshire" hat of black with white feathers showed well the curls and rolls, which extended to the back of the head when it had been realised that the straight clean upward sweep to the top pinnacle of the puffs was a disadvantage to the contour not to be permitted. Of the prettiest of the fashions were the broad-brimmed hats of black chip, and the Rubens hats of black velvet; and the straight-crowned gipsy hats were really quite charming; but the winged Mercury hat received more popularity than it deserved.


The perruques of the men, even when fresh from the embraces of the curl-papers, must have looked very insignificant by the side of the huge erections which towered above the women, who did not scruple in their martyrdom to sit on the floor of a hackney coach so that the head-dress should not be disarranged, or to go to bed with their hair surrounded by a basket, or held in position by pillows and tapes. Happily the dancing of the period was of a stately kind, for the coiffure would have brooked no such frivolities as the "two[88]-step," and the uproarious lancers of to-day would have made short work of the hair-dresser's labour of time and money.

The question of complexion was seriously studied, the colour of the chin and cheeks being carefully suited to the gowns. Patches were lavishly indulged in in England and France, the eyebrows were blacked and even false, and China, Spain, and Portugal all contributed—for a consideration—rouges and white lead and wash balls, scented lard and lip salves, and toilet waters and soaps.

The fan was an indispensable complement to every gown, and its best conduct was an art which might well have been added to the scholastic curriculum for women, always supposing the like in existence. The fans were made of chicken skin and painted; and chicken skin also had the privilege, with lace and an embroidery of gold and silver, in making gloves and mittens for evening wear.

Tight-lacing was de rigueur, and it is indeed impossible to imagine any discomfort omitted from the toilet. I cannot picture conditions more entirely unpleasant than to glaze the face with paint and grease of red and black, to decorate it at intervals with devices of sticking plaster, to supply it with false eyebrows, and to mount on the head some pounds' weight of stuffed hair, while reducing the waist at least three inches below the natural size, expanding the hips with whalebone and hoops, compressing the feet into narrow shoes, and carefully studying every movement of the arm so as to hold a fan at a significant and becoming angle. And to add to all this, the dresses were of the stiffest brocades, decked with gold and silver[89] embroideries and tinselled fringes, velvet and fur increasing the burden.


The excessive elaboration of the hoods and the scarves and the aprons dangling with silver tassels and fringes was responsible for some criticism from Beau Nash, the autocrat of Bath, where he had established the strictest rules of dress and procedure, covering all delinquencies of conduct with a bearing of convincing dignity set in an atmosphere of punctilious etiquette. Goldsmith gives an instance of the despotic rule of Nash, and of the special liberties he arrogated to himself. "I have known him on a ball-night strip even the Duchess of Q." (the "Kitty beautiful," as the poet Prior called this Duchess of Queensberry), "and throw her apron at one of the hinder benches among the ladies' women, observing that none but Abigails appeared in white aprons."

Women had indeed to suffer in those days to attain what they were pleased to call the beautiful, and it is quite a relief to remember the moment when Marie Antoinette took a sudden caprice to appear without hoops in a soft satin gown with wide sleeves, which set the fashion in London as well as in France. For a short time only, however, such moderation ruled, and the hoops came back larger than ever in 1784, when the Duchess of Cumberland swept the floor in five yards of brocade, and a stomacher blazing stiffly with jewels.


The pastoral simplicity of the Petit Trianon should have really made more lasting impression than it did. For the Court ladies played at milkmaids under the rule of their farmer Queen, and churned butter with their own fair hands, and found a wide field for dainty disguises in rustic and ruinous simplicity. The peasant girls' dresses of stuffs and muslin were glorified by rich silks and muslin and challis decked with lace fichus and crowned with rose-coloured and be-ribboned straw hats, and embroidered holland and Persian cambric were affected economies no less expensive than the maize-coloured silk and striped green and white satin of avowed prodigality. The Trianon was a happy hunting-ground for flirtation, but that is another story, indeed a great many; but it served too as a pretext for innumerable new frocks, and the colour-prints of the time convincingly prove the dainty possibilities afforded by the artifice of simplicity allied to a nice taste in ribbons.

We have to go back to the days of Marie Antoinette for a practice which aroused some interest and amusement when a dressmaker in London last year was fired with a desire to revive it. Gowns were invested with the power to express special emotion, and Molière held the notion up to ridicule in his famous Précieuses. Long narrow shoes with the seam at the heel, whose socket was studded with jewels, were called venez-y-voir; and this suggestion of forwardness was again evident in a ribbon which went by the name of "marked attention." Other absurdities often quoted were the gown known as the "stifled sigh," trimmed with "superfluous regrets," and[91] the cap of "assured conquest," and a muff of "momentary agitation."

Towards the end of the reign of Louis XVI. the low head-dress came into fashion, the short curls being gathered into a knot of ribbon or "catogan," and the fair moderated their transports for powdered hair which had abundantly obtained in white, reddish blonde, and grey.

Marie Antoinette knew all there was to know of the art of dress, and recognising the supreme charm of caprice, she would ring every change in turn; and perhaps she never looked more exquisitely beautiful than when, her hair powdered and her face faintly lined by sorrow, she met the scaffold and the mob on the last day of her existence, in her plain black dress and simple white fichu.




On trying to set down a chronicle of dress as it lived in the earlier part of the nineteenth century, my mind becomes immediately obsessed with short-waisted gowns; and a vision of the hapless Josephine—whose name, by the way, I should have added to the list of the few who have stood godmother to a fashion—immediately appears before me in her graceful short-skirted evening dress with its high Empire belt.

That all women kill the style they love might with truth be said of the enthusiasm which raged for that Empire belt, for it grew smaller by degrees and grotesquely less when it commenced its career immediately beneath the arm, pushing the bust under the throat, presenting but an apology for a bodice, and needing the completely slim figure to withstand its liberties with any degree of decorum. Decorum was, however, not among its ambitions.

For walking wear the high waist was no less a desideratum, and cloth skirts, long and full, were completed by short velvet coats with long tight sleeves, vests of white, and stocks of black. The whole was crowned by small hats with feathers on one side, or high hats of masculine convention[93] made of cream-coloured beaver. Napoleon, following in the footsteps of many of his predecessors in the profession of Royalty, showed a nice appreciation of the charm of costume, being alternately disapproving and encouraging in his criticisms, and always leaning towards the side of prodigality.



Princess Pauline Buonaparte made dress the religion of her salon, and there are records of her audacious grace in a fancy costume as Minerva, and of one of her soirée gowns which expressed the last word of extravagance in pink tulle over pink satin, trimmed with marabout feathers, and diamond agrafes, with the bodice encrusted, and every seam of the skirt glistening, with diamonds.

In England Queen Charlotte evinced a decided predilection for the greatcoat and the cloth pelisse with a velvet collar, crowned by the circular hat of beaver, veiled with green muslin; and much favour was granted to such masculine properties as the silk cravat and the boot with the high military heel, the feminine situation being saved only by the sprigged lace veil. An alternative to the pelisse was a garment not unlike the Greek chiton, which, however, never received the attention bestowed upon the boxcloth driving-coat with heavy capes, and the manly etceteras to do it honour or dishonour.

It goes to prove my suspicion that there is a leaven of contrariety in the soul of women, when I remember that beneath these was worn a cambric or lawn dress of most diaphanous detail, and so close-fitting that the feminine form, unfortunately not being divine, lacked under its influence the best grace of reticence. Besides being of cambric and[95] lawn, these skimpy dresses were made of clear silk net over a foundation of white satin, and all were very short in the waist and in the skirt, which was trimmed with rouleaux of satin.

In warm weather the thick cloaks were discarded for the short cloaks and mantles shaped as the Zouave, or in the short sacque style extending only to the waist. A spencer in a contrasting shade of silk achieved popularity and was considered the fitting complement to the muslin gown; and about the year 1814 this was made with full sleeves and upstanding collar and worn over the morning dress, which was either cut high to the neck, or filled in with a ruff and kerchief of lace or muslin. A fold of muslin also did service, crossed in front of the popular evening bodice, whose décolletage was more remarkable for its breach than its observance of the best ideals of modesty.

A favourite ornament was a gold chain and heart, which would open to reveal the eye of a lover, relative, or friend executed on ivory and bordered with enamel; and this limned eye is a love token which seems to be coming once more into fashion.

French fashions again became the mode at the beginning of the century, when white chemisettes were worn with the Swiss petticoat, and powder fell into disuse, and the hair was long or short in curls falling over the face, a style of coiffure which was followed by the crop, in favour of which even the most tolerant can find little to put forward. With the crop a narrow fillet was placed round the head, holding a rose in front, or over it an immense panache of feathers would nod with foolish[96] monotony. The cropped head had for its successor the style known as la chinoise for which the hair was tightly dragged back from the forehead, with a long ringlet falling at the side, a plait set in a cluster of roses crowning the top, which was further decorated with gold pins, tasselled with small gold balls.

Many garments had foreign names. A robe known as the Mameluke had a Delta trimming; a coiffure adorned with jewels and a double row of beads on the forehead was dedicated to Egypt; and Austerlitz expressed a nankeen-coloured gown with blue trimmings. And there were caps recognised as Patmos and Tyrolean; and there were Spanish dresses, and Etruscan borders to Pyrenean robes. The Patmos cap had charms which easily pushed it to the height of success, when it was made of satin and lace cut into points at the front, was covered with diamonds, and had tassels falling at either side.

Beau Brummel, as he walked upon the Pantiles, carefully cultivating towards everybody an insolence that would not be tolerated nowadays, even in the richest member of the Stock Exchange, laid down the law of dress for men. About 1811 he held supreme sway, and was the "Arbiter Elegantarium," contributing doubtless to the gaiety of nations many a new stock and new button. It was not long after this, however, that man gave up fashion as a bad job, ultimately contenting himself for his adornment with the details of his waistcoat and the cut of his whiskers, begging the question at first by full-skirted coats with velvet collars, frilled shirts and stock ties, tasselled canes, and light beaver hats, then gradually drifting into the safe harbour of[97] broadcloth and linen, where he permitted himself selection only in the colour of his necktie and the option of the hard or the soft hat. Gone are his glories of brocade and satin and tight breeches, which revealed silk stockings and buckled shoes; banished are the lace ruffles, the nankeen, the mulberry, and the blue cloth with brass buttons; diminished are the curled heads; and frankly I regret all these as losses to the beauty as well as to the humour of social existence.

It was in the earliest days of the nineteenth century that artificial flowers began to obtain considerable popularity, and they were used in the hair and on the bodices and in festoons on the skirts, and on the hems of trains. After the return of Napoleon from Elba, violets were the conspicuous fashion, being regarded as an emblem of Imperialism, and no faithful follower was seen without a bunch of violets in her dress; while the ladies of royal sympathies would, in honour of Louis XVIII., decorate their gowns with eighteen tucks, and supply their cashmere shawls with vermilion borders.

Shawls, the manufacture of which had begun in England in the eighteenth century, were in great request later in the century. They were made of cashmere, in imitation of the Indian shawls, which were respectfully considered articles of luxury and importance during all the days of Queen Victoria, who chose these as wedding gifts for the brides she delighted to honour.

But I progress too fast.

After the battle of Waterloo, fashion decidedly changed, and the clinging gown, with its skimpy skirt hanging from a short belt or Empire bodice, was discarded in favour of a much-trimmed dress standing[98] well away from the figure, and fancy would work its elaborate will on the trimming of these skirts with scollops, many-coloured embroideries, fringes and gold braid. The bodice still remained a minor quantity, supplied with two short puffed sleeves and filled to the bust or somewhat below it with a jewelled clasp or some decoration of embroidery or lace, whose indiscretions were presumably to be concealed beneath a dainty scarf of silk or coloured gauze, an elegance which failed in its duties lamentably, and hung limply over the arm as if ashamed of its delinquencies.

The fashionable outdoor dress could hardly have been suitable to the English climate, unless indeed its habits have altered strangely, and its detractors have reason for their abuse. The loose robe was of jaconet muslin open at the neck and covered with embroidery, and round the shoulders would hang the scarf, usually dropping to the waist, and held in the hollow of the elbow; and on the head appeared a French cap of blonde lace trimmed with ribbons.

In the 'thirties, dress was merely a travesty of the 'twenties; huge sleeves and stiffened petticoats were universal, and the tight-fitting bodices, cut with sloping shoulders, gave a thin flat appearance to the waist, further accentuated by the ballooning sleeves, setting closely to the wrist. The skirts were short, and still further enhanced the immense effect of the sleeves; and round the waist a plain band added angularity to the outline. Revers, shaped like capes at the back and pointed in the front, were on day and evening bodices alike, and pelerines of all kinds established their popularity, being tucked into the waist, or having wide long ends crossed at the back[99] or front. Blonde lace was a favourite trimming to all gowns; and a style of dress that took the fancy for a short time was known as the "tunic." This was made with a sleeveless bodice and pointed shoulders, the under-dress being two inches longer and of a colour different from the skirt, which was open in the front. Bright colours were very popular, but, on the whole, the spirit of costume was chastened, and muffs, fans, bouquets, and parasols became considerably smaller.


The most conspicuous garments in the earliest days of Queen Victoria were the shawl-shaped cloak, the circular cape, and the crossover made of either embroidered crêpe or taffeta, and bearing on its borders a fringe or some frill of lace. Beneath these the sleeves dropped lower and lower from the shoulder, and extended their fulness from elbow to wrist; their top was tight and plain, or edged with two little frills, and the billow beneath was expressed in white lawn. The fichu in cambric or lawn was a[100] feature of nearly every bodice, the only alternative being a double collar, which turned down at the neck.

The outstanding petticoat was ubiquitous, skirts over it being single and trimmed with flounces, or double and dividing in the centre, to show a contrasting under-skirt. Kerchiefs and capes were draped over low dresses, and berthas were important features in the tulle or tarletan gown, which was festooned and flounced, tied with ribbons, one skirt being looped up over another with more ingenuity than elegance.

The bonnet poked its brim into an audacious spoon, tilting upwards to reveal a trimming beneath of quillings and ruchings in muslin or net, with a bow of ribbon and a bunch of feathers on the crown, whence fell the curtain at the back to the neck. The poke gradually decreased in height and width, eventually assuming a semicircle as close to the brow as the bonnet of a barge-woman, and the French ladies adopted this fashion, making the bonnets of straw and draping them with a green gauze veil. About 1860 the crinoline of horsehair and steels "swelled visibly," like another hero, and Leghorn hats took the place of bonnets. These, decked with ribbons and plumes, would bend low their brims over the face of beauty and ugliness.

Hair was permitted every license except the monstrous unhealthy misdemeanours of the Stuart and Tudor periods. In turn, it strained itself rigidly to the topmost point of the crown, where, coiled in plaits, it met the just reward of a disfiguring bunch of feathers; it puffed itself out in a mass behind the ears, or banded itself[101] demurely over them. It merrily shook itself in ringlets from a centre parting, which knew such sorrow as Macassar oil and the controlling influence of the side comb; or, stuffed out with frisettes, it hid its insincerity in the meshes of the silk and chenille net; or it lay low in flat curls at the nape of the neck. At different times it placed the burden of its rolls and curls upon every inch of the crown—on top of it, in the middle of it, behind it, and in front of it, where, indeed, it once developed a frenzy of disorder, and hung in wild and fringed confusion to the eyebrow.



This reminds me to note the royal conservatism of her gracious Majesty Queen Alexandra, who follows fashion at a dignified distance, lending her sweet personal enchantment to our view of her antedated coiffure, with its raised curls over her brow pointing slightly to the centre of the forehead. Royalty no longer seeks to lead fashions, nor, indeed, to follow them, the only exceptions to the rule of generality being the royal ladies of the houses of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha and of Connaught,[102] who all show a most delightful appreciation of, and a becoming sympathy with, every vagary of La Mode. Yet our supreme Royalty takes interest in the national aspect of the affairs of costume, and bestows much personal trouble in arousing loyalty towards Irish poplins, British-made silks, the tweed industries of Ireland and Scotland and Wales, and the lace manufactures of Devonshire and Bucks and Nottingham.


The blouse and the teagown of to-day date their inception from the last century, but the beneficent law of evolution concedes them the grace of novelty, even while dogma tediously reiterates "There is nothing new under the sun."




In costume the Victorian era was "Everything-arian," welcoming and discarding all shapes and styles of garments, and gathering in the fashions[104] from every age, adopting with mild enthusiasm and moderated transport the most graceful and the most graceless, and impartially bestowing attention upon the slashed and puffed sleeves of the Tudors, the lace collar and wide ruff of the Stuarts, the Watteau dress, re-christened "Dolly Varden," the short waists of the Empire, the full coats and large revers of the Directoire, and the long plumes and brilliant buckles of the seventeenth century. An injustice to the word æsthetic was committed by the followers of a fashion which cried aloud for sad colours, sadder shapes, and the saddest untidiness; and amongst the ridiculous mistakes may be written down a polonaise dress looping up in unexpected places, flounced and furbelowed without bounds of reason, while extending itself from the waist over an immense bustle. There is satisfaction in remembering the reaction which took place after this in favour of the eelskin dress, setting as tightly as was convenient from neck to heel, when the woven jersey-bodice had a short spell of patronage, but, proving itself suavely unsympathetic in its treatment of any but the perfect figure, lapsed speedily into disuse. About 1882 the questionable charms of the bustle reasserted themselves, and the Watteau style of frock exercised some beneficial influence over the waist of its fair wearer.

Man's last aspiration towards dandyism gasped and died in the embrace of the stock of Count D'Orsay. Now, woman alone rules the roost of fashion, man is "no longer dressed but clothed," and under feminine autocracy, dress, whose interests are widely and publicly recognised, has reached a position of primary importance. No more are[105] these interests represented in an unwanted corner of a monthly periodical, or in the letters of the town cousin to the country cousin, or in the counsels of perfection signed by "the old woman." They maintain various journals established in their honour, and in the field of Fashion England has risen from the ranks to leadership; while a wide plain of cheap selection opens to the proletariat the chance to beautify their outer as well as their under wear, which has emerged from the uncompromising confines of stiff long-cloth and Madeira work to the seductive limits encompassed by fine lawn and embroidery, allied to Valenciennes lace and soft ribbon.

As I write, Fashion seems a pleasantly moderate thing, and the summer-day dress of white linen, with a broad-brimmed hat encircled by the floating veil, and the evening dress of chiffon garlanded with chiffon, appear to justify my suspicion that "whatever is, is right, in the world of dress." And, when I remember that the "picture" dress of to-day was the garb of convention yesterday, I can hope that our bespangled nets and tinselled brocades will in due course be encircled with charm from the halo of the bygone. May it also, I pray, come to soften the hardest outline of our leather-trimmed tweed and serge costumes of sport, and to exercise a benign influence upon our disproportionate figures and our perky toques!




While searching in the annals of the bygone costume of the peasant, the most democratic person might be tempted to regret the repealing of all sumptuary law. We are grateful to-day to recognise the artistic value of the red tie of the masculine tiller of the field, or of the coloured handkerchief over the head of the harvest-woman, but, in those other times, the plains and the fields, the woods and the forests, were the background for a people in brave array, on which blue, red, green, and white played conspicuous part. And not alone in colour must their garb have been pre-eminently attractive to the eye, but in the simplicity of its make, the liberal display of white linen about the neck and the head, and the further addition of coloured lacings. These completed an effect of picturesque carelessness which may well have been allowed to cover a multitude of sins of omission in personal cleanliness.

Glancing roughly through the periods, I find that the dress most worn in England by the peasant women in the eleventh century consisted of a coarse woollen gown with long sleeves closely fitting to the wrists, a white linen apron, and a[107] linen kerchief covering the head as a wimple. In the reign of Henry I. it is recorded that men wore simple tunics of red lined with white, innocent of a girdle, and open from the waist at the left side, the sleeves possessing long cuffs reaching almost to the elbow. The mantle was often added, and beneath the tunic were chaussés or drawers, and either boots or shoes, with crossed diagonal lacings. Hats or hoods were of leather, felt, or cloth, and warm mitten-shaped gloves of coarse make were adopted. In the time of Henry II. women, who held faithfully to linen aprons, caps, and kerchiefs, wore long gowns and plain bodices laced up the back, the sleeves put rather full at the shoulders, and the petticoats pleated at the waist.

In the thirteenth century the bliaus, or smock, of canvas or fustian was made in many varieties of coarse cloth, russet, and cordetum produced for the use of the poor. The peasant women were converted towards some ambition for the beautiful, and their costume became impressed with the ornamental, consisting of a bodice cut low in the neck to show a pleated chemisette of white linen, and attached to a fully gathered skirt, fastening with buttons down the front. Their boots were high and had buttons on the fronts, while the white linen apron and white linen cap or kerchief still held their place.

In the days of King Edward II. the men adopted a long gown buttoning from the neck to the waist, with loosely hanging sleeves, showing closely-fitting under-sleeves, the hood being folded back or pendent, and the shoes pointed.

The double dress was introduced in the fourteenth century, a dress which is in the form[108] which we now associate with the fishwife's dress, the upper skirt being pinned back over a full petticoat, the bodice of this being laced and the sleeves loose. Chaucer describes his poor Ploughman as wearing a tabard—a garment unheard of before the fourteenth century—a hat, scrip, and scarf; the Shipmanne was garbed "all in a gown of falding to the knee." This material was a kind of frieze, and in this day the coarse red woollen material still used by the Irish peasant women for petticoats and jackets is the old falding.

In the fifteenth century the chemisette to some extent yielded place to the bodice high at the neck and fastened at the back, finished by a small linen kerchief tied in the front. A plain full woollen petticoat was in vogue, and the sleeves were turned back with pleated cuffs, the option in headgear being allowed between a close hood or kerchief and a plain hat of straw.

In the reign of Edward IV. the peasant women reverted most wisely to the bodice, which was cut low at the neck in a circular form; the plain skirts were gathered at the waist, and over a white linen cap they placed a hood and cape cut in one piece.

In the days when the greatest widower was achieving his conjugal record, an old country-man is described as wearing a "buttoned cap" (one with flaps over the ears, turned up and fastened with a button), a "lockram falling band, a narrow turned-down collar of coarse linen—coarse but clean, a russet-coat; a white belt of horse hide, right horse collar white leather; a close round breech of russet sheep's-wool, with a long stock of white kersey, and a high shoe with yellow buckles." A pretty fellow, I'm convinced.


In this reign, too, ornamental braid found its place on the costumes of the peasant women, whose bodices, cut square and edged with braid, were laced up at the back. However, novelty, which is ever desirable, was obtained by limiting the bodices, raising the waists, and tightening the full sleeves at the wrists, where they were finished with a small frill.

Braid later gained further patronage, and in the reign of Mary was allowed the privilege of ornamenting the full petticoats, when the closely-fitting bodices were still laced in V-shape and flaunted an upstanding collar of Medici tendency cut in one with revers. On the top of the sleeves was a padded roll, and upon the head a quaint cap displayed a small point in front, and bore a close resemblance in the crown to the penny bun.

The early Elizabethan peasant woman's dress consisted of a double skirt, the under one of serge, full, the upper one with braid round the hem, made in a contrasting shade, and folded back to form a panier. The tight-fitting bodice had a pointed plastron edged with ribbon on either side, and the bodice was bound at the hem with ribbon, which tied in a bow at the waist, a larger bow appearing at the bust, while round the neck a gauffered frill outspread itself with stiff importance. The sleeves were full, and the head was covered with a lawn cap, the crown of which was full, and the curtain, turning back in front, was trimmed with lace. Yet another style of dress worn at this period had a full skirt braided round the hem and an upper skirt with a wider braid, the square-cut bodice, also braided, being finished with a turned-down linen collar. The sleeves displayed double puffs[110] to the elbow, thence fitting tightly to the wrist, and braid again appeared on the mob-cap of lawn, and on the hem of the lawn apron.

This might have been the attire of many a wilful wench hieing forth on her holiday, in the hopes of catching a glimpse of some green-clad figure in the wake of gay Robin Hood.

Pleasant reading is of the milkmaid of the reign of James I.; she must have been a bonny figure in her box-pleated under-skirt of red serge, with a blue serge over-skirt tucked up on the hips. Her tight bodice was of blue and laced down the front, her sleeves were long and loose to allow of their being rolled back to the elbow, round her neck was wound a bright-coloured kerchief, and on her head another, while, for merrymaking and fêtes, she would tie her apron with coloured ribbons, and let bunches of ribbon adorn her smart high-heeled shoes. As an alternative to the kerchief she would wear over her hood a plain straw hat with a slightly turned-up brim decked with ribbons.

The Commonwealth brought with it austerity of dress; sad tones of dull brown and grey receiving popular patronage, while the formal linen cuffs, collar, and cap were ubiquitous. A plain material formed the over-skirt of many a dress which bore a striped under-skirt, tight sleeves, and a plain, tightly-fitting bodice. Cuffs and collars grew wider, the linen apron had two pockets, and there was added to costume a circular cape of dull serge. The high felt hat was adorned simply by a plain band of ribbon.

During the Restoration, colour asserted itself once more, and dress was again pretty, a commend[111]able example having a blue linen skirt with a band of fancy material round the hem, a full basque, and a linen collar, the front adorned with braid, the apron striped.

Stripes were quite a feature of fashion then and in the later days of William III., when the striped skirt would be adorned with a deep band of plain material trimmed with braid, the striped bodice cut V-shaped to show a vest of pleated linen, the sleeves being plain with linen cuffs, the apron of linen, and the cloth hood and cape cut in one piece.

Fancy materials were made in the reign of Anne, when short skirts frequently were composed of stripes beneath a plain over-skirt bunched on the hips. The bodice then came out in the glory of a muslin fichu, and the long sleeves were turned back to the elbow, the cap was of muslin too, with a full crown and gauffered edge. A charming picture of a country-woman of 1711 shows her wearing a tucked-up gown with short loose sleeves, a pair of stiff stays, and an apron, with high-heeled shoes and a low cap turned up in front. Caps yielded place to hats for the lower orders in the eighteenth century, when plain flat straw hats became the only wear, being recognised as serving a useful purpose in the carrying of fruit and fish.

Cretonne first enjoyed a share of recognition in the reign of George I., when the under-skirts were made of this in stripes, gathered at the waist, and over these was worn a serge skirt tucked up at the hips. The tight-fitting bodice was of serge laced in front, cut low in the neck, and outlined with a loosely-knotted handkerchief, the full sleeves being turned back below the elbows.


In glancing through the records, I find in the reign of George II. but little change from this state of affairs. The bodice was laced over a white linen chemisette, and finished with a deep collar and tight sleeves with frills of muslin at the elbow, the apron with its two pockets being ornamented with a deep band of embroidered muslin. The hair, however, received more attention, being tied round with a ribbon under a muslin cap, while a straw hat was worn over it when the fair maids took their walks abroad.

The modish mandate was reversed in the following reign, when the under-skirt was of serge with the over-skirt of chintz gathered on to the bodice, which was full at the back and opened in the front, the bodice being further adorned by lacings over a velvet vest, cut low, with a muslin fichu to put the finishing touch and white muslin frills appearing to adorn the tight sleeves. The apron of muslin had a large pocket on the right side, and the straw hat was invariably trimmed with a bow of ribbon, also placed on the right side.

When George IV. was king the full skirt was gathered on to the short bodice all round beneath a band of ribbon, which finished at the back to conceal the fact. The muslin fichu was generally adopted, padded rolls were on the shoulders, the white linen apron was long, and the head bowed itself to the fascinations of the bonnet of drawn white cambric.

A full woollen skirt, gathered round the waist, was the popular costume in the time of William IV., when the tight bodice buttoned down the front, a triple cape attached to a band of ribbon and fastened in the front was thrown over the shoulders, and[113] ribbon proved itself as serviceable as becoming over the crown of the straw hat, where it was placed to secure it firmly to its wearer.

My investigations by the way of Scotch and Irish and Welsh peasants have been few, but the details of one modern representative Irish peasant's dress I can quote as including "a short skirt of linsey turned up over a petticoat of red or some other bright colour, with the bodice belted round the waist and laced down the front, worn beneath a long frieze cloak with cap and hood; the head is covered with a kerchief." Of imperishable memory is the red Connemara colleen cloak; and the native Welsh dress is not less dear to the lovers of the picturesque, with its high pointed hat worn above a frilled lawn cap, the worsted shawl, the short petticoat, and white apron and trim shoes. The Highland dress was in its original form a chequered covering known as a breconfeile, a plain piece of tartan two yards wide and six yards in length placed round the waist in folds, and held in position by a leather belt. The plaid was fastened on the left shoulder by a large brooch, the right end hanging down longer than the left, being tucked into the belt, while the right arm was left uncovered save in the severest weather, when the plaid was thrown over the whole body. This was the wear, until the end of the eighteenth century, of Lowlanders and Highlanders alike.

The Scotch, and the Irish too, had a rooted antipathy to foot-gear, preferring to carry their shoes and stockings rather than permit them to do their proper duties, and when the etiquette of church-going demanded the sacrifice of this inclination, they yielded only during the service, afterwards[114] sitting on any convenient gravestone to remove the unwelcome impediments.

The national head-dress of the Highlanders is the round flat bonnet of blue cloth, with an eagle's feather; and for many centuries men and women wore plaids alike, the usual colours being white striped with red, black, or blue, the men's stockings matching these.

Thinking seriously over the dress of the peasant in the North, South, East, and West, I am tempted to protest that progression has meant retrogression, and that the modern country-woman, with her indiscreet lace-trimmed blouse revealing the ragged belt of her mud-coloured petticoat, makes a sorry figure in comparison with her sister-toiler of the past; and I recall sorrowfully even this description of an early Victorian peasant-woman's dress which reads: "To consist of a full skirt of print gathered into a band at the waist; there is a full crossover-bodice over a full vest of the same material, finished with a frill at the neck. The sleeves are full above the elbow with two puffs, and from these are tight to the wrists, and a muslin mob-cap is worn with a bow of ribbon in front."

The country-woman who dwells in the indulgent times of Edward VII. should ponder over the picture, and repent of her shapeless bodice divorced from her unsympathetic skirt, and her cloth cricket cap held by aggressive pins above a group of tortured wisps of hair bound in steel bondage to a cruel curler.




I regret, from the practical as well as the artistic point of view, the threatened disappearance of local colouring, as emphasised by the characteristic costume of the people, for I am convinced that the adoption of a uniform style of dress by a community greatly furthers the cause of neatness and economy.

No opportunity being afforded for the display of personal bad taste, extravagance is discouraged, and the spick and span are virtues which may distinguish the careful from the slatternly, and reveal much to the student of character. A love of colour and personal adornment is inherent in the human race, and it is to be regretted that the relentless advance of commerce is responsible for the blotting out of a country's individuality, and reducing all places to the same dead level of monotony.

Differing slightly but distinctly with the locality, the dress of the peasants of Brittany is second in interest to none in Europe. This fact, coupled with an instinctive conservatism common to those who "go down to the sea in ships," is, no doubt, accountable for the tenacity with which[116] the Bretons cling to their national costume, bearing it with them when they emigrate and donning it on gala occasions in the new land.

Peculiar to the peasant of Bignon is a white flannel petticoat, the hem surmounted by a scarlet band. Pleated at the waist, it joins a bodice fashioned from bright red cloth, which fits closely up to the throat and is edged with black velvet embroidered in various coloured worsteds, turned-back cuffs to match finishing the tight elbow-sleeves; while the apron, in a dark tone of mulberry, fastens by means of a sash tied in a bow at the side. Covering the head is a small cap of white linen, which serves as foundation for a conical erection contrived from a coarse starched texture resembling brown holland. To this is attached a pair of long flaps, which can be pinned up or left hanging according to the taste of the wearer. The well-to-do possess a necklace of amber and black beads, and a gold and ebony crucifix suspended from a narrow black velvet ribbon.

If dress be an outward and visible sign of character, then should the people of Quimper be the gayest of the gay. The costume of the district consists of a laced jacket with tight elbow-sleeves, supplemented by full white ones which reach to the wrist, and a short petticoat of ample proportions. Blue is a favourite shade for both corsage and skirt, which are frequently glorified by the addition of red and gold lace. Blue and pink inspire the sleeves, the under ones being of white, tied, au poignet, with yellow ribbon. The chemisette displays a multi-coloured collar, and the apron is in a vivid tone of orange.

The Morbihan department is distinguished by[117] a variety of head-dresses, some of which are exceedingly high, while all fit closely round the face, and many display pendent lappets behind.

Odd, but by no means unbecoming, is the costume of the Normandy peasant. The skirt is of striped woollen material, partially concealed beneath a red and blue apron. Of black, white, red, or maroon worsted, the bodice boasts long sleeves, some of which are scarlet in colour from wrist to elbow and dull claret to the shoulder, a small fringed shawl hiding the upper portion of the arm. Quite the most striking and important feature is the bourgoin. Evolved from stiff white muslin drawn over a cardboard shape, it is very high in the crown, the wide brim narrowing towards the back, whence dangle two lace streamers. The hair is turned up in a manner best described as clubbed, the ends disappearing beneath the cap, while on fête-days the head-dress is composed of the very finest muslin, elaborately trimmed with lace, and fastened by means of a velvet strap passed under the chin or across the forehead.

The bourgoin is encountered in its most ornate form, however, in the Pays de Caux, where it is reverently regarded as an heirloom and handed down from generation to generation. Wonderfully and fearfully made, the upper portion is of light blue pasteboard strewn with gold tinsel flowers, and ruffled with muslin bordered with lace. The brim is of scarlet velvet, lappets floating behind, and a chin-strap holding it in place. Unlike the women of Brittany, who carefully conceal all traces of hair, the Normandy peasant arranges hers in coquettish curls on the temples.

Despite their long and romantic association[118] with the country, and the impress they left on its architecture and its history, the influence of the Moors is in nowise apparent in the dress of the Spanish peasantry. The people of the Peninsula manage to unite in admirable fashion the practical with the picturesque, as expressed by the costumes peculiar to the different provinces. What, for instance, could be more happily conceived than the dress of a Castilian peasant? The short sleeveless coat, or bolero, consists of coloured cotton edged with an appliqué design in imitation of coarse braid. This is worn in conjunction with a shirt of white cotton conspicuous for a stand-up collar and sleeves to the elbow, a wide red sash encircling the waist, where it is held firmly in place by a narrow leather belt on which the wearer's name, or that of his fiancée, is embroidered. The tight knickerbockers are of serviceable texture, gartered at the knee, each showing four silver or gilt buttons in a row up the outside of the leg. The gaiters combine the duty of stockings, and are supplemented by low, thick-soled sandals, termed alpargatās or espardeñas, tied round the ankle with gay ribbons. The fête costume of the women embraces a voluminous skirt of fine cloth, extending below the knees and trimmed about the bottom with wide and narrow bands of black ribbon velvet, and an apron, likewise of cloth, but in a contrasting colour, bordered with gold lace or passementerie. The closely-fitting jacket reaches to the hips; the seams are outlined in gold lace, and the sleeves slashed open from the elbow to the wrist to reveal white under-sleeves belonging to the chemisette, a second glimpse of which is caught at the neck in front. An immensely long coral chain is wound countless[119] times about the throat, and dangling from it are sacred medallions and variously sized crosses, the whole forming a plastron which descends to the waist. White cotton stockings are usual—red ones indicating a bride—and black leather shoes relieved with ribbon rosettes. The hair is plaited, tied with black velvet, and allowed to hang down behind, and the mitre-shaped hat is of black velvet trimmed up each side with a serried row of silver buttons.

In Valencia the peasantry of both sexes affect sandals laced up the leg. The women wear a short, brightly coloured skirt and an apron, the lower portion of which is in one shade and the upper in another, the latter being brilliantly embroidered. The tight bodice laces in front across a white chemisette, and displays long, closely-fitting sleeves, while the head is enclosed in a white bonnet which forms a frill round the neck, and is surmounted by a hat with a shallow crown, and a brim shaped like an inverted saucer. The dress of the men is correspondingly simple, comprising a light-blue linen waistcoat buttoned up to the chin, where it is finished with a white collar, a sash, and a short open coat, remarkable for buttons down both sides. The trousers terminate at the calf, and a red handkerchief is wound round the head.

In the mountain fastnesses of Catalonia, the women wear, in lieu of a bonnet, a white veil, which falls to the waist behind, and a crossover fichu fashioned of cotton, and chiefly notable for a decorative border in a contrasting shade. Little is seen of the bodice beyond the tight sleeves, which finish at the wrist with a band of black[120] velvet and a silver buckle, and the ankle-length skirt is almost concealed by a full round apron. All the jewellery common to the district is exceptionally massive and set with red or green stones, the pendent ear-rings of gold or silver being so heavy that they have to be supported by cords, lest they should tear the flesh.

A male peasant belonging to the same locality dons a short open coat of light-blue velvet, long-sleeved and boasting diminutive revers and silver buttons. The white cotton shirt introduces a turned-down collar and a gaily-coloured cravat, tied in a sailor's knot and drawn through a silver ring, and the waistcoat consists of striped red and white calico, while a scarlet sash supports tight knickerbockers of blue velvet. These are met by leggings of tan leather, the low shoes being attached by means of thongs, after the style of sandals. Shaped somewhat like a fool's cap, the peak of the scarlet head-dress is rolled over in front to form a wide flap immediately above the brows, a last touch being given by a striped red and yellow scarf thrown over the left shoulder, the ends edged with deep fringe and pendent balls. For the mayor, or that important local dignitary the driver of the diligence, the back of the coat is embroidered with a pot of flowers in florid tints, while another badge of office, pertaining to the same functionaries, is a patch of scarlet or green cloth on either elbow.

A peasant woman of Asturias, is distinguished by a full skirt below the knees, and a short narrow apron of black velvet traced with a checked design in silver braid. A joyously-patterned cotton handkerchief is arranged on the head, and tied in a[121] butterfly bow in front, and the tight bodice boasts closely-fitting sleeves, turned back with black velvet cuffs embroidered in a variety of brilliant shades, a small fringed shawl crossing at the bust and tying at the waist behind. White thread stockings and black shoes complete the picture.


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The mere mention of the word Switzerland is sufficient to conjure up a medley of conflicting emotions. Thoughts of Nestlé's milk, Peter's chocolate, Cook's parties, and picture post-cards adorned with edelweiss, struggle to obliterate memories of majestic mountains whose hoary peaks pierce the calm blue of a cloudless sky, of sunsets of awful beauty, and of sunrises which flood the cold white Alps with roseate light, changing the silver of the lakes to burnished gold. Homelier visions arise of wooden chalets daintily perched high on the mountain side, or low in the valley, of milk and honey, white butter and black bread, and of fair-haired waitresses in national costume.

Each canton has its distinctive dress.

The peasant women of Lucerne wear large flat hats of smooth straw, the crown encircled by bows of ribbon interrupted by a bunch of flowers. The tri-coloured skirt barely covers the knee, where it is met by white stockings, and the corselet displays lace, embroidery, and brass or silver buttons. The white chemisette vaunts full short sleeves, and fits up to the throat, where it is occasionally finished with a broad frill, while the hair is drawn off the forehead and hangs down the back in two plaits.

In Solerne the dress of the feminine portion of the community includes a white petticoat[122] edged with pink, which just shows beneath a black skirt embroidered with red, while round the neck is knotted a black silk kerchief, the bodice being red and green and the chemisette of white muslin with wide sleeves to the elbow. Snowy muslin inspires the large cap with its gauffered frill, other details being white stockings, ribbon garters, and black shoes laced with scarlet.

Possibly the prettiest costume of all is to be found in the Canton of St. Gall. On Sundays and fête-days it comprises a small white muslin cap, lined with green silk and displaying a crimson crown. The hair is drawn into a single plait at the back of the head, fastened with long gold or silver pins. The snowy chemisette finishes with a moderately-sized ruffle at the throat, and disappears into a velvet stomacher, the little open jacket bearing a border of coloured ribbons.

Quite the most gaudy dress is that characteristic of Grison. The bodice is of bright orange, laced with green ribbon over a blue stomacher, and the skirt is in a penetrating tone of violet hemmed with green, in brilliant contrast to red stockings worked with white clocks. The effect is happily modified by a black lace cap, which forms a point on the forehead and is tied under the chin.

To those in quest of the eminently becoming, the costume of the women of Unterwalden commends itself. The hair is parted in front, and hangs down behind in two plaits joined by a species of slide in silver. The short full skirt is evolved from coarse brown material, the stockings are blue and the shoes black, with metal heels and ribbon bows. The apron is provided with a scarlet bib, and the sleeveless corsage is filled in with a white[123] chemisette, with puffed elbow-sleeves terminating in black velvet bands and frills of lace. About the neck is a deep filigree silver collar, from which hang two enormous silver pendants, one resting on the bust at either side.


The typical Roman peasant woman makes a picturesque figure in a skirt of some dark material and an apron brightly trimmed with two broadish bands of embroidery, one appearing immediately below the hips and the other at the knees. The tight, sleeveless corsage laces behind, and is supported by narrow shoulder-straps, while the white chemisette has long sleeves and is low at the throat. Ordinarily the hair is allowed to hang loosely beneath a head-dress fashioned from a length of snowy linen, folded in such a way as to form a narrow strip, which is pinned at the temples and flung back to hang down behind. All but the very poorest[124] wear necklaces, pendent ear-rings, chains and crosses.


The costume of the Trastaverini, although they are inhabitants of the same city, differs somewhat from that of the Romans. The women plait their[125] hair, decorate it with silver bodkins, and confine it in a silk net. On gala days they don velvet bodices laced with gold, and silk skirts, which may be white to match the chemisette, or coloured, an essential accessory being a scarlet apron. The men also wear silk nets, their jackets being of black velvet enlivened by red silk sashes, while their black shoes vaunt large silver buckles.

In some of the Pontifical States there is striking resemblance between the dress common to the district and that associated with the Irish peasantry. The women tie kerchiefs on their heads in the same way as their Hibernian sisters, a second point of similarity existing in the hooded cloaks.


Strangely incongruous though it seems, when taken in conjunction with their sunny clime and joyous levity of temperament, the peasantry of Florence exhibit a marked predilection for black. On fête-days the Tuscans don a tiny hat cocked at[126] an acute angle over the left ear, the hair at the other side being profusely decorated with pearls or an ornamental comb. They also display a pretty taste in jewellery, wearing pearl ear-rings and pearl and coral necklaces, other articles of attire including black velvet slippers, and sleeveless bodices laced with ribbon over a white chemisette. Occasionally the hair is turned up in a knot beneath a veil which hangs down behind, but, when working or going to market, the women imprison it in a silken mesh adorned with tassels, the latter being sometimes of gold and silver.

The Bolognese peasant women continue faithful to the tradition of the zendada, a veil falling from the plaited hair and draped over the shoulders in graceful fashion. Coral is greatly in demand for purposes of adornment, and combs and pins are liberally employed to decorate the hair.

So intense is her love for finery, that in Lombardy it is a common occurrence for a peasant woman to spend all her earnings upon jewellery, going barefoot the while. Another weakness of hers takes the direction of large German fans in black and gold. These are much in evidence at all festivities in Turin. Bright colours are preferred to sombre ones, and it is easy to distinguish girls from married women, as the latter have square linen veils, while the former allow their hair to be seen, braiding it, and fastening it with a comb or formidable-looking pin.


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Economical and self-denying though she may be in other respects, the peasant woman of Genoa is recklessly extravagant the moment it is a question of jewellery. To what lengths her passion for display carries her may be gauged from the fact[127] that when she is going to be married she thinks nothing of paying seven or eight hundred francs for a necklace.


Not only are the Croatian women noted for their unusual beauty of face and form, they are equally famous for their industry, and the national costume is a marvel of needlework. The example illustrated on page 124 shows embroidery playing its part on the sleeves, the full skirt, and the bodice. The chemisette is of white lawn, and jewels are around the neck, and flowers wreathe the head over a lawn cap which conceals the hair.

The sketch of the Croatian man on page 125 shows him in a hat of black felt, a coat of white bordered with blue, and a cape lined with red, edged with a pattern formed by an application of red cloth.

A more elaborate edition of this dress permits a gold fringe on the low crown of the hat, and a red fringe on a deep leather pouch which is held on the left hip by a leather strap.






Departing from the classical severity of palla and peplum, the dress of modern Greece has nothing in common with that of a people who scaled the heights of immortality in the simplest of garbs. Peasant women wear spangled petticoats of blue or pink silk, a long-waisted costume of purple velvet embroidered in gold, high-heeled shoes which display silver buckles, and a kerchief draped on the plaited hair.

The men resemble the typical stage brigand, in a double-breasted waistcoat of blue or maroon velvet edged with gold lace, a row of gold or silver buttons running from either shoulder to meet at the waist, which is encircled by a brilliantly coloured sash.

A distinguishing note is given by the thoraki, a characteristic garment of blue cotton, suggesting in form a stiff sack wider at the bottom than the top, with holes at the corners for the legs to pass through. A substitute for this is a white petticoat to the knees, and other accessories are white stockings and black shoes with large silver buckles.

Some resemblance to the costume of ancient Greece may be traced in the dress of the shepherds, who wear cloaks of sheep's wool or goat's hair, with bare feet encased in sandals of untanned leather strapped across the instep and up the lower portion of the leg. Thus attired, might the Pyrrhian have climbed those mountains which looked on Marathon, as Marathon looked on the sea.




In Russia the convention of dress may not serve as an index to the mind of the country, for the peasant is allowed to share with the prince a fancy for gold, coloured embroidery, and silk and jewels, and it has not yet become necessary for the Duma to include an advocate in the cause of costume.

The history of Russia is inscribed upon the dress of its people. Travelling from north to south and from east to west, the costumes of the peasantry everywhere bear the impress of the political vicissitudes through which the particular locality has passed. This, coupled with the fact that no empire in the world is made up of such an agglomeration of vastly different races, accounts for the immense diversity of styles.

To gain some idea of the ingredients which go to make up the sartorial pot-pourri, one has but to pay a visit to the great annual fair at Nijni Novgorod. There Cossack rubs shoulders with Finn, Jew with Laplander, Tartar with Slav, Persian, Siberian, Bulgarian, and Circassian adding to the interest of the scene and the Babel of tongues. As everything Russian leads up to the one forbidden, and therefore burning, question, politics, it is impossible even to[131] treat of the national costume without touching lightly upon those crises which determined the ultimate cut of a sleeve or the shape of a head-dress.

Long ago Byzantium imposed its religion and its fashions upon its great northern neighbour. Both were readily adopted by Russia, and a significant side-light is thrown upon the national character by the fact that when, in the thirteenth century, the Mongolian invasion reversed the political situation, the vanquished adopted the dress of their conquerors, but not their faith. This is strictly true of all but the sovereigns, whose costume remained more or less faithful to tradition, and never entirely departed from the Byzantium original.

Although Byzantium dictated the fashions of the classes, the masses were unaffected thereby, and the costumes of the serfs trace their source to Slav and Tartar, according to the district.

The first things to impress the foreigner are the gorgeous nature of the fête dresses worn by the women, and the lavish use of gold trimming. This love of gold, as applied to decorative purposes, would appear inherent in the Russian character, revealing itself in the heavy gilding on the icons and the many glittering domes of Moscow and St. Petersburg. More suggestive of a fairy princess than of a peasant is the gala toilet of the female population of Tver. Contrived from thick silk shot with gold, the wide round skirt is pleated behind, the opening down the front and the hem bordered with gold, while the white chemisette vaunts puffed elbow-sleeves finished with frills, three rows of pearls encircling the collarless neck. In summer time the little sarafan, or, for want of a better term, jacket, is made without sleeves and resembles a[132] short full petticoat that sticks out, as though stiffened, at the bottom. It, too, is of brightly coloured silk, and descends from the armpits to below the hips, being supported by gold shoulder-straps, an edging of gold galon running round the bottom and up the fronts. The head-dress consists of a species of gilt diadem set with artificial gems in coloured glass. This encircles the base of an erection of stiffened calico, reminiscent in shape of the glass shades designed to protect those floral atrocities in Berlin-wool and wax that were so dear to the heart of the early Victorian housewife. Concealing the structure is a voluminous veil of white silk or gauze, striped or strewn with flowers, and invariably bordered with gold. The duty of gloves is performed by casings of velvet and sable, which cover the back of the hand and enclose the finger-tips, while leaving the palm and thumb free.

Still more beautiful and sumptuous is the fête dress of the women of Torjok. They wear a singular head-dress known as kokoschink, which, literally translated, signifies the crest of a hen, the why and wherefore of the name being a riddle beyond the power of the average intelligence to solve. Modelled on the lines of a reversed funnel, the tall slender crown of the kokoschink is white, encircled by narrow bands of gold, and surmounted in the case of married women by a metal ornament which may be triangular, oval, round, or crescent-shaped. The only rule from which no departure may be made is that the crown be absolutely vertical, whereas the crown common to the spinster of the community slants abruptly towards the front. All without exception display a brim composed of an outstanding frill of white lace encrusted with seed[133] pearls, and an enormous veil of white gauze embroidered and edged with gold, which is attached to the top of the kokoschink and floats over the shoulders, the two points dipping to touch the ground at either side.

These veils are not, as might easily be supposed, of Mohammedan origin, nor are they even remotely associated with romance. As a matter of fact, nothing could well be more prosaic than their history, for they were first adopted as a protection against the plague of flies with which the district is infested in warm weather.

Pre-eminently picturesque, the costume they shroud reveals a skirt of such generous proportions as to recall memories of the crinoline. This is of silk, and buttons down the front, and it is not only edged with gold, but bears an all-over pattern traced in gold galon. The loose sleeveless jacket terminates below the waist, where it stands out stiffly, and is of similar texture, treated in equally lavish style with gold, the huge leg-o'-mutton sleeves belonging to the white chemisette being richly embroidered in gold thread. The throat is hidden by an unyielding cravat of white taffetas ruled with fine gold cord, the short ends crossed under the chin; and the shoes are of morocco or velvet, with a design worked in gold threads.

In winter the veil is abandoned in favour of a shawl of white taffetas fringed with gold, worn over a modified version of the summer kokoschink, in pale blue silk, embroidered with seed pearls and gold. The all-enveloping greatcoat is of cloth or velvet, edged with fur, and lapped well over on the right side, where it fastens near the shoulder only. A feature of the wrap is the sleeve, which[134] is narrow and of abnormal length, terminating below the knees in a fur cuff, no hint being allowed to transpire of the hands thus jealously guarded from the unwelcome attentions of frost.

The peasant woman of Riazan wears black shoes, white stockings rucked at the ankles, a shortish skirt of bright blue cotton, and a fringed apron worked in a variety of colours, notably yellow and scarlet. The chief garment is the ponka, a loose round coat to the knees, very like that of a Chinaman, fashioned from white linen edged with a narrow border of red, the wide elbow-sleeves terminating in an inch-deep band of the same. Open in front, the jacket allows a liberal view of a red blouse, worked in a characteristic cross-stitch design in brilliant shades, the long "bishop" sleeves being of plain Turkey-red, finished with shallow frills hemmed with blue in a tone corresponding to that of the skirt. Almost impossible to describe in words, the kitschka, or local head-dress, can best be pictured as a miniature version of the bonnet characteristic of the Salvation Army lass. Composed of red velvet, it is neatly draped with a silk kerchief the shade of the feathers on a pigeon's breast. From the back dangle two unequal ends, one on top of the other, white edged with red, the extremities consisting of stiffened squares of scarlet passementerie, trimmed at the bottom with shallow red fringe.

In striking contrast to the types already mentioned, the costume of a Tartar woman bears evidence of her Oriental descent, the memory of which she strives still further to perpetuate by staining her nails with henna and blackening her eyebrows and hair. She betrays a decided predilection for[135] striped silken textures, which she occasionally varies in favour of a large all-over pattern. Her ordinary toilet is composed of baggy trousers concealed beneath a long flowing robe of red and white figured silk, surmounted by a second shapeless garment to the knees in the nature of a coat. The last is evolved from striped pink and white silk, and fastens near the right shoulder with three small metal buttons set closely together, while through the loosely flapping fronts protrudes the fringed end of a sumptuously embroidered sash. Covering the head and shoulders is a sweeping veil of white silk, pin striped with green, that falls to the ground and envelops the figure after the fashion of a cloak, slits being provided for the hands to pass through; and although the Tartars are Mohammedans by religion, the face is left bare.

Although palpably designed for use rather than ornament, the dress of the women of Kherson is far from being wholly unattractive. A white kerchief, drawn over the head, falls in points on the shoulders, concealing the hair, but leaving the ears exposed to show dangling ear-rings. The chemisette of thick white cotton introduces a touch of colour at the wrists of the wide sleeves, and the loose sleeveless bodice reveals a heart-shaped opening in front, and is confined by a striped scarf wound about the waist and held by a leather belt fastened with an imposing silver clasp. The narrow fringed apron is of carpet material over a plain skirt cut short above the ankles to reveal a gaily-embroidered petticoat.

The ceremonial costume of the women of Simbirsk is very peculiar. High and square, the[136] hat is of velvet, with a close brim composed of a broad hand of white sheep's wool drawn down over the brows, giving the wearer a slightly lowering expression. A shower of gilt coins jangles in the ears, and the long-sleeved white tunic fits tightly up to the throat and ceases abruptly at the knees, where it is met by leggings of white felt cross-gartered the entire distance, the garters doing double duty, as they serve as supports for the low shoes. The most extraordinary and characteristic feature of the entire toilet is a large square breast-plate of white metal covered with pieces of money and copper discs, which combine the roles of amulets and ornaments. This odd and warrior-like decoration is divided across the centre, and so forms two separate portions, the upper being so arranged that it laps over the under, when rendered necessary by the movements of the body. In addition, a small silver cross is worn suspended from a ribbon passed round the neck.

Specially interesting by reason of the fact that Nijni Novgorod is the scene of the most important fair in the world, the dress of the women of the district consists of a fringed and embroidered shawl which envelops the head and shoulders and is pinned under the chin. As is only to be expected, fur plays a part in the trimming. The wide jacket reaches to the waist, and reveals fur cuffs and an edging of fur about the bottom and up the fronts. Not quite ankle length, the brocade skirt is bordered with fringe, the plain or brocaded under-skirt descending to the ground. Both skirts are immensely wide, and suggest the presence of a hooped petticoat.[137] The shawl and outer jacket removed, there are attractive revelations of a sleeveless corsage of brocade and a white chemisette conspicuous for sleeves that puff with exaggeration at the shoulder and again below the elbow, finally coming in tightly at the wrist and ending in frills. The jewellery, as is usual in Russia, is of a ponderous type, and is most popular in the form of chains, necklaces, and finger-and ear-rings.

The women of the people still plaster their faces crudely with white and red cosmetics: a mode once in favour with the upper classes, but now condemned as distinctly bad form and savouring of barbarity.

I cannot leave Russia without some reference to the Jews, who write now as ever an important chapter in their history.

No Jew can justly be counted a peasant, since no member of the race is allowed to be a land-owner, his utmost privilege permitting him to be a tenant farmer. The distinctive garment remains what it has been through many centuries—the gaberdine; but some concession is made to modern opinion by the black peaked cap, which, in place of the old skull-cap, is worn in the streets by the less prejudiced.

The gaberdine buttons down the front to the waist, hangs to the ankles, and is usually now made of black cloth, silk, or moiré, held at the waist by a folded belt. It is finished at the neck by a soft turn-down collar attached to an under-shirt, and it conceals from view loose trousers and high boots; in winter it is lined with fur. The chin is unshaven, and a pendent curl hangs from either temple; and reverence for the old[138] traditions upholds the custom that on the Fast or Atonement day of the Jews, the patriarch of the family shall attend the synagogue in his shroud, and that the praying-shawl or taleth of white, with a border of blue, be worn every day at devotions.

The Jewish women of the poorer class wear a white kerchief over the head, crossed on the bust of a black sateen jacket, which buttons on the slant and reaches below the hips. The short skirt beneath is of a vivid tone of red, covered by a white apron, and the most vital difference between the Jew and the other races in Russia is the significant absence of the cross.

The working dress of the Jew consists of a pair of baggy trousers disappearing into top-boots, and a white shirt drawn into the waist by a leather belt, surmounted by a round cloth cap, for no religious Jew ever uncovers his head. The hair would seem to have some special importance, for no Jewish woman who marries is allowed to retain her tresses; they are cropped or shaved close to the head, which is covered by a black satin cap, down the centre of which a white thread is sewn in imitation of a parting. This sacrifice is demanded of all who would enjoy matrimony; and the great question as to whether the cause is worthy has not yet been aired in any halfpenny daily issued at St. Petersburg.

Chancing upon a book of costume, which included details of the dress worn by a tribe known as the Wotiaks, who inhabit a small village in Siberia, I learned that the women wear a peculiar costume consisting of a shift of coarse linen, slit in front like a man's shirt, and hemmed up at[139] either side with worsted of different colours. The gown, which is woollen, somewhat in the shape of the habit of the Jesuits in college, reaches to the knees, and is fastened by a girdle. The head-dress is very remarkable and intricate, including much wrapping of a towel, over which is placed a helmet made of the bark of a tree, ornamented by a piece of cloth and copecs, and covered with a handkerchief wrought with worsted of different colours and edged with a fringe.

The Mordvine women, if married, have the privilege of wearing a high cap worked in coloured threads, with flaps hanging down at the back, adorned with chains and pendent fringes. The linen petticoats and aprons show much embroidery of red and blue and many fringes, and tassels and beads hang down behind.

Linen and ribbons, embroidery and coloured worsted, are the common features of dresses in all the villages, and the plait of hair, with strings of coral and ribbon, afford the young girl some opportunity for coquetry; and at Kirguise there is a head-dress specially worthy of note. Three or four yards of material are placed on the head, with the ends hanging on either side of the face, and over this is bound another stuff to form a turban, the hair being plaited in two and brought up over the head to fall down again over the ears.

In Cracow the open shirt is decked with collar and wristbands tied with ribbons, and over this is a tunic reaching to the knee, fastened in front, and held by a girdle ornamented with copper studs. The cap of cloth bordered with fur is common in this district as in many others.


The dress of the Saxon peasants near Dresden bears a suggestion of joy in its multi-coloured details. They wear dark petticoats with white jackets and aprons; and round the neck a scarlet handkerchief, the ends of which appear under the jacket, and a huge frill tied with a large blue bow in front and a large crimson one at the back. The hair is quite hidden by a closely-fitting cap of crimson with a white border, or a coloured handkerchief is pinned tightly round the head, and big bows are placed at the back.

The men in the Tyrol wear short coats, bordered and lined with a bright colour, and they show their polychromatic prejudices further in their vests of green, yellow, or scarlet, striped with black and white. Their short trousers reach to their bare knees, and are ornamented with designs in white thread, and their green felt hats are conical in shape, with narrow brims, flaunting a bunch of coloured ribbons on one side.

The dress worn by the women is very pretty, displaying a yellow or red stomacher and dark bodice, worn over nine or ten full short petticoats in different colours. The aprons have coloured borders, and a black handkerchief is crossed over the bosom under the stomacher, fur being permitted to trim the sleeves when long; but with the short sleeve the white frill puts in an appearance at the elbow, and black mittens embroidered in colours cover the hands and arms.

Huge caps with plaited crowns, with a feather or bunch of flowers, constitute the ordinary head-dress; and the hair is turned back from the face, braided at the back, and kept in place by very long gold pins. The stockings have quaint[141] limitations, reaching only from knee to ankle, and the shoes are of black leather.

Quaintness is the distinguishing feature of the Dutch peasant, men and women,—the latter in their full and very short petticoats, laced bodice and long tight sleeves, the hair bound and knotted with ribbons; the former in their closely-fitting coats with monster pockets, very wide breeches, and long waistcoats.

"I don't like them buttons," a millionaire model once said to his portrait painter; and a criticism of this kind would come with a touch of authority from the rich Guelderland peasant, whose costume is all buttons. Coat, waistcoat, waistband, trousers, and shoes are all decorated with gold and silver buttons, while at the throat is a silver clasp, and the women have gold ornaments on their dress and in their hair, and golden trinkets hang about them everywhere with more recklessness than reason.

The peasants of French Flanders wear short full petticoats, and a jacket laced up the front, gold ear-rings and a golden cross being conspicuous features of their costume, which includes a black bib and a cap with a pleated border. A short coat of black and a veil of three or four yards of stuff are added for "walking out."

The Westphalian peasant appears to have an odd taste in headgear, judging from the picture on page 142, and the black bow which extends beyond either ear must be stiffened with whalebone to induce it to such a rectitude of conduct. The small linen turban is held by a piece of black ribbon, beneath which appears a band of white lawn. Black lends a picturesque touch to the[142] front of the low bodice, which is outlined by a handkerchief of white lawn held in front by two elaborate designs of embroidery; embroidery of green and black and red putting in its appearance round the hem of the plain serge skirt.



The comfortable advantage of reindeer skin was appreciated by the Norwegian peasants in their dress of olden times, and cloaks of this were generally worn until the city of Bergen was built by King Oluf in the eleventh century, and the coming of foreign merchants introduced a variety of new fashions. According to Norwegian chroniclers, the natives took greedily to fine laced hose, golden plates buckled round their legs, high-heeled shoes stitched with silk and covered with tissue of gold, jackets that buttoned on the side, with sleeves ten feet long, pleated up to the shoulders.

The long reindeer-skin garment did not, however, disappear entirely, until the rule of short clothes and bare legs was inaugurated by King Magnus Olufsen.

The varieties of fashion do not seem to affect the peasants now; they note with indifference the changes of costume, and cling mainly to the dress which has descended through many generations. Their breeches and stockings are cut in one; their waistcoats are of woollen material with the seams covered with cloth of different colour; on their heads they wear brown, grey, or black caps, or broadly brimmed hats; while their heel-less shoes are made of two pieces of leather, and the laced half-boots used in winter are covered with sealskin.

The Swedish peasants are devoted to long coats of cloth lined with sheepskin, and the women choose their woollen gowns striped with green and white and red.

The Norwegian fête dress consists of a laced jacket and leather girdle set with silver, and indispensable are many rows of chain holding a gilt or silver pendant. The kerchief and cap are covered[144] with silver, tin, and brass plates, buttons and rings being used ad libitum, and very fine linen is amongst the luxuries.

Almost every parish in Norway has its own colour, a scheme which might considerably assist the police and municipal authorities in the sordid byways of crime, or the roseate paths of romance.


The Hungarian peasant women may be noted in passing for their yellow leather boots and low iron heels, and they study the serviceable and the beautiful in their many coloured bodices and petticoats, and white apron and long plaits. The Hungarian peasant woman illustrated shows the effect of white linen for the head, with the dress of canvas embroidered in red and blue and violet.

The fête dress of the Morlacchi woman is a gorgeous affair, with a chemisette embroidered in[145] gold and red, and the blue petticoat upheld by a woollen girdle trimmed with shells. The stockings are red, and the shoes of undressed leather. The unmarried women wear strange head ornaments, including a scarlet cap with a pendent veil, and such decorations as silver coins, glass beads, feathers, shells, artificial flowers, and glass plumes, all of which elegancies are dispensed with at the altar, for the matron enwraps her head with a handkerchief and allows her hair to fall simply over her shoulders. The virgin conceals her hair with a cap, and twists beads and coins amongst her locks in approved Tartar fashion. The married woman is allowed the ease of the Turkish slipper, and all alike wear strings of beads round the neck, and as many brass and tin rings as they can obtain; and bracelets of leather covered with wrought silver or tin, and embroidered stomachers adorned with beads and shells express the last word of "smartness."

The Finland peasant woman seems to be the only one with a nice appreciation of brown. She chooses this for her bodice, with a short skirt of black, and her sleeves are loose and decked with blue and red, and round her neck are five rows of large beads, while her pendent ornaments are of beads, and her quaint little apron of blue is striped with blue and black and a design in yellow and red beads. The white kerchief covers the head and forehead, falling on to her shoulders, and round her waist is fastened a belt striped with red and fringed.

But gather your peasant costume where you may, whether in the North or the West of Europe, you will find its most prominent details the contrasting colour of the bodice, the blue and red embroidery,[146] the silver and gold ornaments, and the linen and canvas fabrics. The kerchief and the cap are the distinguishing features, and the shape and fashion of the jewellery are inspired as often as not by the prevailing religious rites and the superstitious beliefs of the district.


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All over China, and particularly in official circles, dress is determined by certain fixed laws, the result being that every detail possesses a meaning for those capable of interpreting it. The most significant feature is the button which adorns the crowns of hats peculiar to Mandarins, while embroideries likewise assist in determining the status of the wearer. Colour is another factor of importance. Yellow is sacred to the Emperor, the members of the Imperial family, and those privileged few to whom the sovereign desires to award the highest honour. Red is exclusively reserved for Mandarins, but blue, violet, and black are common property.

In the matter of feminine attire, fashion is equally subjective to legislature, and has varied little throughout the centuries. With regard to the ladies of the Imperial household, the rules laid down for their guidance, in the matter of personal adornment, are as comprehensive as stringent.

Custom not only ordains that the Emperor shall have one hundred and thirty wives, it also decrees what they shall wear.

As chief wife and equal in all points to her[148] Celestial consort, it is incumbent upon the Empress to be distinguished from her entourage by the magnificence of her raiment. For this she depends upon the materials employed and the embroideries, as the costume common to all Chinese women of position is modelled on similar lines, namely, a long under-dress, usually of plain silk, arranged in stiff, overlapping pleats at the foot. This is surmounted by an over-dress in a contrasting colour, elaborately embroidered with the insignia of the husband's rank, and terminating just below the knees, while the sleeves reach to the wrist, where they are supplemented by tight inner sleeves, belonging to the under-dress, and almost completely concealing the hand. The collar is not more than an inch deep, and is round in shape, a becoming touch being added by a narrow scarf of soft silk twisted once about the throat, and knotted loosely, with the ends allowed to hang unevenly in front. A rare illumination depicts the Empress seated upon a throne of carved wood draped with green silk. On her head is a cope-like erection edged with dangling pearl fringe, her jewellery consisting of jade ear-rings and bracelets contrived from the same precious stone. Her under-robe is sumptuously embroidered in a dazzling variety of colours, pleated and lined with gold tissue, while the upper garment is of red silk, worked in an all-over design of dragons, emblematic of Imperialism by reason of the distinguishing five claws, the border being of dark blue richly embroidered in sombre tones. In her right hand she holds the sceptre, a twisted stick headed by a fabulous bird.

Next in rank to the Empress are the three wives known by the title of Fou-gin. Etiquette[149] decrees that they shall wear dresses adorned with feathers worked in five shades. Inferior again to these are the nine Imperial consorts known as Pins. To them are assigned robes of brilliant yellow, the thirty-seven Chi-fous donning white. The lowest wives of all are the Yu-tsis, eighty in number, and they are doomed to appear in black.

The over-dress common to Chinese ladies is coat-shaped, and opens up the sides for a considerable distance, another distinctive feature being the sleeves, which boast a single seam under either arm and are cut in one with the remainder of the garment, which, in winter, is lined with the costliest fur.

Considerable attention is devoted to the hair. In Pekin girls arrange theirs in tufts on the temples, while the back hangs down in multitudinous plaits. As soon as they become engaged they turn it up and thrust a silver pin, a foot in length, through the thick tresses. This pin, by the way, is as significant of betrothal as is the ring in Europe. On her wedding day the bride's hair is shaven in front, to heighten the forehead, and the remainder braided and coiled about a stiff black silk frame which rests on the nape of the neck. This done, flowers, feathers, glass ornaments, or, for the rich, jewellery set with uncut stones, are added. A popular style on ordinary occasions is to twist the hair into outstanding bunches at either ear and decorate the excrescences with flowers.

A small foot is highly esteemed as a beauty, and causes its possessor to be ardently sought after in marriage. The practice, however, of mutilating[150] the feet in order to achieve the desired result is limited to one daughter out of five in each family, while the women of Tartary disdain the notion altogether. The diminutive foot, erroneously held to be typical of all Chinese ladies of rank, is encased in a silk or cotton slipper raised on a thick, inclined sole. Those who are incapable of getting into a shoe compared with which Cinderella's glass slipper would appear gigantic, have recourse to the stratagem of wearing a similar model fitted with a high heel set in the middle of the sole. Perched on such an uncertain support, they walk with the mincing steps and swaying gait which, for them, constitute the acme of grace, but which, in barbarian eyes, suggest nothing more alluring than an imminent danger of toppling over.

Abnormally long finger-nails are likewise held to enhance the natural charms of lovely woman, and the use of cosmetics is freely indulged in. A fan is always carried, and frequently a pipe, conspicuous for a diminutive bowl and long slender stem.

As representing officialdom, the Mandarins, or Kwans, as they are called in their own country, are quite the most important body of men in the Celestial Empire. They are divided into nine classes, each of which is subdivided into two. A glance at the button on the hat is sufficient to determine the rank of the wearer.

The significance attached to this particular decoration is as follows:—

    Class.  Degree.
Red { A ruby or other precious stone 1st 1st
  { Coral  1st 2nd
  { A red jewel of inferior quality 2nd  1st
  { Coral carved in the form of a flower   2nd 2nd
Blue[151] { A light-blue precious stone 3rd 1st
  { The same only smaller 3rd 2nd
  { A dark-blue precious stone 4th 1st
  { The same only smaller 4th 2nd
White { Crystal 5th 1st
  { The same only smaller 5th 2nd
  { A white precious stone 6th 1st
  { The same only smaller 6th 2nd
Gold { Gold   7th 1st
  { Smaller 7th 2nd
  { Smaller   8th 1st
  { Smaller 8th 2nd

The last class of all is similarly represented by a gold button. The button employed on ceremonial occasions differs from that worn every day, in that it is round, whereas the latter is oblong.

Another distinctive feature of a Mandarin's dress is the pectoral—a small piece of material attached to the breast. In the case of civil dignitaries it is embroidered with birds, while in that of military authorities it displays quadrupeds.


The official costume consists of a long, loose gown which opens up the centre and is gorgeously embroidered with dragons or winged serpents. The claws further testify to the rank of the wearer, those dragons possessing three or four being the exclusive privilege of members of the first four classes, who are also entitled to wear peacock's feathers at the back of their hats, and chains of coral, the red parasol being another of their prerogatives. Over the under-robe is worn an ample coat of plain silk extending below the knees. This has wide sleeves, which allow a view of tight under-sleeves pertaining to the embroidered robe, and drawn down to cover the hands, and shaped[152] at the ends in the form of a horseshoe. About the waist is a deep embroidered band, that serves as pocket in case of need, while a square, embroidered collar rests on the shoulders and tapers up to vanishing point at the throat in front. The hair[153] hangs in a tightly-plaited pigtail, lengthened by the addition of false tresses, and the characteristic hat boasts a brim of satin, velvet, or fur, shaped like a saucer, its red crown surmounted by the all-important button. The shoes are those which a man of position must always wear in public.[154] Sabot-shaped, with thick soles, they are covered in silk, satin, or cotton, and there is no difference between the right and left foot. A coveted military distinction is a fox's tail arranged at the back of the hat. The most signal mark of Imperial favour, however, is permission to wear a yellow coat.


In his everyday attire the Mandarin observes none of these elaborate formulæ. He dons a loose robe of silk to the ankles, an umbrella-shaped hat, and heel-less shoes with pointed toes that curve slightly upwards, contrived from rattan plaited in such a manner as to allow freely of ventilation. In his right hand he carries a fan and in his left a checked handkerchief of imposing dimensions.

The ordinary dress of men of the middle classes comprises a short shirt cut low at the throat, drawers, socks of material made with a single seam up the back, a long embroidered coat, and a shorter jacket of some plain fabric, held by a broad waist-belt, embroidered in colours and fastened by a jade ornament.

The headgear differs according to the season. In summer a conical-shaped straw hat is chosen, and in winter small hats obtain either of hard felt with stiff, upturned brims or of felt soft and pliable.

The costume of the lower orders is simplicity itself. A cotton shirt, trousers, and a loose sleeveless coat exhaust the list. A narrow strip of material is tied round the waist in order to prevent the clothing getting in the worker's way, and the naked feet are thrust into low sandals.

Occasionally the ubiquitous pigtail is turned up and pinned in a coil about the head, but this[155] liberty is never permitted in the presence of a superior. As a matter of fact, the etiquette of dress is rigidly observed throughout China. No gentleman would dream of either paying or receiving a visit without shoes on his feet, a fan in his hand, and a wide, pointed hat, rather suggestive of a tent, on his head. How true it is that manners, like morals, are mere matters of geography!

In contrast to the love of display characteristic of their Chinese neighbours, the Japanese are conspicuous for extreme simplicity. This national trait finds expression in their dress. Here I pause to consider whether, as a chronicler of costume, I should allude to the Japanese in the present or past tense? I regretfully incline to the latter view, for there is little doubt that the smoke of factory chimneys, built on European lines and fed with Cardiff coal, is rapidly blurring local colour. Already the quaint little men have adopted the outward and visible sign of inward civilisation in the form of a frock coat and top hat. Their women-folk have followed their example and discarded the picturesque for the prosaic, exchanging the fashions transmitted by their ancestresses for those telegraphed from Paris. Will the Geishas do likewise, and is another decade destined to see them in caps and aprons, and will—Imagination fails me, and I revert to the glorious days of the Daimios and Samourais—days for which, I am firmly convinced, every frock-coated Japanese sighs as ardently as I do.

In old Japan social distinctions were drawn for all time, and there was no crossing the line of demarcation. Society was divided into nine grades.[156] The princes, or Daimios, the nobles, or Samourai, the priests, and the military composed the first four. These were entitled to carry two swords, while the intellectual class, which numbered doctors in its ranks, was allowed one. The remainder, including lawyers, were debarred the privilege of bearing arms.

From the age of seven the son of a Samourai appeared in public wearing the two swords distinctive of his rank. They were small, of course, as appropriate to his size and strength, but were otherwise perfect in every detail.

Despite rigorously-observed social divisions, all classes wore the same outer garment, the difference being in the materials employed. Until the influx of Europeans made its levelling influence felt, the use of silk by any but the nobility was strictly prohibited. The article of attire common to both sexes of the community was the kimono, a loose, flowing wrap which opened down the centre and crossed over at the breast, where on men it was held in place by a narrow belt, while women wore a wide sash neatly folded and tied in an elaborate bow behind. Although the sleeves were immensely wide and hung in deep points, only a small opening was left for the hand to pass through, the remainder being joined together to serve as pocket. Etiquette exacting that what a guest could not eat he should take home, the superfluous dainties were carefully enveloped in paper and deposited in the roomy sleeves.

Handkerchiefs were of tissue paper, and were carried in the belt; while no Japanese, of either sex or any rank, from the Mikado downwards, would consent to even a momentary separation from his or her fan.


Masculine costume consisted of tight trousers to the calf and the loose, round shirts, which were fashioned from white material for the people and from greyish-blue silk for the nobility; and labourers displayed on theirs the insignia of their special craft or of the corporation to which they belonged. Common to all classes were high wooden clogs and sandals of plaited straw. Peculiar to the aristocracy and certain regiments, notably the archers, were short trousers of brilliantly-coloured silk, cut so immensely wide as to suggest the petticoats of a ballet girl. On ceremonious occasions the feet and legs were left bare. Stockings were cut out of cotton, or stuff, neatly seamed up the back, and were made with a division at the great toe for the thong of the sandal. On the whole, subdued shades and dark colours predominated, the Japanese being distinguished by the quiet elegance of their taste.

Typical of the headgear affected by the lower classes in warm weather was a huge straw hat in the form of a dish-cover. Another characteristic example, likewise of straw, resembled a round, deep-edged tray, the brim turned downwards, and the whole was held in place by means of a chin-strap.

Women, as a rule, left the head uncovered, preferring to rely for protection upon flat umbrellas made of paper, cotton, or silk. They drew their hair off the forehead, dressing it in neat puffs or coils and decorating it with large, ornamental pins, flowers, and ribbons, but neither ear-rings nor any other articles of jewellery were worn.

Married women were distinguished by their blackened teeth and the fact that their eyebrows were shaved and their faces unpainted. They wore[158] a long robe of red crêpe de chine which folded over at the breast leaving a V-shaped opening at the throat. Their pet vanity was to arrange their under-garments so that the border of each formed a regular trimming at the neck, a glance sufficing to show how many were worn—the greater the number the greater the success achieved. On the back and sleeves of their trailing silk kimonos were embroidered the arms of their house. When walking, or otherwise inconvenienced by folds of material clinging about their feet, they tucked the kimonos into the belt, a pretty fashion which revealed the gaily-coloured gown beneath and the high wooden clogs.

The only difference between the dress of women of the upper and lower classes was the employment of cotton instead of silk.

Despite the fact that European influence has done much towards imposing European costume upon the Japanese, the influence is as yet restricted to Tokio and other industrial centres. In rural districts the national dress is still sacred, and the country-man remains a quaintly picturesque figure to delight the visitor from across seas, who recognises in him the prototype of the carved ivory models of the glass cabinet and curio table.

From the land of the chrysanthemum to that of the Pyramids is a far cry, and in point of fact no more dissimilar types could be imagined than those of old Japan and ancient Egypt. Woman's dress characteristic of the latter country was marked by a shamelessness of display and a unique brilliancy of colour, the effect of the scanty garments in vivid tones accentuating rather than concealing the natural lines and curves of the figure.



The chief article of attire would seem to have been the deep circular collar worn round the throat, and this was typical of both sexes and of all ranks of the community with the exception of the very meanest. It was composed of jewels, metal, enamel work, or beads, according to the position of the wearer. Feminine dress consisted of a tight sleeveless robe, better described perhaps as a clinging skirt, of a texture adapted to define the figure, reaching to the ankles, and extending a few inches above the waist. It was held in place by a pair of straps which were joined in the centre and, separating, passed over the shoulders to meet again behind. The bust and arms were bare, the latter adorned with bracelets at the wrist and again above the elbow. Anklets were worn, and occasionally big circular ear-rings.

The treatment of the hair was extremely elaborate and difficult, calling for the exercise of considerable skill and patience. Cut straight across the forehead, it was arranged with mathematical precision in several rows of fine plaits, the clubbed ends terminating immediately below the nape of the neck. As a coiffure of this kind necessitated an enormous expenditure of time and labour, all[160] classes of society had recourse to wigs, the rich employing natural hair for the purpose, and the poor, wool. A typical example of a fashionable perruque took the form of a densely-braided mass which covered the head as efficaciously as a mat, one large plait coming down at either side of the face, and curving round on the shoulder in the shape of an elephant's trunk. The crown of the head was usually encircled by a slender golden fillet, which, in the case of a Pharaoh, or a royal lady, was twined about with the uræus, emblem of supreme sovereignty. The head of the sacred asp reared threateningly in the centre of the forehead. Cleopatra—not the famous Cleopatra of Mark Antony, but one of her five predecessors—is represented with the bare bosom, naked arms, circular collar, and skin-tight skirt common to her countrywomen. A noteworthy feature is that her dress, of bright blue and white material, shows horizontal stripes to the knees, where it is joined by a slightly[161] fuller flounce with the stripes running vertically. It is supported by scarlet shoulder-straps, and the ribbon encircling the crown of the head is in the same shade, knotted at the back, where it hangs in two short ends. The wig is arranged in multitudinous plaits that rest on the shoulders at either side and descend midway to the waist behind. Above the forehead rears the royal asp, and over it tower two straight quills, which form a background for the horns of a ram between which glares a flaming sun; these quills, by the way, typify absolute sovereignty.


The head-covering in general use consisted of a piece of material shaped to rest flat on the top of the head and describe a curve in front, with a straight, narrow tab cut up at the side to allow free passage for the shoulder, the back hanging curtain-wise to afford ample protection to the nape of the neck. The textures employed for such purposes were cotton, linen, and wool decorated with stripes or embroidery.


The men, as well as the women, glittered with bracelets, anklets, and other jewellery of a massive and showy type. White was preferred to colours for their clothing; and the habitual costume for men was of the scantiest possible description, being nothing more or less than a sleeveless tunic held up by shoulder-straps, a narrow piece of ribbon being tied round the waist, terminating in two[162] short ends in front. This skirt or tunic reached to the knee or calf, and sometimes even as far as the ankle; the legs, arms, and chest were bare, and the face clean-shaven.

A great warrior is depicted wearing a tightly-fitting shirt of mail composed of bronze scales sewn on to soft leather, displaying short sleeves and descending below the knees, a white metal gauntlet protecting the left wrist. On the head is a high, narrow helmet which completely conceals the hair, and from it floats three pendent ends of striped material. About the throat is a jewelled and enamelled collar, and from a thick gold chain hangs a large gold ornament engraved with figures.

It is known that the finest and most transparent muslins were first manufactured by the ancient Egyptians, and doubtless these were used for making dresses; indeed in proof of this many representations are extant of female musicians clad in diaphanous muslin through which the body can be clearly seen. The loose robe is drawn under the right arm and fastened on the left shoulder.

Did Egyptian women ever grow old, I wonder, and if so, what did they wear? The artists have left us no record save of the eternal feminine eternally youthful.




"And never the twain shall meet," lilts Kipling of the East and the West; and in the province of dress, as everywhere else in the Orient, caste, ruling supreme, writes incontroversial laws of separation.

In India, the article of masculine attire to which most importance attaches is the turban, its shape and general aspect denoting the social and spiritual status of the wearer.

Until the founding of the Mogul Empire in 1505, the women of Hindostan were strangers to the tyranny both of the Zenana and of the veil, but from that time onwards traces of Mohammedan influence are plainly visible in the habits and costume of the people.

The utmost magnificence and display characterised the dress of the Mogul Emperors and their Court; and although differing in colour, texture, and certain minute details, the costumes common to the period were identical in broad outline and general design; and Fashion moved so slowly in a country where tradition was regarded as law, that the sleeve and collar in vogue at the end of a century were very like those obtaining at the beginning.


A prince of the Mogul dynasty, who is depicted in a dress typical of his time and rank, wears long, tightly-fitting pyjamas of striped red and gold material, very much rucked at the calf and terminating at the ankle. His feet are encased in embroidered slippers, which leave the heel bare, the pointed toes curling upwards. The over-dress reaches to below the knee, and is of transparent white tissue, the skirt pleated and held at the waist by a sash, worked in gold, scarlet, and black, knotted in front and with fringed ends falling in unequal lengths. A jewel-hilted dagger is worn at the left side, and a narrow scarf, in white and gold, crosses the breast, passing under the right arm and over the left shoulder, where one end hangs down behind and the other before. The closely-fitting sleeves are rucked, and bracelets are drawn over them at the wrist and above the elbow, while several rows of pearls appear at the neck. The small white turban is arranged in a point on the forehead and encircled by a broad gold band and a string of pearls, the latter raised in front by an enormous emerald, a superb aigrette waving above an ornament glittering with diamonds and other precious stones; and on state occasions a large sword, sheathed in crimson velvet, and with a cross-shaped hilt studded with jewels, was carried, another mark of Imperial dignity being the umbrella which overspread the throne.

The dress of high-born ladies was very similar to that of the men, for it, too, consisted of rucked trousers, of brilliantly-coloured silk, decorated with embroidery and confined at the feet with plain gold bangles or jewelled anklets. The pointed slippers curved up at the toes and left the heels[165] exposed, and the pleated robe of transparent muslin terminated at the calf. From the waist in front a width of gold tissue, fringed and worked in various bright shades, hung apron-like, while the bust was supported by a corselet contrived from polished wood so light and so supple as in nowise to interfere with the lithe movements of the body. The arms were bare, excepting for bracelets at the wrists and above the elbow, and the head and upper portion of the figure were enveloped in the graceful folds of a sari, or immense veil of diaphanous texture bordered with gold and patterned in vivid colours. The hair was parted, and fell in plaits behind, a jewelled ornament being worn in the centre of the forehead; while a pearl was fastened into one nostril, and the nails were stained vermilion.


Court dignitaries are represented in long, loose garments coming below the knees and cut low at the throat to reveal a vest of fine white material, but otherwise identical in design with the ordinary dressing-gown of a man of to-day. The[166] waist was encircled by a broad band of embroidery, and the trousers completely encased the feet. On the head was the inevitable turban, round in shape and wide of brim.

Under the British Raj, India retains her picturesque variety of costume, and remains the one land faithful to the traditions of the turban. Hardly less splendid than in the gorgeous days of the Mogul Empire is the dress of a modern prince of the caste of Rajput. A small red turban is wound tightly about the head, one short gold-bedizened end falling behind. The big ear-rings are crescent-shaped, and the necklace is composed of several rows of pearls. A white robe falls to the ankles, and is surmounted by a shorter yellow jacket embroidered in colours and held together at the waist by a sash of peacock blue satin, the gold fringed ends falling unevenly in front. The tight sleeves terminate at the elbow, where they are supplemented by white ones, which extend to the wrist.

Scarlet and white are the favourite contrast, and the effect is to make the crowded bazaars brilliant and attractive to the eye.

A costume characteristic of a Pathan, a Musulman by religion, consists of a white turban of voluminous proportions wound in such a manner as to form a wide brim. The tight trousers are clearly visible through a flowing robe of figured white cotton, which reaches nearly to the ground, and, crossing over at the breast, is kept in place by a striped shawl folded about the waist, the picture being completed by velvet slippers turned up at the toes. The coolies are generally naked except for a loin-cloth and turban, but some wear a white[167] cotton shirt, short-sleeved and held by a folded belt in some bright shade.

Brahmins are distinguished by the sacred cord, in reality a twisted rope of cotton, which hangs from the left shoulder to the middle of the thigh. A typical costume is evolved from a long, straight piece of material wound round the body from the waist downwards, and drawn between the legs to form a trouser-like division. A shawl, draped about the upper portion of the figure, is manipulated in such a way as to cross on the left shoulder, one end hanging in front and the other behind. A shako-shaped turban and a chaplet of beads put the finishing touches, while on the forehead, breast, and bare arms the mark of the sect is painted with white powder.

From the age of seven, Parsees of both sexes don the sadra or sacred surplice emblematic of the coat of mail worn in ancient times by the Guebers to ward off the attacks of Ahriman, spirit of evil. The dress of the men comprises light, baggy trousers, white stockings, flat-heeled slippers, a tight black coat, usually of alpaca, buttoned down the front, and a high sugar-loaf hat of shiny black.

Nothing more charming could be devised than the dress peculiar to the female followers of Zoroaster. Until she marries the Parsee girl wears wide trousers fashioned from brilliantly-hued silk or satin, and the hems of the legs are adorned with bands of embroidery in quaint designs of birds and beasts worked in the most gorgeous tints. Her inner garment is a long sleeved jacket of white muslin, over which comes the sadra, or loose, square tunic lacking sleeves, and distinguished by the magnificence of its embroideries. The hair,[168] divided in the centre and hanging down behind, is crowned by a little circular cap of black velvet covered with gold and silver embroidery and studded with seed pearls, while on the feet are gaily-embroidered slippers. Etiquette decrees that before her wedding the Parsee woman must submit to having her head shaved, a martyrdom which is responsible for the nun-like band of white material drawn low on the forehead. She continues to wear the trousers, but exchanges the decorative sadra for an even more superb sari. This voluminous drapery is of gold-bordered muslin in warm weather, at other seasons a long, straight piece of silk or satin wondrously coloured and exquisitely embroidered. It is wound round and round the body, outlining it tightly at the back, and hanging in straight folds in front, each evolution being accomplished in pleats, to attain sufficient fulness; and finally the end is drawn over the head, concealing one ear and leaving the other exposed, a practice which explains the single earring worn by Parsee women. In warm weather the sari is of muslin and boasts a wide gold border.

The principal item in the wardrobe of the Hindu woman is likewise the sari, which she arranges as the Parsee does hers. The texture varies according to the means of the wearer. The poor employ cotton, but they invariably endeavour to have an ornamental border of some kind. The simply-made skirt reaches to the ankles, and the chuli, a short-sleeved jacket of diminutive proportions, terminates immediately below the bust, leaving the middle of the figure uncovered excepting for the sari. The hair is twisted in a[169] heavy coil low down on the nape of the neck, a style rendered necessary by the custom of carrying weights on the head.

The poor Hindu, distrustful of other securities, invests such worldly wealth as he possesses in jewellery for his wife, who appears laden with bracelets, of painted wood or coloured glass. As many as twelve rings jingle from the much-pierced rim of either ear, while an ornament, frequently of preposterous size, is affixed to one nostril, and in addition there are anklets, necklaces, and toe and finger rings.

If the outdoor dress of Persian women be any criterion, their husbands must be the most jealous in the world, for not one of the charms accredited to frail femininity is allowed to transpire. The veil and all-enveloping mantle maintain a profound reserve, so that whether the wearer be old or young, slender or stout, attractive or repulsive, remains for ever an impenetrable mystery. Before quitting the seclusion of the Andaran, the Persian woman assumes an effective disguise. First she draws on a pair of dark green or grey trousers, one leg at a time, for there is no connection between the two, and these are fastened at the waist by a belt. Their shape is peculiar; for, baggy to the knees, they fit closely at the calf and encase the foot after the manner of a stocking. Over these is worn an ample mantle of black silk, cotton, or muslin, covering the head and shrouding the entire figure, the ends drawn up at the bust and held by strings, which are crossed and tied round the neck. A thick white veil—an essential item from the age of nine—falls from the forehead to the waist in front, and is pinned at the back of the head to keep it in[170] place, a narrow insertion of net appearing at the eyes, to allow sight to the wearer.

The indoor dress of a Persian lady consists of a full skirt to the ankles, fashioned from cloth of gold, velvet, or some other costly fabric, trimmed with beautiful embroidery. A loose jacket of soft white muslin, decorated with a peculiar kind of lace, forms a vest in front beneath an open embroidered jacket of a shade contrasting with that of the skirt. This jacket reaches to the waist, and has long sleeves conspicuous for turned-back cuffs. A cashmere shawl is draped on the shoulders, and a white veil is arranged kerchief-wise on the head and fastened under the chin with a jewelled brooch, leaving only the oval of the face visible. The brows are encircled by a golden fillet, from the centre of which depends a jewel, while the hair is parted and hangs down behind in three or more plaits, their ends tied with gay ribbons or weighted with pearls or silk tassels.

A variation of this style is noted in the dress of the ladies of Trebizond, their cashmere shawl being smaller and arranged over the skirt in such a way that a point falls down behind. The snowy muslin chemisette is cut low at the throat, and the embroidered coat shows a heart-shaped opening fastening only at the waist with two buttons; and on the head is a small round cap.

Female servants are generally barefooted, their full skirts terminating midway to the ankles, and pulled low down on the hips, so that the short white under-jacket and little coat of coloured material terminating at the waist, expose the centre of the body to view.

The official classes have discarded the turban[171] in favour of the fez, a closely-fitting cap some six inches in height, contrived from black cloth or astrakhan. These are plain, with the exception of the jewelled fez peculiar to the Shah, and of the caps of certain high military authorities, which bear a distinctive badge of a gold lion and sun affixed above the forehead, a field-marshal wearing two lions surmounted by a crown. The turbans of the priests are large and round, those characteristic of the Seyyids, the direct descendants of Ali, being in a bright shade of green. As a rule, the official classes wear trousers and black frock coats that differ from those customary in Europe only in that they are arranged in numerous pleats, which, commencing at the hips, continue round the back. Infinitely more characteristic is the costume affected by merchants, this section of the community exhibiting a partiality for lightish blue cloth of native manufacture. The long coat, or ghaba, is loose and flowing. Double-breasted, it laps over and fastens with two buttons, while about the waist a shawl is wound several times, knotted, and the ends tucked out of sight. The overcoat, or aba, is of rough brown material, open in front, and the wide sleeves terminate at the elbow. A towering fez or a rolled turban is worn, according to the taste of the wearer.

The priests, or Mullahs, affect much the same style of garb; and, as I write, one whom I knew rises up before me. His was a most imposing personality. Of middle height, he seemed much taller by reason of his large white turban and ample robe of dark blue that flowed to his ankles, revealing heel-less shoes of bright yellow leather. Round in shape, his head was shaven, and his[172] beard was trimmed to a point and stained with henna. About his waist a white shawl was wrapped six times, and into it was tucked a big striped cotton handkerchief. In his hand he carried a rosary composed of a hundred clay beads, and, when he walked, the dignity of his demeanour was further enhanced by a long white mantle which he wore flung over his right shoulder.

Persians eschew gaudy colours and striking contrasts in dress, preferring quiet shades and harmonious combinations; dull reds, dim blues, and sombre greens being favourite tints. The diplomatic uniform is black, the front of the tight coat one blaze of gold embroidery; and the official sword is suspended from a narrow belt.

In Turkey, as elsewhere, international intercourse has gradually led to the disappearance of those salient features which make for the characteristic in dress. In Constantinople the official classes wear the conventional garb of Western Europe, with the one noteworthy exception of the fez, a red cloth cap surmounted by a black silk tassel. French fashions are permitted in the privacy of the harem, but etiquette decrees that the women, before they go out, shall exchange these for a simple toilet of nun-like severity; and the ladies of the Sultan's household, who are never seen in public unless in a carriage or boat, don an all-enveloping mantle of black silk in winter and of some light shade in summer; and over this two white veils are worn. The first covers the face as far as the bridge of the nose, and the second is drawn across the brows, shrouding the head and leaving only the eyes visible. But in truth these yashmaks are so transparent that they serve to[173] enhance rather than conceal the charms, natural and artificial, of the wearer. Through the shimmering white drapery the flower-decked hair is clearly seen, and romantic in the extreme is the effect of a small boat with three rowers, and a veiled figure under a fluttering lace parasol, gliding swiftly over the sun-kissed waters of the Bosphorus.

The walking dress in vogue in modern Constantinople is even plainer. It consists of a black silk skirt and a silk cape to the waist, the cape being provided with an additional piece to cover the head, and an essential complement is a short veil of close black net. In summer black is exchanged for light colours, but the style remains the same.

The priests, with true ecclesiastical fidelity to tradition, have remained constant to the old-world style of dressing; and to this day they cut picturesque figures in a red fez encircled by a narrow white turban, loose trousers kept in place by a cashmere shawl, dark yellow in colour and of great beauty of design, and a black caftan, a garment almost identical with that of the cassock worn by the clergy of the Church of England.

Another survival which is familiar to the casual visitor to Constantinople is the dress of certain labourers, consisting of baggy pantaloons to the knee or a little beyond, red shoes, a long sleeved cotton shirt, and a short, sleeveless jacket of blue or black material, a red fez, and a coloured shawl about the waist.

Formerly fur trimmings denoted great opulence and luxury, and the skins most favoured were ermine, sable, marten, white fox, and squirrel, which were changed according to a prescribed formula. The date for one to be discarded and[174] another substituted was fixed by the Sultan, who usually elected to appear in new clothes on a Friday, when attending mosque. The Grand Vizier was officially notified of the intended change, whereupon he immediately sent word to the entire Court, who hastened to follow the sovereign's example.

The outdoor dress of ladies in those days was a lengthy mantle of dark material, which boasted long sleeves and a deep sailor collar of red, blue, or green satin; essential accessories being the two white veils and top boots of yellow morocco. Heavy and sumptuous, the gown worn at home consisted of baggy trousers of thin texture drawn in tightly at the ankles, supplemented by a long sleeved chemisette of white muslin trimmed with a peculiar kind of lace. This was met at the bust by the dress proper, a trailing robe of rich material encircled by an embroidered belt fastened by a jewelled clasp and drawn down very low in front. The sleeveless velvet mantle was edged with velvet and fell to the ground, and on the head was a high turban of embroidered muslin surrounded by a gold fillet set with diamonds, rubies, and emeralds. The hair was cut in a straight fringe across the forehead, and arranged in bands over the ears.

Turkish women have always displayed a great fondness for jewellery, and modern etiquette renders a diamond tiara incumbent upon the bride of any social standing whatsoever.

Much of the fascination of the desert, its mystery and its appeal to the imagination, is embodied in the Arab. The eye travels over the tall figure, straight as a palm tree, draped in the long folds of the burnous, with the same baffled[175] sense of inquiry, the same subdued excitement and expectation with which it looks across the arid sand stretching out to the horizon and beyond. What restless fever consumes this statuesque figure, impelling him ever to be on the move? Where does his quest lead amid the dunes and burning sand, and what is the power that keeps him eternally a wanderer in that silent land? Vaguely one realises the subtle affinity between the two—the nameless spell which the desert casts over her sons.

The dress of the Arab, picturesque though it is, would seem to have been expressly designed with a view to affording the utmost possible protection to the head. The cachi, a little felt cap, red, brown, or white, and surmounted by a silk tassel in a contrasting shade, is common to all. Two, and frequently three, are worn, one above the other, the topmost being invariably red. Concealing the cachi is the haïk, an ample white drapery drawn low on the forehead and falling curtain-wise about the face. It is held in place by one or more tightly-fitting rings composed of camel's or goat's hair, pressed firmly down on the head, and is of such liberal dimensions as to envelop the entire figure above a shirt contrived from fine white wool. Over all is flung the burnous, a voluminous mantle of plain or striped material which can be arranged in a variety of ways. Sometimes it is tied at the throat with strings tipped with tassels, and at others it is wrapped about the body in classic folds with one end flung over the left shoulder. Sandals are worn on the bare feet, and the beard is long and pointed.

The costume of the chief of a warrior tribe[176] differs in detail, although retaining the characteristic features. The sandals are supplemented by high leather side-pieces, open up the front and with the tops decorated with tassels. The short, tightly-fitting coat is trimmed with embroidery and more tassels, and reveals a wide expanse of white vest and a folded belt of brilliantly-hued silk. The baggy trousers terminate at the knees, where they are met by striped stockings. The hips are encircled by a shawl, which is knotted at the left side; and on the head is the inevitable haïk, surmounted by a large saucer-brimmed hat composed of feathers and conspicuous for a dome-shaped crown. The burnous fastens with tassels at the throat, and is flung back from the shoulders, tassels reappearing at rare intervals round the hem.

In towns Arab women are always more or less veiled, while those leading the free life of the desert dispense with what they deem superfluous drapery and choose for ordinary occasions attire of the scantiest description, merely consisting of a simple robe to the ankles, sleeveless and confined by a narrow girdle. On days of grand ceremonial this is exchanged for a long, flowing gown, the hem and elbow-sleeves edged with fringe, and draped with big cotton handkerchiefs in vivid plaid designs. One of these is drawn closely round the head, and the ends are flung back to float behind in picturesque disarray; a second is pinned at the right hip and again on the left shoulder; from the neck hang bead chains, and every available item of enamelled jewellery is displayed on different parts of the body. The pendent silver ear-rings are of imposing size and weight, and wide bracelets cover the arms, while, in the case of[177] a woman fortunate enough to be the mother of a son, a distinguishing ornament dangles in the centre of the forehead, whence the hair is drawn back and arranged in a coil on the nape of the neck. This jewel she forfeits upon the birth of a daughter, and she recovers it only if she be blessed by another son.




The fancy-dress ball of private enterprise has nowadays comparatively little patronage. The hostess is willing, but the guest is weak, and while idleness is at the root of most social pleasure, the effort required to assume the virtue or vice of some other personality is placed without the pale of popularity. There have been, of course, some historical exceptions, such as the famous balls given by the Duchess of Devonshire and the Countess of Warwick, but similar triumphs seem scarcely possible except in these exalted circles, when the attendance is great because not to be present is to argue yourself unasked.

There are public fancy-dress balls in plenty, and the Ice Carnival has just lived its little day—or night, and now and again some daring creature, unversed in the ways of her world, issues invitations with the words "Fancy Dress" printed on the corner of the card, which declares her determination to be "At Home" at some club or another. But disappointment generally waits upon the result: the numbers who accept are few, and of these many will consider themselves exempt from wearing the motley, and will beg the question in the[179] Windsor uniform of red facings to the dress coat. Most men candidly confess to feeling themselves fools arrayed in any but the most conventional costume, and it is only the vanity of a few that will yield to the attractions of being a velvet-clad Cavalier, a slashed Romeo, or a bedizened Beaucaire. A woman, on the other hand, delights in being somebody else, and scarcely a country house party comes to its close in winter time without some attempt at dressing up, the "head-dress" dinner being quite an established function, whence, without doubt, much amusement may be evolved and much ingenuity result. The success of the head-dress in influencing the entire appearance gives, of course, proof to my favourite dogma, that the crowning point is the point of importance in costume.

Time and opportunity in the past have exhausted the decorative delights of simulating some flower, but although such tactics are distinctly common-place, yet few frocks look prettier than these when well planned. One of the most successful I can recall represented a fuchsia, and it had a purple velvet skirt cut in pointed tabs, and bore an over-skirt similarly treated of crimson silk; the tight-fitting short bodice was of the palest green, cream-coloured stockings in pale green satin shoes appeared beneath these, while the hat was an entire fuchsia, violet, purple, green, and cream being all disposed in their proper places. This was easy enough to make, and facility must be an advantage, even as economy, in the planning of a dress for the carnival, since, after all, it is scarcely likely to make its appearance on more than one occasion. An original idea for which we can give thanks to the[180] Fates is the Gooseberry-fool's dress, which may be compassed with petticoats of pale-green silk fringed with gooseberries of padded silk, and on the head a fool's cap with pendent gooseberries as bells.

As a dress easy of achievement I can quote that one sketched here in colour, the Seville Orange. The dress and bodice of orange-coloured silk bear an application of padded oranges and leaves on the skirt, beneath a chenille fringe of black with heavy netting, velvet streamers and oranges are used at discretion to adorn the hair, and the petticoats beneath the yellow skirt are of green, the stockings and shoes being of the same tone.

At a fancy-dress ball the costume which is merely original and not pretty should be condemned except when the novelty prize is the desideratum of the occasion. There have been some remarkable costumes designed, which have proclaimed every scientific invention, and others which have illustrated topical scenes and current events, involving much special preparation and printing, and invariably presenting some difficulty when the great question of head-dress had to be answered becomingly. It is not easy to convey a Marconi system as a hat, nor can it be considered a simple task to invest a coiffure elegantly with the best principles of an air-ship, even though the ladies of long ago saw fit to crown themselves with the last cry in Armadas. It is on record that the audacious actor, Samuel Foote, distinguished himself by appearing at a masquerade in an abnormally exaggerated caricature of this fashion—a policy which led more directly to the discomfiture of Samuel Foote than to any serious contempt for the fashions he held up to ridicule.



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An easy and popular manner of solving the problem of what to wear is to reproduce the dress which is being worn by the heroine of some very favoured play. Véronique, in her pale-green silk and white muslin draperies, was a recent opportunity much adopted, and for years no fancy-dress ball was complete without at least three Kate Hardcastles, while Juliets were to be found in every doorway, and a dancing Faust would lack no choice of Margarets.

The Calico ball proclaims itself pre-eminently thrifty in its intention, and remarkably pretty effects may be obtained with cotton fabrics, if sufficient intelligence be used in the design of the dresses. To achieve the effect of an "old print," white crêpe cotton and pale blue sateen, with a straw bonnet banded with the blue and a pink rose beneath, may be recommended as useful ingredients. The "Marcus Stone" girl, as we familiarly call a maiden clad in white muslin with a frilled fichu, is another heroine whose frock lends itself readily to cheap material, and we have always at our disposal the ever-popular red, white, and blue flag, yet bunting is not the most comfortable of fabrics for the enthusiastic dancer. The embodiment of the Seasons, although considerably hackneyed, may safely be accomplished with cottons and muslins and swansdown, leaves, and flowers; and a very effective dress is the Rainbow, in which rainbow crêpe of Japanese manufacture is an ideal assistant.

Chiffon is indispensable to the success of many a frock. In a dress which shall represent Smoke, for instance, the chiffon ought to be of a dark-grey tone, and yards and yards should be wound[183] about the figure and the head, the sleeves being wing-shaped, the stockings and shoes to match. "Flames" may also be embodied with orange-red and yellow chiffon, draped round with liberality, it being understood in both these cases that a thin, tightly-fitting petticoat and under-bodice be supplied of pongee to match the chiffon.


A good idea for a fancy-dress ball, if not one based perhaps upon the truest spirit of poetry, is "Greens"; chiffon or silk of many shades of green, with a head-dress in the shape of a cabbage. Very successful, though not inexpensive, is the Oyster dress, composed of a very thin white satin lined with pink satin, adorned at discretion with fringes of pearls, while a pink chiffon chemisette is gauged to admiration upon the draped white satin bodice, and the coiffure of the wearer is surmounted by a coronet of oyster shells set on a bandeau of pale-pink chiffon, with a floating veil of a deeper pink.

The White Queen from Alice in Wonderland[184] can be cheaply and sufficiently represented by a frock of white calico, with the hooped skirt set in a succession of thickly padded rolls, the hair net of white chenille, surmounted by a crown of white cardboard painted with the title. Ingenious, but perhaps not very becoming, is a dress of white linen, with a big clock painted in the middle of the skirt, the hands pointing to, say, 5 A.M., with the obvious purpose of suggesting that the wearer is "Better late than never." A character which never fails to attract at the gay carnival is Mephistopheles, the feminine or masculine variety being alike adopted with avidity, in bright red, feather in the cap, and a little shoulder-cape, and spangles complete. A good costume for a man is the Druid, when he can arrange voluminous white draperies as he will, and take unto himself the liberty of the mistletoe wreath. A popular habit prevails of embodying the names of certain illustrated journals, and representing the titles of some books. Some daring innovator suggests labelling himself as a Doctor, and vows he represents the "Dark Lantern," and the principle opens up a large field for selection. Why should not an ordinary evening-dress-coated gentleman be labelled "The Sphinx's Lawyer," and "The Coming Race" be expressed by the Oxford and Cambridge crews limned on satin; and "The Imaginative Man" might have a pair of wings fixed to the shoulders of his ordinary broadcloth, a sign that he imagines himself an angel. The ground is fruitful of suggestion.

"Fancy me in fancy dress," sings some gay lady in some gay play, and the notion is full of fascination, which may best be realised, not by the borrowing of clothes, but by making them, plan[185]ning them, inventing them, and, above all, wearing them with grace. We have passed the days and nights when we yearned to represent some tragic figure—when to appear as Marie Antoinette or Mary Queen of Scots seemed the pinnacle of delight. Gone too are the times when the representation of the lamp-shade would exhaust the inventive power of the many, and fled are our desires to coquette as a Columbine or flit as a fairy in white tulle.

In an assembly where none are masked, a masked girl may attract conspicuous attention, a monk who never draws cowl from his face may have a following of the curious; she who would dress as Money, in gold or yellow satin, jingling with golden coins, may be assured that she will be run after, and she who represents Cleopatra, or some other Oriental queen, blazing with jewels, will not be allowed to sit in a corner.

An audacious selection is the costume of the Wallflower in gold and brown, which looks its best when made in chiffon and velvet.

As a rule, it must be admitted that the finest fancy dress looks the best, and however charming may be the effects arrived at with muslin, cotton, crêpe, and calico, she who stands out in the vast crowd will be she who has the most magnificent clothes. The glories of brocade and satin and velvet will always hold supreme sway, allied to some distinctively grand head-dress elevated from the head on a frame and banded with jewels, with a long diaphanous veil flowing into a sumptuous length of train. The splendidly glorious is only rivalled by the darkly mysterious, and the maiden of the Yashmak, if only she has the liquid[186] eye that speaks the flirtatious soul, and the veiled Sorceress, if her wit be sufficient to carry the situation, may be quite irresistible: for always the unknown allures.




An idea which, to say the least of it, savours[188] nothing of conceit is to select the costume of a South Sea Islander, and it is one most easily contrived with a sateen foundation oversewn with feathers, and surmounted by a head-dress of erect plumes disposed in wild confusion above locks apparently uninfluenced by the persuasive brush or comb. You can see the result pictured, and note the contrast of the sleek knave of diamonds, whose dress should be expressed in red and blue and white and yellow, with black silk stockings.

In deciding upon a costume for a fancy-dress ball, the first thought of the reveller should be to secure the becoming and the suitable, and to be successful the choice should be mainly influenced by his or her personality. I quite realise the problem to be a difficult one, since happily we have not the gift given to us to see ourselves as others see us, else should we never meet a podgy Mephistopheles bulging out of his clothes, nor an attenuated Juno, nor a dusky Desdemona, nor a buxom Puck.

Most artistic and felicitous results may be obtained from copying costumes in old pictures; and visits to the National Gallery, and an afternoon spent at the Wallace Collection, will prove themselves at once a profit and a pleasure, and an easy guide towards the selection of the appropriate dress. It is advisable on such occasions to be accompanied by the kind friend who, without fear to risk a reproach, will counsel with all wisdom, and temper your ambitions to your personality.

An admirable item in the programme of the fancy-dress ball is the quadrille, the lancers, or the cotillon, which shall be danced by people clad in costumes of the same period, such harmony[189] being a special pleasure to the beholder, who may nevertheless also glean some entertainment from the spectacle of the nineteenth-century Columbine hobnobbing with the fourteenth-century monk; and may no doubt get some satisfaction from the sight of Cleopatra in the arms of the Devil.

But I will linger no longer lightly in the realms of fancy dress, but penetrate the dark depths of Dominoes and Masks, leaving the many illustrations in these pages culled from the centuries to speak the last word of selection with most fluent and expressive tongue.




Italian in conception, the domino is of ecclesiastical origin, and as such has retained its monkish aspect throughout the many changes rung by fashion. In its primitive form it consisted of a long, loose robe of black material with a cowl attachment which completely covered the head. During the middle ages, and, in fact, as late as the sixteenth century, it constituted the popular travelling costume of those engaged upon secret missions. Disguised in the habit common to the countless hordes of monks and other pious mendicants who infested the country, it was an easy matter to go, unnoticed, from end to end of Europe, the garb protecting its wearer and ensuring him immunity from criticism or inquiry.

Its serviceable shape and virtue of concealment led to the universal adoption of the domino, until it actually became as much an institution as the toga of ancient Rome. Clad in its all-enveloping folds, the hood drawn well forward and the face masked, the domino formed an ideal dress for intrigue, love adventures, conspiracy, ball, rout, procession, and evening wear in general over a gala[191] costume. It owed its first entry into le monde où l'on s'amuse to those Venetian orgies and wild midnight revels encouraged by the Council of Ten as a means whereby the attention and energies of the youth of the capital of the Adriatic might be diverted from politics.

When the gay world made the domino its own, fashion decreed that it should retain its original shape, and this it has continued to do down to the present. The same conservatism did not extend to colour. As a matter of fact it has, at one time and another, appeared in all shades, and in every appropriate variety of texture, lined or unlined; in two or more tones, self-coloured, trimmed, or plain, sumptuous or severe, according to the tastes and inclination of the wearer. A man's domino, as typical of to-day as of five hundred years ago, consists of a long, ample robe of scarlet cashmere gathered into a plain yoke piped with satin. Three small cashmere buttons fasten it snugly from the throat downwards, and satin ribbon ties it across the chest. The peaked hood is lined with satin and weighted with a heavy silk tassel, and over the shoulders falls a short, pleated cape. Of the "angel" order, the wide, pointed sleeves are turned back to allow a narrow glimpse of satin, the fold held in place by a cord loop and a diminutive gold button sewn to the under arm seam immediately above the wrist. That the religious origin of the domino was never lost sight of is illustrated by the anecdote of the dissipated young reveller who, leaving a masked ball in the grey dawn, was met by an indignant father, who proceeded to load him with reproaches on the subject of his dissolute mode of life. After[192] listening for some time in filial silence, the son made the witty answer:

Beati qui moriuntur in Domino.

From Italy the fashion of wearing dominoes spread to France, and thence to England. In Paris the vogue reached its height under Louis XIII. and Louis XIV. During the reigns of both monarchs, and more especially the latter, masquerades and masked balls were the favourite amusements of the Court. Many entertainments were given at which dominoes were compulsory for men, the King alone being exempt from this rule. Louis XIV. generally elected to appear in a white domino of transparent muslin which merely veiled, without in any way concealing, the gala dress beneath. Dominoes at this period were richly trimmed, and contrived from costly materials.

Under the Regency masked balls were instituted at the Opera. At these public functions, safeguarded by the practically impenetrable disguise of a domino, all classes of society mixed indiscriminately. If tales of the time are to be believed, many a gallant has shadowed a domino the entire evening, only to make the humiliating discovery that the coquettish countess of his dreams was a tripe-seller from the market.

With the fall of the French monarchy the domino degenerated into an abuse, and was finally abolished, excepting for such occasions as carnivals and fancy-dress balls.

The dominoes worn by women differ from those worn by men in that they invariably manage to strike a distinguishing feminine note. The textures employed are lighter, being usually soft[193] satin, silk, or mousseline de soie. The hood, instead of partaking of the severity of a cowl, is round in shape and, for most festive occasions, is trimmed with fluffy frills of silk, chiffon, and lace, further elaboration consisting of flowers. A characteristic example is of forget-me-not-hued bengaline lined with pale pink. The yoke sparkles with silver sequins and the round hood and shallow cape display frills powdered with glittering paillettes, and reveal inner frills of frayed pink silk and cobwebby lace the tint of old ivory, a bunch of shaded roses being fastened near the left temple and another at the throat. At the foot is a flounce which, when the wearer walks, shows occasional glimpses of pink silk and cream lace, and the wide sleeves bear sequin-embroidered cuffs and lace ruffles. A quaint domino is of gauze of an opaque whiteness, strewn with black and gold spots of varying sizes, the hood gathered up in the middle beneath a big white poppy, the petals tipped with gold and the centre of black silk.

For obvious reasons, many dominoes, both for men and women, were made reversible. Occasionally, in addition to the hood, a towering erection was worn on the head, causing the wearer to appear of supernatural height, and the more mysterious. And I pause here to observe with emphasis that at a masked ball a domino is invested with special interest when surmounted by a fantastic headgear, and that such an incongruous alliance as that of a white-powdered and curled wig and the black silk domino shaped as a gaberdine, with a full hood and lace-frilled silk mask, creates an effect beneath which an identity may be most easily concealed. Far more desirable, however, in[194] the interests of the beautiful, is it to select the domino and head-dress in sympathy; and I may quote as a successful blend a long cloak of jet-spangled net, with jet-spangled hood falling round the shoulders, and a high-pointed head-dress of the fourteenth century, with a pendent jet veil and a jet mask to cover the face, the chin being held by a few folds of net to match the veil. Dominoes made of net oversewn with petals of flowers, the hoods adorned to match and well drawn over the hair, and the masks of lace in butterfly shape, may also be quoted as decorative; and so too may the domino of accordion-pleated silk, but custom has somewhat staled the charms of this, and I would vote rather for the more sumptuous brocade, and urge the importance of liberality in its folds.

The mask has, at all times, been the essential complement of the domino. In its ordinary form it consists of a stiff shape arranged to fit the face as far as the upper lip. Moulded to the nose, it is provided with slits for the eyes and nostrils, and fastened by means of a button and a narrow elastic band. Now and then it is edged with a frill of lace which conceals the chin and further enhances the disguise. Black satin and velvet are most frequently employed to cover this kind of mask, the latter, by the way, being far more becoming; but the black lace mask is an innovation of modern times, sometimes failing in its purpose of disguise, and the chiffon spangled mask may be accredited with like disadvantage. Coloured masks, or loups, as they are termed in French, are also worn, but have little to commend them, being grotesque and ugly.

Authorities differ concerning the origin of[195] masks. The most generally accepted theory is that they were first employed at the festivals of Bacchus, and recent discoveries have proved them to have been in use in ancient Egypt, numerous specimens having been found at the heads of mummy-cases. These early examples are composed of a substance closely resembling papier-maché, and painted in imitation of life.

It was in Greece, however, that the mask reached its apotheosis. There it formed an indispensable factor in classic drama. Its introduction on the stage is attributed to Thespis, who is held to have substituted masks for cosmetics.

There is no confusing the mask peculiar to the Greek theatre with that of any other country or period. The industry rose to the dignity of an art, as the beauty-loving Hellenes would tolerate nothing ugly or ill-made on their actors.

The dramatic masks consisted of an entire head, with hair, beard, and ornaments arranged in exact accordance with the character to be portrayed. All the features were strongly accentuated, vividly coloured, and of supernatural size. The eyes were deeply sunken, the nose exaggerated, and the mouth open. Inside the parted lips was a metal construction designed to make the voice carry a considerable distance—a necessary measure, as all performances took place in colossal open-air buildings. The moment an actor appeared upon the scene a glance at his mask sufficed to determine the rôle he was about to play; and, whether masculine or feminine, the details were equally exact.

How comprehensive the range of selection was may be gathered from the fact that masks were broadly divided into three great classes, namely,[196] Tragical, Comical, Satirical, each of which was in turn subdivided as follows:—

1. Eight masks of old men, typifying differences of age, rank, humour, etc.

2. A series of eleven masks of young men.

3. Seven varieties of masks of slaves.

4. Eighteen masks of women.

In addition to the above, the masks depicting gods and heroes were placed in a separate category. These never varied, and each displayed the attributes of the deity portrayed. Thus Actæon appeared with the antlers of a deer, Argus with a hundred eyes, Diana with a crescent; and so on.

The earliest masks were fashioned from wood fibre, which in due time gave place to leather, and finally to wax.

In Rome the art of mask-making was further elaborated. Trades and professions were distinctively personated. Double-faced masks were introduced, one side representing laughter and the other tears, so that by turning his right or left profile to the audience, the actor could change his expression at will.

Among the Romans the use of the mask was not restricted to the theatre. It was worn in processions, and at certain festivals, notably those dedicated to Pan, where masks of vine leaves were customary. A strange funeral rite consisted of a performance given by a comedian wearing a mask made in the likeness of the defunct. This mummer's mission was to follow the coffin, acting and reciting the salient features of the dead man's career, impartially setting forth both the good and the bad.

In the reign of Augustus, patrician ladies were[197] in the habit, when indoors, of wearing masks delicately perfumed and treated with cosmetics. This fashion was revived by Henry III. of France and his courtiers for the preservation of the complexion.

The fall of the Roman Empire marked the disappearance of the mask from the stage. From then onward it appeared only in pantomime, where the mask of Punchinello is familiar to this day. The nutcracker countenance, with its highly-coloured cheeks and tinkling bells, is a survival of extreme antiquity. I pause to wonder who the old Greek may have been whom the maker of masks thus immortalised? There is a world of cynicism, pathos, and philosophy in his face. I feel that he sorrowed, and that it was not because he knew too little, but because he knew too much.

The practice of wearing masks, by private individuals in everyday life, started, as did the fashion for dominoes, in Venice. There the black satin and velvet masks, still worn at fancy-dress balls and during Carnival time, first obtained, to be enthusiastically adopted in France and England a little later on. In the latter country, however, the use of the mask never degenerated into an abuse as in France, although masks became so fashionable in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, that society ladies deemed them an essential accessory to the toilette. They were not always worn: sometimes they were carried in the hand and held up to the face only when necessary. The exclusive elected to appear masked at the theatre and other public places.

But the universal wearing of masks became such a public menace and incentive to crime that[198] in 1535 an edict was issued in France prohibiting the fashion excepting during Carnival time. Under Henry IV. the privilege was restricted to the nobility, and it was made a capital crime for any commoner to don a mask.

With Louis XIII. the mask fell into temporary abeyance, only to be revived with renewed vigour under his successor. The first occasion upon which Louis XIV. appeared in a mask was at the Palais Cardinal in January 1656. From that date until January 1668 he was an enthusiastic supporter of the vogue. The fashion, prevalent in 1650, of ladening masks with superfluous trimming was of but short duration. While the craze lasted a ruching of lace adorned the top, a lace frill the bottom, and the eyes were encrusted with various decorations to such an extent that ladies, descending from their carriages, were obliged to be led, it being impossible for them to see. The preposterous vogue inspired Scarron's ditty:

Dirai-je comment ces fantasques
Qui portent dentelles à leurs masques
En chamarrent les trous des yeux
Croyant que leur masque en est mieux.

Like its associate the domino, the mask gradually faded away with the passing of the eighteenth century. In Italy it enjoyed the longest and most undisputed sway. There it was worn by all members of the community, including the clergy. The Council of Ten, the Inquisitors, and the members of the Holy Office generally, both in Italy and Spain, were closely masked when employed upon the exercise of their terrible functions.

Certain unwritten but universal and indisput[199]able laws rule the wearing of masks. Whether worn privately or in public, its disguise has at all times and in all countries been respected as inviolably sacred. To the masked the greatest extravagance of language and gesture is permitted. He is allowed to indulge in acrid personalities and proclaim scathing truths which, even if addressed to the monarch himself, go unrebuked. To strike a mask is a serious offence, while in no class of society, however degraded, would any one dare to unmask a woman. Yet another prerogative entitles the masked to invite any woman present, whether masked or not, to dance with him, etiquette decreeing that the queen of the land may not claim exemption from this rule. Dear to romance is the masked highwayman, who flourished until the advent of railways robbed him of his occupation; and a grim figure is ever the masked headsman.

Of numerous romances, none has equalled in fascination that of the impenetrable mystery of le Masque de Fer. Held by many to have been brother to Louis XIV., this strange prisoner of State guarded his incognito to the end. He was never seen without a pliable steel mask provided with a movable mouthpiece to allow of his eating with comparative ease. Other peculiarities of his were his fondness for exquisitely fine linen and his habit of invariably dressing in brown.

No mode ever invented has appealed so strongly to the imagination, or given rise to such tragedies and comedies, as that of the mask, and no other has led its followers to such flights of folly. Nevertheless, I find myself sighing for the days when it invested the neutral-tinted world with the glamour of romance, twin sister of mystery, which was the[200] prevailing atmosphere when fashion decreed that men and women should assume a common disguise and flit, shadow-like, among other nameless shadows through the complicated mazes of their social highways and byways.




The material question seems to have been answered in every country save England, where the initiative in manufacture is conspicuous by its absence, though we have through the centuries so successfully begged, borrowed, stolen, or acquired an expert knowledge of the various textile arts, that every manufactured fabric is now grist which may come from our mill.

The art of cloth-making the early Britons learned from the Romans, but their ambition towards this industry died after the departure of their instructors, not actively asserting itself again until, at the suggestion of Philippa of Hainault, some Flemish weavers established themselves at Norwich—a policy evidently successful enough to induce Edward III. in the fourteenth century to invite a Flemish weaver to teach the art to "such of our people as shall be inclined to learn it."

The trade was started at Kendal, spreading to York and thence to many different towns, where there grew up in due course the manufacture of broadcloth, baizes, kerseys, and serges, the North of England then, as to this day, holding the best interests of the cloth trades firmly in the hollow of[202] its hand. It is interesting to note that an Act was passed forbidding all save the King and Queen and her children to wear any cloth but that made in England, for here we may trace surely the work of the legitimate ancestor of our passionate protectionist, Joseph Chamberlain.

But, after all, woollen cloth is dull stuff, and the first on the list of fabrics aiming at the beautiful is cloth of gold, which made its bid for fame in the days of Richard II., whose patronage of the luxury was, however, mild in comparison with that of that past master in the art of prodigality, Henry VIII., who is said to have had as many as twenty-five suits of cloth of gold, securing it at a price of 40s. per yard, which does not seem a very extravagant sum to-day.

A textile used in England during the twelfth and thirteenth centuries is imperial, wrought with gold, and credited with being woven at the workshops kept by the Byzantine Emperors; and gold also gave its assistance to the making of a well-known stuff in the Middle Ages christened baudekin, which later came to be a term signifying any rich silk. A variety of the cloth of gold was plunket cloth of gold—plunket, however, being more properly described as a coarse woollen cloth; yet it is authentic that Richard III. had a gown lined with this, and in revels held by Henry VIII. at Greenwich it was registered that there were six ladies in "crimosin plunket" embroidered with gold and pearls, so that fashion seems to have idealised the homely plunket, which in its original state would have been more suitably classed with home-spuns, burnet, russet, and frieze. In the fourteenth century taffeta was introduced into[203] England, and taffy was the name of a watered edition of this, which we owe to the refugees, who crowded here in their numbers, and made us familiar with brocade amongst other novelties. Satin was known in England as early as the thirteenth century, having been imported into Europe from China, but not achieving much popularity owing to its exorbitant price, though later Henry VIII. had a great predilection for it in red. Amongst stuffs associated immortally with history and romance are sackcloth and samite, and the latter, besides bearing its fame down from biblical days, has been credited with possessing every known virtue that the textile is heir to; it was originally, no doubt, a heavy silk material woven with a thread of six fibres, and carrying thick upon its surface most glossy honours. When Sir Launcelot came to King Arthur, the poet says:

Lancelot and the queene were clede,
In robes of a rich weede,
Of samit white, with silver shredde.

And it is in white we invariably picture it, yet more constantly in olden days it was made in red. Suffering much change in its orthography, it was originally written "samits," later "samit," and finally invested with the final "e," and yet while every record grants it a silken surface, some German scholar, owing to the circumstance that to this day their word "samt" expresses velvet, is quite convinced that the samit of old was of velvet substance.

To China was accorded the privilege of persuading us permanently of the charms of brocade and velvet, and the descriptions of the mediæval velvets suggest that this could have been no difficult task,[204] for they include diapered velvets, figured velvets, changeable velvets, velvets figured with white, and velvets worked upon gold, while the Genoese and the French rivalled each other in the best manufacture of these.

The making of linen has been traced back to the early Egyptians, and the art was brought to England by the Romans, but a very fine linen dedicated to altar cloths and shirts in the middle ages was first manufactured at Rennes in Brittany. The English linen trade made no great stride until the reign of Charles I., and lawn and cambric were first greatly used in England in the sixteenth century.

Fur as a trimming appears to have had no popular existence previous to the thirteenth century, but after the reign of Henry III. it bears its part bravely in romance and chronicles, ermine being pre-eminent together with a fur known as lettice, which closely resembles it; there were lettice caps worn by ladies in the reign of Elizabeth, who indeed forbade their wear to any but "a gentlewoman born, having arms," and sable was permitted only to the nobility and to certain officers of the Royal household in the Middle Ages.

Lace has paid for its success in a disputed birthplace, for both Flanders and Italy claim its first manufacture, the experts declaring in favour of the latter, and asserting that Italy bore the art to Spain and passed it on to Flanders. In any case Venice must be granted the first prize for the beauty of its lace, which in early days was enriched with gold and silver. Caen is accorded the honour of having first introduced blonde lace, while France and Switzerland and Belgium have all contributed[205] their share towards the perfecting of "the most fascinating of all fabrics," and different events of history have brought no small influence to bear on the popularity of different laces in different periods, the foreign-made bone-lace obtaining the distinction of being banished from England by royal order. In the reigns of the Stuarts, lace adorned alike feminine and masculine attire, and the collar of the luckless King Charles I. in his many pictures by Vandyke has stamped the fact indelibly on our minds. The Commonwealth greatly affected the manufacture of lace in England, though some of the most rigid Puritans continued to wear Flanders lace, and the dead body of the Protector was "robed in purple velvet, ermine, and richest Flanders lace"—not so bad for the simple cerements of the greatest socialist who ever lived! The passion for wearing lace reached its height in England in the reign of William and Mary, when lace was indispensable to the most exalted wearers of the commodes, and its influence was essential on the full cravats and ruffles. In the reigns of George I. and George II., Brussels lace grew especially popular; but English lace reached a pitch of perfection at this period, Devonshire being especially famous for the industry. In its delicate meshes lace has held captive to its charms many earnest students who have set down its biography in various volumes, and to skim these hurriedly is to do them wrong; so in passing I would recommend their pages to the leisured, while chronicling that we have known lace needle-run or pillow-made for nearly four centuries, and that it was preceded by the "cut out," the appliqué, and an embroidery worked in stiffly conventional design on net with cords of thread.


The most faithful and punctilious archæologists confess that the origin of the corset must be written down to the credit or discredit of man, for they find the birth of its existence may be dated in the far antiquity, when the savage made his hunting belt of leather stiffened with bone or hard stick held with a thong of hide, and as decorative as useful, since it was adorned with shells and quills and served to hold the knife or quiver.

Ovid recommends the fair ones of his day to wear those ingenious constructions which give lines to the bust and all it lacks, while Homer describes Juno as wearing a ceinture ornamented with a thousand fringes, and we are, of course, convinced of the fact that she borrowed from Venus a famous cestus wherein were all the pains and penalties of love.

The ancient Greeks and Romans sternly opposed the corset, and yet they yielded to the necessity for bands and belts to support the bust, this band being usually made of embroidered leather. There is indisputable proof that in the earliest days of civilisation there was in use a variety of contrivances for the reduction of the feminine figure, and in a most interesting chronicle I read that "Amongst the works of art discovered amongst the ruins of one of the mysterious forest cities in South America is a bas-relief representing a female figure which, in addition to a profusion of massive ornaments, wears a complicated and elaborate waist bandage, which by a system of circular and transverse folding and looping confines the waist just below the ribs to the hips." What could be more conclusive? Here is obviously the ancestress of the straight-fronted Spécialité corset.


The origin of the word "stays" comes from stay, to support; the term "corset" may have been developed from "corps": the term "corse," however, must not be confounded with it, and Planché considers this should apply merely to the bodice of a gown. The earliest method of making the stay was with pieces of cane, and this may be compared favourably with a variety obtaining as lately as in the reign of Queen Elizabeth. This was made of steel with broad pieces of steel shaped to the hips, and clamped or hinged under each arm, being straightly stiff at the top of the front and the back, where it reached up to the shoulder-blades. These frames, however, were not primarily used to reduce the waist, for they were worn over a corset, so that the dress might yield not to the weakness of a single fold, and that the stomacher might present a front of unruffled smoothness. A development of this stay showed it curved at the top, front, and back, somewhat in the outline of those we wear now, but clamped together down the back, and made of the stiffest of iron, and decorated with countless meaningless-looking little holes and apertures. This was the style adopted by Catherine of Medici, which permitted her the questionable joy of reducing her waist to thirteen inches.

Christine of France, we are told by Jacob the bibliophilist, wore a "justaucorps" embroidered in gold and studded with precious stones; this was a remarkable shape, not defining the waist at all, and finished off with an indented basque.

The first mention of what may rightly be termed the corset is at the end of the fourteenth century, when the dresses cut low in the front[208] introduced by Isabella of Bavaria were responsible for the innovation, and made popular the wearing of the new garment, which was made in all kinds of materials laced either at the front or at the back.

At the end of the fifteenth century the basquine was adopted, a corset of stout linen or cotton with a busk of wood or metal at the front. Rabelais says, "The ladies at the Court of Francis I. wore basquines, and a silk camlet over their chemises," and it is needless to say that they incurred the displeasure of the preachers of the day; indeed Charles IX. and Henry III. issued several stringent laws with regard to the corset, being convinced that it was highly injurious to the health of its wearers, and the corps piqué which was worn in this reign was neither more nor less than an instrument of torture, compressing the body into a hard unyielding mould, the splinters of wood often tearing the skin. Until the end of the sixteenth century the tailor had the monopoly of corset-making, and his methods seem to have been anything but tender. It was in the seventeenth century that Ben Jonson pathetically complained

The whalebone man,
Who quilts the bodies I have leave to span.

In the reign of Louis XV. corsets were cut away on the hips and laced at the back, the long busks of wood or steel being only in the front; whalebone was used to stiffen the corset, which was sometimes made in two pieces and laced under the arms, and it was invariably supplied with shoulder-straps, and began in those days to take unto itself such rich materials as brocade and satin embroidered[209] in gold chenille or silk. The Directoire period produced a classic zone worn outside the dress, a mode that soon gave place to the boneless corset, a fleeting fancy, for all costume worn in the time of Louis XVI. owes its greatest charm to the stays, the bodices being cut into long points and fitted tightly from bust to waist. In some instances these bodices were sewn on to the figure of the wearer after the stays had been laced to their extreme limit, and many of Hogarth's figures prove the influence of the very stiff stay, the figures being erect in an uncomfortable degree, for it is impossible to imagine any human creature achieving such excellence of carriage without considerable support from without, and some inconvenience from within.

In the later days of the eighteenth century greater comfort was granted, when the short-waisted dress prevailed, together with the most laudable ambition to copy the flowing elegance of the classic period. But the rule of ease did not obtain long, and in the early times of the nineteenth century the fashion of tight lacing was revived with enthusiasm, stays being composed of bars of iron and steel with the tops stiffly steeled so that the shoulder-straps might be dispensed with. Women suffered a craze for compression, until the sixth decade of the nineteenth century, when its influence was somewhat less essential by reason of the ubiquity of the crinoline, which gave a semblance of the small waist to the least slender.

The crinoline boasts as its great-great-grand-mother the farthingale or vertingale, which was worn in France in the reign of Henry II., when[210] it is described as a cage put on beneath the petticoat to inflate it to extravagant extent. It was, however, in the days of Elizabeth that the farthingale reached its apogee, and according to Sir Roger de Coverley made its wearers look as if they were "standing in a drum." Early in Charles I.'s reign it went out of fashion, and when Catherine of Braganza and her Portuguese ladies wore it on coming to London for her marriage with Charles II., the anachronism attracted crowds of amused spectators. The farthingale, in fact, had become obsolete, to reappear, however, in the somewhat more convenient form of the hooped petticoat which swelled in the reign of Anne. The contour of this was very slightly altered in the reign of George I., the sides being more curved at the front and the back, and the old shape of the circular farthingale was preferred with the trainless gown. 1796 is the date given when hoops were discarded except at Court, and the real crinoline made its appearance in 1854, the previous year having witnessed the crinoline petticoat as an ordinary adjunct to dress. The Empress Eugénie pronounced in favour of the crinoline, and it became the mode, remaining so for many years, while those few who refused to give it patronage gave hostages to fashion in the horsehair-stiffened petticoat. The crinoline in those days was of the skeleton kind and formed of hoops of steel held together by perpendicular tapes, but it soon developed into a petticoat of calico with the steels running through it at intervals from hem to waist. It is amongst the fashions over which even the most pessimistic may hopefully write "Ichabod."




The rules and regulations of ceremonial dress are as exacting, if not as unalterable, as ever were those of the Medes and Persians. Kings and Emperors punctiliously observe the etiquette which frames them, so that every royal meeting or parting or festivity is attended in a carefully prescribed garb, and the Master of the Royal Wardrobe must be deeply and wisely versed in the history of the nations, and worthy to take a diploma in the first division of the Court of Costume.

His Majesty the King has a lynx eye; no item escapes his notice; and he gives as much attention to the details of everyday garb as to those of clothes for merry or solemn occasion. Unlike the Queen, he rules the fashions, and his wearing of a low hat or a high hat, in white or in brown, a tweed suit or a frock-coat, white boots or black ones, decides such question for the multitude when attending inaugurations, race meetings, and other social functions, and the Royal decisions are heralded forth in the press for public guidance.

At the recent coronation there was much discussion of the form and shape of the robes for the[212] ladies, and the King, anxious to conciliate the strictest etiquette of yesterday with a nice sense of the fashionable exigencies of to-day, concerned himself with the shape of the bodice and trimming of the train. The results we may all remember, the deeply crimson velvet, the borders of miniver, and the license of the jewelled stomacher and the lace under-skirt; while the rank which is but the guinea's stamp found expression in the epaulette, the coronet, and the bars of fur. In truth, the coronation robe, even under its improved conditions, cannot conscientiously be described as becoming or comfortable. The only virtue that I can see in it is its ponderous simplicity, the details of which I will give—for the benefit of a future generation—in the pompous language of the official proclamation.

The edict issued informed those immediately concerned that "the robe or mantle of the Peers be of crimson velvet edged with miniver, the cape furred with miniver pure, and powdered with bars or rows of ermine according to their degree, viz.—

Barons.Two rows.
Viscounts.Two rows and a half.
Earls.Three rows.
Marquesses.Three rows and a half.
Dukes.Four rows.

"The said mantles or robes to be worn over the full Court dress, uniforms, or regimentals.

"Their coronets to be of silver-gilt, the caps of crimson velvet turned up with ermine, with a gold tassel on the top, and no jewels or precious stones are to be set or used in the coronets, or counterfeit pearls instead of silver balls.


"The coronet of a Baron to have on the circle or rim six silver balls at equal distances.

"The coronet of a Viscount to have on the circle sixteen silver balls.

"The coronet of an Earl to have on the circle eight silver balls raised upon points, with gold strawberry leaves between the points.

"The coronet of a Marquis to have on the circle four gold strawberry leaves and four silver leaves alternately, the latter a little raised or pointed above the rim.

"The coronet of a Duke to have on the circle eight gold strawberry leaves."

Similar instructions were forwarded to Peeresses, who were informed that their coronets were to be identical in all respects with those worn by their husbands. With regard to the remaining items of their toilet, the following is an extract from the Earl Marshal's proclamation:—

"These are to give notice to all Peeresses who attend at the Coronation of their Majesties that the robes or mantles appertaining to their respective ranks are to be worn over full Court dress.

"That the robe or mantle of a Baroness be of crimson velvet, the cape whereof to be furred with miniver pure and powdered with two bars or rows of ermine (i.e. narrow pieces of black fur), the said mantle to be edged round with miniver pure two inches in breadth, and the train to be three feet on the ground.

"That the robe or mantle of a Viscountess be like that of a Baroness, only the cape powdered with two rows and a half of ermine, the edging of the mantle two inches as before, and the train a yard and a quarter.


"That the robe or mantle of a Countess be as before, only the cape powdered with three rows of ermine, the edging three inches in breadth, and the train a yard and a half.

"That the robe or mantle of a Marchioness be as before, only the cape powdered with three rows and a half of ermine, the edging four inches in breadth, the train a yard and three-quarters.

"That the robe or mantle of a Duchess be the same as before, only the cape powdered with four rows of ermine, the edging four inches and a half in breadth, the train four yards."

A note is added still further assisting the exact interpretation of the Earl Marshal's instructions:

"It is understood that the above orders refer to all English, Scotch, and Irish Peers (except Peers who are minors, and Irish Peers who have seats in the House of Commons)."

"Peeresses in their own right, the widows of Peers, and the wives of living Peers, including the wives of Irish Peers who have seats in the House of Commons. With respect to such Peeresses as have remarried under the rank of the Peerage, they, according to former precedent, are not considered as entitled to such summons." (A summons to attend the Coronation.) "As to widows of Peers who have remarried with a Peer of lower degree, their precedence is with that of their late husband."

The dress regulations relating to others than Peers and Peeresses ruled that gentlemen should appear in full uniform or full Court dress; while ladies were commanded to wear Court dress without trains, and mourning was strictly prohibited. Knights Grand Cross and Knights Grand[215] Commanders were instructed to present themselves in the mantles and collars pertaining to their various orders.

Such youths as were fortunate enough to receive invitations to attend, were instructed to do so in a black velvet costume, knickerbockers, black silk stockings, shoes with steel buckles, and a Glengarry cap of black velvet.

The two dominant figures in the great pageant bore upon them a burden of crowns, and cloaks, and swords, and trains, palls, sceptres, and rings and rods, mantles and caps and robes, whose heavy cares represented but lightly Royal responsibility.

But the most interesting of all the garbs of convention, because the most supremely personal, is the bridal costume, dedicated primarily to white, and permitted to enjoy the distinctions of silver or lace decoration.

Under ordinary conditions the widow who remarries, even as the mother of a bride, finds herself tempted to the paths of grey, and only occasionally lapses into the more triumphant glories of violet and pale blue and cream colour; and with the present fashion of enshrouding the hat or toque with a pendent veil, she may confidently share the grace of drapery with the virgin bride. Now and again during the past and the present centuries brides have thought fit to indulge their white satin simplicity with embroidery outlined with gold threads, and some have been sufficiently audacious to introduce a yellow-petalled daisy; and the revival of an old custom is the substitution of the prayer-book for the bouquet. But these are trivialities which obtain but scant attention, not even reaching the importance of a nine-days' wonder. On the[216] whole, the bride's dress in the civilised parts of Europe must be written down as pre-eminently conservative and "splendidly null," and it is interesting to turn from its monotony to a consideration of the ordinary bridal costume in Ægra. This is black, and round the forehead of the bride is bound a fillet of pendent jewels in the shape of tears. And, by the way, I find that an embroidered pattern of tears was selected to ornament a widow's grey cloak in the sixteenth century. Assuredly this is a poetic notion, but its realisation might prove a little embarrassing, if the grief for the departed subsided before the garment was worn out. There would be nothing for it, I suppose, but to dedicate it to private service as a house-gown, or to give it the obscurity which a petticoat enjoys. When the sorrow dwindled to extinction, the remnants of the garment might well be bestowed on some very poor widow whose woe, mitigated or not, would inevitably rejoice at the chance of such elegant proclamation. But to return to my bride of Ægra, who enters upon her duties with much gravity and solemnity, going to the altar in a short black skirt, laced bodice, and hooded cloak, her sole ornament the nuptial band, which is bound round her forehead and tied with ribbon at the back, while in her hands she carries her rosary and her veil.

In Switzerland black is allowed on festival garb, and on Sundays the women wear black in the mornings and change to colours in the evening. In the Berne Canton the women usually display a black lace cap, shaped like a fan and tied under the chin, accompanying this with long green gloves; and in everyday life their costume comprises a blue or black petticoat reaching to the ankles,[217] scolloped at the border with red or white, completed with a white chemisette high to the throat, with full short sleeves revealed beneath a short sleeveless jacket. On their heads are straw hats, and on their legs and feet red stockings with black clocks and heel-less shoes, and their hair is worn hanging down in two long plaits.

Costume has through the ages been allowed to signify the married or unmarried state of its wearer. In Rome the purple-bordered toga and the segmentum—concerning which there has been some discussion, since it has been separately described as a necklace, a fringe, and an embroidered ribbon—would grace the matron. The Roman bride wore a red veil or flamen on her wedding-day; and in Greece the married woman parted her hair in front in a different fashion from that of the maids; and to this day in some parts of the Grecian Islands brides wear the flame-coloured veil, and follow the custom of putting a patch of gold-leaf on the face. The modern bride of Corfu illustrated at page 126 is wearing a skirt of purple and an apron of blue, and a short blue corselet buckled with gold; her small red velvet coat is traced with gold, and gold ornaments hang round her neck and hold the white chemisette across the bust. Ribbons entwine her hair with garlands of flowers, and over these a soft white veil hangs to the waist, ribbons again fluttering their elegance from waist to hem.

In various parts of Italy the peasants have ornaments handed down from generation to generation, and as a present to each succeeding bride an extra chain or jewel is added, forming a sentimental record of lineage which only the[218] most devastating poverty induces the possessor to part with.

The practice of weaving a wedding-veil is an old one, dating from the times of ancient Greece. A bride of Attica is immortalised in a long flowing robe of clinging rose colour, with a girdle of gold cord knotted and tasselled. Her hair is closely curled round the nape of her neck, and drawn up at the back into a wide meshed net, the front banded with a golden fillet engraved with a Grecian key pattern, whence floats a transparent white veil to the ground.

The donning of a bridal crown is a fashion which traces its origin to the far North, and in Scandinavia it is the most significant feature of the bridal attire, each parish being possessed of its special crown, the property of the church, the pastor of which sanctions the use of the crown only when the bride is of irreproachable character. Such a custom should act as a powerful incentive to virtue, since to stand before the altar uncrowned must be conclusive evidence of unworthiness.

Of copper-gilt, the bridal crown differs slightly according to the district. In the diocese of Drontheim it is round in shape, tapering up to spire-like points, the rim encircled with a double garland of flowers emblematic of innocence, while from beneath it at either side dangle streamers of gaily coloured ribbon and black lace over luxuriant tresses, real or false, either of hair or straw. The dress consists of a close-fitting bodice with long tight sleeves, and a plain skirt to the ankles, of the same dark material, the short narrow apron being of white muslin. The corsage is almost hidden beneath a pelerine made of wool covered[219] with white lace, edged with green ribbon, and decked across the chest with a triangular piece of scarlet cloth, which forms the resting-place for lavish adornment with gold and silver ornaments connected by chains; the narrow belt is of scarlet cloth, and falls in a single end down the left side of the front. The hands are held in a little drum-shaped muff of red cloth, bordered by lines of green silk and lace and further decorated with brooches; and on the feet are dark stockings and black leather shoes with imposing silver buckles.

The costumes and customs of Sweden and Norway have always borne a certain family resemblance; in both countries the crown plays a prominent part at weddings, occasionally assuming proportions more fantastic than convenient. In Hardanger the crown is a very gorgeous affair, large and wide at the top, set with rubies and emeralds and quivering with pendent ornaments; and beneath it the hair is divided to hang down loosely from a shower of bright ribbons. The scarlet skirt is trimmed with black velvet, and the white apron has a band of drawn thread-work at the hem, the bodice revealing a plastron made of a variety of coloured cloths, with red for the predominant hue, covered with gold and silver jewellery of the filigree description. Tradition orders that the bride shall retain her finery intact for an entire week, during which period the wedding festivities are kept up with unflagging enthusiasm, and on the eighth day she gives the signal for the merrymaking to cease by raising her hand to press a secret spring, when the heavy crown falls from her head and leaves her free to join in the last joyous dance with her husband.


Possibly the annals of costume contain no more extravagant wedding-dress than that peculiar to the Duchy of Saxe-Altenburg. The bridal crown is certainly unique. It is made of little quadrangular pieces of metal which display a raised design and are mounted upon a high cylindrical shape of pasteboard encircled by a fringe of gilt leaves attached to silver buttons. These buttons head a band of red velvet ribbon tied in a huge bow behind, where a curved handle of twisted green velvet extends itself with wide ends of green velvet ribbon that conceal the ears and are tied in an enormous bow under the chin above a stiff gigantic bow of black silk. The tight short skirt is of dark wool with a scolloped border of red and yellow, and a narrow pleated apron is in a dull shade of tangerine. About the waist is a broad sash of black silk tied in a monster bow in the front, and the tight bodice introduces the multi-coloured vest. Little can be seen of the bride or her gown beyond the Brobdingnagian bows, and her costume might be thought to embody the axiom—it is well to have more than one bow to your string.

The peasantry of the Swiss canton of Fribourg hold reverently to ancestral tradition, wearing the dress of their grandparents in token of their resolve to remain faithful to ancient custom. The bride plaits her hair in a single plait under an erection like the hussar's cap, made in pale blue trimmed with narrow lines of rose silk ruching, and banded across the forehead with black velvet. Her stockings, short skirt, and bodice are of scarlet, the sleeves terminating with velvet cuffs, and her apron is of black or of silk of some sombre shade.[221] The indispensable plastron-vest is of pink edged with silver lace and loaded with silver buttons, and the flat circular ruffle is of pale blue edged with silver braid; and below it hangs a fine silver chain supporting a large medallion.

Mystic in its simple grandeur is the dress of an Armenian bride, consisting of a long trailing gown of thick silk, richly interwoven with gold, held at the waist by a golden girdle, and opening down the front to show a petticoat of a contrasting colour. On the head is a wreath of white flowers, overspread by a veil of misty white, which falls to the ground above a shower of glittering gold streamers.

The early fashions of Egypt in gala times, although sufficiently decorative in their colour and drapery, were always spoilt by the hideous head-dress of black wool or hair tied with wool and plaited, or set out aggressively at either side like a furze bush in mourning. On state occasions the Egyptian woman wore a dress with full sleeves of silk checked in crimson and yellow. The hem was trimmed with a gold fringe, and round the waist was a wide girdle, and on the feet leather shoes embroidered in gold. The black plaits as well as the head were adorned with gold braid encrusted with precious stones; a blue lotus flower fell over the forehead, a number of gold bodkins were placed above the fillet, and large gold hoops hung from the ears. Bracelets and necklets formed of rows of enamelled discs, pearls, strings of lizards and beetles of stamped gold, all served at feasts to adorn the Egyptian beauty, whose favourite bangle was in the form of a snake, and whose fingers were stiff with rings.


An old Indian festival dress is emblazoned with beads and silks in gay colours, and bears long square lappets hanging from a jewelled headpiece. The sombre tunic is enriched with jewels at the neck and waist. Remarkable specimens of old Indian taste and ingenuity are the tunics made of leather thickly encrusted with beads of different colours in geometrical pattern, such tunics being fringed with leather and completed by a much feathered head-dress.

Byron's verse gives a haunting picture of Moorish magnificence, when he describes Haidée in her joy:

Around, as Princess of her father's land,
A like gold bar above her instep rolled
Announced her rank; twelve rings were on her hand;
Her hair was starr'd with gems; her veil's fine fold
Below her breast was fastened with a band
Of lavish pearls, whose worth could scarce be told;
Her orange silk full Turkish trousers furl'd
About the prettiest ankle in the world.

In Bokhara the bride wears a rose-coloured veil on her wedding-day; and here, strangely enough, deep blue is the distinctive mourning colour.

The costume of married women in Afghanistan must be granted much admiration: they wear a shirt with wide sleeves embroidered with flowers in coloured silks, coloured trousers, and a small cap embroidered in gold threads, and over this, at the approach of a stranger, they throw a large sheet. Beneath the cap the hair is divided into two plaits on either side and fastened at the back. Chains, nose and ear rings are selected at discretion; and the unmarried women are known by their white trousers and loosely flowing hair.

Returning to Western climes, I note that Isabella,[223] Queen of Richard II. of England, included in her trousseau a gorgeous and unique robe and mantle of red grained velvet, embroidered with metal birds of goldsmith's work perched upon branches of pearls and green precious stones. Obviously economy was no object, and her Majesty had determined to do the thing handsomely.

In the sixteenth century English matrons wore a coif or close bonnet, and the unmarried women braided their hair with knots of ribbon. There is a curious record in the history of Chester in Henry VIII.'s time, which includes an order "to distinguish the head-dress of the married women from unmarried, no unmarried woman to wear white or other coloured caps; and no woman to wear any hat, unless she rides or goes abroad into the country (except sick or aged persons), on pain of 3s. 4d." Such an order is almost as unreasonable as ungrammatical, yet there is comfort to be gleaned from the fact that the tax on disobedience was but 3s. 4d.

In the sixteenth century in Scotland the hair of an unmarried girl was bound by a snood or simple fillet, a lock of hair hanging on each side of the face and tied with a ribbon; but, when married, women covered the hair with a fold of linen fastened under the chin and falling in points on the shoulders.

At the marriage of Princess Elizabeth, daughter of James I., in 1613, when the fashion of the time was the stiff stomacher, farthingale and ruff, "the bride wore a crown set with diamonds, a dress of silver stuff embroidered with silver, pearls and precious stones, the train so long that it was borne by twelve or fifteen fair young ladies, the hair flowing freely down as low as the knee, in the style that[224] virgins used to wear their hair at their weddings." After dinner the Princess put on a dress embroidered with gold, and did up her hair.

This description of a Venetian wedding in the eighteenth century was by Lady Miller:—"All the ladies, except the bride, were dressed in their black gowns with large hoops; the gowns were straight-bodied with very long trains, the trains tucked up on one side of the hoop with a prodigious large tassel of diamonds. Their sleeves were covered up to their shoulders with falls of the finest Brussels lace, a drawn tucker of the same round the bosom, adorned with rows of the finest pearls, each the size of a gooseberry, till the rows descended below the top of the stomacher; then two rows of pearls, which came from the back of the neck, were caught up at the left side of the stomacher, and finished in two fine tassels. Their heads were dressed prodigiously high, in a vast number of buckles and two long drop curls in the neck. A great number of diamond pins and strings of pearls adorned their heads, with large sultanas, or feathers, on one side, and magnificent diamond ear-rings. The bride was dressed in cloth of silver made in the same fashion, and decorated in the same manner, but her brow was kept quite bare, and she had a fine diamond necklace and an enormous bouquet."

Lady Miller deserved to have lived in times when the conduct of the fashion paper was amongst the privileges of the high nobility.




Sympathy between Church and Stage is of no novel date. The relationship between the two has been close and intimate since the days when no religious festival was complete without its chorus of dancers, and the officiating priests took part in the tripping until the introduction, in the Middle Ages, of such profanities as the Dance of Death and the Dance of the Angels, common in Italy, Spain, and France, caused the practice to fall into disrepute.

Possibly the present time sees the Terpsichorean art at its lowest ebb. Nevertheless, a promising sign of reviving interest is that modern scientists, following the example of the old Greek philosophers, are emerging as champions of the lightsome measure. Still, it is doubtful whether it will ever again attain the respect it reached in ancient Greece; and it were mere optimism to hope that we may yet witness Members of Parliament dancing to their seats in the House of Commons, our judges pirouetting solemnly towards the bench, and our admirals and generals inculcating a spirit of patriotism by dances devised to inspire[226] heroic sentiments and an exalted idea of military duty.

The ballet, an invention of the priesthood of Egypt, was inaugurated in connection with certain sacred festivals, notably those dedicated to the bull Apis, and it formed an important feature of the initiatory rites into the mysteries of Isis. It was mystic rather than sensuous, and the aim of its composer was to suggest the hidden things of the cult, the course of the heavenly bodies, and the harmony of the universe. The astronomical dance was far from being the only one practised. At Memphis and Thebes the priests danced round the bull Apis; the figures in turn depicting the miraculous birth of the god, the incidents of his childhood, and his union with Isis. Finally, on the occasion of his death, his obsequies were celebrated with dances of appropriate solemnity. But, alas! these capers were not concerned with clothes, for the performers were unhampered by sartorial considerations, and the toilet of a female dancer consisted of a narrow metal girdle about the hips, the deep circular collar peculiar to the race, and a tambourine. Occasionally these items were supplemented by a transparent robe of the finest white muslin, and the arrangement of the hair, or wig, was always elaborate. Framing the face, it rested on either shoulder in a dense mass of plaits, the back hanging in a straight line of thick braids just below the nape of the neck, while a gleaming metal fillet flashed low on the forehead. Male dancers contented themselves with serried skirts, in which they twirled with extended arms, much after the manner of dervishes.


[See larger version]

Descendants of these ancient ballerinas are to[227] be found in Egypt to-day in the persons of the Ghawazees. In common with most Oriental dancers, the Ghawazee takes up her position on a brightly coloured carpet. She is dressed in a sleeveless corselet, brilliantly enamelled after the style of an Egyptian sword-sheath, her only other article of attire being a simple muslin chemise vividly spotted and star-bespangled, while on her head a kerchief of cloth of gold is draped in quaint manner. Her bare feet never move, the body alone vibrating to the shrill music of flute and cymbals. The play of the long supple arms is wonderful as they in turn caress and pursue an invisible being who eternally eludes their passionate embrace.

To revert to the days when the Pyramids were the newest thing in architecture, traces of the sacred dance of Apis are found in Biblical history where the prophets of Israel inaugurated the habit of dancing round the golden calf; but unfortunately the costume is omitted from the records, and though I know Miriam led a procession, dancing and playing on the tambourine, and David danced before the Ark, and Jephthah's daughter danced to her doom, their dress is "enwrop in mystery"; and I can but hope it was adequate.

The art of dancing was glorified into popularity in Greece, where it was held in high veneration and freely indulged in by all members of the community, upon whom the exercise was rendered incumbent up to the age of thirty. How salutary a similar rule would be, if enforced in England to-day! There would be no lack of dancing men at balls, the task of the chaperone would be[228] lightened, and the burden of anxiety pressing upon the much-harassed hostess reduced to a feather-weight.

The dances of the old Hellenes were divided into three classes—the sacred, the military, and the profane; and dress was endowed with a festive air by the flowers and garlands of leaves worn on the head. A chorus of female dancers, attired in white, was a feature at funerals; while, clad in full armour and equipped as though for the field of battle, men practised the military dances with vigour and enthusiasm.

In ancient Rome the art of dancing, as learned from the Greeks, degenerated into an excuse for licentiousness, and wealthy patricians included female dancers among their slaves. The dress of these dancers was of transparent tissue held by jewelled girdles, and flowers were in their hair and fell in a wreath round their necks.

In India there are two classes of dancers—those consecrated to the service of the pagodas, and those known as Nautch girls, or to give them their Portuguese title, Bayadeses. The former are termed Devadasi, and are to be found in numbers in the sacred city of Benares. The dress of the Nautch girl is brightly coloured, of rich material brilliantly decorated with embroidery and precious stones. It comprises tight embroidered trousers to the ankles, plainly visible through a short skirt of transparent texture held at the waist by a girdle from which hangs a narrow white muslin apron, pleated and bordered with gold. The little chuli, a diminutive jacket, is short-sleeved and cut low at the throat, and leaves the centre of the body bare but for a diaphanous scarf which floats from[229] the left shoulder, twines round the figure, and escapes to flutter in a loose end behind. Glistening with oil, the black hair is parted and hangs down the back in a long plait, weighted with a cluster of gold tassels. The tiny skull-cap is gaily embroidered, and the scented petals of flowers quiver amid the dark tresses. Bracelets load the arms and legs, rings scintillate in the ears and on the fingers and toes, chains dangle from the neck, and an enormous ring depends from the left nostril. During centuries the dances of the Devadasi and Nautch girls have altered little, if at all, and it would be amusing to contrast their methods with the polychromatic lightsome modernity of Loie Fuller, the abrupt conclusions of the "high-kicker," and the prim precisions of the pink-shod pirouetter of the pantomime. Will the Lord Chamberlain permit?

Like the Daimios and Samourai, the sacred Geisha is rapidly becoming a memory only in the Japan of to-day. Nevertheless, the custom of keeping dancing girls in the temples still survives in certain provinces. Quaint because of their solemnity, the religious dances are executed by a number of diminutive maidens under thirteen years of age. Ranged on a platform, these odd little vestals are garbed in a manner which adds considerably to the bizarre effect of the scene. Each wears twelve kimonos, one on top of the other, alternately white and red, the borders showing in regular rows at the throat, and over these is a Court mantle sumptuously embroidered in gold and coloured silks, the back shaped to suggest a chasuble. Divided down the centre in front, the hair hangs in a plait behind, decorated with[230] circles cut out of gold paper drawn together to form two big rings, while at the temples appear clusters of red camellias and wistaria and metal ornaments. The face is whitened and the lips are stained vermilion, and the shaved eyebrows replaced by short, slanting lines of black paint, which lend a touch at once piquant and grotesque. The Geisha of the house is a vastly different person. Her sole mission in life is to amuse and entertain. To this end she dons a gaily-embroidered kimono and decorates her black hair with fans, flowers, and other ornaments. Her prettiest performance is the fan dance, to the light strain of a stringed instrument played by a female musician. Fluttering a fan in her right hand, with her left she liberates a paper butterfly, then, darting hither and thither with marvellous grace and dexterity, she pursues it as it floats towards a flower, skims a petal and alights on the brim of a cup, to escape afresh and describe moth-like circles about the flame of a candle, suddenly disappearing in a quick flash of fire.

In Mohammedan countries dancing is denounced as a sin. Men never indulge in it, either for profit or pastime, while such women as make it their profession are regarded as disreputable members of the community.

Despite the ban placed upon them, Persian dancers are wonderfully skilful, and capable of performing prodigies in their particular line. They dance to the accompaniment of an air chanted by a woman or a boy. The rhythm is slow, the tune languorous, and the action pantomimic, being made up of certain poses and movements which, seconded by an eloquent play of feature, strive to tell a story[231] of some sort. The most popular and best known is the Dance of the Bee. The dancer pretends to have been stung, and pursues the insect with a thousand graceful turns and bends, divesting herself of her garments as she does so. She first appears upon the scene in the all-enveloping mantle common to her countrywomen out of doors. This removed, she is seen to be wearing a short skirt, pulled well down on the hips, a long-sleeved jacket of white muslin, cut low at the neck and open nearly all the way from the throat, and a little coat of brightly coloured silk, satin, or velvet. Her hair hangs in plaits, surmounted by a tiny embroidered cap perched high on the head. Finally she discards both coat and inner jacket, and reveals a body covered with tattoo marks, huge serpents writhing about the legs, and flowers, birds, and palms standing out prominently on the white flesh. Her bust is supported by round shields joined together in front and attached by a narrow band behind, and in her hands she manipulates a scarf with marvellous grace and dexterity.

The costume of a Turkish dancer allows less freedom of movement, being more cumbersome and elaborate. The skirt reaches to the ankles, where it terminates in a deep hem headed by a fringe, and the little sleeveless jacket is fastened at the throat only, and opens over a chemisette. About the waist a fringed shawl is arranged in such a way as to suggest a circular frill, while a belt, held by a large clasp, is drawn low on the hips. A white veil is thrown over the turban and pinned under the chin with a jewelled brooch, concealing the hair and ears but leaving the face exposed, and on the feet are yellow slippers sewn with seed pearls.


The Sword Dance of Bonnie Scotland has its Oriental prototype in the Dance of the Scimitar. The latter inspires a charming costume. A veil of diaphanous gauze falls cloud-like over the hair and face, and the white muslin chemisette, with its sleeve to the elbow, is drawn in below the waist with a coloured sash, a necklace composed of rows of gilt coins glittering on the bare throat. The ankle-length skirt is of heavier texture, draped with a fringed shawl drawn round the hips, knotted in front, and hanging in a point behind; while a scimitar is balanced on the head, a second being held in the right hand, the left resting lightly on the hip.

Much as the mantilla makes for grace in Spanish dances, I, personally, prefer the dress of the peasants. In Galicia a rural dancer delights the eye in a quaint hat shaped like a fool's cap, with the addition of a three-cornered brim of black velvet turned sharply up in front, one pompon adorning the summit and another appearing midway down at either side. A scarlet sash, with fringed ends, is knotted carelessly on the right hip, and the long-sleeved white shirt is thrown into striking relief by a little sleeveless bolero of scarlet cloth, the back bearing an embroidered design, the front conspicuous for triangular pockets dedicated to castanets, and small revers of black velvet. The tightly-fitting knickerbockers are of tan leather, finished at the knee with black bands, where they are met by gaiters to match, closely buttoned up the outer side. A female dancer is no less picturesque in a short skirt of striped red and white, low black shoes and white cotton stockings; her apron displays a border of contrasting colour, and the[233] chemisette is almost concealed by a short round cape of cloth edged with black velvet, which crosses over and fastens at the left side of the waist. A gaily-patterned kerchief is worn on the hair, the point falling beyond the shoulders behind.

Infinitely more showy is the dancing dress of a professional, a member of a well-known troupe in Seville. The yellow satin skirt, reaching below the knees, is laden with glittering sequin trimming and a shower of lace and chiffon flounces, and powdered with spangles and small imitation coins. The low-necked satin bodice has tight elbow-sleeves, softened with lace frills, and from the décolletage dangle glittering paillettes, a cluster of flowers being fastened at the left shoulder. The hair is elaborately arranged, and a bunch of flowers peeps out at the right side from under the folds of a mantilla. An important part of the male dancer's dress is a black toreador hat, with a large pompon in front. Merely a glimpse is caught of a white shirt front, and the long-sleeved satin or velvet jacket is gorgeously embroidered at the wrists. Similar embroidery shows down the outside of either leg of the satin knickerbockers, which meet white stockings accompanied by black ballet shoes. A sash with fringed ends is knotted on one hip, and a cloak is thrown with careless care over the shoulders and wound in inimitable fashion round the left arm.

The "Coon" dance so dear to the South American makes no great demands upon the skill and ingenuity of those entrusted with the planning of a suitable costume. A short skirt of red and white awning is the most usual, accompanied by a scarlet sash knotted low on the left hip. The loose white[234] blouse vaunts a sailor collar, turned-back cuffs, and a cravat of striped material matching the skirt. Black shoes and stockings are worn, and the large straw hat is of the haymaker order, the crown encircled by a red scarf tied at the left side with the ends falling to the shoulder.

A costume appealing to the male dancer who appreciates comfort is that of gay old Pierrot, with his full white trousers and black pompons, loose coat and ruffle, conical hat above a black silk scarf, whitened face, and vermilion lips. His feminine companion is a common object in the fancy-dress ballrooms on and off the stage.

Practically every country has its characteristic dances, to which are naturally dedicated some adaptation of the national dress. There are fancy dances in plenty which call for no distinctive style of dress, but the fashion fits the footstep as a rule, and no doubt influenced its birth. The stately movements of the minuet and the grace of the gavotte ask for the dignity of powder and brocade; the country dance seems the merrier for the gaily-coloured fluttering ribbons and short bright petticoats; the hornpipe would lose some significance without the co-operation of navy blue and a man-o'-war or a Jack-tar hat; the hunting dance shouts "away" for pink; the Irish jig is shorn of much of its charm without the emerald-green skirt, the scarlet cloak, and the folded kerchief; the Scotch dance demands its tartan; the Spanish dance the mantilla and castanets; and so on through the whole dictionary of dances. The mode suits the measure, and the dance destined to be performed in clogs loses its individuality when tripped in satin slippers; the tarantella could[235] not live to tell its tale in sabots; the jig would jump to a conclusion under the stultifying glories of satin and patches; and the sensuous grace of the East would expire in the bondage of Western raiment.




The time has long gone by when the dress of his own period would serve the turn of the actor in any character in any play, irrespective of the century in which its story passed. That condition of affairs has no place even in the mental treasure-trove of the oldest playgoer, who saw Edmund Kean, and never lets you forget it.

Although it has not been stated that the most audacious actor ever ventured to play Hamlet in a tall hat, solecisms no less grave have in the long ago been committed and condoned, even applauded. Imagine Othello addressing the "most potent, grave, and reverend signiors" of sixteenth-century Venice in a stiff-skirted coat, breeches and waistcoat of the English fashion of George II.'s day, with a full-bottomed wig, a three-cornered hat, and a black face! Yet that was how Garrick dressed the part, and, notwithstanding, thrilled his audience to enthusiasm; whilst handsome Spranger Barry won even Colley Cibber's applause when he acted the dusky Moor dressed in a full suit of gold-laced scarlet, a small cocked hat, knee breeches, and silk stockings! Then, picture Macbeth, as Garrick played him, in a 1750 suit of black silk, and silk[237] stockings and shoes, with buckles at his knees and feet, and a tie wig, or in the scarlet and gold-laced uniform of a British general of George III.'s reign! And fancy Lady Macbeth in enormous hooped petticoats and huge flounces, as Mrs. Yates dressed her; yet, when she said, "Give me the daggers," and took them in her hands, as an old print shows her doing, no one in the audience recorded a thought that the action was incongruous with the costume, or the costume with the tragedy. What a contrast to the superb green and gold glories of the costume of Miss Ellen Terry's Lady Macbeth, immortalised by Sargent! But there was no attempt in those days to give the audiences anything better. When Benjamin West asked Garrick why he did not initiate reform in stage-costume, his answer was that the public would not allow it. "They would throw a bottle at my head," added the great actor, and he found it easier to elude the bottle—at least, that particular bottle.

I believe it is to John Kemble we are indebted for the first careful study of dressing a part on its merits, even though he did not allow himself too near an approach to accuracy, lest, as he said, the public should call him in disgust "an antiquary." So he did not hesitate, in playing Macbeth, to wear a great bonnet of the 42nd Highlanders—the Black Watch. But when Sir Walter Scott saw this, he was so shocked at the anachronism that he plucked out the big plume and replaced it with a single broad eagle's feather, the time-honoured symbol of the Highland chieftain.

It was, however, to the antiquarian researches of R. J. Planché, for Charles Kemble's production of King John at Covent Garden in 1823, that our[238] stage owes its first important step in the reform of costume. Macready, who urged the reform still further, carried his sense of the importance of costume to such a point during the rehearsals of Henry V. that he went to bed in his armour, desiring that, not only should the dress become the part, but he should become the dress. I recollect Sir Henry Irving quoting this fact, when telling me that he himself always followed the practice of wearing the clothes for a new part a few days previous to assuming them on the stage.

Sir Henry was, of course, a past master in the art of theatrical costume, and to his genius and taste more than to any other influence we may attribute its present development on the English stage.

Let the old playgoer prate enthusiastically as he will about Charles Kean, and his splendid Shakespearean revivals at the Princess's Theatre, dramatic art has never been more picturesquely, richly, and appropriately clothed than it was at the Lyceum Theatre in the great days of Henry Irving. Even to talk to him of his productions was a liberal education in all arts appertaining to the theatre. That the great actor took infinite personal trouble with every detail, and would, in his own costume, direct the cut of the drapery, the shape of the shirt collar, and the exact position of the sash, or the fold of the turban, all who were privileged to associate with him at work are fully aware. I recall many conversations with him on the subject of stage costume, and invariably he would bring out some point of its psychological bearing. As to variation in the interpretation of a character under the influence of a different dress,[240] for instance, I remember his saying—"When you have the good fortune to act with an actress like Miss Terry, the artist dominates the woman under any conditions of costume, and the least suggestion is easily grasped and appreciated. In all times, modes and manners must influence each other, and different gestures inevitably accompany different costumes. You would not, for instance, see a lady when wearing Grecian draperies disport herself in the same fashion as one bearing the stiff stomacher and monstrous farthingale of the Elizabethan period."


Again, we were discussing the question of colour in relation to certain emotions, moods, and traits of character. "Who would think of playing a murderer in sky-blue satin and silver?" Sir Henry said. And not pausing for my reply: "Of course one expects a woman to go mad in white. Can you picture Hamlet in colours? Surely he demands black clothes, indeed the text says as much,—although the colour for the expression of mourning in Denmark at that period was, I believe, red."

But, after all, the first thing is, or should be, to fit the personality to the character, and then the question of dress is comparatively easy. John Ryder, by the way, used to explain his protracted engagement with Charles Kean as being solely due to what he was wont to call his "archæological" figure.


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It has been questioned whether the public cares, or knows, much about the details of stage dress, upon which so much time and thought are bestowed; but then it is recognised that amongst the neglected arts is the art of costume, and pending the establishment of the Royal Academy of Dress,[241] over which, of course, Mr. Percy Anderson should preside, visits to the theatre may offer to the student considerable instruction. In other days the scholar resented any incongruities of stage-costume. The satire of Pope pictures them vividly in the early eighteenth century:

Such is the shout, the long applauding note,
At Quin's high plume, or Oldfield's petticoat!
Or when from Court a birthday suit bestowed,
Sinks the lost actor in the tawdry load.
Booth enters—Hark! the universal peal!
But has he spoken? Not a syllable.
What shook the stage, and made the people stare?
Cato's long wig, flowered gown, and lacquered chair.

Imagine an ancient Roman in a periwig and flowered gown after the Queen Anne fashion! No wonder Addison, as he sat in a side box with two or three friends to watch his tragedy on the first night, needed flasks of Burgundy and champagne to support his spirits, for had he not pleaded in a number of the Spectator for the poet against the costumier? "The ordinary method of making a hero is to clap a huge plume of feathers on his head, which rises so very high that there is often a greater length from his chin to the top of his head than to the sole of his foot.... As these superfluous ornaments make a great man, a princess gradually receives her grandeur from those additional encumbrances which fall into her tail. I mean the broad sweeping train which follows her in all her motions, and forms constant employment for a boy who stands behind her to open and spread to advantage. I do not know how others are affected at this sight, but I must confess my eyes are wholly taken up with the page's part, and, as for the Queen, I am not so attentive to anything she speaks as to[242] the right adjusting of her train, lest it should chance to trip up her heels, or incommode her as she walks to and fro upon the stage. It is, in my opinion, a very odd spectacle to see a Queen venting her passions in a disordered motion, and a little boy all the while taking care they do not ruffle the tail of her gown. The parts that the two persons act on the stage at the same time are very different. The princess is afraid lest she should incur the displeasure of the King her father, or lose the hero her lover, whilst her attendant is only concerned lest she should entangle her feet in her petticoat.... In short, I would have our conception raised by the dignity of thought and sublimity of expression, rather than by a train of robes or plume of feathers."

But here was no plea for correctness of costume, which might have obviated the distractions complained of. Nowadays we have altered all that, and indeed we had one modern play, Frocks and Frills, frankly devoted to dress as the pivot of its plot. Yet its author, Mr. Grundy, never gives any very special instructions in the matter of costume, his stage directions being very simple, merely stating whether a woman should be handsomely or poorly dressed. He declares, however, that directly he sees the players ready and "made up," he can realise whether or not his work is going to be successful, feeling that if they have realised the personalities, and look like the men and women he has conceived, they will represent the characters convincingly. He audaciously advances the dogma, that every woman is at heart a fashion-plate, and I wish I could set him down for serious conversion by Mrs. Tree, one[243] amongst the few whose taste in dress on the stage is quite irreproachable, who never makes a mistake in fitting her clothes to her part.

Mrs. Tree vows that if you gave her a dozen yards of white crêpe de chine, she would make a costume in which she could appear as Ophelia, Lady Macbeth, Constance, and Juliet, and would undertake in the disposal of her draperies to satisfy the demands of the most exacting critic. But on the subject of fashion Mrs. Tree is a heretic, refusing to treat it seriously, and indulging in the theory that "everything is people, nothing is gowns." The philosophy of clothes as expounded by Mrs. Tree, if rendered popular, would not bring much grist to the mill of the modiste; but then "In this life nothing comes off—except buttons" is her favourite pessimism.

I have heard a famous dramatist declare that when he wants to mark a situation strongly upon the minds of the audience, he never allows the heroine to make entry in a new frock. He also contended that, in choosing her own gown, the actress should choose it in relation to those to be worn by other players appearing in the same scene, regarding herself, not primarily as an individual but as one in a group. She should also take care that her dress is suited not only to her surroundings but to her "business," so that no drapery impede her movements, no tightness be a bar to graceful gesture.

No less an authority than Mr. Pinero, when discussing the influence that dress may exercise on the art of acting, has declared that our plays are for the most part over-dressed, with extravagance, vulgarity, and inappropriateness obtaining in place of artistic fitness. It is well known that Pinero[244] takes a personal interest in every detail pertaining to his productions, and such condemnation from him is condemnation indeed. Especially when he caps it by saying that he has found that the new costumes have to some extent frequently undone the results of his undress rehearsals, the actresses no longer representing his creations as they did before the dressmakers sent home their gowns, while the variety of their impersonations is swamped by the uniformity of their fashions.

Even while grumbling, Pinero admits that stage costume has made wonderful progress since the time when Robertson's appropriately-dressed plays doomed the theatrical stock wardrobe, and Alfred Thompson initiated reforms making for artistic harmony; nevertheless, Pinero protests that it is time for the dramatist, in the interests of dramatic art, to say to the costumiers and the purveyors of fashion, "Thus far shall ye go, and no farther."

Sir James Linton took up this cry, while declaring that the bane of the dressmaker was over all feminine stage costume, and would be, until there arose an autocratic manager. Sir James is severe, and would accept no compromise, insisting that dress in historical plays should be absolutely accurate, quite regardless of the becoming, and asserting that an element of incongruity is always present on the stage, introduced by the mere vanity of the mere woman.

In how far the art of costume may affect the art of drama I have my pet theories, which include a predilection in favour of red of all shades for historical dress; an appreciation of the charm of decoration in black and gold; a recognition of the immense value of black in small quantities wisely[245] disposed, and much sympathy with trimmings of black and white on light dress of modern fashion. Combinations of colour which in ordinary circumstances would appear at least daring, and, at the most, unpleasant, have a knack of being effective when worn on the stage. The deep crimson lining to the scarlet cloak may be quoted as an example of this, together with the alliance of emerald green with turquoise blue, and orange colour with lemon. On fairies and other angels of the ballet the repetition of the same costume is of great value, the multiplied mass enchaining the eye, where smaller groups of diverse details fail to hold it.


In moments of passionate emotion it is well that the actor or actress should discard a hat. Irving rarely wore one at all, invariably taking the first opportunity to remove his, bearing it with his special grace under his arm or in his hand, as opportunity permitted.

In the management of classic drapery consider[246]able skill and much practice are demanded, and many an actor of contemporary methods finds himself lost and awkward without the consoling comfort of his trouser pocket for his restless fingers, or the convenient coat-tail to be jerked, in fits of irritation. Undoubtedly, it is wise for the player to accustom himself to unconventional clothes for some days before assuming them on the stage: it is only thus that he can hope to avoid self-consciousness and to escape inelegance of movement and gesture. Women, although more easily adapted to new clothes, and less embarrassed under their influence, because more accustomed to such privileges, yet suffer restraint in different attire, and would yet do well to consider the advisability of rehearsing in their frocks on more than one occasion before they permit these to accompany them in their histrionic duties.

The stage has oftentimes had the privilege of introducing new fashions, and the most apathetic patron of the playhouse may be lured to the auditorium by the report of something new in petticoats, an ideal coiffure, or the latest modish mandate obeyed to the letter in a belt. Miss Violet Vanbrugh may have the credit of bringing to notice the elegant charms of the corselet, and the trim fascinations of the stock collar, worn with the right sort of cravat. To Miss Mary Moore I attribute a revived popularity of the broad black Alsatian bow; she wore this in velvet in her clever impersonation in Mrs. Gorringe's Necklace, and all the world of women flocked to see and to copy; while her little short-waisted white muslin frock, with broad ribbons and puffed sleeves, in Rosemary made that heroine an inevitable[248] figure at fancy-dress balls for months after the production of this dainty little play. Miss Letty Lind, Miss Kate Vaughan, and Miss Jessie Milward—I take my examples at random—may all be counted pioneers. To Kate Vaughan we owe the lace-frilled petticoat, beneath the influence of which she daintily danced her way into public favour. Miss Letty Lind first wore the accordion-pleated dancing skirt, and Miss Jessie Milward popularised the lawn-embroidered collars and cuffs. I forget which Adelphi melodrama she graced with these trifles, but I am safe in asserting that she was the heroine of the drama, and was made happy by wedding bells as the curtain fell.


It is easy for me to let my pictures in this chapter give me my cues for dilating on specially splendid productions which it has been my privilege to enjoy, for Mr. Anderson has been responsible for the majority of these, and his pencil has illuminated the various centuries with experience, infinite care, and a skill of which I have promised him faithfully not to speak.

An exception, however, was Coriolanus at the Lyceum, a play lending itself pre-eminently to dignified interpretation, and it is needless to say that Sir Henry Irving saw that it got this. Perhaps the great actor never looked more imposing than in the military robes of dull red and leopard skins, with a cuirass of richly-wrought gold, though, to be sure, he always wore his ecclesiastical garb with the grand air, and as Wolsey, Richelieu, and Becket he embodied the venerable magnificence of established holiness.


Miss Ellen Terry, as Volumnia, also personified dignity, whether in a loose garb of purple silk,[250] with a mantle of yellow and brown falling from a diadem-shaped head-dress set with turquoise, or when, after her successful pleading with her son, she threw aside her garb of woeful black, and was radiant in a draped tunic embroidered in pink and gold, with gold ornaments round her arms and turquoise chains upon her neck.

The picture of Rome under Nero, Mr. Tree personally invested with a purposeful effeminacy, and his tunics and garlands of flowers accentuated the poet in the man. Mrs. Tree showed Agrippina at her best beneath the influence of many-coloured veils, violet and red being the dominant notes; and two gracious pictures rise before my eyes as I write, of Miss Constance Collier as Poppæa in white, with a thick wreath of scarlet poppies around her dusky head, and of Miss Dorothea Baird in peach colour, with lilacs entwined in her fair hair.


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Amongst other notable figures which dwell in my memory is Miss Lily Hanbury as Chorus in Henry V., produced by Lewis Waller, whose mien in armour, bearing a fine cloak lined with Venetian red, breathed the essential spirit of martial force. Miss Hanbury looked wonderful in draperies of brilliant red over white, standing on a pedestal against a black background. And the secret of the admirable conduct of her folds was that the white under-dress of crêpe de chine was wrung when wet, and round this were wound seventeen yards of blood-red crêpe. With this splendid triumph of personality Miss Hanbury may class her appearance as Lady Blessington in Mr. Tree's production, The Last of the Dandies, when she appeared in a pale-blue satin gown, very full round the waist, with a white chiffon double-frilled fichu over her[251] shoulders, and a bonnet bearing a lace veil pendent over the back, and clusters of pink roses resting beneath the brim in front. The Last of the Dandies was, as it should have been, quite a succès de costume, and it may be written down under this aspect to the credit of Percy Anderson.


This reminds me of the illustrations which adorn this chapter. Firstly, of George Alexander in Guy Domville, that subtly clever play by Henry James, which came before its time and died of its premature birth. Sombre black is the dress chosen by this English Protestant gentleman about[252] to take holy orders in the latter part of the eighteenth century.

In Ulysses the costumes were in form and colour essentially primitive, archaic indeed, and no less a compliment has been bestowed on Mr. Anderson's work in this direction than the proposition that the designs should be acquired by the British Museum. The sketch of Julian l'Estrange as Hermes may be taken as typical; gold and black and red expressed it, and there were red wings to the cap and sandals to the feet.

As Malvolio Mr. Tree excelled all his predecessors. Even the old playgoer yielded his admiration to the fantastic charms of this egotist, who displayed just the right touch of absurdity in every gesture, in every inflection of his voice, and in every detail of his clothes, who was so elegant with his elongated stick, and his blade-green and yellow slashed dress with its monster ruff and foppish frills.

Miss Constance Collier as Viola wore a dress of grey embroidered with silver, the cap of scarlet tossing a blue tassel, while her pouch of crimson velvet embroidered with gold had peculiar slits or pockets for weapons, and her sleeves hung wing-like in exact copy of the Albanian costume, a happy idea, since the Illyria of Shakespeare is the Albania of to-day.

Desdemona, as played by Miss Gertrude Elliot in Forbes Robertson's production of Othello at the Lyceum Theatre, was a sweet and dainty creature indeed, wearing the palest of colours, white, pale blue and silver, and gold, with a trellis of pearls on her fair head, and ribbons and pearls entwined in her flowing locks.



Véronique, the first of a new series of comic operas with a plot, was remarkable altogether for its exquisite frocks. No prettier harmony could have been imagined than the chrysoprase-green and white of the first act, unless it be the many gradations of pink, cerise, and red which graced the last act in company with a little band of maidens clad in pale-lemon colour. The picture of Véronique shows her with the close lace cap threaded with little green ribbons, and with short soft glacé sacque trimmed with ribbons, and this she wore in the famous swing scene, where the daintiest of little early Victorian brides danced in white muslin and a poke bonnet under the shade of pink and white chestnut trees.

The Othello of my picture is wearing a dress of thick woollen fabric in deep cream tone; his head is bound with a white turban, in which greenly glistens a huge emerald, emeralds being embroidered on the sleeves interspersed with a design of red silk; and there are jewels of all colours encrusted in his sword-belt, and his sash is of red cashmere fringed with red and green.

It is invidious to make comparisons—I have heard this for many years, and known it even longer—yet I would boldly declare that there are but few ladies upon the stage who understand the important fact that, by the dressing of the hair and the decoration of the head, they may make or mar the most gorgeous or most simple garment. Miss Ellen Terry and Mrs. Tree share a talent for historical head-dressing, whilst of the younger generation Miss Dorothea Baird and Miss Lily Brayton most justly deserve the palm of excellence for the way they express their sense of period in the arrangement of their tresses, and will dismiss all hankerings after the merely becoming in the higher interests of the entirely appropriate.


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The most interesting actresses of to-day make a cult of costume, and are ever ready with views, theories, and even predilections. Miss Irene Vanbrugh, for example, who, with her sister, Miss Violet Vanbrugh, would seem to interpret all that is fashionable on the stage, and to speak materially the last word of modern style, quite unlike Miss Baird, who pleads for the lines of nature and would kill fashion, frankly declares her favourite stage costume was the kimono in which she played that exciting scene in The Gay Lord Quex. Her experience of the crinoline period in Trelawny of the Wells, with the frilled skirts, pork-pie hats, and the hair-nets, led Miss Vanbrugh to be thankful that in real life she had escaped fashions "so detestably uncomfortable."

Another typically elegant actress is Miss Ellis Jeffries, and her personal taste inclines towards the plainest and simplest costumes, as she told me, while adding, "Of course you won't believe me, but it's true. I choose my frocks to suit my circumstances on the stage, and also to some extent the emotions I have to express; and I insisted, in spite of criticism, that, when I had to play the part of an hysterical woman, I should robe her in scarlet. I felt I couldn't be hysterical in white muslin; could you?"

Miss Marie Tempest, exploiting to perfection the sartorial possibilities of Peg Woffington, made her first appearance in that play in a dress of daffodil yellow with pointed bodice outlined with sable, the skirt trimmed with sable, and a lace cap[257] fitting closely to her powdered head. She was amazingly hooped and paniered, and looked her most gorgeous in the second act, in a dress of white satin flounced with silver lace, profusely ornamented with ruches and rosettes of pink chiffon. A scarf of silver tissue was draped across the front of the skirt, a knot of black velvet decked the low bodice, and a fascinating little black feather nodded on one side of the head.

Again, as Becky Sharp, Miss Marie Tempest showed her nice sense of the fitness of things, gracing the historic ball on the eve of Waterloo in pink chiffon with clusters of roses, and choosing a Court gown of Empire tendency, made with a white satin train lined with cloth of gold, and embroidered in a leaf design of gold, which also appeared across the bust and on the hem of the chiffon under-skirt.

Yet Miss Tempest avowedly does not believe that the actress should subordinate her personality in any way to a general scheme. Discussing the question, she said: "I think that designers of theatrical costume as a rule are altogether oblivious of the special requirements of individual faces and figures. To the designer, it seems to me, the actress is merely a note of colour in his general scheme. Only that, and nothing more! I would urge that exactly the same kind of costume cannot possibly be becoming alike to tall, majestic women and a little insignificant nez retroussé person like me! I cannot afford to have two or three lines going across my figure and cutting me up into slices; nor can I have my neck muffled and ruffled up to the eyes, and my shoulders loaded with heavy cloaks, without feeling perfectly swamped[258] and overwhelmed—and looking it, which is worse! I always think," she concluded, "that a woman ought to have a large share in the designing and arranging of stage-dresses, for she can understand what is becoming far better than a man. Small matters of detail are carried out better by women than by men. And women, of course, have more patience and more perseverance."

But theatrical costume is a subject for a whole volume, not for a chapter merely, and I can touch but the fringe of it. I have felt tempted to dwell upon the past, and endeavour to trace the evolution of the idea of accurate costume on the stage from the day, perhaps, when the celebrated Mrs. Mattocks of Covent Garden copied the attire of Rubens's second wife in Vandyck's picture, so as to appear appropriately as the niece of the Governor of Bruges, in The Royal Merchant, a play adapted from Beaumont and Fletcher. But, lacking the pen of the historian and the science of the psychologist, I have chosen the easier and more humble role of the gossip. Yet, perhaps, the elusive chatter of the actress's dressing-room may not be without its suggestive value, more vivid, possibly, than the utterings of the student, for its memories have the fragrance of yesterday. Before me as I write, secure under glass, together with its authentic pedigree, is the lace collar that Edmund Kean used to wear when he played Hamlet; yet it stirs no thrill in me because of Kean, as old Sir William Gower, in Pinero's Trelawny of the Wells, was moved at sight of the chain Kean wore as Richard, because in his youth he had seen the great actor. But the mere thought of the soft lawn collar and cuffs that H. B. Irving wore with his[259] "inky cloak," gold-bordered and crimson-lined, and his famous father's silver-clasped belt, brings the latest and not the least accomplished of Hamlets vividly to my mind's eye. Each tone, gesture, action, falls naturally into a harmony of memory, because the costume was as appropriate as it was picturesquely charming—in fact, it was right, which proves the truth of Sir Henry Irving's doctrine, "You can take it that the right thing on the stage is at once the most effective and the most becoming." A wise doctrine, which may be applied with irrefutable truth to the art of costume on and off the boards—a doctrine which may obtain as guidance through the land of dress in all the centuries, under all circumstances, past and to come.


Printed by R. & R. Clark, Limited, Edinburgh.

Transcriber notes:

P. 50. 'minever' changed to 'miniver' as in 'silk lined with miniver'.

P. 148. 'a a long' changed to 'a long'.

P. 227. 'Egytian' changed to 'Egyptian'.

Various punctuation corrected.

End of the Project Gutenberg EBook of Costume: Fanciful, Historical and
Theatrical, by Mrs. Aria


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