Ball Dress, June 1801

The Lady’s Magazine, June 1801.

“Paris Dress.”

This magazine devoted several pages to fashion, both from Paris and London, but never provided descriptions of its prints, which is very frustrating. In this case, the only mention of the print is in the section titled London Fashions:

“The most fashionable ball-dress is either the round tunic, after the Russian manner (as in the engraving), or the Grecian, with points.”

So, we have to simply examine what we see. The tunic crosses only one shoulder. Is that what makes it Russian? It is white, trimmed with blue, with blue fringe at the hem. It is tied under the bosom with cord, ending with tassels. The dress is pink with bishop’s sleeves and a demi-train. The headdress is a sort of turban. She wears bright red slippers and carries a bright red fan.

As with all prints from this magazine labeled “Paris Dress,” the print has been copied from the French magazine Journal des Dames et des Modes.

In this case, the copied print is from the March 1, 1801 issue. That magazine also did not describe its prints. The only hint we get is that the title of the print is “Costume de Bal,” so we know it is indeed a ball dress. (Click on the French print to see a larger version.)

There are slight differences, so we know the Lady’s Magazine engravers did not make a direct copy. The tunic rides below the bosom in the French print (and that bosom is much fuller), with only part of the trim crossing the shoulder. The turban rides slightly higher on the head, and the facial features are different. The pattern of the floor is also different. The Lady’s Magazine print shows a simple parquet floor, whereas the French pint shows what looks like a stone floor.  Another difference is that the engravers for the Lady’s Magazine print did a much better job, which is not always the case. The delineation of folds and draping is much more sophisticated, as is the suggestion of wood grain on the chest.


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