Le Beau Monde, January 1807.
“Court Dresses for Her Majesty’s Birthday”
This print is very special as it is one of the only prints I’ve ever seen that shows both male and female court costumes. These would have been worn in the January Drawing Room in honor of the Queen’s birthday, which was always celebrated in January (even though this queen’s true birthday was in May). The monarch’s birthday was, and still is, officially celebrated in June.
The print is described in the magazine as follows:
“The return of the rigid season brings with it once more, to every loyal bosom, the happy occasion of doing honour to the birth-day of our gracious and amiable Queen. Fancy and taste have long been busy in making preparations, and the condescension of a noble lady has enabled us to anticipate some of the characteristics that are likely to distinguish the habiliments of the day. The design which she has done us the honour to communicate, brings the whole into a central point of consideration, and we have therefore only to describe it.
“Fig. No. 1. FOR LADIES–The hair dressed in natural curls round the face, with a coronet, bandeau, or other ornament in gold–feathers of every kind. The body, sleeves, and petticoat, of rich, full-coloured satin or velvet: the draperies of gauze or tiffany spotted with gold embroidery; the trimmings and false sleeves of the same, edged with rich lace, and the cords and tassels that festoon the draperies, of gold. The bracelets round the sleeves, the zone and the binding of the petticoat to be of plate gold, we suppose in commemoration of the lately achieved conquest of South America. The petticoat is decorated with artificial wreaths of the white thorn made in relief.
“Fig. No. 2. FOR GENTLEMEN–Dark Green, or other dark colour, coat and small-cloathes of silk, velvet, or fine cloth, covered with a small spot somewhat lighter of the same colour, edged with silver lace, and embroidered with any kind of wild flower of acknowledged British growth; waistcoat of white satin, embroidered in a very light pattern of gold thread. Silk stockings, perfectly white.”
The gentleman’s hat, sword, and buckled shoes were a required part of the court costume for men.
There are a few missing elements that puzzle me. Neither the lady nor the gentleman is wearing gloves, which would have been required by the dictates of fashion if not also the dictates of court dress. Perhaps they are just leaving their home and will don gloves in the carriage on the way to St. James. And the lady does not appear to be wearing lappets, the long strips of lace typically attached to the feathers and hanging down the back, which were also a requirement for court dress. But it could be that they are indeed hanging down her back and we just can’t see them.