Hats, January 1816

La Belle Assemblée, January 1816.

“Parisian Head Dresses.”

This print is an exact copy of a print from the November 10, 1815 issue of the French publication Journal des Dames et des Modes, a practice common in several ladies’ magazines in England. Normally, when La Belle Assemblée publishes a French print, it is described as though it were a British creation, giving no hint that the print was not original to their magazine. One assumes that the French prints were “borrowed” because the La Belle Assemblée editorial team (primarily Mrs. Bell, at this time) liked the design. In fact, she often claims them as her own designs, as with this Morning Dress. But here, she has chosen a French print of hats that she doesn’t much like at all. They are, in fact, “devoid of taste” or completely “outre.”

The French magazine gives almost no descriptions of its prints, save what little is printed at the bottom. But Mrs. Bell goes on to describe each of these “unbecoming” hats in detail. Based on the final sentence of the description, apparently Mrs. Bell is suggesting that she would transform these ugly French hats with her typical “taste and elegance.” The lady has quite a healthy ego, doesn’t she?

Though the print is an exact copy of the French print, the numbers beside each hat in the original (which corresponded to the brief descriptions below the print) have been removed. Nevertheless, Mrs. Bell refers to these absent numbers. I have added, in the description below, the hats to which her numbers refer.

The print is described in the magazine as follows:

“This engraving of Parisian head-dresses will not speak much in their favor. No. 1 [top, left] represents a hat of white Chinese figured velvet, with a quilling of fine blond next the face; tied with Murray coloured ribbands, and surmounted by a bunch of Heliotropes. No. 2 [top, right] is a hat of striped pink satin, ornamented with a plume of down feathers. The cornettes, or mobs, are devoid of taste, and far less becoming than the old fashioned French cornette worn in the reign of Louis XIV. Those numbered 3 [center, left and bottom, left] are dedicated solely to breakfast costume, and are of the finest cambric that can be procured, trimmed with fine lace, and bound round the head with figured white satin ribband. The cornettes marked 4 [center, right and bottom, right] are fine spotted India muslin, trimmed with lace, and ornamented with murray or rose coloured ribband. Many of the French costumes in themselves are outre and unbecoming; Mrs. Bell has found the art, by a happy association of English and foreign fashions, to impart both taste and elegance to each.”

Here is the original French print:

You can see that it has not been altered at all. The La Belle Assemblée print is an exact copy. So, we are left to guess at the transformations  that Mrs. Bell’s taste and elegance would provide.

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