La Belle Assemblée, October 1814.
“Morning Walking Dress”
This very pretty print is interesting to me for several reasons. First, I love the depiction of the outdoor scenery, which the magazines were doing less often than in earlier years. Second, it clearly shows what half-boots looked like, even though they are shown on impossibly tiny feet. And third, the description that accompanies the print describes at length the corset worn underneath.
The print is described in the magazine as follows:
“Autumnal Walking Dress: Jaconet muslin high dress, with a triple flounce of muslin embroidery round the edge, and slightly scalloped; a row of worked points surmounts the top flounce. The body is composed of jaconet muslin and letting-in lace; the former cut in broad strips and sewed full to the latter, which is about an inch in breadth; the body is made up to the throat, but has no collar : the shape is the same as last month except that the back is a little broader. Long sleeve of muslin and lace to correspond with the body. Spenceret of rose-coloured velvet of a form the most elegantly simple and tasteful that we have seen; it is very short in the waist, and tight to the shape; it is ornamented at top by a lace frill, and is cut so as to cover the bosom but to leave the neck bare. This spenceret is very much admired, and it is certainly truly elegant, but it owes its principal attraction to the corset over which it is worn, and certainly nothing was ever so well calculated to display a fine shape to advantage as the Circassian corset, which has been patronized and recommended with incredible celerity by ladies of the highest distinction, who are unanimous in declaring it to be the only corset ever introduced that has in every way answered the encomiums bestowed upon it. The superior ease, gracefulness, and elegance which it gives to the female figure, are too obvious to need a comment; while on the other hand, its beneficial effects upon the health are daily attested by ladies who rejoice in the success of an invention which has freed them from the tortures inflicted by whalebone, steel, &c. We must not omit to observe that the walking bonnet of this month, which is composed of white satin and rose-coloured velvet, and ornamented with a plume of white feathers, will certainly become general, as it is a most elegant bonnet; it is worn over a small white lace cap. Rose-coloured jane, or leather, boots, and Limerick gloves.
“The above dress was invented by Mrs. Bell, Inventress of the ladies’ Chapeau Bras, at her Magazin des Modes. No. 26 Charlotte-street, Bedford-square,”
Mrs. Bell was in some way related to the publisher of La Belle Assemblée, possibly his daughter-in-law. Since her name is so often mentioned and her designs effusively praised, I have long been convinced that she acted as a sort of fashion editor for the magazine, and used it to promote her own business. Besides the lengthy descriptions of the fashion prints, La Belle Assemblée also always includes several pages devoted to the latest trends seen this month in London and Paris, and typically states that many of the garments mentioned can be obtained from Mrs. Bell. In this issue, the Circassian corset, Mrs. Bell’s invention, is given a further endorsement:
“We must here remark that the shapes [of the various dresses described] are manifestly improved since Mrs. Bell’s invention of the Circassian corsets, as they are made without steel, whalebone, or other hard substances, the wearer always exhibits ease, gracefulness, and dignity; this improvement in corsets, we are happy to find, has met with the decided approbation of every lady of taste in dress: and should be most generously encouraged, since physicians declare that not more imperceptibly injures the health than the wearing of these incongruous trammels, steel and whalebone. Pregant ladies have great reason to rejoice at the invention; nothing can possibly be more desirable to them.”