Opera Dress, March 1815

La Belle Assemblée, March 1815.

“Full Dress for the Opera, Theatre, &c”

Dresses meant to be worn at the opera or theater are typically classified as Half Dress. Yet the print title names this dress as Full Dress for the Opera, etc. Then the description names it a Dinner Dress. Confusing! Though it is a gorgeous dress, it doesn’t look opulent enough for Full Dress, so I suggest it can be properly classified as Half Dress. That means it could have been appropriately worn for a dinner party, the opera, or the theater.

The long sleeves are made of lace, and they look as though they might be detachable, though the description does not say so. The hat is rather elegant, but again suggests Half Dress. Such a hat would seem unlikely for Full Dress.

This beautiful red velvet dress was “invented” by Mrs. Bell, and the description, once again, praises her to the moon. I remain convinced that she wrote these fulsome descriptions herself.

The print is described in the magazine as follows:

“DINNER DRESS.–A short round dress of bright ruby velvet, or twilled sarsnet; if the latter is should be shot with white. The form of this dress is extremely novel and elegant; the body, which is formed in the frock style, is calculated to display the beauty of the chest to the utmost advantage; and to such ladies as are not peculiarly well formed about the bosom it gives an appearance of width to the chest, as well as an easy elegance to the shape, which must be seen to be credited. Long sleeve, composed of white lace, made, as all the sleeves of the present month are, very full, the fullness is drawn in at the top in the front of the arm, and it is confined at the wrist in a novel and tasteful style. White lace French tucker, which we have no hesitation in saying is by far the most elegant thing that has been introduced for a length of time and does the highest credit to the taste and inventiveness of Mrs. Bell; it is so contrived as to shade the bosom while it leaves that part of the neck bare which may be exposed without indelicacy; it finishes the dress in a style the most chaste, novel and tasteful that we have ever seen. The bottom of the dress is simply ornamented with two rows of bias lace or crape, put on the reverse way, and lightly finished round the edge with a French beading. Head-dress, the Britannia Toque, composed of ruby velvet, and finished with a gold or silver band and a white ostrich feather. This cap which is rather in the French style, is elegantly appropriate to dinner dress. White kid slippers and gloves; small ivory French fan.”

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