La Belle Assemblée, September 1809.
“Cheltenham Summer Dress”
I love this print for all the little colorful details against the beautifully detailed black-and-white background: the chip straw hat with its wreath of oak leaves and acorns, the blue silk scarf with the elegant border, the bodice laced with pink ribbon, the underdress of “hail-stone spotted muslin,” the gaitered half-boots of blue kid and yellow jean, the parasol and gloves set aside on the rock, the book held open by her thumb, and her expression suggesting she is pondering what she has just read. It is superbly engraved and delicately painted.
The two prints in the magazine this month (the August issue — the fashion prints are always dated for the following month) mention Cheltenham. This one is a Cheltemham Summer Dress and the other is a Cheltemham Assembly Ball Dress. This was the time of year when fashionable society went to the seaside, or to one of the spa towns – Cheltemham, Harrogate, Buxton, Tunbridge Wells, even Bath, though it was no longer considered fashionable. In the General Observations on the Most Approved Fashions for the Season in this issue of the magazine, it states: “The flights of our fashionable fair leaves us little of novelty to communicate directly from the metropolis; gaiety and bustle have deserted our streets, and whatever of invention or elegance may be worthy of notice will be found in summer retreats.”
The print is described in the magazine as follows:
“WALKING DRESS. A Flushing hat of white Italian chip, a cap of the same material appearing underneath, ornamented with a wreath of oak-leaves and acorns, bound round the edge with blossom-pink ribband. Round dress of jaconet muslin, made tight to the shape, slashed Spanish front, laced with ribband the same as the hat, open before low enough to admit the figure; bosom and sleeves composed of hail-stone spotted muslin, frilled with scallop lace; train sloped up in front à-la-Parisienne, and bound with ribband; Persèse scarf of Prussian blue silk, brought across the back and bosom, and round the neck, confined to the waist by a band and clasp. Gaitered slippers of blue kid and yellow jean. Gloves of York tan. Parasol brown or blue. The hair in light ringlet curls. Gold hoop earrings. Elastic ribband bracelets, with gold snaps.”