Cabinet of Taste

Cabinet of Taste; or Monthly Compendium of Foreign Costume. 

By a Parisian Correspondent.

Costume of Paris.

Though the winter is uncommonly mild, yet our Gallic belles, ever true to what is strictly classical, are now seen arrayed in winter's attire, and coating, velvet, and fur envelope their light and fantastic forms. Never were muffs so universal, and the Witzchouras of this year are more warm than ever; they are trimmed with fur of an immense breadth; and are lined with the same material. Pelisses of white satin, trimmed all round with chinchilla or swans-down, are most fashionable for the carriage. For this costume also, a violet-coloured velvet pelisse, with a hat of black velvet, is much admired. A few ladies, who wish to be singular, wear, however, no warmer covering than a satin or spotted velvet spencer, with a white hat trimmed with rose-colour, or a rose-coloured hat trimmed with white; these fashionists form a little kind of party, which is, nevertheless, laughed at by La belle Frillense, who continues [34] to wrap herself up, till she is almost expiring under the weight of her dress. 

The hats and head-dresses have evinced an astonishing variety since I wrote to you last. The former of black velvet, with a quilling of tulle or blond, is reckoned the most genteel for the promenade. Swans-down trimmings are much in favour as ornaments of every kind of hat. Fawn coloured ostrich feathers are among the most novel ornaments for hats; they are made of what the plumassiers denominate the thin bearded part of the feather. 

Hats have a decided preference over bonnets; and one of the former of Carmelite-coloured down, lined with jonquil-coloured saranet, has been much admired; this is the equestrian kind: London smoke is also a favourite colour for this kind of hat. Black beaver hats are sported by many ladies of the first fashion; and a red purple bonnet trimmed of gauze spotted with velvet of the same colour as the bonnet, is much in requisition. 

The beaver hats I mentioned above, are ornamented with a broad band, with a metal buckle on one side. Some have three narrower bands, placed at equal distances, with small buckles. Coloured velvet hats have generally a band of very broad ribband, made in the form of cockleshells. 

The gowns for evening dress are made very low, and puckered on the shoulders. Bodice of crape or white satin, are very general in full dress; but a corsage of celestial blue spotted velvet is most admired, with a toque of the same colour, or a dress vermette of tulle

Dresses of Merino crape are trimmed at the border with velvet laid on in festoons, and which velvet is generally spotted; many gowns are trimmed at the border with pieces of velvet set on in full rows, either in the shape of lozenges or medallions. Brandenburgs are still in use as ornaments, but are reckoned most genteel when they descend no lower than the waist. Scarlet stuff gowns, with flounces of the same, embroidered with white silk, are much worn for home costume

For the court mourning worn for your late gracious Queen, black velvet dresses formed the favourite costume for the evening; these were ornamented with Brandenburgs of jet: the waist was encircled by a cordon of jet, and the mancherons of the sleeves were fastened up with the same material. 

Velvet and satin dresses are now trimmed with a very broad fur, reaching as high as the knee, and have generally a pelerine with a standing-up collar. Swans-down is the fur most in favour for trimming the dresses of the wealthy, or else the best Peruvian chinchilla. A new dress has appeared on one of our most celebrated leaders of fashion, and is highly appreciated for its whimsicality. It is a poplin, exactly the colour of the bright juice of the morello cherry: it is made like a frock, with gold Brandenburgs, and finished by two flounces of white broad blond. Another dress of the frock kind is made of white satin or celestial blue, the former richly trimmed with sable, the other ornamented round the border, throat, and sleeves with swansdown. For evening dresses the sleeves, however, are in general made short, of the same materials as the gown, or, if long, of tulle. 

Toques, and a close kind of caps, surmounted by a flat crowned hat of white satin, are much worn at the Theatres; they are ornamented with narrow gold cord and a coloured band. These toques have two short ends which come down in a point even with the ears. A toque better adapted to full dress is more in favour for evening parties; it is of black velvet, something like an officer's cocked hat in shape, and is ornamented in front with a plume of six down feathers, divided by a clasp of diamonds or pearls. Rose-coloured satin toques, with feathers of the same colour, placed very much on one side, and fastened on the opposite side with a bunch of ribbands, are much in favour. Another favourite head-dress is a round turban of crape or tulle, with a bandeau of white roses, between which are stuck marabout feathers, which meet so as to form a diadem in front. Wreaths of flowers, when forming the sole head-dress on the hair, are placed low on the forehead, and the termination of the wreath is lost in the cluster of curls behind. The hair in the morning is arranged in one simple braid without any curls; in the evening it is parted on the forehead, while large ringlets of the corkscrew kind fall on each side of the [35] head, à-la-Sevigné. When the hair is arranged for grande costume, it is made up in several bows, and is ornamented à-la-Cleopatra, that is, in the Egyptian style, in separate tresses, between each of which is a vacancy of about two fingers' breadth.

Half turbans of very thin gauze are much in favour for the ball-room; they are ornamented in front with a bandeau of pearls or diamonds. For the court mourning jet was substituted. 

I have remarked lately at one of our respectable dinner parties, a very curious kind of toque, which seems to take mightily; it is of green satin, diversified with pink ornaments and bindings. Directly in front are placed two large feathers, the points of which turn to the right and to the left: the middle part of these feathers is white, and the edges pink variegated with green; this head-dress is quite à-la-Française. 

At the Opera, and at benefit plays, always a scene of dress in Paris, the head is surmounted by the English veil; which, when negligently tied under the chin, adds new attraction to a pretty face, and reminds me strongly of those engravings which your unrivalled taste was so wont to admire, the engravings of Isybeau; and which you and I have so often contemplated together. 

I shall conclude this long letter with telling you that our favourite colours are the nakara, or field poppy, dead leaf, London smoke, and morello cherry.

Parisian Correspondent. "Cabinet of Taste; or Monthly Compendium of Foreign Costume." La Belle Assemblée, or being Bell's Court and Fashionable Magazine. (January 1819), 34-36.

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Rachael Miles

Rachael Miles

Author of "cozily scrumptious" historical romances set in the British Regency.


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