Chapter Xxviii


i860 to 1862.

Fashions in i860 and 1861—Jeweller y—Shape of " Russian " bonnets—Nomenclature of girdles—Different styles of dressing the hair—The " Ceres " wreath—Flowers and leaves for the hair—Prohibition of green materials—Anecdotes from the Union Médicale and the youmal de la Nièvre—Cloth and silk mantles—Braid and astrakan—Four types of bonnet—Morning bonnets—Artificial flowers.

Now that our task is nearly completed, we might, if necessary, appeal to the recollections of our readers, for we have reached the contemporary era, and we approach the present time.

In i860, as in 1840, necklaces, lockets, and gold or diamond crosses, suspended by a velvet ribbon or a gold chain, were worn round the neck.

The wealthy wore necklaces composed of separate stars formed of precious stones, or of large gold beads arranged three by three, pear-shaped, and terminating in a gold point.

Some little variations apart, ornaments of this kind have always been conspicuous in feminine dress. The utmost inventiveness of jewellers has only modified the shapes of necklaces, lockets, and crosses.

The same may be said of buckles, watches, watch-chains, buttons, and bracelets ; in a word, of all the trinkets successively sanctioned by Fashion.

In the year of which we are now writing, the best dressed women, adopted for watering-place wear the Russian hat proper, if I may so style it. This hat was of Belgian straw, high crowned, the brims turned up and covered with velvet, of perfectly round shape, like a plate, and trimmed with a large rosette in front, and an aigrette higher than the crown of the hat. With that exception, there was nothing new or original in dress.

Milliners and dressmakers made certain improvements in small matters, and, as is always the case, in default of new inventions, they endeavoured to revive, if only for a very brief period, some of the fashions of the past.

There was a great variety of girdles and belts in i860, viz. : long and wide ones matching the gown trimmings ; long, plain sashes, the ends trimmed with bands of velvet, and fringe ; also waistbands in Russian or German leather, hand embroidered, or braided in gold and beads.

In 1861, wide velvet belts called "Medici" were worn, and since that time sashes have become an important article of attire, on account of their forming part of the national dress of Alsace and Lorraine.

Bands and belts of all sorts seemed to indicate, even at that period, the metal belts that were afterwards fashionable in 1875.

In 1861, bands of gold, either straight or diadem shaped, were worn on the head, and were extremely becoming to dark-haired women. Large gold combs, with a heavy ring to hold the hair, velvet coronets with gold beads or buttons, velvet twists and aigrettes, feather head-dresses, bunches of flowers, velvet bows, and " Ceres " wreaths were very fashionable.

The favourite style of dressing the hair was in very large rolls, with a bunch of berries and ash privet on the top of the head ; or a wreath of hops and foliage ; or one of oak leaves with gold acorns, and a gold aigrette in the centre. Wreaths of cornflower, with wheat-ears meeting over the forehead, were "Ceres" wreaths. These seem to us to have been among the last styles arranged with order, and in which the talent of the hairdresser might manifest itself or produce any artistic result.

The fashion of wearing false and dyed hair was about to reappear, and French ladies were to put in practice the axiom, that "beautiful disorder is an effect of art/'

A curious fact attracted the attention of Parisian society in 1861 ; and the ladies promptly discarded all green materials. In a professional journal, the Union Médicale, the following paragraph appeared :—

" A young married lady who had gone to a party, wearing a pale green satin gown, was attacked, after dancing several quadrilles, with sensations of numbness and want of power in the lower limbs, tightness in the chest, vertigo, and headache, and was obliged to return home. The symptoms gradually abated, but the feeling of weakness in the abdominal region lasted until the third day. No special cause, such as tight lacing, &c., could be discovered, and suspicion having been directed to the colour of the lady's gown, a chemical analysis was made, and the presence of a quantity of arsenite of copper detected. It is the opinion of Professor Blasius, that the movement produced by dancing might, especially with dresses of the ample width required by the present fashion, suffice to detach a quantity of the arsenical dye, which on being absorbed by the lungs would give rise to symptoms of arsenical poisoning."

The Journal de la Nievre wrote as follows:—

" Some dressmakers living at Nevers had received an order to make a green tarlatan gown. Several strips of the material had been torn off for ruchings, thereby producing a fine dust, which, settling on the face and penetrating the body through the respiratory and nasal organs, had occasioned colic in some cases, and in others an eruption on the face, . .

Green wall-papers and green dress materials were declared to be equally pernicious to health.

An interdict was accordingly laid on green, until some chemical process had been discovered to obviate the dangers described by the Union Medicale and the Journal de la Nievre.

Women were quite ready to suffer for the sake of their beauty, to tighten their waists, to imprison their feet in shoes too narrow for them, to run the risk of inflammation of the chest by wearing low-cut gowns; but they were not willing to be poisoned by green dyes, especially as green is not a very becoming colour to most women, and by no means sets off the complexion.

In order to withstand the cold of winter, our Parisian ladies made up their minds to wear mantles of soft cloth, or heavy cc gros-grain" silk, although the weight of such garments fatigued them.

These mantles were generally trimmed with broad braid; but some of them were literally covered with embroidery, and were consequently very expensive. Real or imitation Astrakan was used for every kind of paletot; the curly coats of the still-born lambs being greatly admired.

Braiding and Astrakan had a long reign; both were constantly used to trim various new shapes in mantles or coats, which they greatly improve without adding to the cost. The town of Astrakan, in Russia, benefited largely by the French fashions in that particular instance.

The following are types of the most fashionable bonnets, with which feathers, or velvet flowers, and rosettes, tufts (called chous), or bows of black lace and white blond, were worn: (1) a bonnet in royal blue velvet, with a scarf of white tulle laid on the brim; (2) a black velvet bonnet, with white tulle scarf put round the crown, and falling over the curtain; (3) a red satin (groseille des Alpes) drawn bonnet, covered with tulle, and with bows at the side; (4) an orange velvet bonnet, with soft crown and white tulle brim, a wreath of flowers on the edge.

For morning dress, horsehair, Belgian straw, and chip bonnets were worn.

Very little change was observable in boots, which were generally made of leather or Turkish satin (satin ture); shoes, either trimmed or plain, and pumps were no longer in fashion.

Ball-dresses in 1861-2 were generally rose-coloured, with an over-skirt of lace, and adorned with flowers. On the head was worn a brilliant bunch of roses, giving a charming finish to the whole costume.

The manufacture of artificial flowers received a great impetus at the Exhibition of 1855; and it is no exaggeration to say that flowers which rivalled Nature itself were produced.

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