Oct 122012
 

Whenever a new fashion appears, there are those who ridicule it. After the excesses of exaggerated posteriors and padded embonpoints you might think that the “elegant” high- waisted lines which became popular in 1794, and which presaged the regency look, would have met with approval. Far from it – the dress tight under the bust dropping to the ground without a hint of a waist was a source of ridicule. A parody of the popular song “Shepherds I have lost my love – Have you seen my Anna?” turned it into “Shepherds I have Lost My Waist Have you seen my body?”

   Shepherds, I have lost my waist,

   Have you seen my body?

   Sacrificed to modern taste,

   I’m quite a hoddy doddy!

   For fashion I that part forsook

   Where sages place the belly;

   T’is gone – and I have not a nook

   For cheesecake, tart, or jelly.”

In some instances additional lines were added:

   “Never shall I see it more,

   Till common sense returning,

   My body to my legs restore,

   Then I shall cease from mourning.

   Folly and fashion do prevail

   To such extremes among the fair,

   A woman’s only top and tail,

   The body’s banish’d God knows where!”

Here, to illustrate the verse, is a cartoon by my favourite caricaturist Richard Newton, courtesy of the British Museum.

The Museum’s own description states: “Front and back view of two ladies (or one lady) dressed identically. One (right) looks to the right at a round table on which are a jelly-glass and a tartlet, holding up a napkin in her left hand, the right behind her back. The other is behind her and on the left. She wears large ear-rings. The high-waisted dress has a flowing line with an overdress forming a train, and is thus less skimpy than others of the period. Two huge erect ostrich feathers decorate the head.”

Compared with some of the monstrosities of the Georgian era,  this seems positively tame to me!

  4 Responses to “A waste of a waist… fashion in 1794”

  1.  

    I love it. The Empire style took less fabric than any other style until the 20th century. However the high bust line really demanded stays for any who were beyond the age of twenty. Most of the fashion pictures appear, to me, to emphasize the bust.
    I have a great respect for the dressmakers of the day having to design and cut out patterns without the help of our printed patterns. I can also testify that even with the patterns it is not easy for a novice to make an Empire style/Regency dress. Usually in the 18th century, there was enough ornamentation or a piece going on top of it to hide sewing mistakes.
    The 18th century ladies held their gowns together with ties and pins, or so they say. Straight pins at that.
    The high waisted style was really the most sensible style to be seen for two centuries (the century before and the century after)
    Love the cariacatures of Newton.
    I wish he had had a chance to do court dress for the English court after the high-waisted style was well established. That was a most grotesque silhouette.

  2.  

    The poem is hilarious, but I love this style! Well, minus the giant feathers, I think.

  3.  

    Love the poem!
    And I agree, the fashions do seem much tamer in this picture than at other times in history!

  4.  

    haha! The poem is great!

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