May 142012

Just to stir the pot and give another view on the rivalry between the English and their cousins across the Channel, here is another fine print courtesy of the British Museum (copyright acknowledged). It shows a pair of elegantly attired French ladies dressed in white with elaborately ruched costumes, encountering three rather plain and oddly attired English ladies.

The English wear long-waisted close-fitting bodices, with skirts narrowing at the bottom, giving an oddly dumpy profile (akin to a sack of potatoes) whereas the French ladies wear gowns which are high-waisted, with full skirts to the ankle, and which are elaborately trimmed with pinked, scalloped, or embroidered frills. There is no mistaking that this is a Parisian print showing French views of English taste – brought even more into high relief by the rear views of the men in the background. The stout figure on the left, with an ill fitting coat and exaggeratedly turned down boots, is clearly English. The figure on the right is an elegantly attired Frenchman in a short full-skirted coat, well-fitting breeches, and top-boots of less extreme cut.

The print is dated November 1814.

Oh dear and just as I thought  we were trying to be nice to each other…

  4 Responses to “And how the French view the English…. (1814)”


    The French could have displayed the same sense of cultural superiority in any aspect of life in 1814 – fashions, of course, but cuisine, table manners, furniture, porcelain, gold and silver, parks and gardens etc etc.

    Of course 1814 was a very interesting date, when we think of absolute rulers, inept parliaments, dismal politics, painful revolutions, civil war etc etc – in France only.

    Has anything changed?


    Having seen the depictions of French ball gowns in the prints in La Belle Assemblee, I would have said that the French gowns of the period, like those above, resembled more nearly over-decorated cakes with an excess of frills and furbelows; the English gowns in the fashion magazines, rather than in the imagination of the artist above, tended to be more elegant and less overblown. La Belle Assemblee from 1806 onward may be found on google books in half yearly volumes.
    They do perceive the English as oddities, don’t they? I don’t think there has ever been an entente cordiale in anything but name…


    Those two guys in the background look like they’re urinating against a wall. Tsk. And with ladies in sight. So much for refined gentlemanly manners 🙂

    And those hats! What a balancing act! No wonder migraines were so common.


    Ahh, the hats! Can’t stand the awful ones worn by the english trio. Give me feathers, great plumes of them. Adds height and shape, and sets the face off to perfection! What is the odd migraine? A price to pay for style and elan !
    Ladies of the Eighteenth Century: If you want comfort, stay at home and wear something “sensible”.If you want style – copy the French even if it does make your head ache!

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