Bonnets of the 1830s

1830s bonnets
Dinner Bonnet, Author’s Collection

Bonnets were one of the most popular types of headgear during the nineteenth century. Bonnets were worn for numerous occasions from social events to dinner parties to evening carriage rides. However, 1830s bonnets were not just pretty headgear or fashionable displays for women’s heads. They were also considered the only proper headgear when going outdoors. Bonnets protected women from nature’s harsh elements, such as the sun, wind, or cold.

If you have ever wondered what the difference is between a bonnet and a hat, people generally use the word bonnet when describing styles made from soft materials that are brimless. Bonnets also tied underneath the chin whereas hats do not. Bonnets of the 1830s had those characteristics but they also tended to frame the face with their wide, semicircular brims and decorative trimmings. They also functioned as fashion statements and were created from satin, silk, tulle, velvet, wool, and straw and decorated with ribbons, lace, crepe, flowers, and an occasional feather. Continue reading

Slang, Euphemisms, and Terms of the 1700 and 1800s – Letter M

The following are slang, euphemisms, and terms for the letter M and are primarily taken from Francis Grose’s Classical Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue published in 1811.

M-4541SmMACCARONI (now spelled macaroni) was not only an Italian pasta made from flour and eggs but also a term used to describe a fop. It was claimed that certain well-dressed and fashionable gents, who established men’s styles, were members of what was loosely termed the Maccaroni club, and which by contraction, styled them MACCARONI. If you are interested to learn more about macaronis, click here.

MACE mean to swindle or cheat, and MACE COVE referred to a swindler, a sharper, or a cheat. Continue reading

The Bicycle

Draisienne, Courtesy of Wikipedia
Draisienne, Courtesy of Wikipedia

There is controversy over who invented the bicycle. Some people claim it was a French carriage maker and blacksmith named Pierre Michaux. Other people assert it was Michaux’s son, Ernest. Still other people maintain it was not Michaux or his son, but rather another Frenchman entirely. His name was Pierre Lallement and he lived near Nancy, France, in 1862 and repaired baby carriages. Thus, because of the disagreements over who invented the bicycle, Pierre Michaux, his son Ernest, and Lallement, have all at one time or another been called the “father of the bicycle.” Continue reading

Slang, Euphemisms, and Terms of the 1700 and 1800s – Letter L

The following are interesting slang, euphemisms, and terms for the letter L and are primarily taken from Francis Grose’s Classical Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue published in 1811.

L-7893SmA prostitute was referred to as LACED MUTTON.

LAG FEVER was a term of ridicule applied to men who feigned illness to avoid being transported from the gaol (jail) to the hulks (ships deemed unworthy for the sea that served as prisons).

LAND LOPERS or LAND LUBBERS were vagabonds lurking about the countryside and subsisting by pilfering.

Highwaymen were also known as LAND PIRATES. Continue reading

Phaetons

Phaetons: Phaeton No. 1
Phaeton No. 1, Author’s Collection

Phaetons were stylish, four-wheeled carriages, with or without tops that usually had no side pieces in front by the seats. The name phaeton comes from Phaëton who was the mythical son of Helios (the personification of the Sun in Greek mythology).  Phaëton was said to have driven the Sun Chariot so dangerously he almost caught the earth on fire. Fortunately, before Phaëton destroyed the earth, Zeus struck him down with a lightning bolt. Continue reading

Slang, Euphemisms, and Terms for the 1700 and 1800s – Letters I, J, and K

The following are interesting slang, euphemisms, and terms for the letters I, J, and K and are primarily taken from Francis Grose’s Classical Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue published in 1811.

I-8118Sm

An INDIA WIPE was a silk handkerchief.

INEXPRESSIBLES were bum hugging, extremely tight pants that showed off a man’s muscular legs—similar to women’s leggings today. But, by the 1850s, INEXPRESSIBLES referred less to tight pants and more to underwear or unmentionables.

IRISH APRICOTS was another name for potatoes, because it was a common joke on Irish ships to say the vessel was loaded with fruit and timber.

IMPOST TAKERS were usurers who frequented gaming tables to lend gamblers money at exorbitant premiums. Continue reading

Evening Gowns of 1839

Evening Gown No. 1, Author's Collection
Evening Gown No. 1, Author’s Collection

Victorian era evening gowns of 1839 emphasized a woman’s figure with their bodices that tapered to a small point at the front and the skirt’s low waistline. Gown bodices were also tight and form-fitting, but beneath them were even tighter and more constricting garments. Corsets with gores made it almost impossible to breathe but women wore them because it gave them curvy feminine figures and accentuated and lifted their breasts. Skirts were also designed to make waists seem smaller as they were wide, conical in shape and low-waisted. In addition, at the time, the petticoats worn underneath skirts tended to bell out and that brought attention to a woman’s tiny waist. Continue reading

Georgian Headdresses of the 1780 and 1790s

Georgian headdresses, Lambelle Headdress, Author's Collection
Lamballe Headdress, Author’s Collection

By the mid 1780s, the towering Georgian headdresses that had been so popular in the earlier decade were slowly being replaced by less lofty creations. It was also during this time that hairstyles became wider and loaded with curls. The front portion of the hair was often styled away from the face and the top portion of the hair was either crimped, frizzed, or curled. The lower portion of the hair was usually arranged in cascading ringlets or large curls that sometimes flowed to the waist and added a note of carelessness to the overall arrangement. Marie Antoinette’s friend and confidante was princess Marie Thérèse of Savoy. She was better known as the princesse de Lamballe. She wore a style similar to the Lamballe Headdress created by the French hairdresser Henri de Bysterveld, illustrated to the right. Continue reading

Slang, Euphemisms, and Terms of the 1700 and 1800s – Letter H

The following are interesting slang, euphemisms, and terms for the letter H and are primarily taken from Francis Grose’s Classical Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue published in 1811.

H-6418Sm

HABERDASHER OF PRONOUNS was a schoolmaster.

A person hired to write for booksellers or for attorneys was known as a HACKNEY WRITER.

If you were HALF SEAS OVER you were almost drunk.

HAND BASKET PORTION was used to describe a woman’s husband who received frequent presents from his father-in-law or her family. Continue reading

Canaries

Yellow Canaries
Yellow Canary, Author’s Collection

Canaries were brought to Europe by Spanish sailors in the 1600s and named after the Canary Islands. Only the richest Spanish and English courts bred them at the time, and they did so with great difficulty as canaries were not understood and because males were primarily imported. After monks began to raise them, the monks sold male canaries only and this kept them costly and in demand. Continue reading