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Sunday, 11 March 2012

Pre-Regency spring fashion - evening wear

The fashion plates in La Belle Assemblée are widely admired for the insights that they can give us into the world of Regency fashion and beyond. Individually, they are both attractive and informative; collectively, they illustrate the way that fashion has changed over the years.

This series of blogs follows the way spring fashions changed from 1806 to 1827, by looking at particular elements of fashion in three time periods: pre-Regency, Regency and the reign of George IV. My first blog is dedicated to evening wear in the pre-Regency period.

Spring 1806
Parisian complete full dress   from La Belle Assemblée (Feb 1806)
Parisian complete full dress
 from La Belle Assemblée (Feb 1806)
“The more elegant the taste, the more superior the beauty of a lady, the less she has occasion for ornaments; her dress, therefore, should be simple and unaffected. This incontestable truth should convince our London Fashionables, that the only improvement in dress consists in a superadded simplicity and gracefulness, and not in a singularity of costume of any kind whatever.” La Belle Assemblée (1806)

Spring 1807
Ball dress   from La Belle Assemblée (Feb 1807)
Ball dress
 from La Belle Assemblée (Feb 1807)
A ball dress “of plain crape, over a white satin slip, made a dancing length; plain back and sleeves, with quartered front, trimmed round the bottom, on the waist and sleeves, with a white velvet ribband thickly spangled with gold. A white satin sash, tied in long bows and ends on the right side, terminated with splendid gold tassels. High gathered tucker of Brussels lace.”

“India shawl, a deep amber colour, with a rich and variegated fringe and border, negligently drawn through each arm, so as to form a flowing drapery on the right side of the figure.”

A tucker was a ruffle attached to the neck of a gown to infill the neckline for a more modest look.

Spring 1810
Evening dress   from La Belle Assemblée (Feb 1810)
Evening dress
 from La Belle Assemblée (Feb 1810)
“A white satin round dress, with half yard train, laced up the back and seams with gold twist, ornamented round the neck with a full twill of frosted satin or white crape, and down the front and at the wrist with gold braiding, and small drop buttons. It is made to sit high on the neck; cut to a point in the centre of the bosom and back: a gold band encircles the waist.”

The second figure wears an “India muslin train over a white satin petticoat. A bodice of green velvet, ornamented at the seams with gold braiding, and trimmed round the neck with a twill of green crape or velvet.”

Twill is a fabric known for its diagonal weave.

My observations 

The predominant colour of all these dresses is white. The gowns relied upon the trimmings and accessories and, in one case, the bodice, to bring colour to the outfits. The earlier two plates show short sleeves and long gloves; by 1810, the sleeves were long. The dresses are in the Empire style, with high waistlines and the material falling loosely below.

Sources used include:
Bell, John, La Belle Assemblée, various (1806-1810)


  1. Thank you so much for the excellent costume descriptions. I need a ball gown (full dress) for 1807 late spring dance in romance sequel I am working on. Perfect!

    1. I am so glad that you found this post helpful. Happy writing. :)