I attended a small Regency ball last weekend. It was charming and not nearly as packed full of people as I have grown accustomed to at these events in recent years. The smaller crowd made for a much more subdued (but still pleasant) evening than I was expecting.
The only downside was that the hall was exceptionally cold and not being full of people did not warm up very quickly! Few of us had planned for the situation and we were mostly scrambling to find any scarves or sweaters to wrap ourselves in. Many of us were resorting to items that we’d worn to keep ourselves warm outside, sacrificing fashion for warmth (it’s been below freezing here in Boston for at least the last three or four weeks consistently). I, for example, wrapped up in my pink cashmere scarf despite wearing a red dress. I thought it looked odd, though I was told that the colors looked good together. But there were a few lucky solutions that were both fashionable and warm: a large paisley shawl and a plaid scarf/wrap that looked very Scottish were the two most fashionable looks in my opinion. After some dancing and about midway through the evening, many had warmed up enough that scarves were being discarded, though I do believe I kept my scarf wrapped over my shoulders and chest throughout the entire evening.
I wore my red 1813 evening gown and my homemade red and gold tiara. (I had hoped to finish and wear my 1811 elusive blue evening gown, but I would have had to do a lot of last minute sewing to finish it in time and after my recent skating costume last minute sewing adventure I was not inclined to do so again so soon. It is very satisfying to have a closet of options for an event, especially when plans to complete something new go awry.) I also brought along my red and gold reticule, because it matches the outfit so perfectly (although the only thing I kept in it was my phone… which is the reason for the slightly blurry, grainy photos).
What do I mean by “chinoise”? The word itself is from the French adjective meaning Chinese. In terms of fashion, there are scarce references to “chinoise” styles in Regency fashion plates (compared to the abundance of Regency fashion plates showing other styles). Here are a few examples. This Merveilleuse from 1814 has a “Coeffure Chinoise,” this lady from 1812 has a “Coeffure a la Chinoise,” and this fashion plate shows “La Toilette Chinoise.” (I do sort of wonder how some of these attributes, and the hairstyles in particular, said “Chinese” to people during the Regency, but of course the world was perceived very differently then and people had access to vastly different quantities and types of information than I do today.)
I’ve often noticed that “chinoise” hairstyles make use of braids that wrap around the head. In addition, there seems to often be a vertical emphasis to the hair and to a bun, if one is present in the style. It is these attributes that say “a la chinoise” when I look at my own coiffure from last weekend. Sometime, I’ll have to try to make a more exaggerated “chinoise” style with a very tall and flyaway bun such as the Merveilleuse from 1814 has. I’m pretty sure my hair will have no trouble with that since it is naturally curly and wanting to fly away!