In 2014, I started a series of posts using the acronym 19CBRE, meaning “19th Century Ball Room Etiquette”. (You can read about my reasons for starting this series of posts in the original post here.) I’ve been on-and-off-again posting in this category (the last post was in 2016…), but I’ve had some further ideas in mind despite not actually posting them.
“If you are prudent you will not dance every dance, nor, in fact, much more than half the number on the list; you will then escape that hateful redness of face at the time, and that wearing fatigue the next day which are among the worst features of a ball.
The Habits of Good Society: A Handbook of Etiquette for Ladies and Gentlemen. London: Hogg and Sons, 1859. 343. (Available online here)
The reason the quote reminds me of Denmark is because I most certainly did not escape “that hateful redness of face”! That’s a tall order in a warm room. I was also exhausted the next day, but that was due in part to a wonderfully long week of dancing all day each day. As evidenced in this case, sometimes these evils are worth facing… and sometimes I find that I would rather conserve my energy for the dances I really enjoy and not dance every single dance. My choice often depends on the venue, the special qualities of the ball, and the skill level of my partners. Facing a challenging set of dances in a special ball at a special place is more likely to lead me away from the etiquette manual’s guidance. What choice would you make?
If you’d like to read more of the snippets of etiquette I’ve highlighted over the years you can do so here.
Way back when I started the Regency pelisse I posted about recently, I got very excited about the version of the inspiration image that is labeled ‘Orange Boven Dinner Dress.’ I had no idea what the description ‘orange boven’ meant and so I went looking for information…which led me down the research rabbit hole.
Turns out that ‘orange boven’ is much more than a description of color. In fact, it is connected to Dutch history! (That fact reminds me strongly of Orange Pekoe tea, which has nothing to do with tasting like oranges and everything to do with a historical association with the House of Orange and the Dutch East India Company, in addition to the tea leaf grading system.)
I’ve put together a few excerpts from my research to better explain the historical context of ‘orange boven.’ These first excerpts are from “The History Of The Northern War; Commencing In 1812, To The Congress At Vienna In 1815.” John Hampdon, Esq. 1815. (The full text of this book is free on google books, you can view it by clicking the link. If you put “history of orange boven” into the search feature it will take you directly to the relevant pages, some of which I have condensed here.)
From Chapter XXIII. Pages 360-361.
“…But it was not necessary that the troops of the allies should make their appearance in those countries, which had so long endured the miseries of French subjugation, to free them from their invaders…the sentiments and feelings of the conquered countries, which had so long been kept down by their presence, being now unchecked, spontaneously burst forth in favour of their legitimate governments.
Holland, which had so long groaned under French tyranny; which, from the peculiar nature of the country, and the dispositions and habits of its people, had suffered more from the continental system than any other part of Europe, set the example of liberating itself from its oppressors. All at once, and, there is reason to believe, most unexpectedly, both to the governments of Great Britain and France, on the 15th of November an insurrection broke out in Amsterdam, where the people rose in a body, proclaiming the house of Orange, with the old cry of Orange boven, and universally putting up the orange cockade. The example of the inhabitations of Amsterdam was immediately followed by those of other towns in the provinces of Holland and Utrecht; the French authorities were dismissed; a provisional government formed, from which two deputies were sent to the prince of Orange in this country; and the following laconic and emphatic address to the Dutch was circulated:
‘Orange boven! Holland is free–the allies advance upon Utrecht–the English are invited–the French fly on all sides–the sea is open–trade revives–party spirit has ceased–what has been suffered is forgiven and forgotten–men of consequence and consideration are called to the government–the government invites the prince to the sovereignty–we join the allies, and force the enemy to sue for peace–the people are to have a day of rejoicing at the public expence, without being allowed to plunder or commit any excess–every one renders thanks to God–old times are returned–Orange boven!’
The prince of Orange lost no time in going over to Holland; and the ministry of Great Britain nobly seconded him in his purpose of completely liberating his country…”
From Chapter XXIV. Pages 375-376. Another account of the same events.
“Nov. 21, 1813.
The baron Perponcher and Mr James Fagel have arrived this day from Holland…to inform his royal highness the prince regent and his serene highness the prince of Orange, that a counter-revolution broke out in…on Monday last, the 15th instant, when the people of Amsterdam rose in a body, proclaiming the house of Orange with the old cry of Orange boven, and universally putting up the Orange colours.
This example was immediately followed by the other towns of the provinces…
The French authorities were dismissed, and a temporary government established and proclaimed in the name of the prince of Orange, and, until his serene highness’s arrival, composed of the most respectable members of the old government, and chiefly of those not employed under the French.”
From Chapter XXVI. Pages 399-400.
“Amersterdam, Dec. 2. About three o’clock, his serene highness the prince of Orange made his solemn entry into this capital, thorough the gate of Haerlem, under the roar of artillery, and with the ringing of all the bells. The joy was general among all classes of inhabitants; the numbers of the populace that were assembled, and flew to every part where his highness passed, were past description; the joyful acclamations of Huzza! Orange boven! And Long live prince William the First, sovereign price of the Netherlands! were uninterrupted. The whole city will be illuminated this evening.”
Here is another account, from a few decades later. This is from a History of Europe During The French Revolution. 1789-1815. Archibald Allison, 1841. (Again, the full text of this book is free on google books, you can view it by clicking the link. If you put “history of orange boven” into the search feature it will take you directly to the relevant pages, some of which I have condensed here.)
From Chapter LXXI. Pages 657-658..
“At Amsterdam, the [French] troops were no sooner gone than the inhabitants rose in insurrection, deposed the Imperial authorities, hoisted the orange flag, and established a provisional government, with a view to the re-establishment of the ancient order of things…the people every where, amidst cries of ‘Orange Boven!’ and universal rapture, mounted the orange cockade, and reinstated the ancient authorities; and after twenty years of foreign domination and suffering, the glorious spectacle was exhibited, of a people peacefully regaining their independence, and not shedding a drop of blood, and, without either passion or vengeance, reverting to the institutions of former times.”
Here is a much more succinct mention. This is from A History of Germany; From Its Invasion By Marius to the Year 1850 (1862). (Again, the full text of this book is free on google books, you can view it by clicking the link. If you put “history of orange boven” into the search feature it will take you directly to the relevant pages, some of which I have condensed here.)
From Chapter LI. Page 350.
…Meanwhile the partisans of William of Orange, then in his twenty-second year, were rousing the nation with the cry of “Oranjie boven,” Up with Orange. Hats were decorated with orange-colored ribbons, and on every tower waved a banner with the inscription–
Up with Orange, down with Witt; Him who says nay, may thunder split.
Another source I came across is a book published in 1900 called Anneke: A Little Dame of New Netherlands. Written by Elizabeth Williams Chimney, there is an entire chapter with the title ‘orange boven.’ The forward of the book reveals its fictional nature and I have not been able to find another reference to the information on the first page of the chapter, but it is an interesting and quick read if you’re further interested in this topic. This link will take you directly to the first page of the ‘orange boven’ chapter.
I started this post soon after joining the Vernet Project, so I think it must have been in my drafts for close to two years at this point. I didn’t want to leave it in the drafts folder forever, though, so I thought I’d include it as I’m wrapping up my Vernet posts.
Throughout my research, I’ve looked through many hundreds of pins on my Pinterest boards from the 1810s, 1820s, and 1830s and have found only a handful of plates that show outerwear specifically labeled as witzchouras (these can be seen in this past post showing examples). There are a much larger number of other, similar, types of outerwear.
(If you’ve missed out, this post explores the origins and qualities of a witzchoura, while this past post explores witzchouras in even more depth, with multiple excepts from the first part of the 19th century mentioning them.)
Examples of garments similar to witzchouras
Common garments in this category are labeled using words such as pelisse and pardessus. Then there are also carriage dresses (example), promenade dresses (example), and redingotes (example) trimmed in fur, but it seems clear in the fashion plate descriptions that these garments were not considered witzchouras.
Here is another similar garment, a Russian mantle, described in The Ladies Pocket Magazine in 1838 under the chapter English Fashions and Novelties: Remarks On The Prevailing London Fashions.
Descriptions of garments similar to witzchouras
In 1849, La Belle Assembleé addresses this for us (while also mentioning yet another type of outer wear, a burnous. The Dreamstress defines and explores this garment specifically as it relates to historical fashion, which is excellent and full of images!). The author of this reflection of fashion specifically mentions the weight of a witzchoura and how that compares to the weight of a pardessus, as well as the types of outings that these garments would have been worn for. Interesting that they would be worn for carriage dress, when, alternatively, one could also wear a ‘carriage dress’.
This next excerpt, from La Belle Assembleé in 1825, tells us one distinctive quality of a pelisse which is that the arms were not encased in the garment and could be freely moved about.
Examples of out of the ordinary witzchouras
Then there are garments labeled as witzchouras, but which are odd in a variety of ways. For example, take a look at the interesting witzchoura mentioned in The Lady’s Monthly Museum in 1817, seen below.
I’m not really sure what qualities allow a witzchorua to keep one’s dress from being rumpled, but what strikes me as odd is that the witzchoura mention is lined with silk and that is has a chapeau bras attached! Also in 1817, La Belle Assembleé mentions this exact garment twice! The first is a description of the garment. The second is about the inventor, Mrs. Bell, who, if you care to read more, has a long list of other interesting things that she supplies.
In this next case, the witzchoura is described as being lined with sarsnet (a fine plain or sometimes twill weave usually silk fabric) and only trimmed with fur rather than being lined entirely with fur. Haven’t we seen conclusively that a witzchoura should be lined and trimmed in fur? This witzchoura is also interesting because of its colors. It is quite likely a garment made for the general mourning of the death of Queen Charlotte, who passed away in November 1818.
“For out-door costume nothing can be reckoned more completely elegant than the Witchoura pelisse of black velvet lined with white sarsnet, and trimmed with real ermine.”
La Belle Assembleé in January 1818
Finally, there is this fashion plate at the LACMA which is labeled as being a witzchoura but with nothing witzchoura-like about it! A mistake perhaps? This looks like a summer garment, not a heavy winter garment.
What a rabbit hole of obscure information the witzchoura is. I’m rather glad to say that I’ve now exhausted my currnet list of historical references to the witzchoura!
This year, the performance was rescheduled due to rain and I couldn’t attend the new date, meaning that the new dress, Sophie, languished until October, when I was able to wear it during part of a recent mid-19th century dance weekend. The nice thing about the delay is that the pictures all have stunning fall leaves, which would not have been in the case in the summer.
Also, had I worn this dress on the first intended date, it would not have been entirely completed. Having extra time allowed me to officially finish all the trim and closures which made this dress the perfect entry for the Historical Sew Monthly challenge #8 “Pattern – make something in pattern, the bolder and wilder the better.” I didn’t have any pictures of the dress on a body at that point, so I submitted a rather sad picture of the dress on a hanger at that time. It’s exciting to have real pictures now!
Year: 1860-1863 based on my extant inspiration, but I’m calling it 1861.
Notions: Thread, hooks and bars, muslin scraps, and narrow yarn for cording.
How historically accurate is it?: I’m going to go with 95% on this one. This is as accurate as I can be given the research I have done and the materials I used, though the use of a facing on the front edges is guesswork. Regardless, this would be entirely recognizable in its time.
Hours to complete: Unknown. A fair bit.
First worn: October 23 for an afternoon tea and dance games.
Total cost: $23.
Sophie was directly inspired by this extant dress at the Kent State University Museum. I was considering what to wear for the performance, thinking that I’d worn Georgina enough to want something new, that I’d had an 1860s cotton print fabric in my stash for a few years, and then I remembered this dress. I decided to leave off the ruffle on the skirt (and also didn’t have enough fabric), but was so pleased that my cotton print is so perfectly suited for playing with the pattern in the same way as the extant dress!
Dresses from this period with v necks are not common, but they do exist. This Pinterest board has lots of examples. My Pinterest board has a few other dresses that helped move me along as well.
As I mentioned in my post about Eleanor, finding and making use of subtle differences between dresses from similar years brings me joy. For example, Sophie has a v neck, no boning, cartridge pleated sleeves, gathered trim, and is actually sewn together as a dress, rather than hooking together at the waistband as with all my other dresses from this period.
In other ways, Sophie is similar to Georgina, being partially machine and partially hand sewn, having a cartridge pleated skirt, cuffs with little ruffles at the ends, and pockets.
Personally, I love having pockets in day dresses. It brings me peace of mind to know that modern things like my keys are close by and not sitting around somewhere. Plus, chapstick, fan, gloves, etc. are also excellent choices for stashing in pockets. These pockets, which you can see the top of in the picture below, are sewn in the same way as Georgina’s pockets, shown here. I love this collection of references to pockets from the 1840s, 50s, and 60s that Anna Worden Bauersmith put together. I’ve been waiting for just the right moment to share it for what seems like ages.
Here are two more interior shots of the dress. The first shows the muslin facings. I don’t have documentation for this method being used to finish a lightweight summer cotton dress, but it makes sense that this method might have been used to finish the edges nicely while keeping the main body of the dress breathable and light. The second picture shows in the inside of the top of the sleeve, particularly to show the cartridge pleats.
In addition to the dress, I also made a new cage crinoline. I’ve been wanting a slightly smaller, less bell shaped one, particularly to wear with cotton dresses. I love my old cage crinoline (seen here) for evening dresses, but it is just a bit too much for a more practical daytime look. The new crinoline shape just looks ‘right’ with the cotton dress. The difference is subtle, but pleasing. Unfortunately, it did not perform well in its first wearing. The vertical tapes were sliding all over the place and causing the hoops to drop and be tripped on. Not good! It needs revision before being finished and shared, so for now you’ll just have to believe that I’m wearing it with this dress.
The next few are a celebration of the autumn season. The gorgeous leaves were beckoning us to have some laughs. Incidentally, I tend to jump in the air with my arms up whenever I’m having an amazing time in this period. Take this memory, for example. I’m doing pretty much the exact same thing!
We have so many things to be grateful for. I am always thankful for the many blessings in my life, particularly at this time of year. I hope that your life is also overflowing with blessings and reasons to give thanks, in autumn and always.
“When it comes to making, the actual sewing and finishing, the American dressmaker has nothing to learn from anyone. First class American dressmakers turn out the best work, so far as the mechanics of dressmaking go, of any dressmakers in the world. In point of fact, they make dresses too well. They might with advantage to themselves, and with no disadvantage to their patrons, unlearn something about sewing, and let some of the fussy details, over which they now bother their heads to very little purpose, go by default.
But the A-1 American dressmaker puts too much fine sewing into her dresses. They look well; they look about as well on the wrong side as upon the right side; perhaps if they were not such marvels of patience in the inside finishing, they might be more artistic to look like on the outside. Look at even the highest priced foreign made dresses; by comparison, they seem almost slovenly in workmanship, compared with American dress, but after all to what end put such an infinite amount of pains into finishing off a dress that, nowadays, is worn but a few times…house dresses and evening dresses might be slighted in finishing just as the Parisian dressmakers slight them without suffering an iota in looks or wearing possibilities, and with a notable saving in time and trouble.
The Parisian dressmaker is clever. She knows every trick in putting her work where it will make the most show. So long as she gets the effect she wants, and it stays as long…as it is required, which is not long, for instance, in a tulle party frock, she doesn’t try to make the sewing in every part of the sort that would win a prize at a school exhibition. The Parisian Milliner long, long ago, found that she could get effects by pinning on her hat and bonnet trimmings that absolutely defied sewing, and the Parisian dressmaker will catch a flounce of lace here and a ribbon there with fascinating grace, and never bother her head about what it looks like on the wrong side. Why should she?”
The passage immediately brought to mind my process for making historical garments, which is usually along the lines of the “American dressmaker” in that I put many hours of fine sewing into my dresses to make the insides just as much as work of art as the exterior.
The obvious and most current example that came to mind was the dress I was completing at the time, but there are many others as well. Here are a few made during the last few years and spanning the 19th century in terms of their origins.
I also had this passage in mind while working over the first part of this year on my recent 1885 Night Sky fancy dress. I decided with that ensemble to follow the suggestion to adapt to the “Parisian Dressmaker” style and not worry about the insides as I usually do. While still quite tidy, I did not spend time finishing unseen seams inside the skirt or finishing the edges of the vertical seams on the bodice, as you can see below. It was a bit of a struggle with my natural instincts, but worked out very well in terms of the working on this right up until the deadline and not having time for all the pretty finishing anyway.
There’s also the mention of pinning trim on hats. That is a suggestion that I often make use of! I can think of multiple examples of hats that have had trim pinned on for years even while the hats are in storage. For example, remember the hat that I wear with my 1895 Skating Ensemble? That’s the same hat from my 1883 Tailored Ensemble with fur trim and extra feathers that have been pinned on since early 2015. I’ve felt no need to sew those on!
Do you sew like American dressmaker or a Parisian dressmaker? Is it a conscious choice for you to pick one style or the other, or is it just your natural sewing method? What about hats? Do you ever pin your trimmings on?
(I thought I was very clever when I came up with the name for the post… and then a few days later I couldn’t remember what I was thinking the content should be! I guess if I confuse myself that easily I should certainly explain my cleverness so you can appreciate it, too!)
“It is recommended that the lady, when waltzing, leave herself to the direction of her partner, trusting entirely to him, without in any case seeking to follow her own impulse. A lady who should endeavor to avoid an encounter with other dancers, would risk interfering with the intention of the gentleman, to whom alone should be trusted her security amid the crowd surrounding and crossing her in every direction.”
I thought, “Hm! Trusting myself entirely to my partner’s care is something I rarely do! I’m often giving non-verbal hints about my opinions on where we should go, how much we should rotate, etc… and depending on the ability of my partner, my hints sometimes come down to downright back-leading.” I’m sure this partly comes from eight or so years of competitive modern ballroom dancing, in which the leader is in charge, but the lady has the duty to do her part to see what’s going on around the floor and help ensure that crashes, etc. don’t occur, as well as my independent-modern-woman mindset. However, despite these reasons, I imagine Hillgrove would have taken exception to my dancing style!
I started thinking about whether it made sense for me to attempt Hillgrove’s method while dancing historical dances. I dance in three settings, at private rehearsals when the dance troupe I am part of is practicing for performances, during performances with said dance troupe, and at public balls when I am dancing with guests of varying abilities or with members of the dance troupe.
I think it boils down this way: when dancing in a performance there are goals of elegance, nice spacing between couples, etc. that we are aiming for, and my interpretation of our artistic directors’ instruction in addition to my own feeling is that every person dancing should contribute to these goals, so a bit of hinting makes sense for the context. I feel similarly about hinting while dancing at balls depending on the ability of my partner, and if the goal is to ensure the safety of myself, my partner, or other people who might cut us off, etc. I also feel justified in back-leading a partner who needs some assistance to stay with the music, avoid crashes, or know how much rotation to complete in a given step, etc… but it sounds like I don’t really ever follow with trust!
With these thoughts in mind at a recent ball, I attempted to follow partners (whose abilities I have faith in) with trust. It was surprisingly uneventful! I think it really comes down to the ability of a partner in order to determine if I’m comfortable with that level of trust. Do you entirely follow your partners with trust at historical dance events? Or are you like me, picking and choosing when you feel comfortable doing so?
(As another side note, it’s been just about a year since my last 19CBRE post. If you’re not sure what that’s all about, check out this introductory post. You can see all of the posts relating to 19CBRE here. Perhaps this year I’ll get around to posting more of the interesting tidbits I’ve been thinking of posting over the last year!)
A while ago now, during the Journal Journey Into La Belle Assemblee series, Natalie over at A Frolic Through Time brought two similar ball/evening hair styles to my (and her other readers’) attention. These styles for October 1811 were pointed out by Natalie as being perfect for someone to attempt for a Regency event and I thought “Oh! These are neat! And they would go so well with my pearl trimmed 1811 Elusive Blue gown. Perfect!” So I saved the link to the post and have been meaning to go back to it for the last few months.
After returning to that inspiration earlier this year and comparing the two styles in Natalie’s post, I decided on a turban fillet (see end of post for a definition). February’s HSF/M Challenge #2: Blue was the perfect kick I needed to get to work. While I technically submitted finishing the trim on my elusive blue dress for the challenge, I also finished my turban fillet slightly after the deadline. I enjoyed having a small project: it was a nice change from the usually long and complicated projects I often take on and am constantly in the midst of.
Here, then, is the fashion plate to which I am referring.
And here is the finished result of my labors.
I attempted to follow the detail of the hairstyle from La Belle Assemblee, down to the curls around my face (lots of extra work since all my hair is long!) and the little braid on the side. It was a puzzle to figure out and enjoyable to wear.
The question is, how did I get the turban fillet to stay in place on my head? Well, I thought of making a gathered tube wound with pearls, as Natalie proposes below, but decided to make my turban fillet have a flat back instead for multiple reasons. #1: there has to be a seam somewhere, so why not hide it intentionally? #2: I only had so many pearls, and winding them all around a sample tube used them up far too quickly so that I would never have reached the end and still been able to have pearls. #3: the angle of the pearls when winding them around was very challenging and I couldn’t figure out how to arrange them pleasingly. #4: “why waste pearls against my head?” I thought, when they’re going to be slightly uncomfortable and slippery there anyway?
So here is what I came up with: a length of fabric about 40″ long, wrapped around a strip of hi-loft poly-fill batting (not period, I know, but easy and free!), turned under and sewn down on the back, gathered across the top, with rows of pearls sewn on at intervals, and finished with loops on the back every few rows of pearls in order to secure the whole thing to my head. The entire thing is hand sewn. I have no idea how you would use a machine to assemble this the way I did!
And yes, I was able to wear this to a Regency ball in April!
* Natalie notes the following about the description “turban fillet”. Please check out her post to see both fashion plates she refers to.
Turban fillet. For a change, just what you might imagine: a “fillet” is normally a narrow ribbon or wire wound round or encircling the head, while a turban is a, well, a turban. In this month’s evening dress hairstyle, we have a length of fabric well gathered to make a narrow, round, gathered tube, wound round the head. The turban is wound with pearls for extra measure. Handsome and I hope that someone will take up this style for a ball before long! The ball dress plate uses a similar design; it encircles the head more like the fillets we remember from Medieval fairy tales, but ironically, the effect is more turban-like to my eyes than the evening dress example, yet isn’t called a turban. Fashion, fashion.