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Children’s Underwear in Regency England

There they are, in portraits, paintings and engravings, with earnest faces and cute clothes. But what did they wear underneath? Surely not the whole understructure their parents wore?

Just like their mothers, both boys and girls would have worn a chemise. This basic garment was usually made of linen, and followed the lines of the adult version, with one exception: Children’s chemises often omitted the side gussets, which added width to women’s chemises, thus being basically T-shirt shaped. On the other hand in well-to-do families they did even sport lace ruffles at the decollete and sleeve seams.

Over the chemise followed a pair of stays. During the earlier Georgian period current medical opinion held that the tender bodies of infants had to be protected and shaped by stays, and in many costume collections we find heavily boned specimen made for children not even one year old. Towards the last quarter of the century, when enlightenment finally won the upper hand and children’s clothes began to show signs of classical influence long before they made their first appearance in ladies’ fashions, the small corsets became less resticting and less rigid, most of them being almost entirely unboned. The garment itself was retained, however, serving a new purpose now: Since the children no longer had artifcially formed “hips”, other ways to keep the petticoats up were needed and found in buttons attached to the stays, on which the petticoats could be fastened.

Infants’ stays, 1780 – 1810, showing cording on the front and buttons to fix petticoats and pantalettes. The only two bones are in the back to strengthen the lacing.

A plain under petticoat would have completed the underwear during the first half of the 18th century, there is no mention of drawers or pantalons yet. There is also no evidence of formgiving understructures such as hooped petticoats or hip pads for children: With the simple lower class clothes they would not have been neccessary, and except for most formal occasions the more fashionable lines seen on portraits of better-off children can be achieved without such devices when contemporary and rather stiff silk fabrics are used for the garments themselves.

By the end of the century drawers made their first appearance in children’s clothing for both boys and girls. They were, like the underpetticoats, buttoned to the stays to keep them from sliding down. Another new item were pantalons or pantalettes, although it can be argued they are not truly underwear, as they were quite visibly peeping from under the dresses commonly worn by both sexes under the age of five.

Somewhere between age three and seven, young boys were “breeched” and exchanged the infant’s dresses and pantalons for boy’s clothes such as the skeleton suit, usually also discarding their stays and chemises along the way. Clothing for girls just became gradually more like that of their mothers, the seams descending and (except for the very end of the Regency) the pantalettes vanishing. Stays (when worn) became more figure forming, and lost their buttons.

 

 

Ann-Dorothee Schlueter, Proprietress of Arts Et Metiers, in Germany is a textile historian and historical seamstress. She is registered with the Handwerkskammer, Berlin. Visit her website to see samples of her work and purchase items.

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Henry Cecil, 1st Marquess of Exeter

Henry Cecil, 1st Marquess of Exeter (14 March 1754 – 1 May 1804), known as Henry Cecil from 1754 to 1793 and as The Earl of Exeter from 1793 to 1801, was a British peer and Member of Parliament and inspiration for Alfred, Lord Tennyson’s poem, The Lord of Burleigh. His private life was the subject much society chatter and reads like the plot of a Georgette Heyer novel. He has, undoubtedly been the inspiration for countless tales of romance and intrigue.

Henry Cecil 1st Marquess of Exeter in 1803, a year before his death, painted by Henry Bone.
Henry Cecil 1st Marquess of Exeter in 1803, a year before his death, painted by Henry Bone.

Exeter was the son of the Hon. Thomas Chambers Cecil, second son of Brownlow Cecil, 8th Earl of Exeter. Thomas Chambers Cecil led a profligate life, and although for a time an MP he was forced to live abroad in Brussels, where he married Charlotte Garnier, a lady of uncertain origin, said by some to be a Basque dancer. When Henry was born in 1754 he was the heir presumptive to his uncle Brownlow Cecil, 9th Earl of Exeter, and for this reason was sent when still a baby to Burghley House to be brought up. Continue reading Henry Cecil, 1st Marquess of Exeter

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Martha Lloyd’s Whooping Cough Cure

whooping cough cure

Martha Lloyd’s Whooping Cough Cure

With Whooping Cough (Pertussis) reaching epidemic levels in recent years, a push to promote vaccination against it has received renewed publicity. As part of the DTP and DTaP (Diphtheria, Tetanus and Pertussis) dose, we now have the ability to avoid these illnesses which were, in Jane Austen’s time, without prevention or cure. Though that’s not to say that there weren’t whooping cough “cures” which were recommended, as you’ll see below.

081908_pride_janesick

In some countries, this disease is called the 100 days’ cough or cough of 100 days. The incubation period is typically seven to ten days with a range of four to 21 days and rarely may be as long as 42 days, after which there are usually mild respiratory symptoms, mild coughing, sneezing, or runny nose. This is known as the catarrhal stage. After one to two weeks, the coughing classically develops into uncontrollable fits, each with five to ten forceful coughs, followed by a high-pitched “whoop” sound in younger children, or a gasping sound in older children, as the patient struggles to breathe in afterwards.

Fits can occur on their own or can be triggered by yawning, stretching, laughing, eating or yelling; they usually occur in

martha
Jane Austen’s friend, Martha Lloyd kept a household book chock full of remedies and recipes.

groups, with multiple episodes on an hourly basis throughout the day. This stage usually lasts two to eight weeks, or sometimes longer. A gradual transition then occurs to the convalescent stage, which usually lasts one to two weeks. This stage is marked by a decrease in paroxysms of coughing, both in frequency and severity, and a cessation of vomiting. A tendency to produce the “whooping” sound after coughing may remain for a considerable period after the disease itself has cleared up.
Continue reading Martha Lloyd’s Whooping Cough Cure

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The Foundling Hospital

Thomas Coram painted by William Hogarth, 1740
Thomas Coram
painted by William Hogarth, 1740

The Foundling Hospital in London, England was founded in 1741 by the philanthropic sea captain Thomas Coram. It was a children’s home established for the “education and maintenance of exposed and deserted young children.” The word “hospital” was used in a more general sense than it is today, simply indicating the institution’s “hospitality” to those less fortunate.

The first children were admitted to the Foundling Hospital on 25 March 1741, into a temporary house located in Hatton Garden. At first, no questions were asked about child or parent, but a distinguishing token was put on each child by the parent. These were often marked coins, trinkets, pieces of cotton or ribbon, verses written on scraps of paper. Clothes, if any, were carefully recorded. One entry in the record reads, “Paper on the breast, clout on the head.” The applications became too numerous, and a system of balloting with red, white and black balls was adopted. Children were seldom taken after they were twelve months old.

On reception, children were sent to wet nurses in the countryside, where they stayed until they were about four or five years old. At sixteen girls were generally apprenticed as servants for four years; at fourteen, boys were apprenticed into variety of occupations, typically for seven years. There was a small benevolent fund for adults.

Foundling_Hospital

In September 1742, the stone of the new Hospital was laid in the area known as Bloomsbury, lying north of Great Ormond Street and west of Gray’s Inn Lane. The Hospital was designed by Theodore Jacobsen as a plain brick building with two wings and a chapel, built around an open courtyard. The western wing was finished in October 1745. An eastern wing was added in 1752 “in order that the girls might be kept separate from the boys”. The new Hospital was described as “the most imposing single monument erected by eighteenth century benevolence” and became London’s most popular charity.

In 1756, the House of Commons resolved that all children offered should be received, that local receiving places should be appointed all over the country, and that the funds should be publicly guaranteed. A basket was accordingly hung outside the hospital; the maximum age for admission was raised from two months to twelve, and a flood of children poured in from country workhouses. In less than four years 14,934 children were presented, and a vile trade grew up among vagrants, who sometimes became known as “Coram Men”, of promising to carry children from the country to the hospital, an undertaking which they often did not perform or performed with great cruelty. Of these 15,000, only 4,400 survived to be apprenticed out. The total expense was about £500,000, which alarmed the House of Commons. After throwing out a bill which proposed to raise the necessary funds by fees from a general system of parochial registration, they came to the conclusion that the indiscriminate admission should be discontinued. The hospital, being thus thrown on its own resources, adopted a system of receiving children only with considerable sums (e.g., £100), which sometimes led to the children being reclaimed by the parent. This practice was finally stopped in 1801; and it henceforth became a fundamental rule that no money was to be received. The committee of inquiry had to be satisfied of the previous good character and present necessity of the mother, and that the father of the child had deserted both mother and child, and that the reception of the child would probably replace the mother in the course of virtue and in the way of an honest livelihood. At that time, illegitimacy carried deep stigma, especially for the mother but also for the child. All the children at the Foundling Hospital were those of unmarried women, and they were all first children of their mothers. The principle was in fact that laid down by Henry Fielding in The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling: “Too true I am afraid it is that many women have become abandoned and have sunk to the last degree of vice [i.e. prostitution] by being unable to retrieve the first slip.”
Continue reading The Foundling Hospital

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The Breeching Ceremony of a Young Boy and His Rite of Passage

The alternative was a skeleton suit

From Petticoats to Skeleton Suits…

Over a year ago I read a fabulous blog post on the Regency Redingote entitled  Boy to Man: The Breeching Ceremony. The article is thorough and I was quite satisfied with its information until I ran into this quote, written by Jane Austen in 1801 to her sister Cassandra:

Mary has likewise a message: she will be much obliged to you if you can bring her the pattern of the jacket and trousers, or whatever it is that Elizabeth’s boys wear when they are first put into breeches; so if you could bring her an old suit itself, she would be very glad, but that I suppose is hardly done.”

This short passage told me much more about the topic and I decided to pursue it further.

Portrait of William Ellis Gosling, 1800 , Sir William Beechey, R.A. Image @Wikimedia Commons
Portrait of William Ellis Gosling, 1800 , Sir William Beechey, R.A. Image @Wikimedia Commons

 

During the 18th century boys and girls were dressed alike in baby clothes during their infancy and in petticoats as toddlers. In Beechey’s image, our modern eyes would not identify the infant as a boy unless he was labeled as such.

Continue reading The Breeching Ceremony of a Young Boy and His Rite of Passage

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“Pinkie”: The Story Behind the Painting

the fashions of childhood

Pinkie is the traditional title for a portrait of 1794 by Thomas Lawrence in the permanent collection of the Huntington Library at San Marino, California where it hangs opposite The Blue Boy by Thomas Gainsborough. These two works are the centerpieces of the institute’s art collection, which specialises in 18th-century English portraiture. The painting is an elegant depiction of Sarah Barrett Moulton, who was about eleven years old when painted. Her direct gaze and the loose, highly-movemented brushwork give the portrait a lively immediacy.

Pinkie, by Thomas Lawrence, 1794, around the same time as the "Rice Portrait" of Jane Austen (1788).
Pinkie, by Thomas Lawrence, 1794, around the same time as the “Rice Portrait” of Jane Austen (1788).

Sarah Goodin Barrett Moulton was born on 22 March 1783, in Little River, St. James, Jamaica. She was the only daughter and eldest of the four children of Charles Moulton, a merchant from Madeira, and his wife Elizabeth. Sarah was baptised on 29 May 1783, bearing the names Sarah Goodin Barrett in honour of her aunt, also named Sarah Goodin Barrett, who had died as an infant in 1781. She was a descendant of Hersey Barrett, who had arrived in Jamaica in 1655 with Sir William Penn and by 1783, the Barretts were wealthy landowners, slave owners, and exporters of sugar cane and rum. Inside her family, she was called Pinkie or Pinkey.

By the time Sarah was six, her father had left the family and her mother was left to raise the children, Sarah and her brothers Edward (1785–1857) and Samuel (1787–1837), with the help of her relatives. In September 1792, Sarah and her brothers sailed to England to get a better education. Sarah was sent to Mrs Fenwick’s school at Flint House, Greenwich, along with other children from Jamaican colonial families. On 16 November 1793 Sarah’s grandmother, Judith Barrett, wrote from Jamaica to her niece Elizabeth Barrett Williams, then living on Richmond Hill in Surrey, asking her to commission a portrait of ‘my dear little Pinkey … as I cannot gratify my self with the Original, I must beg the favour of You to have her picture drawn at full Length by one of the best Masters, in an easy Careless attitude’. Sarah probably began sitting for Lawrence, painter-in-ordinary to George III, at his studio in Old Bond Street soon after the receipt of this letter on 11 February 1794. Continue reading “Pinkie”: The Story Behind the Painting

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Maxims for Health and Gracefulness

fankncas
Cassandra Austen’s sketch of her niece Fanny.

In 1833, Lydia Marie Child published The Girl’s Own Book, a volume full of entertainments for girls of all ages.

She closed her book with a few maxims on child rearing involving both the moral and physical aspects of raising young ladies. Although they may sound quaint and dated, mothers of the Regency. Child rearing has always been considered a woman’s domain, and mothers of this era, with its burgeoning middle class, read countless books on subjects ranging from household management to cookery. Topics their mothers were either too busy or too idle to concern themselves with.

Any number of spoiled children can be found in the pages of Jane Austen’s works, from the heir to Norland Park, to Mrs. Musgrove’s rambunctious grandchildren. We never get to see the children of Austen’s heroines, but they would, no doubt, have been raised in this new era of motherly awareness.

MAXIMS FOR HEALTH AND GRACEFULNESS.
Early rising, and the habit of washing frequently, in cold water, are fine things for the health and the complexion.Walking, and other out-of-door exercises, cannot I much recommended to young people. Even skating, driving hoop, and other boyish sports, may be practised to advantage by little girls, provided they can be pursued within the inclosure of a garden, or court ; in the street, they would of course, be highly improper. It is true, such games are rather violent, and sometimes noisy ; but they tend to form a vigorous constitution ; and girls who are habitually lady-like, will never allow themselves to be rude and vulgar, even in play.

Shoes and garments for children should be quite large enough for ease, comfort, and freedom of motion. Continue reading Maxims for Health and Gracefulness

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The Nutcracker and the Mouse King: A Classic Christmas Tale

The Nutcracker and the Mouse King (German: Nussknacker und Mausekönig) is a story written in 1816 by E. T. A. Hoffmann, a German Romantic author of fantasy and horror, composer, music critic,  and caricaturist.

In the tale, young Marie Stahlbaum’s favorite Christmas toy, the Nutcracker, comes alive and, after defeating the evil Mouse King in battle, whisks her away to a magical kingdom populated by dolls. In 1892, the Russian composer Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky and choreographers Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov turned Alexandre Dumas père‘s adaptation of the story into the ballet The Nutcracker, which became one of Tchaikovsky’s most famous compositions, and perhaps the most popular ballet in the world.

The Nutcracker and the Mouse King
Classical Ballet Peter Tchaikovsky “The Nutcracker” (ballet in two acts)by the world famous Mariinsky (Kirov) Ballet and Opera theatre

Hoffmann’s story begins on Christmas Eve at the Stahlbaum house. Marie, seven years old, and her brother Fritz, eight, sit outside the parlor speculating about what kind of present their godfather Drosselmeier, who is a clockmaker and inventor, has made for them. They are at last allowed into the parlor, where they receive many splendid gifts, including Drosselmeier’s, which turns out to be a clockwork castle with mechanical people moving about inside it. However, as the mechanical people can only do the same thing over and over without variation, the children quickly tire of it. At this point, Marie notices a Nutcracker doll, and asks whom he belongs to. Her father tells her that he belongs to all of them, but that since she is so fond of him she will be his special caretaker. Marie, her sister Louise, and her brother Fritz pass the Nutcracker among them, cracking nuts, until Fritz tries to crack a nut that is too big and hard, and the Nutcracker’s jaw breaks. Marie, upset, takes the Nutcracker away and bandages him with a ribbon from her dress.

The Nutcracker and the Mouse King
The Nutcracker and the Mouse King, illustrated by Gail De Marcken

When it is time for bed, the children put their Christmas gifts away in the special cupboard where they keep their toys. Fritz and Louise go up to bed, but Marie begs to be allowed to stay with Nutcracker a while longer, and she is allowed to do so. She puts Nutcracker to bed and tells him that Drosselmeier will fix his jaw as good as new. At this, the Nutcracker’s face seems momentarily to come alive, and Marie is frightened, but she then decides it was only her imagination.

The grandfather clock begins to chime, and Marie believes she sees Drosselmeier sitting on top of it, preventing it from striking. Mice begin to come out from beneath the floor boards, including the seven-headed Mouse King. Marie, startled, slips and puts her elbow through the glass door of the toy cupboard. The dolls in the cupboard come alive and begin to move, Nutcracker taking command and leading them into battle after putting Marie’s ribbon on as a token. The battle at first goes to the dolls, but they are eventually overwhelmed by the mice. Marie, seeing Nutcracker about to be taken prisoner, takes off her shoe and throws it at the Mouse King, then faints.

The Nutcracker and the Mouse King

Marie wakes the next morning with her arm bandaged and tries to tell her parents about the battle between the mice and the dolls, but they do not believe her, thinking that she has had a fever dream caused by the wound she sustained from the broken glass. Drosselmeier soon arrives with the Nutcracker, whose jaw has been fixed, and tells Marie the story of Princess Pirlipat and Madam Mouserinks, who is also known as the Queen of the Mice, which explains how Nutcrackers came to be and why they look the way they do.

The Queen of the Mice tricked Pirlipat’s mother into allowing her and her children to gobble up the lard that was supposed to go into the sausage that the King was to eat at dinner that evening. The King, enraged at the Mouse Queen for spoiling his supper and upsetting his wife, had his court inventor, whose name happens to be Drosselmeier, create traps for the Mouse Queen and her children.

The Mouse Queen, angered at the death of her children, swore that she would take revenge on the King’s daughter, Pirlipat. Pirlipat’s mother surrounded her with cats which were supposed to be kept awake by being constantly stroked, however inevitably the nurses who stroked the cats fell asleep and the Mouse Queen magically turned the infant Pirlipat ugly, giving her a huge head, a wide grinning mouth and a cottony beard, like a nutcracker. The King blamed Drosselmeier and gave him four weeks to find a cure. At the end of four weeks, Drosselmeier had no cure but went to his friend, the court astrologer.

They read Pirlipat’s horoscope and told the King that the only way to cure her was to have her eat the nut Crackatook (Krakatuk), which must be cracked and handed to her by a man who had never been shaved nor worn boots since birth, and who must, without opening his eyes hand her the kernel and take seven steps backwards without stumbling. The King sent Drosselmeier and the astrologer out to look for the nut and the young man, charging them on pain of death not to return until they had found them.

The two men journeyed for many years without finding either the nut or the man, until finally they returned home and found the nut in a small shop. The man who had never been shaved and never worn boots turned out to be Drosselmeier’s own nephew. The King, once the nut had been found, promised his daughter’s hand to whoever could crack the nut. Many men broke their teeth on the nut before Drosselmeier’s nephew finally appeared. He cracked the nut easily and handed it to the princess, who swallowed it and immediately became beautiful again, but Drosselmeier’s nephew, on his seventh backward step, trod on the Queen of the Mice and stumbled, and the curse fell on him, giving him a large head, wide grinning mouth and cottony beard; in short, making him a Nutcracker. The ungrateful Princess, seeing how ugly Drosselmeier’s nephew had become, refused to marry him and banished him from the castle.

Marie, while she recuperates from her wound, hears the King of the Mice whispering to her in the middle of the night, threatening to bite Nutcracker to pieces unless she gives him her sweets and her dolls. For Nutcracker’s sake, Marie sacrifices her things, but the Mouse King wants more and more and finally Nutcracker tells Marie that if she will just get him a sword, he (the Nutcracker) will finish him off. Marie asks Fritz for a sword for Nutcracker, and he gives her the sword of one of his toy hussars. The next night, Nutcracker comes into Marie’s room bearing the Mouse King’s seven crowns, and takes her away with him to the doll kingdom, where Marie sees many wonderful things. She eventually falls asleep in the Nutcracker’s palace and is brought back home. She tries to tell her mother what happened, but again she is not believed, even when she shows her parents the seven crowns, and she is forbidden to speak of her “dreams” anymore.

The Nutcracker and the Mouse King

As Marie sits in front of the toy cabinet one day, looking at Nutcracker and thinking about all the wondrous things that happened, she can’t keep silent anymore and swears to the Nutcracker that if he were ever really real she would never behave as Princess Pirlipat behaved, and she would love him whatever he looked like. At this, there is a bang and she falls off the chair. Her mother comes in to tell her that godfather Drosselmeier has arrived with his young nephew. Drosselmeier’s nephew takes Marie aside and tells her that by swearing that she would love him in spite of his looks, she broke the curse on him and made him handsome again. He asks her to marry him. She accepts, and in a year and a day he comes for her and takes her away to the Doll Kingdom, where she is crowned queen and eventually marries the Prince.

 


Excerpted from wikipedia.com.
Illustrations from: The Nutcracker And The Mouse King

  • Author E.T.A. Hoffmann
  • Illustrator Gail de Marcken
  • Reading level: Ages 4 and up
  • Hardcover: 56 pages
  • Publisher: Orchard Books (September 1, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0545037735
  • ISBN-13: 978-0545037730