the Mirror of the Graces

I found this on google books -
THE MIRROR OF THE GRACES – ON PERSONAL DECORATION Or The English Lady’s Costume, Combining And Harmonizing Taste And Judgment, Elegance And Grace, Modesty, Simplicity And Economy, With Fashion In Dress        - Lady Of Distinction   Jan 1811
This is a long lecture about being beautiful, elegant and staying young.- lots of recipes for skin care products.  I was looking for ideas of the conventions of dress of the time.  The short and snappy  title should have put me off!
" Costliness being, then, no essential principle in real elegance, I shall proceed to give you a few hints on what are the distinguishing circumstances of a well-ordered toilet."

Some of her points remind me of my grandmother's homilies!! Don't flaunt, wear a coat, mind the sun, don't over do it, less is more, not too much make up....... I   didn't listen - I doubt  the Regency girls were any different!

" As the beauty of form and complexion is different in different women, and is still more varied according to the ages of the fair subjects of investigation; so the styles in dress, while simplicity is the soul of all, must assume a character corresponding with the wearer."
In general terms - young should wear light  weight, plainer fabrics, covering arms, bosom and ankles (ancles). Rely on the close fit to reveal the form during the day..  ." fine taste, as well as fashion, decrees that the beautiful outline of a well-proportioned form shall be seen in the contour of a nicely-adapted dress, the divisions of that dress must be few and simple."  Over elaborate ornamentation was to be avoided. White would suit everyone or delicate colours with flower based decoration,  simplicity and clean line equalled elegant.

" The morning robe should cover the arms and the bosom, nay, even the neck. And if it be made tight to the shape, every symmetrical line is discovered with a grace so decent, that vestals, without a blush, might adopt the chaste apparel. This simple garb leaves to beauty all her empire : no furbelows, no heavy ornaments, load the figure, warp the outlines, and distract the attention. All is light, easy and elegant; and the lovely wearer, " with her glossy ringlets loosely bound," moves with the Zephyrs on the airy wing of youth and innocence. "

More was revealed for evening wear but still tantalising not revealing. Cotton petticoats (flannel for winter) and chemises were recommended for modesty's sake. She bewailed the tendency to wear light and revealing summer frocks in winter - wrap up warm!

Ladies of "majestic demeanour" (Juno) or plain appearance should be modest in your fashion aspirations and not try to be overly extravagant lest you be 'ridiculed'. Larger ladies should have more generously cut, (ample)  flowing garments of heavier fabrics. They are given a varied colour palette  including yellow, purple,  grey and black, and allowed gold and silver embroidery - and plumes! but must not indulge in any excess of fashion.

Older ladies were advised to age gracefully and not try to dress too young. 
Unfortunately 50 was the cut off - only a serious decline  ahead so tone down the dress and behaviour!
" As I recommend a restrained and quiet mode of dress to plain women, so, in gradation as the lovely of my sex advance towards the vale of years, I counsel them to assume a graver habit and a less vivacious air. Cheerfulness is be coming to all times of life, but sportiveness belongs to youth alone; and when the meridian or the decline of our daysaffectsit,is ever heavy and out of place."

With all of this in mind the fashion plates I've collected have greater significance - some follow these lines, others I think would have been frowned upon.
Three of the fashion plates  are from The Mirror - morning, opera and promanade dresses. The morning dress is relatively plain, modestly cut but still show the figure, more is revealed for the opera dress with more elaborate ornamentation. The promanade dresses cover all.
 The poses are wonderful- the natural snapshot, the elegant studio shot, and the fashion catalogue pose. The ladies facing forwards all seem to have wobbly heads. I tried copying these and the models all came out looking coy or simpering rather than shy or demure.
The ones either side- while at first glance adequately covered up, are hardly elegant figures, which could be a result of the  different drawing style.   Has the standing one dampened her petticoat to get it to cling to her legs, and that flash of flesh between glove and sleeve?  The seated lady  - not the formal, upright pose I was expecting, much more relaxed and casual. The bust looks more than the B cup beloved of pattern makers and definitely not mono-bosom! There is a clear separation. And just how do her sleeves stay up? Hardly modest and demure! verging on the odalesque.

  Are these illustrations be taken as representative? or are these like looking at Vogue or dressmaking pattern envelopes, idealised, stylised versions of an aspirational reality.
When dressmaking I've given up expecting my clothes to come out like the illustrations for the 1950s styles I like to make, but still can't quite give up the hope that there will be that magic dress that will add 5" to my height and take at least 5" from everywhere else. Were the regency ladies just the same?  Were these willowy and graceful ladies  from The Mirror what people wished they could be, perhaps only Lady of D's vision?

Would  the Lady of Distinction be seen as reflecting popular taste and attitudes or as part of  the usual reaction of one generation to the next? Would she be  a natural for writing letters of protest to the Telegraph or the Guardian signing herself as 'Disgusted of.....'?
I seem to be assuming that she is older -
Time to look for the evidence - existing period garments! Pinterest to the rescue!

plates from The Mirror....  or The Belle Assemble 1807 both available for free as ebooks etc - googlebooks

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