When working on a book about the period 1815-17 — the teen years of a woman who ultimately marries into the Austen family — an important concern is to envision not only what my girls looked like but also the fashions they might have been wearing. The most extensive description Emma provides is of the court dress her mother and eldest sister wear when young Augusta was presented in 1817. Yet these girls undoubtedly were interested in fashion, and I like to think of them as looking over the very same Fashion Plates I find in Ackermann’s:
Described as an “Evening Dress,” this delicate creation is a design of Mrs. Bean of Albemarle-street. “This lady, since her visit to Paris, has incorporated in her dresses, in the style of French costume, all that is to be admired in the exuberant varieties which that country produces; and has moderated the same by a fancy governed by a chaste feeling peculiar to herself.”
The fashion plate’s original description is tantalizing: “A celestial blue crape frock, over a white satin slip, ornamented round the bottom with a deep border of tull or net lace, embroidered with shaded blue silks and chenille; short full sleeve, trimmed with tull or net lace; the dress trimmed entirely round the top, to correspond…. Slippers of blue satin or kid. White gloves of French kid.” Her jewelry is “Necklace of pearl; ear-drops and bracelets to correspond.”
The girl herself comes under discussion: “Hair parted in the centre of the forehead, confined in the Grecian style, and blended with flowers.”
Young Augusta was attending concerts and plays in 1815; I can imagine her in just such a dress. Will have to look through the letters and diaries to see if anyone made any mention of Mrs. Bean. Will update if I find anything!!
I’m interested in anything anyone might be able to tell about Mrs. Bean!
The Jane Austen Centre (Bath, England) has a nice description of another Mrs. Bean creation, written by Candice Hern.
Find all Ackermann’s Repository of Art volumes (from Internet Archive) on this blog.