Mystery of the 1794 Stock & Pudding (fashion)

November 27, 2021 at 4:05 pm (fashion, history, london's landscape, research) (, , , )


There was a time when I hastened to find the solution to this mystery. Only, nothing much turned up. Things ‘cooled’; time passed.

This morning, I read from a book I bought long ago, when the diary-keeping of Elizabeth Porter Phelps, in Hadley, Massachusetts, initially caught my attention, called, Earthbound and Heavenbent: Elizabeth Porter Phelps and Life at Forty Acres, 1747-1817, by Elizabeth Pendergast Carlisle (Scribner, 2004).

Back in September, I mentioned in my blog Isadore Albee’s Civil War, (based on a series of diaries relating to the Albees of Springfield, Vermont; a future project), an earlier Vermont-related item, a Friendship Album dating from the late 1830s-early 1840s. This “Window into the Past” opened upon a different family, the wife and children of Charles Phelps of West Townshend, Vermont during a period of intense correspondence between the three young daughters – Eliza (named after her mother, Eliza Houghton), Fanny, and Jane. A main topic of conversation was of going away to school, for Eliza – who attended Mrs. Willard’s Troy Female Seminary (Troy, New York), and then Fanny – who, by dint of more numerous letters, went to schools in Chester and Brattleboro, Vermont; before leaving for the Misses Edwards’ School in New Haven, Connecticut. Isadore Albee’s early diaries frequently comment upon her desire to attend school, in order to teach. Coming approximately 20-25 years later, the Albee diaries found a ready companion in the album and batches of letters from the Phelps family because of the similarity in major topics, and how one generation would have *inspired* a future generation.

It was in looking for the duration of Eliza Phelps’ “tenure” as a scholar at Mrs. Willard’s school, and in finding only mention of the similarly-named Elizabeth Phelps Huntington (Elizabeth Porter Phelps’ daughter), that I re-plucked off the shelf Earthbound and Heavenbent. Elizabeth Porter had married an earlier Charles Phelps – in fact, the paternal uncle of “my” Charles Phelps of West Townshend. There is much in the book about Charles Phelps (of Hadley, MA), his brothers Solomon and Timothy (my Charles Phelps’ father), and their father Charles Phelps, Senior, who was living in Marlboro – and struggling hard AGAINST statehood for Vermont (admitted into the Union, as the 14th State, in 1791).

By this morning’s read, the children of the Hadley branch of the Phelps family had passed through the Revolutionary War and into the late 1790s. The only son, Porter, is in Boston, and his sister Betsy is evidently thanking him for a fashionable purchase made on her behalf:

“my pudding or neck-cloth, was not disliked tho’ ma said I should frighten some out of the house of worship — however I believe they withstood the shock — for I heard no disturbance.” [p 131; dated 18 Dec 1797]

PUDDING!

The word immediately made me scramble for the file of Smith & Gosling letters.

In a letter dated 1 February 1794, Sarah Smith (my diarist Emma’s maternal grandmother) mentions the London fashions to her daughter Eliza Chute, who always elected to remain at The Vyne, in Hampshire, despite her husband being a Member of Parliament (with one brief hiatus, William John CHUTE sat in the Commons from 1790 to 1820). While Sarah clearly describes something around the neck, I was uncertain what a PUDDING constituted in the fashionable circles of London circa 1794. Was it a fashion coming into being? Was it something fading out? The month of February would have seen the majority of country families just settled back in London. Whether related to MPs or merely moving to Town for the Season, now the parties and soirées increased in numerical intensity until Easter, and quietly wound down by June, when people left again for the country (though not necessarily their own estates).

Mrs. Smith’s letter claims as the latest fashion,

“for the Ladies either a very full Muslin plain Stock with a large Pudding, or the long cravats like your old one twisted round the neck & fastened behind”.

Words like STOCK and CRAVAT everyone knows and everyone can conjure up images – but even google got stumped over a correct description for a PUDDING. Look for it in ‘fashion’ and it is usually described as a toddler’s head-wrap, to guard against striking the head in a fall.

See, for instance, this write-up and photograph of a Pudding Cap.

Yet the idea of it being constructed of stuffed ROLLS is something to be remembered in a few moments….

Carlisle, in Earthbound and Heavenbent, in citing Betsy Phelps’ quoted letter, goes further in establishing WHAT Betsy’s “pudding” must have been:

“The word ‘pudding’ applied to a type of neck scarf derived from the nautical use of the word”. Carlisle goes on to described the nautical pudding as a “wreath of plaited cordage”. She alludes to its use on a MAST but deletes the word or words immediately after. Could the missing bit speak to the ship’s BOW? For, in googling nautical pudding, the “rope fender” protecting the BOW is the most consistent “hit”. And the subsequent photographs really point to some item that could be adapted and worn around the neck.

In just using the word FENDER in its nautical sense, (instead of Carlisle’s nondescript item for a mast that “prevent[s] chafing”), the image conjured is one of cylindrical bulk. The images found also allude to the fanciful knots that might have decorated any woman’s PUDDING. There is, however, the possibility of a couple of manifestations.

Here is a wonderful depiction, in several photographs, of what is described as a BEARD FENDER.

Mrs. Smith’s “a large pudding” could be a fall of fabric, as in the BEARD. That they were NOT the same piece of fabric is evident by her description of Eliza’s sister (Maria, Lady Compton): “Maria has made her appearance with the plain Stock but no pudding.”

Some fenders, for instance those posted to this Pinterest page, give more ideas to the type of “roll” that might have been worn around the necks of these Fashionables. The plaiting also could take on several forms. The material? Probably muslin, but not necessarily so.

the weave (above) of this bow
pudding is beautiful

this dense weave almost resembles a burlap

it’s easy to imagine:
exposed, a pudding could be decoration around the neck;
hidden under the stock, it could have added
weight or even layers to a manipulated muslin stock

If anyone has further information – especially, whether this was related to the jabot (as I tend to think of the ‘beard fender’), or truly was made of a rope material, I would welcome enlightenment upon the PUDDING as a fashion accessory for the necks of fashionable Georgian-era Ladies in London.

 

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