You are not really dressed until you are wearing a hat

Dear time travelling gentleman on the way to the 18th century, please make sure to take with you one thing: a hat!
In the 18th century, a hat is not only useful in bad weather, and it is more than a fashion accessory. A hat indicates your role in society. Without a hat you are a nobody.
Follow me to a brief introduction to the history of 18th century hats. We make sure you pick the correct one for each period, and we also find out about hat etiquette.

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Sign your name across my card

How to use a dance card in the Romantic Age

For a young lady few things would be more satisfying than being a sought-after dancing partner at a glamourous ball. But if she was in constant demand, how would she keep track of the partners engaging her for the waltz or the cotillion later in the evening? And how would a gentleman secure a dance with her?
Keeping track of the gentlemen who had promised a dance in the course of the evening was done – on the Continent – with the assistance of a so called ‘carnet de bal‘ (a dance card). A gentleman would ask a lady to write down his name on the card a for a specific dance. These small and often precious carnets de bal were very popular in France and Austria throughout the 18th century.
In Britain, the dance card became fashionable at around the turn of the 18th century. The carnet de bal initially was often less elaborate than the Continental model.

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Tartan! Steam! Photography! 1822 brings about change

In 1822, Britain leaves the recession of the post-war period. The Napoleonic Wars had cost the nation an estimated £83 billion in modern terms – it is the most expensive war so far. The country’s debt is almost 200% of its GDP in 1822; this, however, is already better than in 1819, when the debt peaked at around 260 percent of the GDP.
Government deficits are financed either by short‐term Exchequer Bills, or by long‐term financing as perpetual bonds, with annual interest rates about 5, respectively 3, percent. This system of financing brings important benefits: With the return of peace, their prices would rise, adding to the bondholders’ wealth in this way. This money then provides much of the finance underpinning for the “take‐off ”-stage of the Industrial Revolution.
Economic grows begins to pick up pace. The general price level falls. Additionally, reforms for free trade start. Britain sees some prosperity.
Find out more about innovations, fashion, celebrities, and social news of this exiting year in England. Continue reading

Object of interest: a souvenir from Venice

In the 18th century, Venice was among the top destinations of the Grand Tour. The city was experiencing a period of peace, and economy and arts flourished. Thiss attracted rich British tourists. They indulged their sense of luxury, spent their days at leisure at Caffè Florian or Caffé Lavena, and enjoyed the opera, gambling, dancing, fireworks and spectacles. Buying art was also high on the list of things to do, and paintings with views of the City by sought-after artists such as Antonio Canal (Canaletto) made an excellent souvenir. Of course, pretty trifles were taken back to Britain as well. These could, e.g., be hand-held fans. Let’s have a closer look at one of these beautiful items.

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Fashion Meets Scientific Progress: The “Spy Fan”

Fans are so much more than fashionable accessories: They are useful for flirting, can cool heated cheeks or hide an unladylike emotion. In the wake of the Napoleonic War, their usefulness was boosted beyond the known limit when fans were made for spying, i.e. discretely observing the surrounding or other persons. I found some examples of these extraordinary devices when I visited the exhibition “Waterloo: Life & Times” of the Fan Museum in Greenwich, UK.

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Fashion for a Fashionable Item

Hand-held fans, previously reserved for royalty and aristocrats, become a must-have accessory for every lady in high society at the end of the 17th century. The trend to carry a fan spreads rapidly through society. With this, the decoration of the fan leave becomes light-hearted: The religious and classical motifs give way to pastoral scenes, al fresco parties, and themes of love-and-courtship. Interestingly, fashion itself also features on the fashionable accessories, serving as a fashion plate and fashion statement.

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Attractive, Distinctive, One Size: The Military Uniform in the Late 18th Century

The uniform dress for the army became the norm in the mid-17th century. Styles and decoration depended on status and image of the troop, and the wearer of the uniform. In contrast to today’s camouflage, uniforms of the 18th and 19th centuries displayed bright and contrasting colours. The idea was to make it easier to distinguish units in battle, and to enable commanders to spot their troops on battlefields that often were obscured by smoke from cannons.

Uniforms for lower ranks

In the 18th century, uniforms for the lower ranks were often mass-produced. Uniforms usually had standard sizes and designs to make it easier to replace them on campaign. In Britain, troops were equipped with new uniforms once a year.

from left to right: infantry soldier (France, 1780); 95th rifles uniform (British, Peninsular Wars era)

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