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Anecdotes Of Fashion
by [?]

A volume on this subject might be made very curious and entertaining, for our ancestors were not less vacillating, and perhaps more capriciously grotesque, though with infinitely less taste, than the present generation. Were a philosopher and an artist, as well as an antiquary, to compose such a work, much diversified entertainment, and some curious investigation of the progress of the arts and taste, would doubtless be the result; the subject otherwise appears of trifling value; the very farthing pieces of history.

The origin of many fashions was in the endeavour to conceal some deformity of the inventor: hence the cushions, ruffs, hoops, and other monstrous devices. If a reigning beauty chanced to have an unequal hip, those who had very handsome hips would load them with that false rump which the other was compelled by the unkindness of nature to substitute. Patches were invented in England in the reign of Edward VI. by a foreign lady, who in this manner ingeniously covered a wen on her neck. Full-bottomed wigs were invented by a French barber, one Duviller, whose name they perpetuated, for the purpose of concealing an elevation in the shoulder of the Dauphin. Charles VII. of France introduced long coats to hide his ill-made legs. Shoes with very long points, full two feet in length, were invented by Henry Plantagenet, Duke of Anjou, to conceal a large excrescence on one of his feet. When Francis I. was obliged to wear his hair short, owing to a wound he received in the head, it became a prevailing fashion at court. Others, on the contrary, adapted fashions to set off their peculiar beauties: as Isabella of Bavaria, remarkable for her gallantry, and the fairness of her complexion, introduced the fashion of leaving the shoulders and part of the neck uncovered.

Fashions have frequently originated from circumstances as silly as the following one. Isabella, daughter of Philip II. and wife of the Archduke Albert, vowed not to change her linen till Ostend was taken; this siege, unluckily for her comfort, lasted three years; and the supposed colour of the archduchess’s linen gave rise to a fashionable colour, hence called l’Isabeau, or the Isabella; a kind of whitish-yellow-dingy. Sometimes they originate in some temporary event; as after the battle of Steenkirk, where the allies wore large cravats, by which the French frequently seized hold of them, a circumstance perpetuated on the medals of Louis XIV., cravats were called Steenkirks; and after the battle of Ramilies, wigs received that denomination.

The court, in all ages and in every country, are the modellers of fashions; so that all the ridicule, of which these are so susceptible, must fall on them, and not upon their servile imitators the citizens. This complaint is made even so far back as in 1586, by Jean des Caures, an old French moralist, who, in declaiming against the fashions of his day, notices one, of the ladies carrying mirrors fixed to their waists, which seemed to employ their eyes in perpetual activity. From this mode will result, according to honest Des Caures, their eternal damnation. “Alas! (he exclaims) in what an age do we live: to see such depravity which we see, that induces them even to bring into church these scandalous mirrors hanging about their waists! Let all histories, divine, human, and profane, be consulted; never will it be found that these objects of vanity were ever thus brought into public by the most meretricious of the sex. It is true, at present none but the ladies of the court venture to wear them; but long it will not be before every citizen’s daughter and every female servant, will have them!” Such in all times has been the rise and decline of fashion; and the absurd mimicry of the citizens, even of the lowest classes, to their very ruin, in straining to rival the newest fashion, has mortified and galled the courtier.