Female Fashions For 1799

A form, as any taper, fine ;
A head like half-pint bason ;
Where golden cords, and bands entwine,
As rich as fleece of JASON.

A pair of shoulders strong and wide,
Like country clown enlisting ;
Bare arms long dangling by the side,
And shoes of ragged listing !

Cravats like towels, thick and broad,
Long tippets made of bear-skin,
Muffs that a RUSSIAN might applaud,
And rouge to spoil a fair skin.

Long petticoats to hide the feet,
Silk hose with clocks of scarlet ;
A load of perfume, sick'ning sweet,
Bought of PARISIAN VARLET.

A bush of hair, the brow to shade,
Sometimes the eyes to cover ;
A necklace that might be display'd
By OTAHEITEAN lover !

A bowl of straw to deck the head,
Like porringer unmeaning ;
A bunch of POPPIES flaming red,
With motly ribands streaming.

Bare ears on either side the head,
Like wood-wild savage SATYR ;
Tinted with deep vermilion red,
To shame the blush of nature.

Red elbows, gauzy gloves, that add
An icy cov'ring merely ;
A wadded coat, the shape to pad,
Like Dutch-women -- or nearly.

Such is CAPRICE ! but, lovely kind !
Oh ! let each mental feature
Proclaim the labour of the mind,
And leave your charms to NATURE.

by Mary Darby Robinson

Comments (2)

Mary Darby Robinson's wit and humor has a bit of a stinger to it. She is passing judgment on the fashions for 1799 and she's taking no prisoners. She finds the styles to be ugly and immodest- -which is an odd stance for her to take. She was an actress and a mistress to many noblemen of her day.
Wouldn't she be lovely; wouldn't she be fine! this poem just fascinated me in the 'historic sense'.. this is a masterpiece that has been cloaked well in preservation.. to which this reader is truly grateful!