Update: house tidied, votes tallied, and last weeks chrysanthemum and swags dress came in at 6.8 out of 10, loosing a point for awkward transitions, and lots of points for looking like eyeballs (a resemblance that I can’t see no matter what size I look at the image from, and how much I squint!)
I’ll be coming back tomorrow morning to tally the votes for last weeks Japonisme-inspired ensemble, but I’m afraid I was too busy tonight getting the house ready for guests (why do you always get a spectacularly good evening when you have to vacuum the whole house instead of getting to go for a walk in the actually-balmy weather!). For now, here is this week’s Rate the Dress for your delectation.
Twenty-year old Henrietta Cavendish Holles, Countess of Oxford and heiress to one of the largest fortunes in England, is depicted in a suitably luxurious and decadent riding habit the year after her marriage to Edward Harley, 2nd Earl of Oxford.
Portraits in riding dress were all the rage in early 18th century England, but Henrietta must have been a keen horsewoman, as one of her few other known portraits depicts her in another riding habit (this one in scarlet) on horseback. The riding habit emphasises her independence and willpower: she had insisted on marrying Edward against her mothers wishes, with both of them knowing it risked her inheritance. Luckily for her not only was the marriage happy (probably helped that everyone described her as extremely amiable, kind, and good natured), but her fortune was bestowed after all (also luckily, as Edward managed to run through most of it anyway). While she may have been amiable and kind, Henrietta was also often described as dull and boring, so her daughter Margaret, Duchess of Portland, famous intellectual powerhouse, and one of the founders of the Bluestocking Society (aka, seriously amazing woman and one of my heroes), must have gotten her sparkling wit from her politician father – though both parents were scholars and bibliophiles.
Returning to Henrietta, her portrait shows a habit that sacrifices no style for practicality: in lustrous blue with either cloth-of-silver or white satin striped accents, it manages to be every bit as decadent as a court dress. From the tip of her narrow, pointed shoe, to the top of her silver-trimmed tricorne, Henrietta is every inch the heiress and noblewoman.
But is she the fashionista? Does the habit manage to rise to fabulousness?
Rate the Dress on a Scale of 1 to 10