18th Century

Regency beauty…raking?

What the heck is going on with this fashion plate?

Costume Parisien Fashion plate 1333, 1813

The caption, according to my dog-French translation abilities, reads: “Chinese hairstyle, pelerine (that’s the little cape thing) and dress of percale, gaiters of nankeen”

Is there a game played with a rake?

Or did our fashionista just wake up one morning, decide to do her hair up in a silly top-knot, put on a tiara, a short sleeved dress and a pereline with a high-ruff collar (thought the collar may be separate), and gaiters over her shoes and go out to rake the lawn?

Whenever I see fashion plates like this I hear the Daleks shriek “Explain!  Explain” in my head.



  1. Lynne says

    Petanque? They use a rake to smooth the gravel, but I can’t imagine a fashionable lady indulging. Very, very strange!

    Or having a late burst of the whole ‘look at me, I’m a shepherdess/cute peasant’ thing, and toying with raking a little hay while the sun shines?

    Neither makes much sense.

    I’m with the Daleks.

    • Lynne says

      She’s even got a tiara thing! Maybe there’s some clever historical French punning game going on here?

      1813 was the year before Napoleon was exiled to Elba, and things were fairly bad for the French. This dress is summer fashion, so before Napoleon lost the battle of Leipzig in October. Maybe a ‘we all pull/rake together for France’?

      Still with the questions!

  2. A reaching symbolic bit of wit for “lady who will keep acquaintance with rake(hell)s”?

    … or am I the one reaching? Another one with the Daleks.

  3. E. Waterman says

    From what I have seen/read in places fashionable ladies could tend their gardens for fun, not to mention there are some strange french fashion plates out there. Perhaps this was meant to show a new style of light working garments – look how short her skirt is PLUS the gaiters, yes I know short skirts were popular then but for the year it seems shorter than normal. Its the French..I think that should be the adequate explanation ; P.

  4. Sophie O says

    No idea why she would be playing with a rake, but I think she’s a sensible woman: she word gaiters to protect her shoes from the rake 🙂

  5. Well, “simulacra” of the life of the farmers were quite popular with French aristocracy just before the revolution – the most famous of which is “the Queen’s Hamlet” started by Marie Antoinette in Versailles. It was highly “fashionable” to tend gardens and pose as a diligent peasant at the time, to say it shortly. While this plate is from the times after the revolution, fashion tended to be slower back then, didn’t it? 🙂

  6. I know we had a “rake game” in Paris at the end of the 18th century. But I don’t know what the rules could have been 😡

  7. It would be interesting to read the original capture to the plate. Some of the plates are not a “what you should wear” or the “must wear item” – but can also be a “Don’t do that”.

    I would not be too amazed, if the original text would be something of a sneer on people doing mundane work while being completely overdressed (her hairdo would be perfect for a soiree or a ball even!)

  8. What sort of illicit substances were they into at the time because homegirl might be on some.

  9. Bizarre. What she’s standing on looks like short, well kept grass. I don’t see a single leaf anywhere. No dirt either. Anyways, who would rake a garden dressed in all white?
    Perhaps she was supposed to be gardening but the illustrator didn’t want to draw turned up dirt in a fashion plate. But then, why include a rake if there’s nothing to rake?

    I’m confused.

    • E. Waterman says

      Often times fashion plates could be left white to interpretation by the consumer – while white was popular itself, it was not the only color open for fashionable ladies. Some of the fabric swatches in Ackermann’s Repository are delightfully garish!

      • They also came in lots of colours – you often see the same fashion plate in different shades. The colours do seem to be at least possibilities though – not completely out of the range of what garments were actually made up in.

  10. I’ve clearly been underdressing for gardening.

    But my best guess would be some sort of proletariat connection — given the political mood in France at the time. Just a decade earlier you see French fashion plates advertising costumes a la victime, aka what the fashionable wear for decapitation, so tiaras for yard work hardly seem outlandish after that…

    Also, this is English, but Gainsborough painted his own daughter as an orphaned peasant gleaner in the late 18th century. May have been an ongoing fad to pose as indigent farm laborers? Can we bring that back???

  11. For some reason I immediately thought of those rock gardens where you rake the sand into pleasing patterns. Not a Regency thing. But a Zen thing. And I thought about doing that in this outfit and suddenly, it all made sense….in a completely nonsensical way, of course.

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