18th Century, 19th Century

My, what an enormous padded fur or fabric hand receptacle/warmer you have

So, I originally titled this post “My, what an enormous muff you have”, a la Little Red Riding Hood, because apparently I’m on a children’s story theme this week.

Then Mr D pointed out that my title was perhaps a little more risque than I usually aim for with my blog.  After blinking at him in confusion for a very long moment, comprehension finally dawned.  Ohhhhhh….

I know I keep him around for something!

Anyway, I’ve been looking at late 18th and early 19th century fashion plates, and, thanks to my love of muffs, I’ve noticed all the absolutely enormous muffs that were in fashion in the Regency period.

I mean, look at this:

Journal des Dames et des Modes, 1797

Journal des Dames et des Modes, 1797

Her head would fit in the hand hole!

And if you thought that one was bad, look at this one:

Journal des Dames et des Modes, 1798

Journal des Dames et des Modes, 1798

Forget keeping her hands warm, if she gets cold enough she could climb into this thing wholesale, and keep warm like a little post-Revolutionary space rebel.  How did she even carry it?  It would weigh half her body weight!

Things got a tiny bit saner after 1798, but these two examples from 1799 are more than twice the size of the heads of the ladies carrying them:

London Full & Half Dress, Winter 1799

London Full & Half Dress, Winter 1799

(also, how fabulous are the two hats in the one above!)

Ladies’ Museum, Morning Dress for December, 1799.

Ladies’ Museum, Morning Dress for December, 1799

One would think that such a ridiculous trend would disappear pretty quickly, but no, here they are again in the new century:

Lady’s Magazine, London Walking Dress, March 1805

It’s like she is carrying half a sheep!

Men's & ladies fashions for 1807

Men’s & ladies fashions for 1807

(it’s taking her second hand and some help from the gentleman’s other hand to hold up the weight of all that white fur)

Amazingly, you see examples of utterly ridiculously large muffs almost until 1820:

Carriage costume, January 1817

Carriage costume, January 1817

Muff weight lifting.  How Regency ladies stayed in shape.

Now I kinda want to make one, just to see how heavy a half-body sized muff made in period appropriate fur, wool batting and fabrics would be…

(all images via Damesalamode)


  1. I made the mistake of typing muffs into google, when i was researching 19th century fashion for a project at fashion school last year – the resulting images were enough to cause a rapid and rather rosy blush!

  2. Angelique says

    Those are insane! I kind of love them. Sort of like the giant handbag of their day?

  3. Daniel says

    In 1823, after her marriage, Mary Elizabeth Lucy’s “going-away” costume included a swansdown tippet and muff described in her words as “large enough for a harlequin to jump through (the fashion of the time)”

    I’ve always liked that description!

    • Oh, that is fantastic! What exactly did she mean by a harlequin, do you think? Was it a reference to one doing a sort of circus-jump-through trick? Or did she mean one of the animals that is called a harlequin?

      • Daniel says

        ntprints.comI’d always assumed she meant the acrobatic performer. Hadn’t even thought it might mean anything else – either way, that IS a quite large muff. The dress has survived (see http://www.ntprints.com/image/355006/ ) , but sadly doesn’t look like the muff has… I seem to recall that this is the dress of which Virginia Woolf later commented “it would barely fit a well-grown girl of twelve”, so I guess a huge muff would seem even larger for her….

  4. Good lord, these are huge. You could just about fit your whole torso inside one of these.

    • Yep! Regency style space-rebel sleeping bags! I’m sure there was some fashionable exaggeration, and few women really went in for items that were this extreme.

  5. Colour me sceptical. I’d like to see an extant muff-large-enough-to-use-as-a-sleeping-bag please or I’d be inclined to write these fashion plates off as 18thC photoshop-worthy exaggeration.

    • That’s what I think too, though, as Daniel pointed out, and based on some cartoons of the time, there probably were some extremely large muffs, just like some people did wear those heel-less shoes. Just not most!

  6. mydogphoebe says

    It’s like she’s helping with the lambing…..

  7. Ohhhhhhh, you totally need to make one! Please, please, please DO IT.

    I have a piece of fur reclaimed from an old coat that fell apart (that I can’t quite remember how I acquired) that I’ve been planning to make into a muff ever since I got it. I wonder just how big a one I could get out of it….hmmm….It would also be nice to use up some of the wool batting I still have leftover from my quilted petticoat reconstruction.

    • It’s on my list, but there are so many other things I want to make as well! It might take a while! Or I might get madly fixated and make one right away ;-).

  8. Lynne says

    Felicity would like a really big muff. It could be a sort of cat-cosy. 🙂
    Much better idea than trying to carry the things – the awkwardness as well as the weight!

    So funny! Love Daniel’s quote about the harlequin!

    • It would have to be a really big fake-fur muff. She’d tear a real fur one to shreds – kitty thinks things that come from animals must be attacked and killed!

  9. If it’s angora, it’ll be light weight. But, wow, some of those are beyond ridiculous. It’s as if she’s carrying a barrel of fur around. It must drag on the ground – maybe backpack straps would have been more practical? 😉

  10. Ha ha ha ha!!
    You are absolutely spot on.

    These muffs are so huge. I can’t even…

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