Last week I showed Charles VI, Holy Roman Emperor in vivid yellow: a colour determined to make a lasting impact, for a man who aspired to the same. You agreed that the colour was quite a stand-out, but weren’t sure it did anything for the man wearing it. I haven’t tallied the points yet (running late again, I’m sorry!), but I’m sure they weren’t in Charles’ favour – he did, after all, get compared to ‘early Big Bird’.
Update: Charles actually did slightly better than I thought – 6.3 out of 10, for “Fantastic outfit, wrong wearer” as HoiLei succinctly put it.
This week I’ve picked another garment aiming to make a royal impression: a ca. 1845 Court Dress picked a very simple idea for impact, and stuck to it: elaborate gold embroidery on black.
This court dress is given a clear provenance to Portugal, and the assumption is that it was court dress worn at the Portuguese court.
In the 1840s Portugal was ruled by the relatively liberal and forward thinking Brazilian-born Maria II (her nickname was ‘The Educator’, which is bound to endear her to me), and her husband, Fernando II. Maria’s route to the throne was difficult and circuitous, but once she was established as Queen she had a fairly peaceful, prosperous and uneventful rule, and a happy marriage.
The rules around Portuguese court dress of the 1840s may have specified the black and gold colour scheme of this striking frock, though I cannot find any documentation to support this (granted, I spent a couple of hours researching on the internet, and there isn’t much information in English, so gave up). I also wasn’t able to find any major members of the Portuguese royal family who died around 1845, so the colour was probably not prompted by court mourning.
If the wearer of this dress was not constrained by the rules of national costume, or the rules of court mourning, than the dark colour scheme must have been her own choice: either because of personal mourning, or to show both wealth (black was still an expensive dye in the years prior to aniline dye) or to best showcase the gold embroidery.
Other than the striking colour scheme, the dress adheres to the conventions of formal court wear and evening attire universal across Europe in the 1840s: the low neckline helps to highlight the delicate skin of the bust and neck, the drooping ruffles of the bertha and sleeves emphasise the slope of the shoulders, and the full skirts and elaborate bodice trimmings serve to further create the illusion of a tiny waist.