One of my favourite places to study historic dress is at the Fashion Museum in Bathwhich is in the Assembly Rooms there. Scenes from the film, The Duchess, were filmed in the Assembly Rooms and currently on display are some of the costumes from this film. I go a few times a year to look at the different displays as they keep a lot of stock in storage and place various different elements on show at different times. When I went last week there was a gem on display – a sarsenet pelisse from 1815. A pelisse is a style of coat women wore over dresses in the 1800s.
I was interested in the garment, but what interested me even more is that the museum knew exactly who wore the pelisse. It was worn by Annabella Milbanke, who married the Romantic poet Lord Byron. I have mentioned Lord Byron in one of my earlier blogs; he was a strong figure in the history, life and scandal of the Regency era. What is still more inspirational is that this particular garment was spoken of in a letter from a friend of Byron’s. I have also said previously how fascinating I find letters and written records of this period, as they give you a real sense of what people did – what could occur – of how people spoke to one another – thought – and lived their lives.
John Cam Hobhouse, Byron’s friend, who travelled to the North East with the poet for the wedding said that the bride’s muslin wedding gown was “very plain indeed”; but, for the honeymoon, she changed into a travelling dress of slate-coloured satin trimmed with white fur: this is the silk sarsenet pelisse on display in the museum and shown in the picture above. Although it is not fur-lined, it is believed it may have been worn with a separate fur tippet or collar.
Below are some pictures of the Assembly Rooms and another example of a pelisse
Jane Lark is a writer of authentic, passionate and emotional love stories.
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