Dressing Up, Dressing Down

Back to Dressing up, Dressing down

dress 1950.19
dress side 1950.19
dress side detail 1950.19
dress front detail 1950.19

This dress was worn by Sarah Coke, who lived at Brookhill Hall, Pinxton, Derbyshire, at a fancydress ball in Nottingham in 1826. It was Sarah's "coming out" ball, her first social event as an adult, and the dress was supposed to represent the fashion of Charles II's time, and she wore her hair in ringlets, adorned with white ostrich feathers. However, the puffed sleeves, the flat collar and the stomacher effect of the bodice front actually suggest the fashions of Charles I rather than Charles II.

Fancy balls became extremely popular in the 1820s, the fashion spreading from court and high society balls given in London, Paris and Brussels, to private family balls, and then to large municipal balls organised by committees to raise money for charity, like this Nottingham ball. Preston held a ball as early as 1822, Liverpool in 1827 and Manchester in 1828. A "fancy dress" often represented a historical figure such as Mary, Queen of Scots or Queen Elizabeth I, a character from fiction such as a Shakespeare play or a Scott novel, or simply mainstream fashionable evening dress with a few "fancy" trimmings, such as feathers, furs and oriental scarves.

Full item descriptions:

"fancy dress outfit" [1950.19]

Related Themes:

Fancy Dress