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THE TOILETTE IN ENGLAND.
a Ncient authors dis^ agree in the accounts they give of the dress of the first inhabitants of Britain. Some assert that, previously to the first descent of the Romans, the people wore no clothing at all; other writers, however (and, probably, with more truth), state, that they clothed themselves with the skins of wild animals; and as their mode of life required activity and freedom of limb, loose skins over their bodies, fastened, probably, with a thorn, would give them the needful warmth, without in any degree restraining the liberty of action so necessary to the hardy mountaineer.
Julius Caesar gives us reason to think that the mantles he observed in use, were made by fastening the ends of hair into some sort of coarse cloth; but it is impossible at the present time to say in what manner this was done.
Another dress mentioned by ancient writers, indicates a progress towards civilization. The year in which it was worn is not given, but it may be considered the second era in the history of the toilette of the rude and warlike Britons. It consisted of a sort of trousers, which fitted tight to the limbs, from the waist to the ankles; over this was worn a tunic with long sleeves, a cloak, and sandals, made of skins, tied to the feet. The head was closely shaven, except on the crown, and Caesar adds, that the men removed all their beard excepting that on the upper lip.
Probably the dress of the women of those days did not differ much from that of the men; but after the second descent of the Romans, both sexes are supposed to have followed the Roman costume; indeed, Tacitus expressly asserts that they did adopt this change; though we may safely believe that thousands of the natives spurned the Roman fashion in attire, not from any dislike of its form or shape, but from the detestation they bore towards their conquerors.
The beautiful and intrepid Queen Boadicea is the first British female whose dress is recorded. Dio mentions, that when she led her army to the field of battle, she wore "a various-coloured tunic, flowing in long loose folds, and over it a mantle, while her long hair floated over her neck and shoulders." This warlike queen, therefore, notwithstanding her abhorrence of the Romans, could not resist the graceful elegance of their costume, so different from the rude clumsiness of the dress of her wild subjects; and, though fighting valiantly against the invaders of her country, she succumbed to the laws which Fashion had issued!—a forcible example of the unlimited sway exercised by the flower-crowned goddess over the female mind.
It may not be uninteresting here to describe the Roman costume, at the period when it was adopted by the British. The toga, or gown without sleeves, was usually of a pure white, and being gracefully thrown around the shoulders, descended nearly to the ground behind, and was occasionally used as a covering for the head. A purple border was a mark of dignity. The generality of people wore the tunic, without the toga; it was the in-door dress, and completely covered the body. At first, the sleeves of the tunic only reached to the elbow; soon, however, they extended to the wrist, and at last increased in length till they touched the ankles. The feet were covered with sandals. As improvements in dress became more common, the stola (resembling a chemise) was worn by the women. It was always white, had long sleeves, and frequently a narrow border of gold round the bottom. Over it was thrown the mantle, or cloak, and sandals encircled the feet of the wearer. The Roman ladies were very fond of ornaments, and wore rings, bracelets, armlets, and torques, or necklaces.
With the Saxon invasion came war and desolation, and the elegancies of life were necessarily neglected. The invaders clothed themselves in a rude and fantastic manner. It is not unlikely that the Britons may have adopted some of their costume. From the Saxon females, we are told, came the invention of dividing, curling, and turning the hair over the back of the head. Ancient writers also add, that their garments were long and flowing.
The Romans for many years looked upon a shirt as belonging to women only; but at length they also adopted it, and the Saxon military men did not disdain to wear it richly embroidered.
Gradually, additions and improvements in costume were made. Over the linen shirt was worn a linen or woollen tunic, which reached to the knees; it had long sleeves, and was put on like a shirt. Frequently the border and collar were ornamented, and a girdle usually confined it at the waist. Long drawers, or trousers, covered the lower limbs, and leathern stockings, or buskins, were also used. Often bands of cloth or woollen were wrapped round the legs: over these stockings were worn, and the shoes were generally black, tied by a leathern thong.
The Anglo-Saxons appear to have admired bright colours, and red or blue hose were generally worn. Silk, when imported about the eighth century, was at first too costly a material to be much used, but afterwards it became a favourite article of dress. Weaving and embroidery were well known to the English females, even at that early period. William of Malmesbury says also, that "gold chains and bracelets were favourite ornaments of both sexes."
The women wore long tunics, or gowns, and a mantle. The sleeves were confined at the wrists by bracelets or borders of embroidery, and the cloak often formed a graceful festoon in front. A veil of linen or silk always encircled the head. Matthew Paris thus describes the costume of the Anglo-Saxons: "The dress of the gentlemen was a loose cloak, which reached down to the ankles, and over that a long robe, fastened over both shoulders, on the middle of the breast, by a clasp or buckle. These cloaks and robes were frequently lined with rich furs, and bordered with gold and embroidery. The soldiers and common people wore close coats, only reaching to the knee, and short cloaks, hanging over the left shoulder, and buckled on the right. These had sometimes an edging of gold. They wore caps that came to a point in front, which were probably made of the skins of beasts. The women wore a long loose robe, reaching to the ground. On their heads hung a veil, which, falling down before, was gathered up at the corners, and folded round their necks and over their bosoms. The robe was usually ornamented with a broad border, coloured and embroidered. Slippers were worn by men and women of fashion, and the men had a crossed bandage in lieu of a stocking. The hair of the men was worn long and flowing, and the beard was permitted to grow on the upper lip."
The Anglo-Saxon ladies seldom, if ever, went with their heads bare; sometimes the veil, or head-rail, was replaced by a golden head-band, or it was worn over the veil. Half circles of gold, necklaces, bracelets, ear-rings, and crosses, were the numerous ornaments worn at that period by the women. It is supposed that mufflers (a sort of bag with a thumb) were also sometimes used.
Great uncertainty exists respecting the true character of a garment much used by the Anglo-Saxon