From about the middle of the 1790s to the ascension of King George IV in 1820, English ladies found the expectations of court dress at great odds with the popular fashions of the day. Court etiquette adhered to those rules laid down by Queen Charlotte - the consort of George III - earlier in her husband's reign, and she still presided over the royal drawing rooms, and would until her death in 1818. Wide panniers had been de rigeur at European courts through almost the entirety of the eighteenth century. But now, with fashion's silhouette changing so radically, good sense would require that they be dispensed with. Instead, as the waistline made its rapid ascent to its full-on right-under-the-bosom Empire height, the English "court hoop" went right up with it. Where before there was some grace to the exaggerated width of a gown's skirt - an expanse ameliorated by the slim, corseted waistline and, the width coming at the hips, showing some response, at least, to a woman's natural proportions - now a lady was just an overdecorated box. And functionally particularly awkward. With a lower waisted gown, with the pannier set at hip level, a woman at least had room for her arms, even if necessarily bent. With the hoops right up under her armpits, where were her arms supposed to go? A most impractical fashion, really only suitable to a Venus de Milo.
|Fashion plates of the day were printed plain; those in color were hand-painted - for those who could afford them.|
|A colored version of the plate above.|
|Another example of a plain printed plate, followed by a colored-in version.|
|Whether due to artistic license or because it's a transitional example, the court hoop is not very obvious here.|