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Collection: Godey's Lady's Book
Publication: Godey's Lady's Book
Date: August, 1880
Location: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania


With the warm sun of August upon us, it is hardly the season to advocate anything very novel in the way of outdoor amusement; but a lady who desired something attractive and new in the way of an entertainment has proved herself an adventurous spirit, and has struck out in a new line, and with success too, the date chosen being, for a wonder, a fine day. We confess that when we received the invitation, we marveled greatly whether anyone would have the courage to accept and carry it out, though as we read the wording of the card and found that a fancy-dress picnic was the programme, a flood of pretty pictures came before us. We had long known the spot selected: a valley in the midst of hills; a river with much boating near at hand, and fine foliage everywhere. We could see in our minds eye the very bank where Sir Philip Sydney might recline, and look at least as if he were composing a sonnet, Queen Elizabeth not far distant conversing with Essex, a group of Watteau beauties disappearing in the distance, and Louis XVI.'s luckless wife and her train playing at rusticity round about the rural cottage, the only building in sight, which might have formed a part of the Trianon village, where the poor young queen loved to throw off the splendor and formality of court etiquette. This picnic took place miles away from the city; the hurry and turmoil with heat and dust were left behind us, the invitation was a long one, and the privilege given of choosing any period, or the costume of any country; but all the guests were compelled to adopt fancy dresses or remain away. With all the beautiful cotton fabrics that this season has produced, it was an easy matter for ladies to reproduce costumes in wash goods that of an evening would have to be made of silk, brocade, velvet, or satin. Marie Antoinette and her surroundings at the Trianon were represented by a party who were all friends; Watteau peasants and Dolly Varden costumes were most popular. The gentlemen did not find their costumes quite as easy to arrange. We had no opportunity to judge whether Sir Philip Sidney looked in a poetic or contemplative mood. We know that he was a brave soldier, and, for his day, a great traveler, as well as a poet; a man who during absence from the life of court and camp, loved the country well, and must accordingly have often adopted the dress suitable for the rough wear of the country; but hitherto, in fancy costume, he has been represented in velvet and satins, and no one had been brave enough to introduce him in the serviceable cloth suit with breeches to the knee, and hanging sleeves depending from the elbow, over tight under ones, such as men wore in every-day life during Tudor times, the hat flat on the crown and broad in the brim. Watteau shepherds, and velvet coated gallants, who found favor with the belles of Ranelagh and Vauxhall, had many representatives. They abjured gold embroidery and braiding on their coats as unsuitable to daylight, but long-skirted mulberry coats over long waistcoats, breeches, worsted stockings, and shoes, were quite the fashion, and also the Puritan garb. Almost any national costume proved a success, and two gentlemen and two ladies adopted the Tyrolese garb, and, better still, sang Tyrolese songs, in the intervals of dancing on the grass and walks in the neighboring woods. A supremely graceful dress of the Vandyke period was of pale blue satteen. The skirt devoid of any trimming, but made with a train, and put rather full into the waist, the abundance of its folds being pressed down by the long peaked stomacher of the square-cut bodice, which should fit closely to the figure, and be clasped down the front with jeweled aigrettes. The sleeves were made very full, long, and wide, and looped and caught up with jewels or ribbon bows so as to leave the elbows bare. The hair worn in loose curls behind, and either drawn from off the forehead in front; or, if the wearer has a fringe, it should be very slightly curled so as to make it wave in one soft curve over the forehead. The fan, a feather screen, the same color as the dress. Another pretty dress was a Gainsborough of cream Indian muslin; square bodice, elbow sleeves, with lace ruffles, and round skirt, with four or five narrow flounces at the hem. A sash of wide dark green ribbon round the waist, tied in a bow at the back; a knot of dark green velvet at the corner of the square of the bodice, and another bow in the powdered hair; white peau de suede gloves, and white fan. With this dress was worn a cluster of yellow roses and a gypsy hat trimmed with dark green was hung upon the arm. Comin' thro' the Rye was represented with a dark green laveuse tunic and bodice embroidered with rye, over a bright red petticoat; high white chemisette, the sleeves caught up with poppies, poppy red fichu, knotted in front. Hat trimmed with rye and poppies. Black fan painted with poppies. Shoes painted or embroidered to match. After a picnic dinner, in due time we had a picnic tea; the kettle boiled in picnic fashion under the auspices of a dark-eyed beauty dressed as a gypsy, who contributed her quota of fun by telling fortunes. However, we shall not dwell on further details. We wished to introduce to your notice the fact that a fancy dress picnic is a novel and pleasant affair when people will enter into the spirit of it; and this is not difficult to bring about where amusement is the exception and not the business of life. If you could have seen the scene as we saw it, and as we have faintly endeavored to describe it, we feel sure that you would agree with us that it was a good idea, thus reproducing in real life the charming pictures which Watteau and others have handed down to us, with the surroundings of our pretty scenery. We found the members of the same family had, as a rule, dressed in the same styles as companion pictures, and this fancy dress picnic set people's ideas and inquiries in new grooves. We sought to ascertain what was the plain every-day garb of familiar heroes and heroines, and were by no means content with the hackneyed characters which vary but little at most fancy parties. The guests numbered three hundred, and nearly every dress was good. FASHION.