Monday, October 19, 2009

Perdita's Muffs

Mary Robinson, like Georgiana, was a giant fashion icon in the later part of the century. Like Lady G and her french counterpart, Perdita wearing anything would cause a demand for that article of clothing so the papers followed her every move, both in her personal and fashion life.

One of the rages Perdita began was for a series of muffs. Given, muffs had been around for quite a while and many people used them on cold days to warm their hands, but a muff Perdita used was more appealing to the masses. In the chilliness of March, 1782, The Morning Herald reported,
"The Cataract Muff is no sooner exhibited on the arm of Perdita than a rivalship in that article of dress was planned...At length a genius of the superior order produced the tablature muff..."
Perhaps having Romney immortalize her wearing a muff the year before confirmed her as an authority on the clothing article. So take a tip from Perdita, if you want to be a trendsetter, make sure you are seen and photographed often to get the credit you may or may not deserve.


  1. It's so funny that you mention an historic fashion trend - I was just discussing French hoods with Lizzy from Historically Obsessed. It's always interesting to learn the drama that went on to bring about a fashion trend.

  2. french hoods are amazing!
    Go anne boleyn! W00t.

    But yes, Mary was very pretty as well.
    Do you think she was as famous as Georgiana?

  3. @Allie, yes Lauren and I had a weird twilioght moment yesterday when we post 'tweeted' about muffs at the same time. I saw it as a sign

    @Anon, Yes, I think they enjoyed the same level of celebrity, although Perdita's fizzled when she retired to become a an author.

  4. I always found Mary to be rather an interesting tart, but those muff names! Tablature? Cataract? Huh?

    Her portraits, however, seem to be very consistent in her depiction. Several more famous personages, Her Grace included, don't always look similar from artist to artist, but Mary does. She has quite a shrewd look in her eye and I can just see her squeezing the young Prinny for a few guineas! Her Gainsborough at the Wallace Collection (sigh) almost looks like a blackmail portrait: the hard eyes and the offering of the miniature (for a price!). Given the dog, it had to have been painted at the height of their affair, but she has anything but a dreamy expression.

  5. I never thought of that! You're absolutely right, her eyes are narrowed in those whereas some of her loveliest portraits (in my opinion) have her wide-eyed with her ravishing smile.

  6. Yeah, you're right. I'd forgotten the Ruben's wife image in oils. The actual Hoppner version has her looking far more wide-eyed, but the print (which I see more, as I have a small copy) has the shrewd eyes. So mine must be after the Reynolds version. Can you believe I've never checked? Sheesh! I guess that's why I think of her that way. Mystery solved, ha-HA. Thanks!

  7. I just picked up a new muff this weekend, so your post is very appropo for me! Why, oh why, did they ever go out of fashion?

    I agree with Polonaise though; those names seem very strange!

  8. Where, pray tell, did you find a muff!