Sunday, June 2, 2019

Royal Etiquette Dictated the Fashion

Princess Louise, Duchess of Argyll, was the sixth child and fourth daughter of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. In 1878, her husband, John, Marquess of Lorne, the heir of the Duke of Argyll, was appointed Governor General of Canada. It was a post he held from 1878–1884. Louise, as “viceregal consort,” starting a lasting interest in Canada. Her name was used to name many features in Canada. In her public life, she was a strong proponent of the arts and higher education and of the feminist cause. – Photo public domain

A Canadian Difficulty

The Canadians are just now entangled in a very curious and perplexing controversy. The new Governor General’s Court is of course regulated in accordance with royal etiquette, and one of the most inflexible regulations is that which ordains that all ladies attending it shall be in full dress. Now, whether the upper circles of Canada are peculiarly Arcadian and primitive in their habits, or whether the inclemency of the climate has necessitated a departure from the practice of denudation which is elsewhere regarded as full evening costume, is not apparent ; but the fact is that a loud outcry has been raised in the Canadian press against the contemplated innovation, and some very venerable arguments have been aired upon the occasion. 

It has been pointed out with some force, however, that thus far the only opinions which have been made public are those of men and that the opinions of the Canadian women may possibly not agree with them. Certainly it would be an unheard of thing if these ladies suffered any considerations of hygiene or prudery to hinder them from following the fashion, whatever it might be. It is not to be supposed that they differ in mental structure and habit from their sisters all over the world, and it is tolerably well ascertained that whatever kind of costume fashion prescribes, whether it is cut down to the waist before and behind, or fastened up to the throat, that costume the dear creatures will wear, even if it kills them. The idea that the Canadian ladies would rebel against the etiquette of a royal court, moreover, is simply preposterous. 

This demonstration of horror and indignation undoubtedly comes from the stupid men, who never can be got to perceive that there are in practice no rigid standards of modesty, propriety, right or wrong, but that everything is permissible which Fashion ordains, no matter what it may involve in the way of undressing. If low necks and short sleeves are de rigueur at the Court of Princess Louise, depend upon it there will be no resistance to the decree. The only thing to be hoped is that this impending anatomical display may possess its aesthetic compensations, and that the Canadian damsels and matrons will, to employ the language of the P. R., “peel well.” – Sacramento Daily Union, 1878

Etiquette Enthusiast, Maura J Graber, is the Site Editor for the Etiquipedia© Etiquette Encyclopedia

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