The Whole Art of Pleasing as Laid Down by a Frenchwoman

Announcement of a new book, The Lady's Stratagem: A Repository of 1820s Directions for the Toilet, Mantua-Making, Stay-Making, Millinery & Etiquette.

San Francisco, CA, November 04, 2008 --( "The most estimable women would be vexed to be disesteemed by their husbands; therefore, they must strive to excite and nourish more pleasant sentiments. The neglect and infidelity so much deplored in husbands is often owing to wives' neglect of themselves."

Politically incorrect? Not in the early 19th century. The Lady's Stratagem: A Repository of 1820s Directions for the Toilet, Mantua-Making, Stay-Making, Millinery & Etiquette is a comprehensive guide to averting such marital disasters. Modern readers are warned not to try the recipes for homemade cosmetics (such as the Oriental Rusma depilatory, composed of quicklime, arsenic, and washing powder). However, film and theater costumers will welcome the directions and diagrams for making thirteen styles of corsets; for making and trimming dresses, pelisses, riding habits, and other garments; for every kind of millinery, including fifty-two trimmings and both wound and mounted turbans; and unusually early directions for knitting stockings, undergarments, and accessories. There is no comparable English-language needlework reference for the 1820s--period or modern. Reenactors and living history interpreters will put to use the information on wardrobe planning; mending and alterations; the concoction of eight hairstyles; choosing perfumes; how to walk and gesture; and the etiquette for all social occasions, from morning visits to balls. Historical and romance novelists will find fascinating details in the instructions for cleaning the teeth, caring for the hair, bathing, getting dressed, putting away the toilet articles, doing the laundry, the art of conversation, writing letters, and much more.

For example, the directions for gaining weight include, "Every day, immediately before the meal, take a bath, during which you should not move about at all. After a quarter of an hour, you may comfort yourself with a consommé. Quit the bath after another quarter of an hour, arrange yourself on a sopha, and take a cup of chocolate. Then sleep until the moment you sit down at table."

Much of this material is drawn from six important French manuals of the 1820s, five here translated into English for the first time--that is, into 1820s English, not excluding spelling and punctuation. A running commentary is provided by the "diversions," containing information from twenty-three additional English, American, and French sources, furnishing an international viewpoint. And in places, one that diverges from the middle-class outlook of the core sources, such as the patterns for slaves' clothing. The "diversions" are something Lawrence Sterne might have thought up if he had been familiar with the Internet: They are unclickable links to material ranging from one sentence to as long as twenty-seven pages.

Editor and translator Frances Grimble is the author of six previous books: After a Fashion, Reconstruction Era Fashions, Fashions of the Gilded Age Volumes 1 and 2, The Voice of Fashion, and The Edwardian Modiste. Over 60 of her articles have appeared in national magazines, such as Threads, Sew News, and Antique Trader Weekly.

The Lady's Stratagem can be purchased for $75 in bookstores, or ordered from Lavolta Press at 20 Meadowbrook Drive, San Francisco, CA 94132.

The Lady's Stratagem: A Repository of 1820s Directions for the Toilet, Mantua-Making, Stay-Making, Millinery & Etiquette
Edited, translated, and with additional material by Frances Grimble
Publication date: November 3, 2008
8 1/2" x 11" quality paperback
755 pages
98 line drawings, 36 halftones
Glossary, bibliography, and index
ISBN: 978-0-9636517-7-8
LCCN: 2008920010
Cover price: $75.00

Lavolta Press
20 Meadowbrook Drive
San Francisco, California 94132

Contact: Allan Terry,

Lavolta Press
Allan Terry