The Milliner’s Shop, a Rhapsody: 1823

A Morning Ramble or The Milliners Shop, print from the British Museum

A Morning Ramble or The Milliners Shop, print from the British Museum

The Margaret Hunter Shop at Colonial Williamsburg is hosting a conference this weekend: “Millinery Through Time,” to celebrate its 60th anniversary. The milliners and mantua-makers of the shop have recreated the clothing in the print above.


I know of no situation more agreeable than that of a fashionable Milliner. Everything around her is seducing:–the gauze and lawn take whatever shape her fancy directs. She arranges those flowers fashioned by art, whose vivid colors dare to rival the brilliant productions of nature. This handsome hat, this aigrette, this bouquet, acquire triple value from her plastic hand!

Beyond that glazed partition behold that assemblance of young beauties; they hold the needle and the scissors—how happily employed! Taste, or rather Fashion, directs their labor. The Graces preside over their dress; coquetry beams in their eyes;

Here on the right are the three Graces; this is the freshness of Hebe, the gait of Juno, and the beauty of Venus. There, on the left, is a sprightly brunette, a wood nymph, whose furtive glance inflamed the satyr. At the further end is a fair damsel with blue seducing eyes: it is the Queen of Cypress, who holds even the most rebellious hearts in subjection. In the morning the fashionable milliner resembles the artificial flowers around her; –at night she is the rose in all its lustre! Her worshippers increase as the star of day proceeds in its course; when Phebus has completed his career she enjoys her greatest triumph. She is the finest production of nature—the most desired.

Corinna holds the needle with grace; Victoria forms the bonnet with delicious taste; Agale plaits the gauze! What a charming occupation! Oh! That I were a milliner, or a milliner’s girl—happy young beauty, who in the closet of love preserves a heart as pure, as fresh, as the color of the flowers! What coquetry in her gait!—what a divine waist!—it is a young milliner who walks before me; she carries a light bandbox full of ribbons and roses—what grace!—what attractions!—all eyes following this charming object!—they cannot lose sight of her!

Amiable modesty! May you be ever the favorite virtue of the young milliner’s girl!  Paris paper

Dutchess Observer [Poughkeepsie, NY] 13 August 1823: p. 4

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Mrs Daffodil is enchanted–as who would not be?–by this seductive encomium to the coquetry of the fashionable milliner.  The 18th-century print at the head of the post shows just what was reputed to go on at the average millinery shop: flirtation and intrigue with young ladies who were no better than they should be. Amiable modesty be d_m’d, the young gentlemen might respond. Yet, should we condemn the young milliner-girls for taking advantage of their youth and beauty, so soon fled or drudged away?

Mrs Daffodil previously wrote about milliners in this history of a gauze hat, in the story of a ghost who ordered a hat, and in the pathetic tale of the umbrella girl.

Mrs Daffodil invites you to join her on the curiously named “Face-book,”where you will find a feast of fashion hints, fads and fancies, and historical anecdotes.

2 thoughts on “The Milliner’s Shop, a Rhapsody: 1823

  1. The Sartorial Coquette

    this is fascinating!! millinery should be reintroduced to everyday dressing – it would add the punch street style often needs 🙂


    1. chriswoodyard Post author

      Thank you for your kind words! Milliners’ girls were always the best-dressed on the street–walking adverts for their wares–sartorial and otherwise. It’s been said that street-walkers would carry bandboxes or dress boxes so they could wander with impunity, claiming they were “making a delivery.” They definitely had panache!



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