Packing for a Georgian Sleepover…

4 April 2014

NPG 1556; 'The Music Party' by Philip Mercier

Frederick, Prince of Wales and his sisters at Kew Palace, Mercier, 1733. Photo: National Portrait Gallery.

There’s just under a month to go until the next Hampton Court Palace sleepover event and I’m already massively over excited about the whole thing and have been thinking about what to take with me. I was pretty unprepared last time to be honest so had a fairly uncomfortable night with just a camping mat between me and the hard wooden floor in the Cartoon Gallery, no pillow and no ear plugs either, which was a really BAD move on my part as there was an EPIC SNORER amongst us. It was still ace but I’m going to pack a bit more wisely next time around and at THE VERY LEAST take one of my memory foam pillows from home with me to ensure that I get a better night’s sleep.

In this spirit therefore, I’ve put together a list of essential articles that any lady of fashion requires for a very special night at Hampton Court Palace! The sleepover is themed around the Midnight Flit of 1737 so I’ve tried to stick to dresses from the first half of the eighteenth century so that there’s no chance of scaring the courtiers with my outlandish sartorial choices!

Outfit One:

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Robe à la Française, French, c1750. Photo: Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

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Shift/stays/hoop, 1730-60, British. Photo: Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

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Shoes, British, c1720-49. Photo: Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

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Ring, c1730-50, British. Photo: Victoria and Albert Museum.

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Brisé fan, early 18th century, European. Photo: Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

A beautiful floral patterned gown for travelling out from London to Surrey in, with the usual combination of shift, stays and panniers underneath to keep my figure looking as elegant as possible. Nice shoes though and there’s a fan too just in case I feel like having a surreptitious flirt with the footmen.

Outfit Two:

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Robe à la Française, c1750, French. Photo: Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

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Shoes, c1760, European. Photo: Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

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Necklace, 1740-60, British. Photo: Victoria and Albert Museum.

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Earrings, c1750, Spanish. Photo: Victoria and Albert Museum.

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Fan (Venus Interceding with Jupiter), c1730, British. Photo: Victoria and Albert Museum.

There’s an evening reception involving sparkling wine, dancing and then dinner after we arrive at the palace and such a special occasion deserves a special dress, designed to glow and glitter in the soft candlelight. I’ve teamed it with some rather fabulous eighteenth century earrings and a beautiful pearl necklace as well some rather superb shoes.

Outfit Three:

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Court gown, c1750, British. Photo: Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

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Shoes, early 18th century, British. Photo: Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

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Necklace, c1730, Germany. Photo: Victoria and Albert Museum.

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Earrings, c1760, French. Photo: Victoria and Albert Museum.

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Fan, mid 18th century, French. Photo: Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

We’re in the presence of royalty at Hampton Court Palace and so it’s probably a good idea to pack your very best court dress for the occasion as you just don’t know who you’re going to bump into during the evening entertainments. I chose this beautiful shimmering blue and silver gown for the occasion, although it’s going to be a nightmare getting through some of the doorways in the older part of the palace.

Outfit Four:

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Robe à la Française, European, c1750. Photo: Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

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Shoes, c1750, British. Photo: Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

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Fan, c1730, British/Netherlands. Photo: Victoria and Albert Museum.

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Ring, c1730, British. Photo: Victoria and Albert Museum.

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18th century vinaigrette bottle. Photo: Musée des Arts Décoratifs, Paris.

There’s plenty of time in the morning to take a gentle stroll around the Fountain Courtyard or out into the palace’s beautiful gardens. After such a busy night, it’s probably best to have your maid pack something a bit looser than usual so that you can relax for a few hours in comfort. Probably best to carry a pretty bottle of vinaigrette with you just in case the late night, lack of sleep and early morning start gives you an attack of the dreaded vapours.

Outfit Five:

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Robe à la Française, c1740, British. Photo: Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

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Shoes, 1720-30, British. Photo: Victoria and Albert Museum.

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Earrings, 18th century, Portuguese. Photo: Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

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Fan, 18th century, French. Photo: Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

The palace is filling up with day visitors again so it’s time to change yet again in something a bit more formal so that you can be sure to look your very best, teamed as usual with a fabulous pair of shoes and a favourite fan.

That’s the clothes out of the way – what else should you pack for your evening of Georgian fun and frolics?

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18th century perfume bottles. Photo: Musée des Arts Décoratifs, Paris.

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18th century patch boxes. Photo: Musée des Arts Décoratifs, Paris.

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18th century curling tongs. Photo: Musée des Arts Décoratifs, Paris.

A Georgian palace isn’t exactly the nicest smelling place on earth, although the fabulous chocolate kitchen and wonderful gardens at Hampton Court certainly help! Do your bit to ensure that the air is more fragrant by packing lots of lovely scents with floral notes of rose, violet, lily and carnation…

You’ll want to look your very best so don’t forget to pack your patch boxes to hide all those unsightly facial blemishes. If you’re not exactly blessed in the eyebrow department, you might want to bring along some fabulous mouse skin face eyebrows too!

The Georgian palace was a bit low tech (understatement!) but you can still sort your hair out thanks to these rather brilliant eighteenth century curling tongs. If, like me, you’re perhaps a bit overly attached to your straighteners then perhaps an iron and an especially careful handed, patient maidservant might do the trick?

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18th century hair pomade jars. Photo: Musée des Arts Décoratifs, Paris.

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18th century hair powder flask. Photo: Musée des Arts Décoratifs, Paris.

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18th century Lotion flasks. Photo: Musée des Arts Décoratifs, Paris.

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18th century tooth powder box. Photo: Musée des Arts Décoratifs, Paris.

Once you’ve sorted your hair out then you’ll need scented pomade to keep it in place and some powder to give it that all important becoming grey hue. Oh and you don’t need to go without your favourite face creams and astringent lotions, designed to keep spots and unsightly freckles at bay.

Don’t forget your tooth powder for cleaning what’s left of your teeth as well. Although, it’s probably best to take some scented breath pastilles with you too, as let’s just say that this stuff isn’t exactly the most efficient.

The better organised among you may well want to take along a fashionable nécessaire, packed to the brim with miniature travel versions of everything that a lady requires to spend a night or two away from home: rouge, face powder, toothbrush, tweezers, brushes, combs, pens, oils, nail files, unguents, ear wax removing spoons and all manner of useful stuff like needles, thimbles and thread just in case you need to do any last minute repairs. If you can get hold of one with a built in clock then so much the better!

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18th century nécessaire. Photo: Musée des Arts Décoratifs, Paris.

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Nécessaire, 18th century, French. Photo: Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

You probably won’t have much time to read but it’s probably best to pack a book just in case you find yourself at a bit of a loose end. Pamela by Samuel Richardson came out in 1740 so it’s not too far ahead of the period – or there’s always Richardson’s epic Clarissa, which was published in 1748. If they’re a tad too dull for your tastes then you could always do as the ladies of the court used to do and smuggle in a copy of Cleland’s Fanny Hill, which came also came out in 1748 and caused a sensation. You’ll never look at machines in quite the same way again…

Oh crikey, I’ve forgotten something! Always the way. Ah, yes, a NIGHTDRESS. Looks like you’ll have to make do with your shift like everyone else then.

The Hampton Court Georgian Sleepover is on the second of May. Tickets are on sale now!

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