A Call To Charms – for navigating your way through the Bluebell-Woods of The Female Dandy’s fashionable fancies. Dash through the Vintage-Champagne-Fountain of The Dandizette’s Eccentric Style, Wit, Bon Mot-ery, Larks & Laughter.
Dandizettes – the female dandies
The male Dandy dates back to Regency England when Beau Brummell introduced the starched cravat asserted with a smart gold buckle to Eton College. While up at Oxford he made dingy stockings and dirty neckties a thing of the past. By 1795 he was cutting a swath through London society and had created the silhouette of the modern gentleman’s suit.
But the female Dandy, the Dandizette was in existence long before the Dandy and one struggles to date her beginning as women have always known that we live and die before a mirror.
Oscar Wilde wisely said “Every woman is a rebel” perhaps because they must be rebels simply to have a voice. This is the key to understanding Dandizettes who are not defined by their dress but their use of dress, makeup and decoration as a means to express their ideas.
For Dandizettes, style is an expression of ideas and crucially for women fashion has historically been a means of expressing themselves when they were denied a voice. Throughout history when men have wanted to oppress women they have forbidden makeup, jewels and flamboyant dress – anything that would allow women to express themselves or find their voice.
During Cromwell’s rule 1649 -1658 soldiers roamed the streets looking for transgressing women whom they would hold down while they publicly scrubbed the makeup from the revolutionary’s face so vigorously she’d bleed. She could even be put in stocks for daring to express herself.
In 1660 when King Charles II returned to England ushering in the Restoration and a golden age for the arts, tolerance towards religion, shopping, decadence and ideas, women took full opportunity to take the stage both literally and figuratively.
The golden age of The Dandizette
It was a turning point for Britain, marking the end of the Medieval and beginning of the Modern Age. King Charles II had been educated on the Continent by one of the first bluestockings, the Duchess Of Newcastle (Margaret Cavendish) writer and scientist and her husband. He was educated to believe that women were not merely decorative playthings for men, but intelligent beings with thoughts of their own.
The Restoration was revolutionary for women, they could be writers, spies, scientists, academics – for the first time in British history they could were legally allowed to perform on stage. It was an age of tolerance and decadence but it was also the golden age of The Dandizette.
Women writers thinkers and actresses flourished during the Restoration. Aphra Behn (1640-1689) spy, prolific author and playwright wrote had more plays produced than Dryden. Aphra also wrote poetry and essays and was the first female writer in history to dare to declare that she wanted to be famous for her writing. She described herself as a scribe for hire. Now Buried in Westminster Abbey, Virginia Wolfe said “All women together, ought to let flowers fall upon the grave of Aphra Behn… for it was she who earned them the right to speak their minds.”
The Bluestockings – so named not because they wore blue stockings, but because they permitted a man who did, Benjamin Stillingfleet, to attend their meetings – met for breakfasts, salons and tea parties (a drink newly introduced to Britain by Queen Catherine of Braganza) to discuss education for women, literature and dangerous ideas.
Like Dandies, the Dandizettes congregated in the area of Mayfair and St James’s which remains their spiritual home. The plaques on buildings attest to their prevalence in the area from Lord Byron’s daughter the mathematician Countess Lovelace to Nancy Mitford the author and wit.
Unlike Dandies, Dandizettes do not have a codified costume but rather express their ideas through their dress. Dandizettes value tolerance and respect for the ideas of others; eschewing proselytisers and zealots. Haranguing others around to your way of thinking is not the style of the Dandizette.