Ludicrous Fashion & Moral Turpitude In the Restoration Court


Englands Vanity or the Voice of God against the monstrous Sin of Pride, in Dress and Apparel: wherein naked Breasts and Shoulders, antick and fantastick Garbs, Patches, and Painting, long Perriwigs, Towers, Bulls, Shades, Curlings, and Crispings, with an Hundred more Fooleries of both Sexes, are condemned as notoriously unlawful. With pertinent Addresses to the Court, Nobility, Gentry, City, and Country. Directed especially to the Professors in London. By a compassionate Conformist.

London: Printed for John Dunton at the Black raven in the Poultry, 1683


Octavo: 14 x 9 cm. pp. [2], 77, 80-144 (F7-8 are cancelled and replaced with a single leaf paginated ‘77’-‘80’, the text continuous); With an added frontispiece.

SOLE EDITION of this critique of late 17th century fashion at the Restoration court of Charles II and society at large.

The frontispiece, engraved by T. Catlett, shows the (unpopular) Queen consort Catherine of Braganza, flanked by a courtier and a lady-in-waiting, adorned with patches, furs, etc., cut close at margins but not affecting the engraving. Bound in early 20th c. calf. Contents clean, small spots to title, clean tear in blank margin of last leaf.

The anonymous author decries ‘the Rudeness, the Incivility, the Insolence, the Wild and Immodest Gestures, and Deportment not only of the Males only in our City, but the Loosness, the Staring and Gaping, the Idle and Dissolute Carriage of the very Virgins and Young ladies who set themselves out on purpose to be pick’t up, and Gaz’d on …  Not to speak now of the swarmes of these execrable prostitutes … that have every Night their several walks and appartments to ply in’. The chapter on naked breasts and shoulders is a catalogue of obloquy, and closes with the extraordinary image of God as cloth-merchant.  Elsewhere make-up and wigs are targets; while the Civil War is transformed into a conflict of hairstyles – ‘happy had it been that the quarrel had ended in the Barbers Scissars, which we all know brake out afterwards into the long Sword’.

‘Fashion brought in Silks and Velvets at one time, and Fashion brought in Russets and Grayes at another; Fashion brought in deep Ruffs, and shallow Ruffs, Thick Ruffs, and Thin Ruffs, Double Ruffs, and no Ruffs; Fashion brought in the Vardingale, and carried out the Vardingale, and hath again revived the Vardingale from Death, and placed it behind, like a Rudder or Stern to the body, in some so big, that the Vessel is scarce able to bear it.’

In contrast to all of this our author points to the King himself as “ the greatest Example of Moderation and Gravity in Attire.”

Patches and The Plague:

The fashion for small cloth patches used by both men and women to adorn their faces arose from a desire to cover blemishes (caused by smallpox, overuse of lead-based face powder, etc.), evolved from a form of cosmetic cover-up to a fashion statement. Fashionable ladies carried them in patch boxes made of tortoiseshell, silver or ivory.  

"Conspicuous black patches were made out of expensive materials like silk or velvet and cut into shapes such as hearts, circles, diamonds, stars and crescent moons. Women pasted them on the face, neck, and breast, according to a newly emerging language of symbolism: a patch above the lip meant coquetry, on a forehead, grandeur, and at the corner of an eye, passion. In 1649, the year of Charles I's execution, and amid the ascent of Puritan principles, a bill was set before Parliament calling for the banning of 'The Vice of Painting and Wearing Black Patches and Immodest Dresses of Women'. The bill was never passed, however, due to its impracticability."(Pitt River Museum)

The author of "Englands Vanity" compares these artificial patches to the blue patches seen on the faces of prostitutes and these in turn to the blotches seen on the skin of those infected with the plague ("The very spots of contagion"). Both forms of infection, transmitted through immorality and disease, bring death. 

Wing E 3069; Stephen Parks, John Dunton 19