Operation Meschianza pt 2: The Dress Deets

Yo waddup, my peasants? It’s ur gurl hitting you with more research!


So, we left off at the party research and I can safely say that the British knew how to party… Which may or may not be why they lost the war. It also could be aliens, but that’s a conspiracy theory blog post for another time. For the second part of the research extravaganza I went on for this project, I’ll be discussing what people wore for this massive party. I’ll be keeping a focus on what the knights and ladies wore for this fête as opposed to what attendees wore since it’s a. easier and b. what I’m recreating. If I find a description of something an attendee wore, I’ll be sure to include it somewhere.

To give you a better feeling for the time this was all happening, I want to take a look at the economy of Philadelphia during the British occupation as well as women’s fashions. Women’s winter fashions were being transported via fashion plates straight from London and were probably higher in fashion than– let’s say– Boston or parts of New Jersey that were Continental army occupied. From a previous blog post I wrote about silk, Philadelphia was a large silk producer and it was from “English Shop” Coffin and Anderson which John Andre purchased £12,000 of silk to construct the costumes for the knights and ladies. Needless to say, John Andre and I have similar spending habits when it comes to fabric.

For the knights of the Meschianza, Andre claimed to have taken inspiration from French king Henry IV.

King Henry IV and the Duke of Sully, 16th century, anonymous

He couldn’t exactly get suits of armor made, so he went with the next best thing, I guess? Anyway, the knights of the Blended Rose, which included Andre himself, were described as wearing,

The vest was of white satin, the upper part of the sleeves made very full, but of pink confined within a row of straps of white satin laced with silver upon a black edging. The trunk hose were exceeding wide and of the same kind with the shoulder-part of the sleeves. A large pink scarf fastened on the right shoulder with a white bow crossed the breast and back and hung in an ample loose knot with silver fringes very low under the left hip, a pink and white swordbelt laced with black and silver girded the waist, pink bows with fringe were fastened to the knees, and a wide buff-leather boot hung carelessly round the ankles. … The horses were caparisoned with the same colors, with trimmings and bows hanging very low from either ham and tied round their chest. The Esquires, of which the chief Knights had two and the other Knights one, were in a pink Spanish dress with white mantles and sashes … they wore high-crowned pink hats with a white and a black feather, and carried the lance and shield of their Knight. The lance was fluted pink and white with a little banner of the same colors, and the shield was silvered and painted with the Knight’s device.

This description is taken from a letter Andre wrote that was published in the August 1778 edition to the London Gentleman’s magazine.

Illustration done by Andre

Unfortunately, the only thing I could really find on the Knights of the Burning Mountain is that they essentially wore the same style costume but in black and orange.

The ladies were bedazzled like you wouldn’t believe! Andre personally designed these costumes and had a hand in making them, as well. He had little fashion advice to go on since the most fashionable of the British ladies were residing in New York at the time and wound up asking his BFF Peggy Shippen for help,

You know the Mesquianza made me a complete milliner. Should you not have received supplies for your fullest equipment from that department, I shall be glad to enter into the whole details of cap-wire, needles, gauze &c., and, to the best of my abilities, render you in these trifles services from which I hope you would infer a zeal to be further employed.

Through Colonial Doorways
By Anne Hollingsworth Wharton

I have a few accounts of what the Meschianza ladies wore, one of them is from John Fanning Watson’s Annals of Philadelphia .One of the surviving ladies, a Miss Craig, provided a description of what she wore as a lady of the Blended Rose,

He [Major Andre] sketched it [the dress] to give the ladies an idea of the garb they should assume. In reality it was this:– for the Blended Rose a white silk, called a Polonaise, forming a flowing robe, and open in the front of the waist– the pink sash six inches wide, and filled with spangles– the shoes and stockings also spangled– the head-dress more towering than drawing, and filled with a profusion of pearls and jewels. The veil was spangled and edged with silver lace

Annals of Philadelphia volume II, John Fanning Watson

In Andre’s published letter, he describes the gowns as,

They [the ladies] wore gauze turbans spangled and edged with gold or silver; on the right side a veil of the same kind hung as low as the waist, and on the left side of the Turban was enriched with pearl and tassels of gold or silver & crested with a feather. The dress was of the polonaise kind and of white silk with long sleeves; the sashes which were worn round the waist and were tied with a large bow on the left side hung very low and were trimmed, spangled, and fringed to the colors of the Knight.

Already, I think I made an oopsie and cut out the wrong sleeve type, but thankfully I have plenty of extra fabric! Since the ladies of the Blended Rose were bedecked in pink and silver, the ladies of the Burning Mountain must have been trimmed in black and gold; Watson’s account gives more detail,

The ladies of the black knights wore white sashes edged in black, and black trimmings to white silk Polonaise gowns

There’s also a sample of the fabrics worn at the Meschianza provided by Ms. Craig!

Library Company of Philadelphia

We also have a bit of an advantage since Peggy Shippen was sketched wearing her Meschianza gown– and she was a lady of the Burning Mountain!

Well, it doesn’t really look like Peggy’s dress has the long sleeves Andre described, so MAYBE I can get away with the sleeves I did cut out! Either way, allow me to tease you with what’s to come: the interpretation.

It’s gonna be good

Anyway, I’m out for now, I’ve pretty much finished draping the gown and am sewing seams. I’ll provide more details next post! I love you!

Sources used that I couldn’t hyperlink:

  1.  The Quarterly Review of the Michigan Alumnus, 1935
  2. https://www.americanheritage.com/you-are-invited-mischianza


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s