The Garden Guide

Book: London Parks and Gardens, 1907
Chapter: Chapter 3 St. James's and Green Parks

Ladies dress in St James's Park

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On looking at an old print of the ladies in their thin dresses walking in the Mall, it is customary to bemoan the change of climate, to wonder if our great-great-grandmothers were supernaturally strong and not sensitive to cold, or to conclude that they only paraded there in fine weather. Apparently this last is not the correct solution, for in 1765 they astonished Monsieur Grosley by their disregard of the elements. He is horrified at the fog. "The smoke," he writes, "forms a cloud which envelopes London like a mantle; a cloud which the sun pervades but rarely; a cloud which, recoiling back upon itself, suffers the sun to break out only now and then, which casual appearance procures the Londoners a few of what they call glorious days. The great love of the English for walking defies the badness of other days. On the 26th April, St. James's Park, incessantly covered with fogs, smoke, and rain, that scarce left a possibility of distinguishing objects at a distance of four steps, was filled with walkers, who were an object of musing and admiration to me during the whole day." Few ladies nowadays fear a little fog or rain, but to walk in it they must be attired in short skirts, thick boots, and warm or mackintosh coats. It must have been much more distressing in the days of powdered hair, picture hats, and flimsy garments. No wonder M. Grosley was astounded at the persistence of the poor draggled ladies.