I am studying a letter written 1 February 1794, the subject of which, at this juncture, is the latest London fashions:
…your Friend Mrs. Gosling has been obliged to put on the Cravat, but all Bows are left off, for the Ladies either a very full Muslin plain Stock with a larger Pudding, or the long cravats like your old one twisted round the neck & fastened behind: this moment Maria has made her appearance with the plain Stock but no pudding, she sais these are very comfortable no ends to treble [sic: trouble] her, we are really much entertained with her new appearance…
I am without my subscription to the OED at present, so my question is: What was a ‘pudding’? Any helpful hint would be appreciated! Pictures (illustrations) would be welcome.
Hi Kelly, I find that a “pudding” refers to a hat for children, but not sure how this fits in with your letter, unless it is referring to a child:
Pudding hat, 1775-1800. Museum no. B.81-1995 (click image for larger version)
Until the 1790s many children who were learning to walk wore protective hats known as ‘puddings’ or ‘black puddings’. These protective hats were the equivalent of a crash helmet. They could be helpful for a child using a baby walker on wheels, who might skid along the floor and collide with furniture quite easily.
The hat consists of a sausage-shaped roll of glazed pink cotton with a padded white linen inner stiffened with wire and card, and a black Petersham ribbon tying string at each end. Four lightly padded triangular flaps of fabric, stiffened with card, are attached to the roll at regular intervals and partly cover the head. Two of these flaps fasten together with tying strings of broad black silk ribbon. The hat is worn by fastening the ribbons horizontally around the head and above the ears.
This pudding hat is fairly smart and has not been worn much, but the ones for everyday use were more often of dark fabric which would not show the dirt. There were also some very grand ones: in 1766 Lord Fitzmaurice, aged one and a half, wore a pudding hat which was made of the same fabric as his rose-coloured damask coat, and trimmed with black and white feathers
My first thought was certainly some type of hat, although the cravat and stock obviously refer to feminine neckwear.
However, the people under discussion are not toddling children, but fashionable young ladies. The writer, Mrs Smith, is mother to Maria and Eliza (the correspondent); they and Mrs Gosling were all born 1766-68. Therefore, the ladies, all wives by this point, were in their twenties. February was a time of parties, concerts and great social interaction for these people, who would relocate from their ‘country’ estates to London.
Tried searching ‘pudding’ online, and got food food and more food – and, yes, these toddler’s caps. But there is obviously a specific meaning to the phrase “…for the Ladies either a very full Muslin plain stock with a larger Pudding, or the long cravats…” that has nothing to do with caps.
The Smiths attended Drury Lane and the ‘Hay market’, where the latest styles would have been on display, and she is conveying this news to her daughter resident in Hampshire. So the search goes on…
Wonderful information about Gaskell. Thank you, thank you. I now feel guilty that I wondered about her for years and never looked her up. Thanks to you, Deb, I don’t have to.
I’m looking forward to her MT productions.