Paris fashions in January 1834: velvet dress and a bonnet, cashmere purse.

The Contents of Girl’s Education

During the 18th and 19th centuries among other things girlschools were founded, handbooks published to guide both the girls themselves as well as their parents and governesses. The improvement and developing of several talents and skills was concidered important in the education of young ladies. Amongst such accomplishments were the following included:


”This [dancing] is one of the most genteel and polite accomplishments which a young lady can posess. It will give a natural, easy, and graceful air to all the motions of your body, and enable you to behave in company with a modest assurance and adress.”


”But, my dear, drawing is not only an innocent amusement: it is more; it is an useful qualification. It will exercise, delight, and improve your imagination, by filling it with the images of every thing that is beautiful or curious, in the works of art in nature.”


”…I am glad to hear that you are so far advanced in learning French tongue, as it is an accomplishment which every young lady ought to posess. It is now become so much the language of the fashionable world, that they who cannot read and write, and even speak in on occasion, must make a very awkward figure in polite company, and be frequently put to the blush.”

Paris fashions in March 1834: crêpe hat, redingote furnished with plush.


”Go on, my dear Sophy, thus to increase the happiness of your mother, by consulting your own interest; and, indeed, you can not consult it more effectually, than by making yourself a complete mistress of the needle. – - Useless it [the qualification of sewing] cannot be, for there is no station of life in which a woman can be placed, where it is not highly serviceable, and, for the most part, absolutely necessary.”


”As most young ladies are taught to play on the harpsichord and guitar, I expect you will learn to perform on both these instruments, especially the first. But still I would have you to apply your chief attention to vocal music, because, in its perfection, it is of a far more excellent nature…”

(The Polite Lady; or, a Course of Female Education: in a Series of Letters, from a Mother to her Daughter. p. 25-42. Philadelphia: 1798.)

Image source:
Nypl Digital Gallery
Petit Courrier des Dames 1834
Petit Courrier des Dames 1834