Female Tatler on shopping (1709)

Crackenthorpe, Phoebe (pseud.)
A Milliner’s Shop, 1787. Published March 24th, 1787 by S.W. Fores, No. 3 Piccadilly [1787] Lewis Walpole Library.


"The shops are perfect gilded theatres, the variety of wrought silks so many changes of fine scenes, and the Mercers are the performers in the Opera..."


By Mrs. Crackenthorpe, a Lady that knows every thing.

This afternoon some ladies, having an opinion of my fancy in clothes, desired me to accompany them to Ludgate-hill, which I take to be as agreeable an amusement as a lady can pass away three or four hours in. The shops are perfect gilded theatres, the variety of wrought silks so many changes of fine scenes, and the Mercers are the performers in the Opera; and, instead of _vivitur ingenio_, you have in gold capitals, '_No trust by retail_.' They are the sweetest, fairest, nicest, dished-out creatures; and, by their elegant address and soft speeches, you would guess them to be Italians. As people glance within their doors, they salute them with--Garden-silks, ladies Italian silks, brocades, tissues, cloth of silver, or cloth of gold, very fine mantua silks, any right Geneva velvet, English velvet, velvet embossed. And to the meaner sort--Fine thread satins both striped and plain, fine mohair silk, satinnets, burdets, Persianets, Norwich crapes, anterines, silks for hoods and scarves, hair camlets, druggets, or sagathies, gentlemen's night-gowns ready made, shallons, durances, and right Scotch plaids.

We went into a shop which had three partners: two of them were to flourish out their silks; and, after an obliging smile and a pretty mouth made, Cicero like, to expatiate on their goodness; and the other's sole business was to be gentleman usher of the shop, to stand completely dressed at the door, bow to all the coaches that pass by, and hand ladies out and in.

We saw abundance of gay fancies, fit for Sea-captains' wives, Sheriffs' feasts, and Taunton-dean ladies. This, Madam, is wonderful charming. This, Madam, is so diverting a silk. This, Madam--my stars! how cool it looks! But this, Madam--ye Gods! would I had 10,000 yards of it! Then gathers up a sleeve, and places it to our shoulders. It suits your Ladyship's face wonderfully well. When we had pleased ourselves, and bid him ten shillings a-yard for what he asked fifteen; 'Fan me, ye winds, your Ladyship rallies me! Should I part with it at such a price, the Weavers would rise upon the very shop. Was you at the Park last night, Madam? Your ladyship shall abate me sixpence. Have you read the Tatler to-day?' &c.

These fellows are positively the greatest fops in the Kingdom; they have their toilets and their fine night-gowns; their _chocolate in the morning_, and their _green tea two hours after_; turkey-polts for their dinner; and their perfumes, washes, and clean linen, equip them for the Parade."


The Female Tatler 9 (July 25-27 1709). Image and full text from archive.org.