The Dandy and Dandizette
What is the Difference between The Dandy and The Dandizette?
What is a Dandy and what is the difference between a Dandy and his female counterpart The Dandizette?
By ©Tyne O’Connell
Here is a short explanation which I shall be answering in full in my Character History of Mayfair Eccentrics from the Tyburn Springs of the Domesday Book to the Dandizettes and Dandies still prowling Mount St in 2016.
The terms Dandizette and Dandy were initially terms of mockery used by the Puritan Roundheads against the Royalist Cavaliers who – in their lace-frilled velvets and feather-plumed hats – stood against the Puritan Roundheads in their singularly ugly uniform of brutish utilitarianism.
The Dandizette were a manifestation of the growing power of female intellectuals using their sexual allure and wit to leverage power as encouraged by Medici Queens dating back to the early 17th Century.
The Dandy’s were Cavaliers who allied themselves to the Royal Court which was largely Catholic in the 1630’s. With their flamboyant lace-trimmed velvets, jewels and feather-plumed hats they were making a sartorial statement on their aesthetic philosophy as well as attesting their loyalty to the exuberant artistic court of the Stuart King Charles I.
The Puritans or Roundheads, defined their opposing morality through their utilitarian uniform of unadorned close-fitting brown leather. The Puritans even referred to Beauty and Art as Popery or Papist and after King Charles I was beheaded Cromwell’s Commonwealth employed soldiers to roam the kingdoms destroying beauty and art in all its forms. In 1642 we find Puritan cartoons mocking the Dandy depicting them as cartoon fools in boots and hats garnished with bells such as those worn by a fool or court jester.
The Dandizette was similarly lampooned as intellectual aristocratic ladies, ostentatiously attired in expensive fripperies, absorbed in a book, their long noses disfigured with warts.
The terms Dandy and Dandizette were a Puritan taunt meant as a derogatory insult. To the fury of the Puritans however, the Cavaliers appropriated the insults as badges of honour and carried on with their ostentatious dress even after the Civil War ended and their Stuart King Charles II was restored to the throne.
The Civil War of 1642 to 1651 like many wars, was triggered by greed and justified by religion but at its heart the 17th Century Civil War was a bloody battle of the morality of art and beauty.
On one side we had the Protestant Puritans who were stridently opposed to any and all expressions of Beauty and Art. The Puritan Roundheads perceived Beauty and Art as the gateways to sin and Satan.
On the other side, the Royalists & Catholics and Anglo Catholics (now referred to as High Church Anglicans) championed Beauty and Art as glorifying Grace and God which they expressed through their attire in perfumed wigs and bejewelled lace-trimmed velvets
This war over the morality of Art and Beauty was a bloody war of attrition fought on battle fields & in drawing rooms across Britain and Ireland. It was a war that was as much about fashion as religion and between 1642-1651 in terms of percentages, Ireland’s death toll was greater than that of Russia & the Jewish population of World War II, the death toll constituting over 40% of its entire population. The death toll in England, Scotland & Wales left fatalities of hundreds of thousands, all martyred by the Puritans moral quest to to annihilate beauty & art.
Cromwell and his Puritan Roundheads won the battle in 1649 when they beheaded their sovereign King Charles I in front of his two sons Charles and James and exiled his queen Henrietta to Europe. From this day on the machine of Cromwell’s brutal tyranny ruthlessly enforced the oppression of Art Beauty and Fun in all forms. Theatres and ale houses were closed Maypoles were chopped down and dancing and singing and play banned. A regulation uniform was forced on all and dissenters were enforced to obey through brutal punishments by Cromwell’s enormous Morality Police who roamed Britain peeping in Windows for evidence of households eating rich food or dancing or allowing children to play.
During the years of Cromwell’s rule from 1651 to 1660, Priceless artworks, buildings, jewels, Illuminated manuscripts, furniture, any and all items of luxurious clothing (most of it with no religious significance) had been burned, smashed and annihilated on the altar of the Puritan Ideal that art and Beauty were gateways to sin and Satan. The Puritans had emptied the coffers oppressing the people and enforcing their laws of prohibition and Charles II was unwilling to tax his subjects who had suffered so much under the dark rule of Cromwell.
Charles I’s wife, Queen Henrietta Maria nee Medici and his mother-in-law, Queen Maria Medici had been benefactors and collectors of Rubens, Van Dyck, Artemisia Gentileschi and many other great artists had all their goods confiscated and either destroyed in the orgy of destruction that followed the beheading of King Charles I or sold to Holland to fund the persecution of any suspected of indulging in art, beauty or fun.
Cromwell’s Anti-Fun Morality Police were costly. Ancient jewels were melted down and the gold used to pay Cromwell’s soldiers to pillory women suspected of wearing makeup and scrub their faces until they bled. The population was forced to wear the Puritan Uniform of utilitarian ugliness. Children caught playing with toys were flogged as were men or women caught dancing or play-acting. Theatres ale-houses Schools of art architecture were all closed the craft and creation of toys, fine tailoring and decoration or artworks all ceased.
The ordinary men and women of Britain bitterly resented the loss of their freedoms and missed the fun their ale and Maypoles and theatres and relative peace of the Monarchy.
During these years of Cromwell’s Commonwealth the Cavaliers in their frilled velvets and perfumed wigs continued their fight in exile on the continent with assistance from Dandizettes who acted as spies ferrying in information and gold to the exiled court in Europe. After Cromwell’s death in 1659 his son Richard succeeded him but the Parliament was disillusioned and offered the King £50,000 to return to the throne in England.
When their Catholic Stuart Monarch Charles II was restored to the throne on May 29th 1660 the fountains flowed with champagne and there was dancing on the streets. The people jubilant at having their Merry Monarch returned to them threw rose petals on the streets as the procession of Dandies and Dandizettes rode through the streets of London to the Palace of Whitehall and St. James’s. The costume of the Dandy and Dandizettes became the costume of all as the theatres and alehouses were reopened and women were permitted to act on stage for the first time. Toy makers went back to making children’s toys and a massive architectural building scheme began.
From the ashes of this brutal regime came the uniquely British Characters; the Dandy and Dandizette the British Eccentrics who remain are part of the warp and woof of British Society, as quintessential as the tea and champagne they drank, the horses they rode and the spaniels they loved.
For while the Dandy and Dandizette arose from the crucible of the mid 17th Century Civil War of Beauty and Art versus the Puritan ethics of brutal restraint, the Dandy and Dandizette lived on long after the war as essential components in the tapestry of the British character as quintessentially British as tea, tweed, and tolerance.
The Dandy and Dandizette dominated the society of Mayfair & St James’s from the Restoration of May 29th 1662 when the fountains of London flowed with champagne to celebrate the marriage of King CharlesII to his cross-dressing, Eccentric Queen, Catherine of Braganza.
Queen Catherine was intrinsic to forming the British character not only through introducing tea as our national drink. For tea quickly replaced coffee as the drink of Britain in that it could be drunk in private homes unlike Coffee which could only be consumed in Coffee Houses where women were banned and talk was confined to politics and religion. The British had endured their fill of religion and politics and so it was that a simple pot of tea and some fine bone china British Society was forever changed. For tea was placed in the hands of women firmly handing women the social reigns of society.
Queen Catherine also funded King Charles II’s architectural transformation of The Killing Fields of Catholics to Mayfair, an elegantly fashionable retail and residential paradise.
We have much to thank the beloved Queen Catherine of Braganza from funding the building of Mayfair St James’s and enabling us as a nation to give ourselves fully to shopping and love of fashion as a national pastime. For in bringing the ports of Bombay and Tangiers to Britain she opened up the exotic trade routes to the East India Company to a cornucopia of exotic textiles and goods hitherto only dreamed of by poets and aesthetes.
Contemplating the hardships and fatalities the British and Irish sustained in their defence of Art and Beauty during the Civil Wars of the 17th Century, it is easy to understand that Authentic Eccentricity continues to this day to be uniquely valued in the United Kingdom.
As a nation we shed our blood for our sartorial freedoms. Much of that blood was shed in Mayfair an area referred to by Londoners The Catholic Killing Fields. It is important to remember that many of those martyred in the cause of Art and Beauty were not committed Catholics so much as committed aesthetes and eccentrics.
This uniquely British trend of expressing ideas sartorially continues today. For over forty years I have enjoyed the giddy freedom to skip saunter flaneur and hobble down the streets & lanes of Mayfair and St James’s of a day, adorned in tiaras, wigs, ballgowns; – my long Victorian trains sweeping fancifully behind me. All without raising an eyebrow and frequently without notice.
Since 1662 when tea replaced coffee as the national drink and drawing rooms and ballrooms replaced coffee houses as the centre of society, women’s star had been rising. They had gone from living in the shadows of society as the chattels of men to the gate keepers and key holders of the day.
Women ran the salons and decided who attended the social events of the court and the season. Moreover women’s fashion had changed to express their growing power and position.
In 1778 when Beau Brummell was born to a senior civil servant men were still dressing as they had been when the Cavaliers trounced the Roundheads and King Charles II was restored to the throne, resplendent in the buttons bows laces and velvets they’d been mocked for during the brutal Puritan War of attrition on Beauty and Art.
In many ways, George “Beau” Brummell was a perfectly-tied starched white cravat away from being a commonplace thug. Beau boxed, gambled, danced, broke hearts, wrote poetry and scattered bon-mots about the drawing rooms of Mayfair and St James’s.
Beau was a middle class son of a civil-servant with a passion for poetry who had spent a year at Oxford before joining the 10th Royal Hussars. Beau Brummell’s fame came through redefining the costume of the gentlemen, updating it to assert a new masculine silhouette which was emerging in the ideas pouring out of the dandizettes drawing rooms of Mayfair and St James’s.
It was in his redefining of the male silhouette which hadn’t chance since 1662 that elevated Beau to friend of the Prince Regent and earned him the admiration of the key holders of Society and opened the doors of Almacks to him.
What set Beau and apart from his peers, was the theatre of his sartorial masculine aesthetic; for in polishing his boots with champagne and eschewing the frills, fripperies powder and wigs which had defined masculinity since the Cavaliers trounced the Roundheads, Beau and his acolyte dandies were asserting their masculinity at a time when the dandizettes not only ran society but were the gate keepers and key holders of the city.
Many may think that Beau’s contribution small but to the British where a gentleman’s tailor, to this day, knows more about his life than his wife or his banker, transforming the way men dressed meant everything.
For The Dandy is a sartorial aesthete who eschews ugliness as a form of poison or endangerment. The Dandizette is a sartorial aesthete who uses her costume and accessories as both an expression of her ideals and an armour against those that challenge those same ideals.
Together the Dandy and Dandizettes hold the line our forefathers and mothers held when Cromwell’s Puritans smashed their way through the beauty of London and the English Countryside. We hold the line for Eccentrics and for those who believe that art and beauty have an intrinsic value as pathways to grace and glory.