Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Dress Code


A bit behind the curve on this one . . . today the blogosphere celebrated the achievements of Ada Lovelace, who is vaunted by science/techie sorts for having taken one of the first-ever passes at writing a computer language. Its aim was to calculate Bernoulli numbers, the hardware being inventor Charles Babbage's proposed Analytical Engine. (Babbage rather schmoopily called her an "Enchantress of Numbers".)

All this is, of course, secondary to what she is wearing here in Margaret Carpenter's magnificent 1836 portrait.

This currently hangs at 10, Downing Street but will move north shortly to hang in a Byron Museum (did I mention? Ada was also the only legitimate daughter of Lord Bad-Mad-and-Dangerous-to-Know, which makes her math abilities even more impressive, considering his strong inclinations to the verbal).

Anyway, she is outfitted in typical 1830s evening garb, never mind that it is clearly daytime in the manor. Displaying a vast expanse of shoulder and bosom, her shimmering white satin gown is accentuated by a fantastic tangerine crossover cape pinned at the shoulder and belted at the waist. Contrary to information dispersed elsewhere on the internet, her gigot (leg-of-mutton) sleeves are not of the sort known as "imbecile" or "idiot" sleeves (due to the latters' resemblance to evening garb at Bedlam Infirmary)--they do not extend to the wrist because this was the style for more formal dresses of the period.

I like to think, without any authority at all, that her tiara displays an Ancient Greek motif, in honor of her illustrious daddy's adventures during the Greek War of Independence.

Way to crunch, Ada.

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