Dandizettes and the Grecian Bend
Between 1817 and 1820 in Regency London, the dandizette, or female dandy, made her debut in the hallowed circles of elite, fashionable society. Newspapers, journals, poems, songs, and satirical prints from this era recount her obsession with sartorial style, her penchant for attending the opera and ballet, her passion for dancing until dawn at society balls, and her general cultivation of life’s pleasures. One defining affectation of the dandizette was her posture. Contrary to the upright stance urged upon young society women by 19th century dancing masters, the dandizette stood with her spine stooped, her head poked forward, and her arms dangling at her sides, a stance that was dubbed ‘the Grecian bend.’
This paper will argue that the dandizette’s Grecian bend was adopted as a marker of social class during an era of profound exclusivity and was practiced by an aristocracy bent upon demonstrating their hegemony as the ruling class. Reminiscent of the air of complaisance affected by dancers in the 18th century ballroom, the dandizette’s Grecian bend of the early 19th century embodies the languid, leisurely air of negligence so favoured by the bon ton. And one of the most conspicuous places to display this marker of aristocratic class was at the King’s Theatre, London, where boxes served as ministages in which the beau monde enacted elaborate performances of social status.