Posted on

From Classic to Romantic: Changes in the Regency Silhouette

Round gowns, Heideloff Gallery of Fashion, 1794

Wednesday. — Mrs. Mussell has got my gown, and I will endeavour to explain what her intentions are. It is to be a round gown, with a jacket and a frock front, like Cath. Bigg’s, to open at the side. The jacket is all in one with the body, and comes as far as the pocket-holes — about half a quarter of a yard deep, I suppose, all the way round, cut off straight at the corners with a broad hem. No fulness appears either in the body or the flap; the back is quite plain in this form [hourglass shape], and the sides equally so. The front is sloped round to the bosom and drawn in, and there is to be a frill of the same to put on occasionally when all one’s handkerchiefs are dirty — which frill must fall back. She is to put two breadths and a-half in the tail, and no gores — gores not being so much worn as they were. There is nothing new in the sleeves: they are to be plain, with a fulness of the same falling down and gathered up underneath, just like some of Martha’s, or perhaps a little longer. Low in the back behind, and a belt of the same. I can think of nothing more, though I am afraid of not being particular enough.
Jane Austen to Cassandra
May 5, 1801


Posted on

Fingerless Mitts: A Regency Must



I have found your white mittens; they were folded up within my clean nightcap, and send their duty to you.
Jane Austen to Cassandra
August 24, 1805

Period Mitts, including a pair owned by Princess Charlotte (far right)Among the fashion items in Kensington Palace are a pair of hand-embroidered mittens owned by Princess Charlotte, daughter of George 1V and Caroline of Brunswick  (the Princess Diana of her day) who died tragically young in 1817 while in childbirth. Read more: Mail Online

Your average 18th century mitt would have a thumb (or rather half a thumb), but not have any other fingers. It would sometimes extend not just over the hand but over part of the fingers as well. This meant that it would keep you warm (or protected from the sun in the summer) but not hinder your movements at all. You could do things like write, draw or do needlework with mitts on. And combined with a muff, they were quite enough even for venturing outside in the winter.”
Mitts & Fingerless Gloves

Several websites offer instructions for making your own mitts, including a crocheted pattern in our crafts section:Lacy Mitt Gloves. A firsthand look at mitt construction can be (more…)
Posted on

Fashion in the Time of Jane Austen


Ever since I learned that this book would be coming out in the spring, I couldn’t wait for its arrival. The title alone told me that it was tailor made to my interests. Slim and more a monograph than a book, Fashion in the Time of Jane Austen‘s 62 pages are jam-packed with information and images. Some of the material that author Sarah Jane Downing wrote about was familiar, but much of it was new. While I finished the book in two sittings, I know I will be using it frequently for future reference.

Until the Napoleonic Wars, France had influenced fashions in Britain and Europe. It was the custom of messengers known as les grandes couriers de la mode to deliver the latest French fashions to the great courts of Europe in person. Wearing designer creations, their costumes were analyzed from head to toe and then tried on and taken apart. Patterns were made from the resulting pieces. People who visited cities and returned home were plied with questions about the latest trends in fashions by those who stayed behind. Soon, fashion journals appeared showing images of fashions, home furnishings, and architectural plans, and new styles trickled down to even those who lived in the farthest reaches of England.


Posted on

Fashions of the Regency Period


Jane Austen Fashion
by Penelope Byrde

This delightful book is the work of Bath’s Costume Museum Curator, Penelope Byrd. It takes an in-depth look at fashions of the period, care of clothes, and needlework, taking references from Jane Austen’s novels and her letters, and is supported throughout with beautiful illustrations. A must for anyone interested in period clothing, and a real treat, as it has been out of print for an absolute age!
Paperback: 128 pages
Publisher: Excellent Press
ISBN: 1900318121
Price: £12.95


Jane Austen: In Style
by Susan Watkins, Hugh Palmer

A perfect book for those who enjoyed Maggie Lane’s Jane Austen’s World but want to know more. Jane Austen In Style offers an in depth look at Regency life, with chapters on homes, entertainment, fashion, food and more. While offering a wealth of Austen Family trivia and biography, Susan Watkins has also provided a map of daily life in the Regency.

Replete with full page, full color photographs and period prints, the book is visually stunning as well as being wonderfully informative. A well written, delightful read, it makes a good starting point for those wishing to get a feel for life in Regency England. Perfect (more…)

Posted on

The History of Side-Saddles

From its humble beginnings as little more than a pad for pillion riding in medieval times, the side-saddle has endured many changes of style and construction during the centuries, some decorative more than functional, but all of them part of the rich heritage of aside riding, and which has contributed to making the art still popular today, albeit on a saddle more suited to safety and practicality in all equestrian disciplines, and the shape of the modern horse and rider.

L to R: 15th century with planchette, and c. 1799 with slipper stirrup

When women first rode horses independently, rather than just sitting behind a man on his horse, they sat facing sideways in a saddle (initially merely a stuffed platform, later a more chair-like creation) with a footrest called a planchette – first introduced into England in the fourteenth century by Anne of Bohemia – but this gave little control over their horses and generally necessitated them being led along, travelling no faster than a walk. These saddles possessed a single pommel or horn in front. In the sixteenth century, Catherine de Medici is credited (currently being debated) with being the inventor of a second horn, between which a lady placed her right leg, and so faced forward for the first time, thereby having independent control of her horse and able to ride at faster gaits.


Posted on

Shoes Make the Man: Regency Footwear

Perhaps no image so thoroughly denotes the Regency Hero as that of a Gentleman elegantly, yet casually dressed in dark coat, buff troussers and tall boots. Who could resist a Mr. Darcy or Knightley presented in such a favorable light? And yet– those boots that so epitomize the time were still a new fashion only just becoming popular during Jane Austen’s day.

Jessamyn Reeves Brown is an historian of Regency Fashion. Her research into Regency footwear shows that ‘prior to the Regency, both women and men wore what we now call “court shoes”: high-throated pumps with curved heels and side pieces that tied or buckled elaborately at the throat. As dresses became less structured and suits less elaborate, shoes did too. Heels dropped rapidly through the 1790s and by 1800 were very small indeed, while material was pared away to a minimum from the uppers. Men’s dress shoes lost their heels even before women’s did, but some retained the fine buckles of the 18th century for the most formal of occasions. Men’s shoes also became basic black quite early in the century – almost no other color is seen after 1800.

Both men’s and women’s shoes of the 18th century had flaps attached at the instep and outstep that came up over the throat and were held in place with a buckle (most commonly) or were tied in (more…)

Posted on

An Overview of Men’s Fashion During the Regency

The Regency period saw the final abandonment of lace, embroidery, and other embellishment from serious men’s clothing — it would not reappear except as an affectation of Aesthetic dress in the 1880s and its successor, the Young Edwardian look of the 1960s. Instead, cut and tailoring became much more important as an indicator of quality.

Breeches became longer — tightly-fitted leather riding breeches reached almost to the boot tops — and were replaced by pantaloons or trousers for fashionable street wear.

Coats were cutaway in front with long skirts or tails behind, and had tall standing collars. The lapels featured an M-shaped notch unique to the period.

Shirts were made of linen, had attached collars, and were worn with stocks or wrapped in a cravat tied in various fashions. Pleated frills at the cuffs and front opening went out of fashion by the end of the period.

Waistcoats were relatively high-waisted, and squared off at the bottom, but came in a broad variety of styles. They were often double-breasted, with wide lapels and stand collars.

Overcoats or greatcoats were fashionable, often with contrasting collars of fur or velvet. The garrick, sometimes called a coachman’s coat, was a particularly popular style, and had between one and three short capelets atached to the collar.

Boots, typically Hessian boots, already a mainstay in men’s footwear, became the rage after the Duke of Wellington defeated Napoleon at Waterloo in (more…)