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A Tour of Regency Fashion: Day and Evening Dress

The Regency Era (often given as 1812-1830, though the dates are flexible) officially began when the Prince of Wales became Regent of England after his father, George III, was declared insane. This period was dramatically different from what came before it, Georgian decadence and excess, and from what followed, Victorian morality. The fashions, of course, reflected this change. In the eighteenth century fashions were highly elaborate, made of heavy brocades and satins with copious lace trim and quilted, beaded underskirts supported by a complicated infrastructure of hoops and panniers. The entire confection would be crowned with elaborate wigs, tall feathers, and huge hats. By the 1790’s, a radical change was in the air. The change was precipitated by the French Revolution and its “democratic” tenets. Noblewomen and their maids alike dressed in the new style as silks gave way to light muslins, clinging lines, high waistlines, and arm-baring sleeves. These new styles were classically influenced, modeled on the ideals of the Greek and Roman worlds that were aped by the Revolution. Throughout the Regency, there were certain elements of fashion that remained fairly consistent. Necklines were low and wide, filled in for daytime with fichus, scarves, or chemisettes; a high waistline; a fitted bodice, and fitted sleeves, either short and puffed, elbow-length, or long. There were trends; waistlines went up and down, more elaborate trims came into vogue, especially at the hems and necklines of gowns, and medieval and Renaissance details became popular, especially in England. As always, the French

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