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Why Do We Have No Pockets? The Regency Removed Them

The Regency is to blame for no women's pockets

How frustrating is it having no pockets? Very. Just need to take your keys and a phone out with you that day? Don’t want the inconvenience of having to take a bag with you? Too bad, you’ll still need a bag of some kind because very few women’s clothes have pockets in, and those that do have pockets rarely have ones that are strong enough or big enough for purpose. Ask any women about pockets and you’ll see you’ve touched a nerve.

However, it wasn’t always like this. In the 17th century, women had vast pockets, although they weren’t always built in to their clothes. Often they were stringed, silken drawbags which were tied around their waist and worn under their petticoats. The petticoats and skirts had openings in the side seams so women could easily get to their invisible pockets and get whatever you needed from inside. The quasi-pockets were big enough to carry money, a comb, a small bottle – you name it (within reason).

Woman’s Pockets
England, mid-18th century
Made from silk and linen
Measuring: 15 1/2 x 8 in. (39.37 x 20.32 cm)

The change came at the end of the 18th century and into the Regency period (1811-1820) when petticoats and voluptuous skirts went out of fashion and instead the slim-line, empire-waist Regency gowns came to the fore. These dresses had no room for pockets – it would mess with the lovely silhouette, so pockets had to go. In their place came reticules (Jane Austen even referred to one as a “ridicule”). These were essentially what had been worn on the underside of the dress, only now your hands were tied up with holding onto it, and opportunistic thieves could more easily snatch them.

Meanwhile men went on to have more pockets, not less. A gentleman of the 1940s had, thanks to his suit jacket, waistcoat and trousers, an average of two dozen pockets!

The Regency may have given us some beautiful fashions, but it also, in some ways, ended our hands-free capability. Strange how little quirks of fashion can still influence us today.


Jane Austen Day with Charlotte

Jane Austen News is our weekly compilation of stories about or related to Austen. Here we will feature a variety of items, including craft tutorials, reviews, news stories, articles and photos from around the world. If you’d like to include your story, please contact us with a press release or summary, along with a link. You can also submit unique articles for publication in our Online Magazine.

Don’t miss our latest news – become a Jane Austen Member and receive a digest of stories, articles and Jane Austen news every week. You will also be able to access our online Magazine with over 1000 articles, test your knowledge with our weekly quiz and get offers on our Online Giftshop. Plus new members get an exclusive 10% off voucher to use in the Online Giftshop

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Make Your Own Virtual Georgian Wig

Making your own Georgian wig

Before the relatively demure fashions of the Regency period came into Vogue, the Georgian ladies (and gentleman to a lesser degree) reveled in creating the most outlandish and elaborate wigs. To do this they built the hair up using padding and hair pieces and then gooey pastes from pig’s fat were used to keep it all in place.

Next, once the tower was tall enough, they applied coloured hair powders, bows, flowers, fans, feathers, even in some cases small ships!

The taller the wig, the most ostentatious the decorations, the better.

While we may not be keen to actually wear one of these Georgian wig structures – as, not only are they are rather expensive and unwieldy, they’re also very heavy – we do rather like designing them. This is where a website which we came across earlier this week comes into play.

The Victoria and Albert museum created a free online tool which allows you all the fun of making your own whimsical wig, without having to do any of the brushing and architectural balancing! We rather enjoyed ourselves seeing who could make the wildest wig, so we thought you might like to know about it too!

You can find the wig-builder here.

 


Jane Austen Day with Charlotte

Jane Austen News is our weekly compilation of stories about or related to Austen. Here we will feature a variety of items, including craft tutorials, reviews, news stories, articles and photos from around the world. If you’d like to include your story, please contact us with a press release or summary, along with a link. You can also submit unique articles for publication in our Online Magazine.

Don’t miss our latest news – become a Jane Austen Member and receive a digest of stories, articles and Jane Austen news every week. You will also be able to access our online Magazine with over 1000 articles, test your knowledge with our weekly quiz and get offers on our Online Giftshop. Plus new members get an exclusive 10% off voucher to use in the Online Giftshop

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Reasons Why Regency Fashion Rocks!

Jane Austen News

Reasons Why Regency Fashion Rocks!
Continue reading Reasons Why Regency Fashion Rocks!

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Jane Austen’s Bracelet

Included in the collection at Jane Austen’s House Museum at Chawton are a few pieces of jewellery owned by the Austen women. These include Jane’s gold and turquoise ring, and the topaz crosses brought back from a voyage by the Austen’s younger brother, Charles. Both of these are available at the Jane Austen Gift Shop as beautiful replica pieces. And now, due to great demand, we have at last added our version of the third piece: Jane’s lovely beaded bracelet.

Jane Austen's Bracelet
Courtesy Jane Austen’s House Museum / Peter Smith
Our lovely new replica

Made exclusively for us in Somerset, each bracelet is intricately hand strung with Miyuki Glass Seed Beads, and completed with a Sterling Silver Gold Plated Box Clasp. It’s a must for fans and collectors alike, as well as a delightful accessory in its own right.

Even Jane approves..!

You can see our lovely new replica bracelet here

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Shapewear Nightmare – Regency Underwear

shapewear nightmare

Shapewear Nightmare

A wonderful article on the (im)practicalities of underwear, from the Regency period through to the modern day likes of the Wonderbra.

Kindly reproduced here with permission from its author, Laurie Viera Rigler, who is also the author of the popular Jane Austen Addict novels.

***

It may be the third millennium, but not much has changed*  since the days of getting laced into a corset so stiff that one could barely lean over, let alone breathe. It’s no wonder ladies had to carry around smelling salts, or “vinaigrettes,” as they were called in Jane Austen’s day. Those Mr. Darcy types may have been swoon-worthy, but it was likely more a lack of oxygen than romantic flutterings that caused ladies to faint.

It wasn’t only ladies who were wearing corsets or “stays.” The Prince Regent was a favorite target of cartoonists for trying to mask his size with a corset.

Today, we call these instruments of torture “shapewear.” Sounds friendly and appealing, doesn’t it? After all, who doesn’t want to have a shape?

The promise and the reality of shapewear, however, can be two very different things. If you’ve ever had a shapewear nightmare of your own, you will love Melissa McCarthy’s story.

 

But here’s where we can really explore the WHY of shapewear–and ROFL in the process. This is about three guys who decide to test out a girlfriend’s Spanx just for a laugh, and get more than they bargained for. Brilliant.

If sheer discomfort isn’t enough to inspire you to choose jiggles over bodily strangulation, this fab piece in Bustle talks about the compression of organs, yeast infections, and other fun stuff that shapewear supports.

In any case–and whether you are still armoring yourself in shapewear, stowing them away in a rarely visited corner of your wardrobe, or indulging in a full-on ceremonial burning**– may you temper it all with a good laugh and a healthy dose of compassion–for yourself, and for all of us who have ever worried about measuring up to an impossible standard.

On that note, here’s another funny and heartfelt piece in Bustle: The Seven Emotional Stages of Wearing Spanx for the Very First Time. Here’s one of the seven GIFs from the piece: Emotional Stage #1:

Excited Fingers Crossed GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

*There is, of course, one very important change since Jane Austen’s day. Which is that while we can get our knickers in a twist over the pressure to wear shapewear, Jane Austen could not. Why? Because we’re talking pretty much a panty-free zone. Which I suppose made it way easier to do one’s business in these:

IMG_0693 - Version 2

 

 

 

 

**Although the whole bra-burning thing is a myth, we’re wondering if somehow, somewhere, women are setting a trash can full of shapewear on fire.

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The Jane Austen Topaz Cross

Jane Austen Topaz Cross

new

In response to huge demand, the Jane Austen Gift Shop is delighted to announce this beautiful replica of Jane Austen’s topaz cross pendant. Many months in the making, it is on sale now!

Along with her turquoise ring, the topaz cross must be the most iconic jewellery item associated with Jane, and it’s of especial relevance to us here at the Jane Austen Centre, because she was living in Bath at the time she received it.

In a lovely letter to Cassandra, written 26th and 27th May, 1801, Jane tells her sister that she had been “to the very top of Kingsdown and had a very pleasant drive,” before adding that “One pleasure succeeds another rapidly.”

Buy the Jane Austen Topaz Cross

On returning from her day out, she found two letters waiting for her, one from Cassandra and one from her brother Charles, who was serving with great distinction in the Royal Navy. Charles Austen had received a reward for his role in capturing an enemy privateer, and Jane’s response to Cassandra was appropriately wry:

He has received £30 for his share of the privateer and expects £10 more – but of what avail is it to take prizes if he lays out the produce in presents to his Sisters. He has been buying Gold chains and Topaze Crosses for us; – he must be well scolded.

Charles duly sent both Cassandra and Jane topaz crosses: the originals are shown below, and Jane’s is the one on the left:

tumblr_ob4w10y1ds1tzjiyro1_400

As Jane’s letter makes clear, they were to be worn on a gold chain. That the crosses, and her brother’s gift of them, were important to Jane is suggested by the fact that she incorporated the episode into her novel Mansfield Park (1811-13), when Fanny’s brother William, a naval midshipman, gives her “a very pretty amber cross” which he “had brought her from Sicily.”

Our cross is a beautiful scaled-down replica (the original would look too large and dominant with a contemporary outfit), made to the highest standard from gold-plated silver and citrine, and comes just in time to make the perfect Christmas present for any devoted Janeite!

Now on sale – Buy the Jane Austen Topaz Cross

 

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The Journal of Eveline Helm, Part Five – At the Assembly Rooms, at last!

Dear Reader,

I hope that this journal of my time in Bath should prove to be helpful to you. In reading it may you be spared the numerous faux pas and embarrassments that I was not. I truly feel that if this work should prevent even one other young lady from public ridicule in the Assembly Rooms of Bath then it will have been wholly worthwhile. 

Humbly yours, 

Eveline Helm.

helm2

June 1797 

I am incredibly pleased to report that the sedan chair bearers did not drop me on the way to the Assembly Rooms as I had feared they might. As it turned out, I rather enjoyed my short ride; it was a smoother journey than I had thought, and certainly a very grand journey. My Uncle went ahead of us on foot, as gentlemen in Bath are wont to do, and was there to greet us as the doors of my Aunt’s and my own respective boxes were held open for us. I succeeded in stepping out from the small compartment with what I hope was some degree of grace, and found myself in front of the entrance, which consists of a grand pediment held up by four pale stone columns. There was little time to take in the grandeur of the outside, however, as my Aunt linked her arm through mine and guided me inside. Once admitted, we proceeded to tour the Rooms.

The assembly rooms near home, to which I have been to dance before, are nothing compared to the Bath Assembly Rooms.  After we had deposited our cloaks in the cloakroom to the right on leaving the entrance vestibule, we turned and entered the ball room through the opposite doors on the left. The room was vast; it was at least one hundred feet in length and forty wide, and its ceiling was of triple height. Halfway up the duck-egg wall was a series of tall windows, flanked on either side by a painted Roman column set into the wall which were letting in the last light of the day. Around the room, below and above these windows, were intricate moulded plasterwork borders. And, in the centre of the room, there hung five great chandeliers which, as my Aunt whispered in my ear (though loudly enough to be heard above the noise) each held forty candles! Just think! What with this and the windows, the room was all light and beauty. Thankfully the four grand fireplaces, two set into each of the longer walls, which would also have raised the light levels in the room, were empty, but even so, given the sheer number of people in residence and coupled with the balmy June night, the heat in the room was a very great one indeed.

The number of people I have just mentioned fell into two categories; those seated on and standing by the three tiers of seats placed around the edge of the ballroom, and those who were up and dancing a country dance which I did not immediately recognize, but which might have been Lady Moncrieff’s Reel. The minuets had taken place already, beginning at six, and had then given way to the country dances at eight. Later the music would stop so that the tea, coffee and light refreshments might be served at nine in the large tea room on the other side of the Assembly Rooms. After that, the country dances would resume. By nine o’clock I was certain that the dancers who had arrived at six would be most glad of some refreshment, however light, not to mention the musicians who had been playing all evening.

helm1

But then I must mention the musicians! In the balls which I have attended before (the larger ones are those I am referring to rather than the dances among friends which are struck up in the joy of the moment after a dinner) only four musicians have been engaged, as is the custom, and they have played the usual piano, cornet, violin, and violoncello. However, the number of dancers in attendance here is of such a great number; my aunt tells me that there are upwards of five hundred people here on a regular basis, and that there are a dozen musicians playing from the minstrel’s gallery.

“I do not envy them their role,” said my Aunt, turning to me as we watched the couples dance. “Not only do they play here but they are also employed each morning in playing at the Pump Rooms, and then in the evenings they take their turn playing here or at private concerts. Even their afternoons are not their own, for they might then be occupied in playing for a private party at a gentleman’s lodgings, or at one of the large inns. Imagine! I am sure I do not know how they do it!”

“Surely, there are other bands in Bath who might take some of their custom from them and therefore allow them a respite from constant playing?” I said.

“None such as they. They were fully employed to act exclusively as the Bath Orchestra. For that reason, despite their heavy workload, they are not so badly done by; at least they can live safe in the knowledge that they shall be paid and able to pay their rent.”

“I suppose you are right,” I said, and let my attention stray once more to the dancers.

It was as in London, and as my Aunt had said, that the most fashionable dress material was white muslin, and derivations thereof. Lady upon lady clad in white, cream, and ivory whirled about the room, escorted by gentleman in fine silk waistcoats and jet-black tailcoats. White was not the only colour worn by the ladies (there was one peacock blue dress in particular that I had trouble drawing my eyes away from), but it was by far the most popular.

As for the gentlemen, some of the gentlemen I saw had adopted another of the London fashions and sported finely starched cravats that were tied in such complicated styles which travelled so far up their necks that I was surprised that they were able to move their heads. Beau Brummel may be considered the arbiter of men’s fashion, but in my most-humble opinion I do think that he might also be the arbiter of much of their discomfort.

My Aunt and I left the ballroom, vowing to return by and by once we had seen the remainder of the Rooms. Not that they were a revelation to my Aunt, but she is such a kind and considerate woman that she said she could not dream of settling herself until I had been acquainted with the Rooms in their entirety.

The next chamber we entered upon leaving the ballroom was the octagonal card room. Decorated in a deep rich yellow, its centre was taken up with table upon table of gentlemen and ladies, but mainly gentlemen, all playing various card games. I spotted Speculation, Brag and Whist among the games in progress, and also after a short time I spotted my Uncle, happily ensconced at a table in the far right, next to another unlit fireplace (the card room, like the ball room, also had four). He was laughing and talking with many other fine gentlemen, for, prejudiced as I am, there really is no other way to describe my Uncle, whom I did not first recognise.

“I knew we should find him here,” my Aunt said to me with a fond smile in her voice. “It never takes him long to find himself a table. I fear we may have now lost him for the evening. Now my dear, where should you like to see next? I am afraid that we cannot enter the tea room at present, but we might peruse the octagon ante-chamber if you should wish?”

“Is there much to see in the ante-chamber?”

“As much as you might see in any other ante-chamber.”

“In which case,” I said. “If you don’t mind, I should very much like to go and watch some more of the dancing.”

“But of course.”

We wove our way back through the know of people surrounding the card room doors and into the ball room. The reel was still in progress so my Aunt and I scanned the tiers of seats and spotted two seats together in the second row; the front row being already full near to where we were, and navigating to another part of the room while the dance was in motion was not a wise idea. However, before we had moved more than two steps towards our intended destination, we found our way barred by Mr Dawson, the Master of Ceremonies.

“Mrs Denison, Miss Helm, allow me to introduce Mr Thomas Palmer…”

webJenni Waugh Headshot The journal of Eveline Helm’s time in Bath has made its way online thanks to Jenni Waugh, one of our tour guides at the Jane Austen Centre.

She writes: “I couldn’t resist sharing Eveline’s exploits. I hope everyone else finds them as interesting and entertaining as I did!”

 

 

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Regency Caps: Draped and Ruffled

Regency caps

“I have made myself two or three caps to wear in the evenings since I came home, and they save me a world of torment as to hair-dressing!”
Jane Austen, 1798

Ladies’ Regency Caps, by Laura Boyle

Caps have been worn by men and women from before time was recorded. By the Regency, however, they had become feminine attire. Regency caps were worn by all classes of women for many different reasons. Widows and mothers wore caps. Some married women chose to wear them. Housekeepers and servants wore them. Children wore them. Old maids wore them. The only ones who didn’t were young ladies, during that period of time when they were no longer children, and not yet old maids (or as Caroline Austen put it, “ladies who were not quite young”), though Jane Asuten took to wearing them at the age of twenty-three.

Cap and BonnetWhere to wear your Regency Caps. Worn mostly indoors, the cap was also often placed under a bonnet or hat for added warmth and comfort. They were not usually worn on formal occasions during the Regency. Sleeping caps were necessary to preserve the bed linens from the many oils and greases used in women’s hair at the time.

Most caps were made in light colors and fabrics like lace, muslin or lawn, though a widow might wear a cap made of or trimmed in black. With time, caps became as lavishly trimmed as any other creation of the time. By the Victorian era, caps became smaller, and while still worn, they were often no more than a token band or lacey doily on top of the head. Soon they disappeared from fashion altogether only to be later reintroduced as menswear (think deerstalkers and baseball caps). Some of the more popular Regency caps during this period were:

Mob CapThe Mobcap
Made familiar by Betsy Ross and Martha Washington, the mobcap was still worn during the early 19th century, though it was not as popular (or large!) as it had been a generation earlier. Mobcaps were usually trimmed with ruffles or lace and ribbon. Continue reading Regency Caps: Draped and Ruffled