Posted on

Regency Mourning: An In-depth Look

Regency Mourning

A grand thought has struck me as to our gowns. This six weeks’ mourning makes so great a difference that I shall not go to Miss Hare till you can come and help choose yourself, unless you particularly wish the contrary. It may be hardly worth while perhaps to have the gowns so expensively made up. We may buy a cap or a veil instead; but we can talk more of this together…Now we are come from church, and all going to write. Almost everybody was in mourning last night, but my brown gown did very well… It makes one moralise upon the ups and downs of this life.
-Jane Austen to Cassandra
March 5, 1814

Mourning Fashion:

mourning fashion
Belle Assemblee Morning Dress, 1818

Outward manifestations of grief have changed in mourning rituals over the centuries. These days when we think of 19th century mourning, we tend to confuse elaborate Victorian rules of the 1860′s with the less rigid mourning etiquette of the earlier 19th century. Mourning fashions during the Regency Period are fully described in Dressing for Mourning in the Regency on the Jane Austen Centre’s website. Only the wealthy could afford the specially made fashionable mourning outfits shown in the fashion plates featured in Ackermann’s Repository or La Belle Assemblee, but the rising popularity of fashion magazines meant that the details of dress quickly spread through the provinces. Most people remade mourning clothes from an existing wardrobe, adding new linings to cloaks and pelisses, covering existing bonnets with a new piece of crape, and dyeing old dresses. Jane Austen wrote about her mother in 1808: “My Mother is preparing mourning for Mrs E. K. – she has picked her old silk pelisse to peices, & means to have it dyed black for a gown – a very interesting scheme.

One can imagine how an illustration like the one on the right would inspire women to add mourning details to their wardrobes, but such an expensive outfit would still be beyond most women’s means. The middle class was rising in Continue reading Regency Mourning: An In-depth Look

Posted on

From Classic to Romantic: Changes in the Regency Silhouette

An example of one regency silhouette style

The Regency silhouette went through a fair few changes…

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

 

Round gown, 1798, Metropolitan Museum

The popularity of the high-waisted regency gown is due to both to French influence in fashion and the Neoclassical rage that swept Europe during the 18th Century. Marie Antoinette is said to have inspired the round gown of the 1790′s, which is essentially a dress and robe joined together and tied in the front. Later, Josephine Bonaparte who reigned supreme in her position as a fashion icon, influenced the slim, high-waisted, gossamer thin chemise dress of the early 19th Century.

The round gown, a precursor of the Empire gown, had a soft, round silhouette, with full gatherings and a train, and straight, elbow-length sleeves. These gowns were in stark contrast to the stiff, brocaded or rigid silk dresses of the rococo period. The round gown’s train, which was common for a short time for day wear and lasted until 1805-06 for the evening, would be pinned up for the dance, as Katherine and Isabella did for each other in Northanger Abbey. One must question how practical these long white muslin dresses with their trailing trains were in England, a country renowned for wet weather and muddy roads.

Round gowns, Heideloff Gallery of Fashion, 1794

In England especially, daytime dresses were more modest than their evening counterparts. A few French images depict young ladies wearing day gowns with plunging decolletes, but this was not generally the case, and it is a point that cinema costume makers frequently miss. Until 1810, a fichu or chemisette would fill in the neckline. At first, embroideries on hems and borders were influenced by classical Greek patterns. After Napoleon’s return from Egypt in 1804, decorative patterns began to reflect an eastern influence as well.

Around 1808, the soft gathered gowns gave way to a slimmer and sleeker Regency silhouette. Darted bodices began to appear and hemlines started to rise. Long sleeves and high necklines were worn during the day, while short sleeves and bare necklines were reserved for evening gowns. The sleeves were puffy and gathered, but the overall silhouette remained sleek, with the shoulders narrow. The shape of the corset changed to reflect the looser, draped, shorter waisted style.

Ackermann plate: Regency Morning Dress, 1813

Due to the war between England and France, and the restrictions of travel to the Continent, the designs of English gowns began to take on a character of their own, as French influence waned. Between 1808 and 1814, English waistlines lengthened and decorations were influenced by the Romantic movement and British culture. Dresses began to exhibit decorations that echoed the Gothic, Renaissance, Tudor, and Elizabethan periods. Ruffled edges, Van Dyke lace points, rows of tucks on hems and bodices, and slash puffed sleeves made their appearance. The length of the gown was raised off the ground, so that dainty kid slippers became quite visible.

After the 1814 peace treaty, English visitors to France began to realize just exactly how much British fashion had split from its French counterpart. Parisian waists had remained higher, and skirt hems were wider and trimmed with padded decorations, resulting in a cone-shaped look. English fashion quickly realigned itself with the French, and the silhouette changed yet again.

Dresses now boasted long sleeves, high necks, and a very high waist, The simple classical silhouette was replaced by a fussier look. Ruffles appeared everywhere, on hems, sleeves, bodices, and even bonnets. In 1816-1817, the waistline fell just under a woman’s breasts, and could go no higher. There was only one way that waistlines could go, and by 1818, they began to drop by about an inch a year.

Ackermann plate of a walking dress, 1818

By 1820 the simple classic lines of the chemise dress had disappeared and completely given way to a stiffer, wider silhouette with a quite short hem. New corsets were designed to accommodate the longer waistline. Remarkably, Anglomania hit France, and the French began to copy the English fashion.

The rows of ruffles, pleats, appliques, and horsehair-padded decorations stiffened the skirt into a conical shape, creating a puffy silhouette. Big hats were worn to counterbalance the broad shoulders, much as big hair balanced wide shoulder pads during the 1980′s. By 1825 the waist had reached a woman’s natural waistline in fashion plates, but according to evidence in museums, it would take another five years before this fashion caught up with the general public.

Ackermann plate of an evening dress, 1820

Leg of lamb sleeves (gigot sleeves) appeared, and dress decorations became intricate and theatrical.

By 1820 the basic lines were almost submerged in ornamentation. The romantic past held a treasure trove of ideas for adorning a lady’s costume. From the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries came puffs bursting through slashed and the revival of the Spanish ruff. collars and cuffs developed points a la Van Dyke and sleeves could be a la Babrielle (after Garielle d’Estrees, mistress of Henry IV of France). Skirts were festooned with roses or made more flaring with crokscrew rolls … Fantasy seemed to now no bounds. (Ackermann’s Costume Plates, Stella Blum, page vi)

Read more about regency fashion trends in the links below:

Ackerman plate of a ball dress and young lady’s dress, 1826

Kathy Decker’s Regency Style, year by year

Jessamyn’s Regency Costume Companion

The Regency Fashion Page

1800s-1820s: Thumbnails

Ackermann’s Costume Plates

Regency Open Robe: 1795

Fashion Prints: Walking Dresses, 1806-1810

Museum Links to Clothing Images

Two Dresses, 1810, French

 


Vic Sanborn oversees two blogs: Jane Austen’s World and Jane Austen Today. Before 2006 she merely adored Jane Austen and read Pride and Prejudice faithfully every year. These days, she is immersed in reading and writing about the author’s life and the Regency era. Co-founder of her local (and very small) book group, Janeites on the James, she began her blogs as a way to share her research on the Regency era for her novel, which sits unpublished on a dusty shelf. In her working life, Vic provides resources and professional development for teachers and administrators of Virginia’s adult education and literacy programs.

This article was written for Jane Austen’s World and is used here with permission.

Posted on

The Chemisette

Regency fashion (1800-1820) was based on classical principles of flowing Grecian robes. Although gowns enjoyed thin fabric and plunging necklines for evening wear, day dresses required something a little more substantial both for the sake of modesty and comfort in drafty old houses. A tucker or chemisette (a side opening half blouse) answered perfectly, filling in during the day, and able to be removed in the evening should the occasion so require it. They had the additional benefit of being able to be worn with any number of gowns further expanding the wardrobe.

In our shop, you can purchase your own ready made Chemisette or buy the Regency Underthings pattern which includes a corset, chemise and two different chemisette patterns.

 

 

Posted on

Corsets and Drawers: A Look at Regency Underwear

Fashionable young ladies of the Regency were fortunate to escape one constriction that had haunted the lives of their mothers and would later fall to their daughters and granddaughters: The Boned Corset. Where both the Georgian and Victorian sillouette called for unnaturally small waists and straight backs, designers during the Regency were captivated by the “natural Female form.” Drawing inspiration from classic greek and roman statuary (all things ancient Greece were the rage at this time) they allowed for column dresses with minimal flouncing. Where once layers of hoops and petticoats reined, now almost modern dress shape took over. Waists were raised to just under the bosom while skirts hung free.

These new styles called for an all new type of support garment. Thus was born the short corset, forbearer to today’s modern undergarments. Unlike Victorian corsets which hooked in the front and laced up the back, older corsets only laced up the back in a zigzag fashion using one string—cross lacing would be invented later on—and stiffened in the front with a carved wooden or bone busk which created a straight posture and separated the bosoms for the “heaving” effect, so popular at the time. Pre-Regency corsets constrained the body from the hips to the bust line and were held on with straps over the shoulders where gown sleeves could be laced on. These corsets could be a separate garment worn under clothes, or used as the bodice of the dress itself. It would be worn over a chemise and stockings (knee to thigh high and held up with garters). In the 1700’s petticoats and panniers would be worn over that, though during the Regency this was slimmed down to one petticoat—and only if necessary. Drawers would not be invented until 1806. Until then, women walked free of any other undergarments.

The “new” Regency Corset was a clever combination of straps, tapes and laces. They came in many styles—some for controlling the figure, some for pushing the bosom up and out in a shelf-like display. Two of these types are shown in this picture of 1819 stays from the Kyoto Museum in Japan. They would be stiffened with cording or stays, though the tight whale boned figure was still decades off. These corsets were mostly supportive, similar to today’s bras—and not constricting or dangerous to health as some later corsets would be. Of course, not all women even wore corsets! Some settled for a boned chemise (or boned, bodiced petticoat) or a chemise with a ribbon tied underneath the bosom for enhancement. It all depended on the style being sought, the shape of the wearer and the financial investment that they wished to make.

Many stories are told, both of the fun and exasperation girls had in modifying their underclothing to suit their styles and needs. Tales are told of girls who wore pink stockings (shocking!) to simulate bare flesh and others who dampened their chemises for a see-through effect through their white and pastel gowns (popular with the men, I’m sure!) Drawers, a modified version of the Men’s garment, tied at the waist with a string and split in the middle, were uncommon for women’s wear for the first 20 years of the 1800’s, though popular on young girls. Princess Charlotte is supposed to have worn them with glee, much to the astonishment of several other ladies, though this woman did not have the same happy experience: “They are the ugliest things I ever saw: I will never put them on again. I dragged my dress in the dirt for fear someone would spy them. My finest dimity pair with real Swiss lace is quite useless to me for I lost one leg and did not deem it proper to pick it up, and so walked off leaving it in the street behind me, and the lace had cost six shillings a yard…”

Of course- Men had their own items—Undershirts are a relatively new invention, but before the advent of men’s drawers, they had nothing but their long shirts to tuck into their pants. Later, drawers- similar to shorts with a drawstring and buttoned flaps were invented, much to everyone’s relief. At the time of the Regency, men would normally be wearing cotton drawers, a linen or Muslin shirt, perhaps a corset (yes, not even the men escaped!) depending on the man, stockings and then pants (or knickers), cravat, vest and coat.

Why not browse our costume section in our online giftshop for costume, patterns and accessories?

Posted on

Maternity fashions in Regency England

maternity fashions

 

“Poor woman! how can she honestly be breeding again?”
— Jane Austen, October 1 1808

late Georgian dress with bib front closure for easy breast feeding, one side opened Historical maternity fashions – did they exist at all? Did women just make do and rearrange their everyday clothes? Did they simply stay in bed? Here are some answers.

Up to the Middle ages dresses did not follow the female figure, and thus your shape under the clothes would not matter anyway, so there was no need for specialised maternity fashions. When the dresses began to be shaped by seams at the sides and elsewhere, women obviously simply opened these seams again when they were pregnant to make their clothes “fit”. You can see this on many paintings of the pregnant Mother Mary.

It is not clear how long exactly this seam-opening was carried on, but during the Baroque period women began to wear loose dresses when pregnant, such as the so called “Adrienne”, a gown-like garment with no waist and lots of voluminous folds to cover the growing body. Although I did not find a portrait or other picture that shows a specifically pregnant woman wearing such a garment, there are lots of sources showing these robes, and they are also mentioned and expressly connected to pregnancy in letters.

Also recorded is the use of garments much like men’s waist coats, which allowed the wearer to regulate the width with a laced vent in the back. These were worn under bed gowns. Aprons are also mentioned in connection with pregnancy (“…must be with child, is wearing her aprons again!”), probably because they were used to cover the space left open by the no longer fitting front closing jackets.

late Georgian dress with bib front closure for easy breast feeding, one side opened Dating from the Georgian and Regency period you can find a lot of dresses or combinations that were simply so adaptable that they would “grow” with you, and were also quite practical for nursing, which, inspired by reformers like Rousseau, became increasingly en vogue among the upper classes again during the Regency period. These dresses are not labelled as “maternity dress”, but they would fit during every stage of the pregnancy, and, like the Adrienne, also when you were not pregnant, which must have made them extremely economical.

True maternity wear in the modern sense of the word, fitting quite possibly only during a certain stage of the pregnancy, appeared for the first time around the middle of the 19th century, when prudery dictated that such unmentionable circumstances as pregnancy had better stay hidden.

We also have to keep in mind that most of these observations are true only for the well-to-do. Poor women’s dress throughout the times was almost always rather baggy, so that with little ado it would still fit during pregnancies.

Result: Unlike today there was no special maternity fashions, fitting only during one stage of the pregnancy, but instead we find a type of every-day clothing that would simply fit and grow with you, and which was possibly favored by young married women, who were likely to get pregnant. Since most people did not posses and could not afford the number of clothes we own today, this was simple necessity

And yes, if at all possible, women stayed in bed for the last few weeks before and at least four weeks after giving birth. To do otherwise was considered improper and dangerous for the health and well-being of mother and child. And since most women were closely connected to their various relations who could step in if needed, this practice was possible even in less wealthy families. Only among the well and truly poor exceptions will have occurred out of bitter need.

*****

Enjoyed learning more about Regency maternity fashions? Why not explore our costume section at our online giftshop for costume, patterns and accessories?

Arts Et Metiers

Ann-Dorothee Schlueter, Proprietress of Arts Et Metiers, in Germany is a textile historian and historical seamstress. She is registered with the Handwerkskammer, Berlin. Visit her website to see samples of her work and purchase items.

Posted on

Riding Habits throughout History

 

Miss Crawford’s enjoyment of riding was such that she did not know how to leave off.–Mansfield Park

Ladies’ clothing specifically for riding was not introduced until the second half of the sixteenth century, when protective overskirts or ‘safeguards’ were worn, together with cloaks, hats, boots, and masks to guard the complexion. Before that, women wore their everyday dresses on horseback. In the 1640s Queen Henrietta Maria was painted wearing a hunting dress and by the early eighteenth century the riding costume was established.


Dates of costumes, left to right: 1715 and 1790

The first habits followed the fashion of men’s attire, quite often adopting styles of military uniforms, and as equitation was considered an art and a courtly pastime, elaborate trimmings and materials were used, such as the brocades of the Restoration period and beyond. Designs were heavily influenced by the French court, but as the eighteenth century progressed, the English hunting country gentleman was a major inspiration, and habits became plainer cut and more functional.

1770 Colonial habit

This eighteenth-century reproduction habit was made in red wool from the 1770 Colonial habit dressmaking pattern available from Side Saddle Lady (P8). Instead of the closure shown in the pattern, Side Saddle Lady cut 1 inch or so off the front, faced it, and folded it back from neck to waistline (top and bottom seams of the foldback were angled to match the line of the jacket), and added gold rope trimming and buttons, in a style similar to an original habit in the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. Hemlines at this time ranged from floor length to a few inches off the ground. This habit is displayed with a hoop petticoat. The dressmaking pattern also includes a false waistcoat and a neck frill (see pictures below – colour of red habit differs, as the pictures were taken at different times, in different light!). Our waistcoat was made in a gold/buff material with a damask pattern; the frill was in white cotton.

 


Dates of costumes, left to right: 1818 and 1830’s

Around 1785, the riding coat (later redingote) appeared with its close-fitting bodice, double or triple cape-collar in the style of a coachman’s coat, and a buttoned skirt. At the end of the century styles changed again and by the early nineteenth century a less voluminous habit became fashionable, with a high waistline and often a pleated jacket back, using materials such as fine wools or nankeen in the summer (there is also some evidence for velvet). The style lasted through the Regency period but began changing dramatically after the 1820s, when skirts became fuller again, and sleeves puffed. By the 1830s, the large, dropped-shoulder ‘gigot’ sleeves were popular. These were fairly short-lived, but the bulbous skirts remained throughout the mid-nineteenth century, accompanied by jackets with large peplums.

Regency riding habit

This reproduction Regency riding habit c. 1818 was made from various pieces of the Regency Wardrobe dressmaking pattern, available from Side Saddle Lady (P10). Although made in this instance in honey-coloured velvet, the style would originally more likely have been made in a fine wool material, or cotton nankeen for summer use. The jacket lends itself to military-style trimming. Changes from the pattern in the Side Saddle Lady example were a shortening of the back peplem on the jacket and narrowing of the sleeves towards to the cuffs. The hat (see picture below) was adapted from the one given in the Regency Wardrobe pattern, made smaller, and with a peak and tassels added. The pattern for the cream cotton chemisette with frilled collar is also given in the Regency Wardrobe dressmaking pattern (the cuffs were made separately and attached to the sleeves on the inside).

Dates of costume, left to right: 1858 and 1873.

Later riding fashions

The tall and slender elegance of equestriennes such as Empress Elizabeth of Austria, who was sewn into her riding costume every morning she hunted, saw fashions changing again to the slimline darker-coloured habits of the 1880s with their high-buttoned bodices and jacket tails and trousers rather than petticoats, and thence to the 1890s with longer jackets and ‘leg of mutton’ sleeves.

Date of costume: 1880s

The early twentieth century saw habits with flared, long-line jackets and patented safety skirts. The first safety skirt had been introduced in about 1875, but the design by Alice Hayes at the turn of the nineteenth century, with the length of skirt unbuttoning, gradually evolved into the practical open-sided apron of 1930s aside riding, accompanied by a cutaway jacket, a design, albeit modified, still used today as the epitome of elegance of modern side-saddle equestrianism of the twenty-first century.

Buy Regency spencers and riding jackets at our online shop! Click here.

Penelope Housman works as a costumed guide at the National Trust House, Killerton House where they are currently showing an exhibit on Regency Fashion. Her boutique, Side Saddle Lady, provides information, patterns, period saddles and more. Visit her Website for a world of Equestrienne history.

Posted on

Colours of the Regency

“I took the liberty a few days ago of asking your black velvet bonnet to lend me its cawl, which it very readily did, and by which I have been enabled to give a considerable improvement of dignity to cap, which was before too nidgetty to please me. I shall wear it on Thursday, but I hope you will not be offended with me for following your advice as to its ornaments only in part. I still venture to retain the narrow silver round it, put twice round without any bow, and instead of the black military feather shall put in the coquelicot one as being smarter, and besides coquelicot is to be all the fashion this winter. After the ball I shall probably make it entirely black.”
Jane Austen to her Sister Cassandra
December 18, 1799

Colours are always integral to fashion and the names given to the new shades of the season as imaginative as they are confusing. Where trend gurus of 2006 push aubergine, petrol, raspberry, mustard, and moss on us; their counterparts of two centuries ago were not slow in urging its female readership to wear coquelicot, canary, pomona, jonquil or puce. But what did the colours really look like?

While ivory, rose, peach and lavender are quite easy to figure out, others are more obscure. Many colours were named after plants; roses being rosy red and lavender a delicate pale greyish purple. Slate, a dark grey reminiscent of paving stones, was popular for riding and walking dresses, while light purples, such as violet or lilac, adorned many a modest maiden. In Jane Austen’s time dyes were expensive, pigments made of natural substances and the resulting hues rather muted compared to our modern artificial dyes, hence even a bright yellow would not be as bright as we would imagine. Few pigments were colourfast; many faded in the sunlight or ran in the wash.

Anne Pratt 1898-1900 Yellow, green, rose, blue, pale purples and the all-dominating white were the most popular colours of the era. Yellow in particular was very fashionable and the different shades had interesting names such as Canary (bright, intense yellow), Jonquil (after a small wild daffodil, hence a pure yellow), the delicate Primrose, named after the popular English spring flower, and the deeper and richer Evening Primrose. It’s suitable to here also mention the yellowish shades of Straw, the golden beige hue of ripening corn, and Drab, a dull yellow brown as dreary as it sounds!

It should perhaps be noted that Blond is not a colour but a type of lace made with satin stitch on a mesh background. The lace was dominantly white or off-white, sometimes black and only rarely dyed in a fashionable colour. Lace was extremely expensive and, since rarely worn out with a dress, would probably do duty on several gowns. A neutral colour would certainly be easier to incorporate in the new design than one dyed a bright red!

Pomona green bonnet and redingote, lined in slate silk, worn over a white walking dress. A puce reticule completes the picture. Right; White satin ball gown, topped with an evening primrose yellow robe and a turban with white ostrich feathers. Lady’s Monthly Museum, July 1807

 

Among the greens no colour is more Regency than Pomona Green. This is the deep and rich apple green shade that got its name from the goddess of the apple orchard. When comparing it to a colour palette one notices the good helping of yellow in it. Napoleon was partial to it as was the Swedish Crown Prince Bernadotte, who’s suite of rooms all in Pomona green are still on view at Castle Rosendal. This colour has sometimes erroneously been equated with sea green, creating confusion in the mind of the reader, however, Ackermann, in the descriptive text of a Morning Dress from 1825, equates Pomona with apple green, thus settling our confusion. Since the pigment most often used to achieve this colour had an arsenic base it was quite dangerous to use in excess.

We cannot end this discussion without mentioning Puce, the oddest colour of them all. It might help to know that the word puce is French for flea, a small insect our ancestors were all too familiar with. Yes, the colour is a brownish-purple or a purplish-pink, the colour of the blood-sucking flea; coagulating blood in other words. It may seem astonishing to the modern reader that one of the most popular colours in 1805 was puce!

The next time you hear the words Pomona, Jonquil or Puce you know exactly what colours the writer was talking about.

Choose your colours and make your own dress! Visit our online shop for Regency dress patterns!

Yvonne Forsling is a culitvator of exoctic Hibiscus and Regency Enthusiast. Visit her site, Yvonne’Space for a look into her passions and talents. Further discussion of Regency colour, as well as many other period plates can be found in the Regency Section of her website.

Posted on

Regency Shoes

“Yes, I know exactly what you will say: Friday, went to the Lower Rooms; wore my sprigged muslin robe with blue trimmings — plain black shoes — appeared to much advantage; but was strangely harassed by a queer, half-witted man, who would make me dance with him, and distressed me by his nonsense.”
Northanger Abbey

Regency Footwear

Jane Austen mentions shoes more often than purses in her work and as any woman knows, the shoes make the outfit! It may come as a surprise to many readers to discover that shoes worn during the Regency did not differ much from what is worn today. Previously, both men and women wore what are now know as Court Shoes—high heeled pumps made of leather or brocade fastened with a large buckle. These elaborate shoes were in keeping with the highly stiffened and embroidered fashions of the day. As dress styles changed, however, shoes did as well.

In the year 1800, any sensible young lady of fashion would have had at least three pair of shoes—one for everyday wear, slippers for dancing in and boots for walking. This is a minimum, of course– Empress Josephine of France owned 520 pairs of shoes!

Jessamyn Reeves-Brown, a Regency fashion enthusiast, has done careful research in this area. A glimpse of her page on shoes reveals a fascinating walk through fashion history, outlining the decline of the pointed toes and heels of the early Regency and a progression towards a more ballet slipper style of shoe. Ribbon rosettes and satin ties that criss-crossed up the leg added feminine charm to shoes that were otherwise much simpler than their earlier counterparts. As in previous years, shoes were made with no difference between left and right shoes. It would be up to the owner to wear them in comfortably.

Black was a common color, but by no means standard. Pastel pink, lavender, blue and yellow also made an appearance in colored leather and satin. Stripes were also popular for a time.

According to Jessamyn, “wedding gowns were often worn to the point of being worn out. After the wedding, brides had to cherish something else. Often this was one of her wedding shoes, a natural choice given the lucky connotations of shoes in this context. Many carefully preserved satin slippers remain with notes inscribed in the instep attesting to the wearer’s wedding.”

Around 1810, half boots, ankle length boots made of cotton or kid leather, became popular as walking shoes. One can easily imagine Elizabeth Bennet donning a pair for a tramp across the fields, or Emma Woodhouse stooping to break her lace in order to contrive a reason to visit Mr. Elton’s parsonage.

Unfortunately, all such delicate fashion comes at a price and shoes of the Regency were no exception. Notoriously thin and prone to scuffs, tears and soaking in even the slightest weather; they needed constant protection and replacement. One Georgian innovation that was slow to be replaced was the patten. These lifts, as it were, fastened to one’s shoes and kept the wearer out of the snow, mud or puddles. By this time they were most often worn by servants and lower classes and made of wood or metal. They did create a racket when walked in, but to Jane Austen, it was one of the sounds of Bath.

Explore our popular costume section at our online giftshop! Click here!

When Lady Russell not long afterwards, was entering Bath on a wet afternoon,
and driving through the long course of streets from the Old Bridge to Camden Place, amidst the dash of other carriages, the heavy rumble of carts and drays, the bawling of newspapermen, muffin-men and milkmen,
and the ceaseless clink of pattens, she made no complaint.
Persuasion, 1818

Austentation: Custom Made Regency Hats and Accessories
Laura Boyle is a fan of all things Austen. She runs Austentation: Regency Accessories, creating custom made hats, bonnets, reticules and more for customers around the globe.