Posted on

Children’s Underwear in Regency England

There they are, in portraits, paintings and engravings, with earnest faces and cute clothes. But what did they wear underneath? Surely not the whole understructure their parents wore? Just like their mothers, both boys and girls would have worn a chemise. This basic garment was usually made of linen, and followed the lines of the adult version, with one exception: Children’s chemises often omitted the side gussets, which added width to women’s chemises, thus being basically T-shirt shaped. On the other hand in well-to-do families they did even sport lace ruffles at the decollete and sleeve seams. Over the chemise followed a pair of stays. During the earlier Georgian period current medical opinion held that the tender bodies of infants had to be protected and shaped by stays, and in many costume collections we find heavily boned specimen made for children not even one year old. Towards the last quarter of the century, when enlightenment finally won the upper hand and children’s clothes began to show signs of classical influence long before they made their first appearance in ladies’ fashions, the small corsets became less resticting and less rigid, most of them being almost entirely unboned. The garment itself was retained, however, serving a new purpose now: Since the children no longer had artifcially formed “hips”, other ways to keep the petticoats up were needed and found in buttons attached to the stays, on which the petticoats could be fastened. Infants’ stays, 1780 – 1810, showing cording on the front (more…)
Posted on

The Fashions of Childhood

While children are not usually thought of in the world of high fashion, with his debut of The Repository of Fashion… in 1809, Rudolph Ackerman provided modern readers with a record of what was worn by even the smallest of the Ton during the 20 years his magazine was published. As fashion evolved during the Regency, and figure hugging corsets gave way to loose, diaphanous gowns, so too, children’s fashions became simpler and while they still mimicked the clothes of their elders, a new style of short dresses and easy to wear pants and jackets came into vogue with overtones that can be seen even in today’s children’s wear. What Ackermann did, in showing his “models” engaged in many different types of activities with their children, was prove motherhood to be fashionable- or at least something not to be hidden away and relegated to the attic nurseries of country estates. In doing so, he also left a legacy of children’s fashion unequalled by any other period source. Aside from fashion plates and art prints, the only other visual reference to the time that we have are portraits from the period. These, too clearly show reltation between the changing attitudes in parenting and clothing styles over Jane Austen’s lifetime. Even a cursory glance at those below will prove the point. The first, by Joshua Reynolds, shows Margaret, Lady Spencer and her daughter Georgiana (later to be the famous Duchess of Devonshire) in 1759, a few years before Jane Austen’s birth in 1775. (more…)
Posted on

The Breeching Ceremony of a Young Boy and His Rite of Passage

Over a year ago I read a fabulous blog post on the Regency Redingote entitled  Boy to Man: The Breeching Ceremony. The article is thorough and I was quite satisfied with its information until I ran into this quote, written by Jane Austen in 1801 to her sister Cassandra:

Mary has likewise a message: she will be much obliged to you if you can bring her the pattern of the jacket and trousers, or whatever it is that Elizabeth’s boys wear when they are first put into breeches; so if you could bring her an old suit itself, she would be very glad, but that I suppose is hardly done.”

This short passage told me much more about the topic and I decided to pursue it further.

Portrait of William Ellis Gosling, 1800 , Sir William Beechey, R.A. Image @Wikimedia Commons
Portrait of William Ellis Gosling, 1800 , Sir William Beechey, R.A. Image @Wikimedia Commons

 

During the 18th century boys and girls were dressed alike in baby clothes during their infancy and in petticoats as toddlers. In Beechey’s image, our modern eyes would not identify the infant as a boy unless he was labeled as such.

Continue reading The Breeching Ceremony of a Young Boy and His Rite of Passage