Posted on

Reasons Why Regency Fashion Rocks!

Jane Austen News

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

Posted on

In your Easter Bonnet

Easter is still two weeks away, and yet, somehow the delightful tradition, begun in childhood, of having something new to wear Easter Sunday morning, has me scrambling. The girls (8 and 10 respectively) plead their case last year, not to have to wear gloves and hats to church, but one still feels the need to be turned out fresh and new to celebrate not only the Saviour’s triumph over death, but also spring’s triumph over the cold of winter.

A Wet Sunday Morning by Edmund Blair Leighton.
A Wet Sunday Morning by Edmund Blair Leighton.

In Jane Austen’s novels and letters, Easter is seen more as a time of travel (Mr. Collins to be ordained, Darcy travling to Kent, Mrs. Rushworth staying in Twickenham, along with Jane’s mention of herself, Henry and Edward all traveling at different times during Easter) rather than a season for new clothes. However, the long held habit of beginning a new season with new clothes can be dated back at least to the 16th century, with only a look at Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet (“Did’st thou not fall out with a Tailor for wearing his new Doublet before Easter?”) or even the great Samuel Pepys, who wrote:

30 March (Easter Day) 1662
Having my old black suit new furbished, I was pretty neat in clothes to-day, and my boy, his old suit new trimmed, very handsome.

The almanac writer, Poor Robin (1661-1776) notes,
At Easter let your clothes be new
Or else be sure you will it rue.

An image from Atelier de Modistes Le Bon Genre 28, c.1807
An image from Atelier de Modistes Le Bon Genre 28, c.1807

Still, for many the cash strapped maid, a fresh gown might be out of the question, but bonnets could be newly trimmed with ribbons and flowers, and the earliest spring fashion plates were eagerly looked for as a sign of spring to come. This idea was put into popular song in 1933, by the American Irving Berlin, in his musical Easter Parade, when the economy was at a low ebb (as it was during Austen’s era.) With a new hat on, all seems bright and fresh and possible.

In your Easter bonnet
with all the frills upon it,
You’ll be the grandest lady in the Easter parade

The Pink Bonnet by Edmund Blair Leighton.
The Pink Bonnet by Edmund Blair Leighton.


Laura Boyle is fascinated by all aspects of Jane Austen’s life. She is the proprietor of Austentation: Regency Accessories, creating custom hats, bonnets, reticules and more for customers around the globe. Cooking with Jane Austen and Friends is her first book. Her greatest joy is the time she is able to spend in her home with her family (1 amazing husband, 4 adorable children and a very strange dog.)

Posted on

Create a Custom Hatpin

While there is some debate over the date of the original hatpin (vs straight pin),we do know that women have been using pins to secure veils, wimples, hats and bonnets for hundreds of years.  Until 1820 hatpin making in England was a cottage industry in which demand far exceeded supply. One solution was to import crafted pins from France. In order to support Britain’s crafters, in 1820 a law was passed allowing pins to be imported ONLY on January 1 and 2! Some suggest the phrase “pin money” was so called because it was spent by the lady of the house on her hatpins, dress pins and brooch pins!

2008’s The Duchess featured exquisite costumes (and hatpins) by Michael O’Connor. Photo by Nick Wall

All pins were still handmade at this point, and remained so until 1832 when a machine was invented in the United States, which could mass-produce the pins. After this prices dropped considerably as machines made pins were crafted England and France, soon after.

When styles began favoring the hat over the bonnet in the 1880’s, hatpins became both more fashionable and more elaborate. They remained as essential accessory until the age of flapper style bobs and cloche hats made them unnecessary. Still the Edwardian hatpin was regarded as a thing of fear among lawmakers of the day, who passed legislation in 1908 (in the United States) mandating that pins  not exceed 10 inches in length (lest Suffragettes use them as weapons) and later ordering that the ends be capped lest someone be injured by a sharp tip.

Pictures of Regency style pins are in short supply, but I do love this image from Atelier de Modistes Le Bon Genre 28, c.1807, showing a group of young ladies trying on hats and bonnets (Lydia Bennet, anyone?) A look at the woman on the far right shows what appears to be a beaded hatpin stuck safely in place waiting for the next hat or bonnet.

An image from Atelier de Modistes Le Bon Genre 28, c.1807
An image from Atelier de Modistes Le Bon Genre 28, c.1807

From the above illustrations, it appears that Georgian/Regency era pins were less elaborate than their Victorian cousins, featuring one or two beads, instead of the elaborate trimmings and jewels that were to come.

To create your own hatpins, you’ll need:

  • A long, straight pin or hatpin (20 cm is average.) These can be purchased from  Austentation on Etsy. Custom Pins are also available.
  • Metal glue (I like E6000)
  • An assortment of beads and bead caps.
"Blank" hatpins can be purchased from Austentation on Etsy.
“Blank” hatpins can be purchased from Austentation on Etsy.

To make your pin, first add a bead cap, then line up your beads in your chosen order and end with a small bead or cap. Once you have decided on your perfect combination, slide the beads down the pin and add some glue to the pin, where the beads will sit. Slide all but the last the bead back in place, being sure that each one is adhered. Add a small drop of glue to the bottom hole of the second to last bead, slide your final piece into place and allow the pin to dry.

A variety of hatpins can be purchased in our online shop
A variety of hatpins can be purchased in our online shop, while custom pieces can be ordered from Austentation.

Congratulations! A custom piece to complement your period ensemble!

This custom combination was created by Laura Boyle for Austentation: Regency Accessories.
This custom combination was created by Laura Boyle for Austentation: Regency Accessories.

Laura Boyle creates the hatpins available in the Jane Austen Centre shop as well as providing her customers with custom hatpins and supplies along with various other hats, bonnets, reticules and accessories from her shop Austentation: Regency Accessories.

Posted on

Create a “Marianne” Style Bonnet

As many will attest, one of the delights of watching a Jane Austen film is the glory of the costuming. Jenny Beavan’s designs for the 1995 Emma Thompson version of Sense and Sensibility were no exception. Beavan, always noted for her impeccable historical designs, was rightfully nominated for both a BAFTA and an Oscar on this film.

Marianne wears a delightfully poufed bonnet.
Marianne wears a delightfully poufed bonnet.

Here you will find the instructions for my version of Marianne’s famous bonnet.

This bonnet was designed for
This bonnet was designed for

Needle, Thread, Scissors, pins
1 Round Brimmed straw hat (preferably with a downturned brim)
14×14” or 18×18” square of fabric (your choice for size of pouf)
18×2” strip of fabric
4×4” square of fabric
1 yard ribbon of your choice (I use ½” sheer with satin stripes)

  • Fold the fabric in quarters and round off the edges. You will now have a circle of fabric. Run a gathering stitch around the edge of the circle and pull it as tight around the top of the crown (just below the line of holes) Tack or pin in place.
  • Find the center of the piece of ribbon. Pin it in place over halfway over the raw edge of the gathered “pouf” in the center, front. Bring the ribbon around the bonnet on both sides, crossing it in the back. Now bring the ribbon to the front again. This time, cross them in the center, front, about an inch and a half away from the edge of the brim (as pictured). Pin in place.
    Ribbon lies under the band as well as being wrapped in front.
    Ribbon is wrapped around the brim as well as being overlapped in front.
  • Make a “pinwheel” rosette out of the 4” square by rounding off the corners as in Step 1. Now fold the edge under and run a gathering stitch along the edge and pull it tight. Flatten the circle so that the gathered edge is tight in the middle and the rest flares out around it. Tack this in place on top of the crossed ribbons. Trim ribbon edges to desired length.
    The ribbons are tacked down with a fabric "pinwheel".
    The ribbons are tacked down with a fabric “pinwheel”.
  • Fold your remaining fabric strip in thirds and place over the overlapped edge of the gathered fabric and ribbon. Make sure that the raw edges are tucked to the back and stitch this down, around the crown over the overlapped edge, using a hidden stitch. Start at the center back. When you get around to the back again, measure ½” past the first end and cut the fabric. Fold the raw edge under and tack this “finished” end over the raw edge.


Created by Laura Boyle for Austentation: Regency Accessories-
Feel free to contact her with any questions or comments about this pattern.

Posted on

Mad about Mob Caps

Caps of all shapes and sizes had long been in use by men and women as fashion accessories and protection from the elements. There was an added benefit to the Regency miss, which Jane Austen wrote about to her sister,

“I have made myself two or three caps to wear of evenings since I came home, and they save me a world of torment as to hairdressing which at present gives me no trouble beyond washing and brushing, for my long hair is always plaited up out of sight, and my short hair curls well enough to want no papering.”

The mob cap or mob-cap is a round, gathered or pleated cloth (usually linen) bonnet consisting of a caul to cover the hair, a frilled or ruffled brim, and (often) a ribbon band, worn by married women in the Georgian period, when it was called a “bonnet”. Originally an informal style, the bonnet became a high-fashion item as part of the adoption of simple “country” clothing in the later 18th century. It was an indoor fashion, and was worn under a hat for outdoor wear. During the French Revolution, the name “Mob Cap” caught on because the poorer women who were involved in the riots wore them, but they had been in style for middle class and even aristocracy since the century began.

Marie Antoinette c. 1792
Marie Antoinette in an oversized mob cap, c. 1792

By the Victorian period, mob caps lingered as the head covering of servants and nurses, and small mob caps, not covering the hair, remained part of these uniforms into the early 20th century.

Note the cap on the lady’s maid, as well as her misteress’s fancier cap on the toilette table, in this painting, by Raimundo de Madrazo y Garreta (1841–1920) La Toilette, painted between 1890 and 1900 (but showing a scene from the Georgian era, based on the clothing)


Historical information and photos from

Posted on

Regency Silhouette Christmas Ornament

 Colleen Babcock: Regency Silhouette Christmas Ornament

Colleen BabcockIt is a truth universally acknowledged, that a lone crafter in possession of a sewing machine, must be in want of a free tutorial. I’m Colleen Babcock, and I’m here as a guest contributor at the Jane Austen Centre’s online magazine to provide you with just that.

I am a cloth art doll and craft designer, as well as a Jane Austen fan, living in London. Originally from Canada, I teach and exhibit in the UK and across North America. With work featured in several books and magazines, I also write guest posts for popular craft blogs while keeping the creativity levels high with free tutorials on my own blog, The Magic Bean.

Colleen Babcock’s adorable Regency silhouette ornaments.

What you need Continue reading Regency Silhouette Christmas Ornament

Posted on

The Face of the Jane Austen Centre 2013

Jane Austen Centre guide Elle

The face of the Jane Austen Centre 2013

Jane Austen Centre guide ElleEvery year at the Jane Austen Centre we select a member staff to represent us in marketing and advertising as the Face of The Jane Austen Centre.

Our staff enjoy the process. We get in a professional photographer and spend quite a bit of time getting the look just right.

Elle is wearing her guide costume plus a bonnet made from velvet. She is accessorised with a lace fan, lace gloves and a string of pearls. Normally our guides don’t use these accessories but we all now feel that they should! We will invest in a few more important items for everyone to wear.

You might remember seeing other members of staff in the same role. 2 years ago it was Becca our Online Giftshop manager, last year it was Jennie the Centre Manager and this year it’s Elle one of our guides. She looks great don’t you think?
Photo by Owen Benson


Colours in Regency Fashion

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.

Posted on

Creating a Straw Bonnet from “Scratch”

Creating a Straw Bonnet

A recent trip to Old Sturbridge Village (a living museum located in Sturbridge, Massachusetts, which re-creates life in rural New England during the 1790s through 1830s) for their exhibit, Trimmed to Taste, gave a new appreciation for the work required to produce even one bonnet. It’s easy enough to read a period description of the work involved in plaiting, sewing and blocking a bonnet, but to see one actually in process brings the reality of the work involved in creating a straw framed bonnet vividly to life.

Straw plaiting, or platting, was a common activity in rural England, just as it was in New England. It could be taken on as a career or as a hobby to earn a little extra money on the side. The preferred straw was rye. Hertfordshire, the Bennet’s home county, was famous, along with Buckinghamshire, Bedfordshire, and Berkshire for the employment of many thousands of women and young children in the plaiting industry; but this had largely ended by the beginning of the 20th century: the number of English plaiters, all told, was not more than a few hundreds in 1907, as compared with 30,000 in 1871.

The districts around Luton in Bedfordshire and the neighboring counties were, since the beginning of the 17th century, the British home of the straw-plait industry. The straw of certain varieties of wheat cultivated in that region is, in favorable seasons, possessed of a fine bright color and due to tenacity and strength. The straw is cut as in ordinary harvesting, but is allowed to dry in the sun, before binding. Subsequently straws are selected from the sheaves, and of these the pipes of the two upper joints are taken for plaiting. The pipes are assorted into sizes by passing them through graduated openings in a grilled wire frame, and those of good color are bleached by the fumes of sulfur. Spotted and discoloured straws are dyed either in pipe or in plait. The plaiters work up the material in a damp state, either into whole straw or split straw plaits. Split straws are prepared with the aid of a small instrument having a projecting point which enters the straw pipe, and from which radiate the number of knife-edged cutters into which the straw is to be split. The straws were put through a small mangle to flatten them. They were then braided to produce a woven strip which was sold to the makers of hats, bonnets, baskets and other wares.

In the photo at the top of the page, you can see two young women plaiting straw into 8 strand braids. Eleven strand braids or plaits, were also common and could command a much higher price, as the work involved was much more complicated. You can see the whole straws standing in a pot of water, waiting to be split (wet straw was easier to split without breaking and bent easily for the braids.) Women and children who plaited on a professional basis were taught the skills in plait schools. Here the owner of the school would educate the children he employed in the rudiments of reading and writing, instead of paying a wage for the straw plaiting they produced for the remainder of the day. At its peak in the early nineteenth century a woman could earn more by plaiting than a man could earn on the land. There was concern that the industry led to dissolution and idleness in the menfolk.

Professional plaits were sold in 50 yard increments. If you were plaiting from home in the hopes of selling your “Braid” to the local storekeeper (to be then sent on to a straw hat factory) you would need at least 25 yards of braid, since 20-25 yards of platting was needed for each bonnet.

At the factory, workers would determine the shape of the bonnet to be made, and began sewing the braid, one line at a time around a wooden or plaster form (called blocking). The result was a plain straw bonnet, which could then be purchased to be trimmed at home, or bought by a milliner’s shop to trim up in a much more fashionable manner for wealthy clients.

In 1809, Mary Kies became the first woman to be issued a US patent in 1809 for the rights to a technique for weaving straw with silk and thread to make bonnets. This method created a fabric like mat, which could be cut and shaped, like the buckram used in fabric covered bonnets.

Alternately, hats could be woven from palm fronds imported and purchased for this purpose. Not surprisingly, the tree most associated with this process is the Sabal causiarum, commonly known as the Puerto Rican hat palm. Palm leaves were split, not unlike the straw used in the plats, and woven in the form of the desired hat. The palm weave created a tight “mat” like piece which would then be further blocked and shaped. Hat were woven for both men and women and could command higher prices than braided straw. The most famous of these, is, of course the Panama hat. This hat is based on the “Pilgrim” hat of the 17th century.

There are two main processes in the hat’s creation: weaving and blocking. The best way to gauge the quality of the weave is to count the number of weaves per square inch. Fewer than 100 would be considered low quality. There are many degrees of increasing quality, up to the rarest and most expensive hats, which can have as many as 1600–2000 weaves per square inch; it is not unheard of for these hats to sell for thousands of dollars apiece. The quality of the weave itself, however, is more important. A high weave count, even an attractive-looking one, does not guarantee a well-woven hat. It is said that a Panama of true quality (a “superfino”) can hold water and when folded for storage can pass through a wedding ring.


Although the Panama hat continues to provide a livelihood for thousands of Ecuadorians, fewer than a dozen weavers capable of making the finest “montecristi superfinos” remain. The UK’s Financial Times Magazine (January 7) recently reported that there may be no more than 15-20 years remaining for the industry in Ecuador, due to the competition of paper-based Chinese-made imitations, especially as a few hat sellers dominate and manipulate the market.

Laura Boyle creates reproduction Regency hats and bonnets for her website, Austentaion. Although a cottage industry in itself, she now has an all new appreciation for the work involved in creating a “Straw Bonnet from Scratch”.

Special thanks to the historical interpreters at Old Sturbridge Village. Images from Old Sturbridge Village, featuring their historical bonnet collection.