Posted on

Court Dress For Men

By nature inoffensive, friendly and obliging, his presentation at St James’s had made him courteous.
Pride and Prejudice

As it had been for women, a strict standard governed what could be worn at Court when attending an audience with the King. This standard was often unaffected by prevailing fashion and changed little over the course of a monarch’s lifetime. The following suit, from the collection held at the Victoria & Albert represents the what was no doubt very much like the suit worn by Sir William Lucas upon his fateful introduction at St. James’s Court.

Full dress suits of this type (which is probably French, 1790s) were worn for ceremonial occasions. The silk embroidery on the suit, mainly in satin stitch, is considered to be among the finest in the collection, and its design probably dates from the 1780s.

Unfortunately, this scan does not show off the glorious floral embroidery on this dress suit. Even the buttons have flowers embroidered on them! Many representations of these formal dress suits are held by museums. The Victoria and Albert Museum owned twenty-four of them from 1770-1800 in 1984! Most formal suits like this are in dark colors, either solids or subtly patterned as seen in this suit.


By 1807, the waist of court dresses for women had moved up to the height common for dresses, but, since hoops were still required, it was much less attractive. Here a lace-trimmed overskirt covers a dress with bands of flowered garland and a deep lace trim around the bottom of the skirt. The male figure shows the typical formal court dress that varied little from the 1780s. The formal suits included matching coat and breeches in the same fabric, usually a dark color and sometimes patterned. Always these court suits would be heavily embroidered. This suit is embroidered on collar, cuffs and along the front opening. The sword would be worn for such a formal event as the Birth Day, the traditional closing ending event of the London season. The waistcoat here is lighter than the suit, but we are unable to see if it is embroidered or not. The hat is a style particularly easy to carry under the arm. Compare this to the formal suit of the 1790s owned by the Victoria and Albert museum. The words beneath the print read “Court Dresses for His Majesty’s Birth Day. Printed for J. B. Bell & Co.”

The description for this image, originally published in Le Beau Monde, or Literary and Fashionable Magazine, January, 1807, is as follows:


Court Dresses for Her Majesty’s Birthday

The return of the rigid season brings with it once more, to every loyal bosom, the happy occasion of doing honour to the birth-day of our gracious and amiable Queen. Fancy and taste have been long busy in making preparations, and the condescension of a noble lady has enabled us to anticipate some of the characteristics that are likely to distinguish the habiliments of the day. The design which she has done us the honour to communicate, brings the whole into a central point of consideration, and we have therefore only to describe it.

Fig. No. 1. FOR LADIES.–The hair dressed in natural curls round the face, with a coronet, bandeau, or other ornament in gold–feathers of every kind. The body, sleeves, and petticoat, of rich, full coloured satin or velvet: the draperies of gauze or tiffany spotted with gold embroidery; the trimmings and false sleeves of the same, edged with rich lace, and the cords and tassels that festoon the draperies, of gold. The bracelets round the sleeves, the zone and the binding of the petticoat to be of plate gold, we suppose in commemoration of the lately achieved conquest of South America. The petticoat is decorated with artificial wreaths of the white thorn made in relief.

Fig. No. 2. FOR GENTLEMEN.–Dark-green, or other dark colour, coat and small- cloaths of silk, velvet, or fine cloth, covered with a small spot somewhat lighter of the same kind of colour, edged with silver lace, and embroidered with any kind of wild flower of acknowledged British growth: waistcoat of white satin, embroidered in a very light pattern of gold thread. Silk stockings perfectly white.

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

This text, along with the images, has been borrowed from Cathy Decker’s Regency Fashion Page. The text from the 1790 suit is from Natalie Rothstein’s Four Hundred Years of Fashion London: Victoria and Albert Museum, 1984.

Posted on

Dressing for the Seaside

During the Regency, seaside resorts sprang up all along the coast of England. Brighton was particularly popular due to the distinction given it by the Prince of Wales. Sidmouth, Weymouth, Lyme and even the fictitional Sanditon are all now easily recognized names which bring to mind crowds of beautifully dressed Regency ladies and gentlemen (and Officers!) enjoying a promenade by the sea.

Naturally, sea-bathing, only one of many activities to be enjoyed at a Seaside resort required its own attire (generally a simple muslin shift) but one had also to be fashionable when appearing in public at all times. The following illustrations from period fashion journals show typical “Bathing Place” attire.

Bathing Place Dress, 1810, from The Repository of Arts, Literature, Commerce, Manufactures, Fashion, and Politics. This unusual outfit features lace-trimmed pants as an undergarment that shows beneath the simple button-up-the-front dress. The laced sandals show the Greco-Roman influence on dress.

Author Stella Blum writes that the “Repository of Arts, Literature, Commerce, Manufactures, Fashions and Politics, commonly known as Ackermann’s Repository, after Rudolph Ackermann, its publisher …. first appeared in London in 1809 as a monthly publication. Although not primarily a fashion periodical, the pages it devoted to clothes were valid fashion plates since they were meant to inform the ladies of the latest styles and to serve as a dressmaker’s guide. By the time it ceased operations in 1829, the magazine had included some 450 fashion prints.”

 

Seaside Bathing Dress, 1815, from La Belle Assemblee, or Bell’s Court and Fashionable Magazine Addressed Particularly to the Ladies, 1806-1868. It is unclear to me if this dress is simply to be worn to the bathing machine, which can be seen in the lower left of the picture, or actually into the sea. Most likely the former, since the bathing machines acted as changing rooms as well. Note the odd green and white slippers that match the dress, which is purple with green trim.

According to Pauline Weston Thomas notes, “Even now, La Belle Assemblee is considered a mine of fascinating information about the literary and artistic world of the era, plus other contents of hints and tips to achieve perfection in all areas. Fashion information was but a small part of the overall magazine.After 1832 when the magazine changed hands, it was renamed as The Court Magazine and La Belle Assemblée. The plates issued for the next 23 years are thought inferior.”

 

Morning Dress, 1797, from Nicholas Heideloff’s Gallery of Fashion. These ladies have gone out on a windy morning for a walk. They too have on bonnets, and one woman wears a shawl over her morning dress. These ladies are at a fashionable seaside resort; note the bathing machines in the bottom left corner of the image. When one reads Frances Burney’s Camilla of 1796, this is a useful image to keep in mind for the scenes that occur at seaside resorts.

“[S]imple dresses with their slightly rising waistlines are reflected in the most famous of all English fashion magazines, Heideloff’s Gallery of Fashion which appeared from 1794 to 1802. The Gallery claimed to be a record `of all the most fashionable and elegant Dresses in vogue,’ rather than a blueprint for the future; it aimed to show the taste and restraint to be seen in English costume, rather than the wild exaggerations of French dress …. The result was often a compromise between the `elegant simplicity’ of ancient Greek dress, which the Gallery admired, and the English attraction towards such features as Vandyke trimming, Tudor ruffs and various kinds of applied decoration.”

Explore our costume section at our online giftshop for dresses, patterns and more!

Images and descriptions courtesy of Cathy Decker’s Regency Fashion Page.

Posted on

Afternoon Dress

Afternoon dress is something that normal people don’t have–we have semi-formal dress rather than afternoon dress. Basically afternoon dress is what a person of the highest social class wears in the afternoon at appropriately upper- class social functions like society teas, garden parties, afternoon weddings, etc. During Jane Austen’s day, the social elite were of course the people who could afford to buy the expensive hand-colored fashion plates in the women’s journals of 1790-1830. Some Regency journals do use the term “Afternoon Dress,” such as The Gallery of Fashion and The Lady’s Magazine. In other journals, I haven’t noticed any uses of the phrase. You can find dresses labelled for promenading (sometimes even in particular parks in London such as Hyde Park or Kensington Gardens) that no doubt were worn in the afternoon and could be considered “afternoon dress.” I’ve only featured on this page the plates explicitly labelled afternoon dress.

Fashion plate from The Gallery of Fashion, October 1794, Figure 26, titled “Afternoon or Half-Dress.” Text reads “HEAD-DRESS. Bright puce-coloured hat, with an embroidered purple border, lined with blue, and trimmed with a garland of flowers; a parti-coloured ostrich feather placed on the left side. A large toupee frizzed into light curls, the hind hair turned under, the ends returned, falling lower than the chignon, and thrown into ringlets. A wreath of white flowers in the toupee. Robe and petticoat of striped muslin; the robe braided on the back, confined to the waist by a belt, trimmed round the neck with lace; long sleeves, trimmed at the wrists with lace; short full sleeves of clear muslin, fixed at the bottom to the long sleeves. Small handkerchief put within the robe. Gold ear-rings. Light blue gloves and shoes.”

This poor scan is made from a photocopy and doesn’t show the striped fabric. I read somewhere that when Charlotte Corday murdered Marat in 1793, she wore a fashionably striped dress like this one–certainly many prints of the famous murder in the bathtub show Corday in such a dress. Large nosegays or corsages like the one depicted here seem like a good idea to me in an age when soap and perfume cost a lot and horses were the main source of transportation!

Fashion plate from The Gallery of Fashion, November 1794, Figure 31, titled “Afternoon Dress, in Half-Mourning.” The text reads: “HEAD-DRESS. Toupee and side hair frizzed, and thrown into large curls; bandeauof white and black riband, cut out and formed into a wreath of flowers; one black and two white ostrich feathers placed in the front. Plain chignon, falling very low upon the back. Petticoat of clear lawn, embroidered in black. Robe a la Turque of black taffeta, with black braids on the back. Long sleeves. Handkerchief of Italian gauze, put within the robe. Gold festoon necklace and ear-rings. White glove and shoes, embroidered in black.”

Even in this bad scan of a bad photocopy, it is easy to see how striking the black and white ensemble is, particularly the white and black feathers. No large nosegay or corsage is worn–perhaps they were not seen as appropriate when mourning a death? Given the wild colors of the afternoon dress for the previous month (puce, purple, and blue), the more elaborate black embroidery on the petticoat is not exactly exciting. While brightly dyed or patterned fabrics are easy to buy in the 21st century and hand-embroidery is not; in the 1790s the reverse would be true and much less exciting.

Fashion plate from The Gallery of Fashion, May 1795, Figures 53 and 54, titled “Afternoon Dresses.” The text for figure 53 on the left reads,“The hair dressed in a high toupee; two ornaments of white satin in Vandyke scallops, the edges trimmed with silver spangles, placed in two parts of the toupee, and the hair betwixt combed into small curls; the hind hair in ringlets; three white ostrich feathers on the right side. Chemise of embroidered muslin; the collar and labels [lapels] of trimmed with lace; short full sleeves, tied in two parts with silver cords. Pink sash. Pearl ear-rings. Diamond necklace; and two small gold chains with a medallion round the neck. White satin shoes.”

The text for the right figure reads, “The hair in small curls, and the hind hair in ringlets. Turban of Italian gauze, spangled with silver. A wreath of small roses on the right side; a branch of oak leaves, made of green foil, across the turban, from the left side to the right, in the front. Three large white ostrich feathers in the front, placed one behind the other. Petticoat of white muslin embroidered in silver, trimmed at the bottom with a white satin riband. Lilac satin corset without points; long sleeves of white satin, with a narrow blonde plaited at the wrists; short upper sleeves of white satin, with full muslin tops, looped with a large pearl. Lilac-colored sash. Diamond ear-rings. Two strings of large pearls round the neck. Lilac-coloured shoes.” In other words, these are pretty white and pastel dresses (pink and liliac) with silver trim, shown worn with diamond jewelry–not exactly what your average girl puts on at 2 p.m.!

Fashion plate from The Gallery of Fashion, December 1795, Figure 80, titled “Afternoon Dress.” The text reads: “The hair in light curls and ringlets. Bandeau of white satin, tigrç in carmelite. White satin chiffonet mixed with the hair; three white ostrich feathers placed in the front. White satin petticoat. Robe of white muslin, embroidered at the bottom with silver, trimmed round the neck and down the side with a silver fringe; long sleeves plaited and trimmed with lace, the upper part full, and tied with three silver cords. Round the waist a silver cord with two large tassels, tied at the left side into a bow. Diamond ear-rings. Plaited tucker, and a string of pearls round the neck. White gloves. White satin shoes.”

The dress is similar to those featured in May of this year in the same journal, in that white and silver are the dominant colors. Interestingly, the dress below from 1810 also uses this same white and silver color scheme, and moreover both dresses feature white lace sleeves on a white muslin dress with a white satin headdress. The fur muff here is the one concession to winter. Note how much bigger the tassels are compared to those on the 1810 blue scarf and silver ribbon below (although they may be knots not tassels).

Fashion plate from The Gallery of Fashion, August 1796, Figure 110, titled “Afternoon Dress.” The text reads: “The toupee dressed in loose curls; the hind hair turned up in loops, the ends returned in ringlets; broad white satin riband across the toupee, with a bow in the front and behind. Fancy plume in a black tuft placed in the front, and a spotted coloured ostrich feather on the right side. White tiffany petticoat with an embroidered broad border. Robe á la Turque of white muslin embroidered in colours; trimmed round the neck with a plaiting of lace; short full sleeves of purple tiffany. Sash and upper bracelets of broad silver lace. Diamond ear-rings and Diamond ear-rings. Two strings of large pearls round the neck. Lilac-coloured shoes.” In other words, these are pretty white and pastel dresses (pink and liliac) with silver trim, shown worn with diamond jewelry–not exactly what your average girl puts on at 2 p.m.!

1795 Afternoon dress Fashion plate from The Gallery of Fashion, December 1795, Figure 80, titled “Afternoon Dress.” The text reads: “The hair in light curls and ringlets. Bandeau of white satin, tigrç in carmelite. White satin chiffonet mixed with the hair; three white ostrich feathers placed in the front. White satin petticoat. Robe of white muslin, embroidered at the bottom with silver, trimmed round the neck and down the side with a silver fringe; long sleeves plaited and trimmed with lace, the upper part full, and tied with three silver cords. Round the waist a silver cord with two large tassels, tied at the left side into a bow. Diamond ear-rings. Plaited tucker, and a string of pearls round the neck. White gloves. White satin shoes.”

The dress is similar to those featured in May of this year in the same journal, in that white and silver are the dominant colors. Interestingly, the dress below from 1810 also uses this same white and silver color scheme, and moreover both dresses feature white lace sleeves on a white muslin dress with a white satin headdress. The fur muff here is the one concession to winter. Note how much bigger the tassels are compared to those on the 1810 blue scarf and silver ribbon below (although they may be knots not tassels).

Afternoon dress Fashion plate from The Gallery of Fashion, August 1796, Figure 110, titled “Afternoon Dress.” The text reads: “The toupee dressed in loose curls; the hind hair turned up in loops, the ends returned in ringlets; broad white satin riband across the toupee, with a bow in the front and behind. Fancy plume in a black tuft placed in the front, and a spotted coloured ostrich feather on the right side. White tiffany petticoat with an embroidered broad border. Robe á la Turque of white muslin embroidered in colours; trimmed round the neck with a plaiting of lace; short full sleeves of purple tiffany. Sash and upper bracelets of broad silver lace. Diamond ear-rings and necklace. White gloves and shoes, imitating sandals.”

This dress is similar is style to the dress of November 1794 above in that both are “robes á la Turque” and both feature embroidery. The color scheme is also bolder, more like the vivid colors of the October 1794 afternoon dress above–both costumes use purple in combination with other colors (also both feature nosegays or corsages of flowers). The sleeves and imitation sandals show the increasing popularity of “ancient” or classical dress. The sleeves of this dress are an interesting transition from the longer sleeves popular at the start of the 1790s and the shorter sleeves of the early 1800s.

 

Fashion plate from The Gallery of Fashion, May 1798, Figure 180. This is a half-mourning dress like the plate above from November 1794. Note how the sleeves have become shorter and the cloth robe or overdress is replaced by a fashionable transparent net. Net fabrics made by machine were new at the end of the century. Instead of gold, pearls, or diamonds, during half mourning duller, darker jewelry like this black jet cross were considered appropriate. Rather than a nosegay or corsage, a smaller black set of plumes is worn.

This reminds me of a scene in Maria Edgeword’s The Absentee involving black fabric: “But she could not be satisfied with Colonel Heathcock, who, dressed in black, had stretched his ‘fashionable length of limb’ under the statira canopy upon the snow-white swan-down couch. When, after having monopolised attention, and been the subject of much bad wit, about black swans and rare birds, and swans being geese and geese being swans, the colonel condescended to rise, and, as Mrs. Dareville said, to vacate his couch, that couch was no longer white–the black impression of the colonel remained on the sullied snow. ‘Eh, now! really didn’t recollect I was in black,’ was all the apology he made. Lady Clonbrony was particularly vexed that the appearance of the statira, canopy should be spoiled before the effect had been seen by Lady Pococke, and Lady Chatterton, and Lady G–, Lady P–, and the Duke of V–,and a party of superlative fashionables, who had promised TO LOOK IN UPON HER, but who, late as it was, had not yet arrived.”

Fashion plate from The Gallery of Fashion, April 1799, Figures 215 and 216. The figure on the right is in mourning. Note how like in the half-mourning plate above, a jet cross is the jewelry worn with mourning. Why a big muff is needed in April isn’t clear, but this was the time of the “little ice age”! The dress on the left is a subtle print of black and red dots on white. I don’t know if this from a machine or block print, brocade, or if the dots have been embroidered on the fabric. The dress also has tons of ornamental buttons on the front and sleeves. The scarf and headdress feature a jaunty stripe that add a blast of color to this afternoon dress outfit. Long narrow scarfs and fur tippets are in style in this era–note how the scarf below in the 1810 plate is even longer. The two big feathers on the headdress are peacock feathers. The lace around the neck on the lady on the left is done in a flower pattern and seems to be part of a veil or scarf attached to the bandeau on the side. It isn’t clear if the lace trails down the back or is all tucked around the neck.

 

Fashion plate from The Lady’s Magazine, April 1805. When I examined this issue at the University of Chicago, I only copied the table of contents which lists this plate as “London Afternoon Dresses” to be found on page 213. Later I got this image, but not the descriptions. Note how by this time the high plumes of the 1790s were out of style for afternoon dress. The figure on the left does not have short plumes on her head–when I looked at a close up of the plate in better resolution than depicted here, it was easy to see that it was locks of hair in loose curls rising up from a sort of flat bun on the top of the head above the fabric and pearl headdress. This style of headdress echoes the vogue for imitating ancient Greek and Roman dress, particularly with the veil. The sleeves on both dresses are fastened up to show an underdress or fabric inset. The right dress uses two small buttons on the upper arm to create this effect. Both sets of sleeves echo the graceful draping of ancient dress in my opinion (other fashion plates showing a contrasting underfabic on the sleeve are often imitating Renaissance slashing rather than classical draping). The long sleeves of the 1790s are gone, as are the fans, but expensive jewelry, gloves, and trains are still part of afternoon dress.

The Lady’s Magazine, March 1810. Only the dress on the left is afternoon dress (or half dress)–the dress on the right is full dress. You can see here on this color scan the legend, “London Afternoon & Full Dress.” The original description from page 104 reads: “A short train dress of worked muslin, with lace sleeves, tied round the waist with a narrow satin ribbon, in a bow on the right side and long ends. Head-dress, a small cap of white satin and lace, with a plaited front, edged with silver. Blue figured sarcenet scarf. White gloves and shoes.”

The veils of 1805 are gone, replaced with more turban-style headdresses. Note the jewelry worn with the afternoon dress is plain gold without stones while with full dress, large stones of “cornelian or rubies” are depicted. The diamonds worn in the 1790s with afternoon dress would likely now be a bit vulgar, just as plumes would clearly be a fashion faux pas! Interestingly the colors of white, silver, and blue are similar to the white/pastels of the 1795 plate above. This 1810 fashion plate doesn’t convey the “worked muslin” or white-on-white embroidery of the dress and does a poor job of depicting the lace oversleeves and the “figured”–i.e., patterned or print–scarf. The matching color tassels of the scarf (or are they knots of fabric?) that standout in the plate, however, don’t merit a mention in the description. The silver ribbon belt also has knots or tassels–these appear to be larger than those on the scarf. Compare this silver belt to the silver cord in the December 1795 plate above.

Find Regency fashion at our giftshop, The Jane Austen Centre Online Giftshop

This article was written by Cathy Decker, creator of the Regency Fashion Page which catalogs fashion plates from 1790-1820. Her site includes full color photographs of the original plates as well as descriptive notes. The Regency Fashion Page has been recommended by the History Channel.

Posted on

Dresssing for the Opera

The Mizra Turban and La Brada Mantle are also articles of novel elegance. They will doubtless have a great run during the winter. For the Opera-dress we think them peculiarly calculated.–The Persian costume is at this time much adopted, in every species of decoration, and we really think it is highly advantageous to British beauty.

From Le Beau Monde, and Monthly Register
Vol. 2, No. 9, December 1809

The London social season evolved in the 17th and 18th centuries, and in its traditional form it peaked in the 19th century. In this era the British elite was dominated by landowning aristocratic and gentry families who generally regarded their country house as their main home, but spent several months of the year in the capital to socialise and to engage in politics. The most exclusive events were held at the town mansions of leading members of the aristocracy; exclusive public venues such as Almack’s played a secondary role. The Season coincided with the sitting of Parliament and began some time after Christmas and ran until midsummer (ie. around late June). The social season also played a role in the political life of the country: the members of the two Houses of Parliament were almost all participants in the season. The Season but was also a chance for the children of marriageable age of the nobility and gentry to be launched into society. Women were formally introduced into society by presentation to the monarch at Court.*

One popular venue for entertainment was the Theater. Here one could see (and be seen) the latest plays, comedies, musicals, operas and ballet performances, along with favorite classics from over 300 years of theatrical history. Naturally, going to the theater required it’s own special form of attire, called “Opera Dress”.

Opera Dress was a very formal variation of evening dress and often included a cap, turban or band decorated by a large feather. When Jane Austen attnded a ball in 1799, she wrote to her sister, “I am not to wear my white satin cap to-night. after all; I am to wear a mamalone cap instead, which Charles Fowle sent to Mary, and which she lends me. It is all the fashion now; worn at the opera, and by Lady Mildmays at Hackwood balls. I hate describing such things, and I dare say you will be able to guess what it is like. I have got over the dreadful epocha of mantua-making much better than I expected. My gown is made very much like my blue one, which you always told me sat very well, with only these variations: the sleeves are short, the wrap fuller, the apron comes over it, and a band of the same completes the whole.”

The following plates, from Cathy Decker’s Regency Fashion Page, give a good example of what would have been worn to the Opera at the turn of the Century.The Full length Opera Cloak, still in fashion today, would have been much worn to protect these gowns (as well as Ball gowns and other find evening wear) from the elements, and to provide an additional layer of warmth on a chilly evening. The Opera Pelisse, a long sleeved coat, sat closer to the body and would have been worn at any hour of the day, as this image, portraying Morning Walking Dress. In this instance the term “Opera” probably has more to do with the length (a pelisse could be knee length or longer) than occasion, as is also seen in “Opera Length Gloves” and “Opera Length Pearls”

Morning Walking Dress

A plain muslin dress, walking length, made high in front, and forms a shirt collar, richly embroidered; long sleeves, also embroidered round the wrists, and at the bottom of the dress; a pelisse opera coat, without any seam in the back, composed of orange-blossom tinged with brown, made of Angola cloth, or sarsnet, trimmed either with rich Chinchealley [sic] fur, or sable tipt with gold; white fur will also look extremely delicate. The pelisse sets close to the form on one side, and is fastened on the right should with a broach; both sides may be worn close as a wrapping pelisse. Indispensables are still much worn, and of the same colour as the dress. The Agrippina hat, made at Millard’s, corner of Southampton-street, Strand, is truly elegant and quite new; the hair in loose curls, confined with a band of hair: ear-rings are quite out of fashion. Leather gloves, and high shoes or half-boots, or orange-blossom, brown velvet or kid.

Evening Dresses for the Opera and Concerts

Opera Dresses, from Nicholas Heideloff, Gallery of Fashion, 1796

From the left:

Figure 1

The hair combed plain round the face; two white bands mixed with the curls of the toupee; the curls dressed very tight and smooth, the hind hair turned up short and plain. Small yeoman hat of blue satin, lined with white, and a gold band round the crown; two white ostrich feathers on the left side near the front, fixed with a gold pin, the head representing the Prince’s crest. Round gown of embroidered muslin, trimmed round the neck with lace; short sleeves in half plaits, with white satin épaulettes and cuffs. Pearl necklace and gold ear-rings.

Figure 2

The hair combed straight round the face; the hind hair turned up in three short loops, returned in ringlets, and crossed with two gold bands. Diamond bandeau and diamond pin on the right side; and on the left a wreath of green leaves intermixed with the hair; two white ostrich feathers in the front. Petticoat of light blue tiffany; body of the same, with short sleeves trimmed with lace. Plaiting of broad lace round the neck. Upper petticoat of white crape, spotted with white satin in chéilles; robe of the same, spotted in the same manner; the whole Vandyke scolloped. Diamond ear-rings, girdle, and clasps. Pearl necklace. White gloves and shoes, richly embroidered in silver.

Figure 3

The hair combed plain round the face. Chiffonet of silver muslin, the end trimmed with a silver fringe; the hind hair turned up in two loop; silver bandeau on the left side, and on the right a wreath of honeysuckle silver flowers. Three party-coloured green and white ostrich feathers in the front. Petticoat of white tiffany with a rich embroidered border; white satin body embroidered in silver round the neck. Robe of salmon- coloured tiffany; short sleeves épaulettes, cuffs, and binding of green satin. Full plaiting of broad blonde round the neck. Silk cord and tassels round the waist. Diamond ear-rings. White gloves and shoes.

These three ladies are in a box at a theater. The lady on the right holds a glass to let her see the stage and other theater-goers better. They were three very different headdresses: one is in plumes of assorted colors, one a hat, and the other wears garland weaths with white rose trim. The two ladies in front seem to have taken care their headdresses and dresses match, while the standing woman’s plumes are very different in color from her bold yellow dress. In Frances Burney’s Evelina (1778) and Camilla (1796), the heroine attends the theater in such a box. Scenes in theater boxes also occur in Maria Edgeworth’s Harrington and Jane West’s A Tale of the Times (1799). The original text reads as follows:

Opera Dresses:

Figure 1
Dress á l’ Espagnole. The front hair combed straight on the forehead; the side hair in ringlets, and the hind hair in three loops, the ends returned in ringlets. Fancy-hat of white and lilac-coloured taffeta. White muslin gown; short sleeves, puffs, and Vandyke scollops of lilac silk. Small handkerchief trimmed with broad blonde. Pearl necklace. Diamond ear-rings.

Figure 2
The front hair combed straight on the forehead; the side hair in ringlets: the hind hair turned up plain, and the ends returned in ringlets. Turban of silver net, looped at the right side with a silver band. One light-blue, two white brush feathers, and a large diamond pin, with a diamond aigrette, on the left side. Robe of yellow stained muslin; short sleeves. White satin girdle with small roses, and shoulder clasps. Small handkerchief trimmed with blonde.

Figure 3
The toupee dressed large, and in small curls; plain chignon, falling very low on the back; two wreaths of green foil round the toupee; and a bouquet of white roses on the left side. Robe of silver tissue, embroidered in the shell pattern; short sleeves trimmed with lace; full épaulettes of Italian gauze. Tucker of broad lace. Wreath of green foil round the neck, fastened in the front and upon the shoulders with diamond rosettes. Sash of white satin riband, tied on the right side into a bow. Festoon pearl necklace, with a medallion. Large pearl earrings.

Cathy Decker has created the Regency Fashion Page which catalogs fashion plates from 1790-1820. These plates include full color photographs of the original plates as well as descriptive notes. Her page has been recommended by the History Channel.

Enjoyed this article? Visit our giftshop and escape to the world of Jane Austen for costume, patterns and more.

Posted on

Fashionable Ballgowns

“I see what you think of me,” said he gravely — “I shall make but a poor figure in your journal tomorrow.”

“My journal!”

“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.”

“Indeed I shall say no such thing.”

“Shall I tell you what you ought to say?”

“If you please.”

“I danced with a very agreeable young man, introduced by Mr King; had a great deal of conversation with him — seems a most extraordinary genius — hope I may know more of him. That, madam, is what I wish you to say.”

Northanger Abbey

In the minds of many a Regency lass nothing could be more delightful than a ball– planning for it, dressing for it, dancing at it and, afterward, meeting with friends to talk it all over. In the forefront, therefore, of every girls’ mind, must be how best to present oneself, and to this end, the pages of popular fashion magazines would have been indispensable. The following plates track the changing styles in Ballgowns from 1800-1824, a time in which Jane Austen’s writing flourished and she too would have been concerned with “the style of sleeves now worn”.

Right: Ball Dress, 1800, from Journal des Luxus und der Moden, 1800-14. This dress actually seems a little awkward for dancing with the tight fit of the sleeves and bodice and the train on the overdress.

Left: Ball Dress, 1801, from Journal des Dames et des Modes, also called Costume Parisien, 1797-1839. Plate is labeled “An 9.” This ball dress is so daring that the lady’s left bosom is showing, which may not be visible at this size and resolution. This dress was copied by The Ladies Magazine in their February of 1801 issue (see right figure), but the neckline has been raised. The train is trimmed with two rows of fabric roses, while the darker overdress is fringed.

Right: Ball Dress, February 1801, from The Lady’s Magazine, or Entertaining Companion for the Fair Sex, Appropriated Solely to Their Use and Amusement, 1770-1837. This ball dress was copied from a more daring plate in the Paris Journal des Dames (see left figure). The roses trimming the train, the darker overdress with fringe are the same as the Paris plate, but the neckline is much higher.

Left: Ball Dress with Shawl and Turban, 1805, from Journal des Dames et des Modes, also called Costume Parisien, 1797-1839. The words above and below this illustration (not visible in this cropped image) read “An 13. Costume Parisien. Turban de Drap d’Or. Aigrette d’Oiseau de Paradis.” The lady’s feet reveal that we are seeing the back of this dress, not the front. The dress dips to a low v on the back. The collar of lace is vaguely in the Tudor style, while the short sleeves are trimmed with puffy rouleaux. The shawl is clearly a cashmere shawl in the popular pine style, a style that we see in the portrait of Josephine wearing a dress made from a cashmere shawl and wearing another.

Center: Ball Dress, 1817, from Wiener Modenzeitung, later called Wiener Zeitschrift fur Kunst, Literatur und Mode, 1816-1848. This ball dress is heavily trimmed with green satin petals and satin roses. Lace forms the collar of the dress and decorates the gloves. More satin roses are worn in the hair.

Right: Ball Dress, 1818, Wiener Modenzeitung, later called Wiener Zeitschrift fur Kunst, Literatur und Mode, 1816-1848. A heavily festooned dress- -this dress has artificial flowers on the overdress and two bands of leaf trim on the petticoat. The overdress is split up the back of the dress to display the petticoat beneath ribbon ties. The long sleeves have lace cuffs.

 

It may be possible to do without dancing entirely.Instances have been known of young people passing many, many months successively, without being at any ball of any description, and no material injury accrue either to body or mind; — but when a beginning is made — when the felicities of rapid motion have once been, though slightly, felt — it must be a very heavy set that does not ask for more.
-Emma

Left: Ball Dress, 1820, from Journal des Dames et des Modes, also called Costume Parisien, 1797-1839. Clusters of pink roses and bands of white lace trim this pretty ball gown. A wreath of pink roses is the only headdress, while a diamond and ruby necklace adorns the lady’s neck.

Right: Ball Dress, 1824, from Rudolf Ackermann’s The Repository of Arts, Literature, Commerce, Manufactures, Fashion, and Politics, 1809-1829. This yellow silk ball dress is trimmed with yellow satin bows. A yellow satin inset forms a stomacher, or part of the dress’s bodice. The sleeves are covered with a network of satin accented with satin knots and bows. The hem is trimmed with satin rouleau. The turban has a border with a gold net pattern on it that echoes the yellow satin net of the sleeves. The top of the turban is white crepe. Gold tassels dangle off the turban. The jewelry is gold set with sapphires. The gloves and shoes are white, like the top of the turban. The silk scarf that falls around the lady’s waist is blue; however, it is a much lighter blue than the sapphires. This lady is eating an ice, a common evening delicacy.

 


Originally written for Cathy Decker’s Regency Fashion Page.

Enjoyed this article? Visit our giftshop and escape to the world of Jane Austen for costume, patterns and more.

 

Posted on

Jane Austen On-line: Period Fashion and Patterns

Le Beau Monde, June 1808Everyone is familiar with the Empire waists and Grecian silhouette of the early 19th century. The classic styles and light fabrics were, no doubt, a relief from the heavily embroidered fashions of previous centuries. This simplification, which began during the French Revolution, transformed the fashion industry. Waists were raised to just below the bosom; sleeves were shortened and puffed; skirts became narrowed and elegant. Clean lines had come into vogue.

While these elements fluctuated during the next twenty years, the look remained much the same. Fabrics such as cotton prints and muslin replaced rich brocades and velvets. White was the color of choice. The desired effect was “Girlhood Innocence.” Cathy Decker, a fashion historian, has collected many original fashion plates from the early 1800’s, and has made them available for viewing on her website, The Regency Fashion Page.

Jenny Beavan, S&S
Costume designers for the recent Austen films have carefully studied period plates to provide viewers with a smorgasbord of historically accurate ensembles. One of the most famous designers, twice Oscar-nominated Jenny Beaven, created fashions for both Sense and Sensibility and A&E’s Emma. Dinah Collins’ gowns in Pride and Prejudice are stunning, though the necklines are a little low for the projected time period. Alexandra Byrne, costume designer for Persuasion, gets the most praise for period correctness. Her fashions, from the opulence of the titled elite to the humblest fisherman’s wife, appear close to perfect.

In 1996, Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice and Persuasion vied for the Best Costume Design BAFTA. Similar to an Oscar, the BAFTA is awarded by the British Academy of Film and Television Awards. Persuasion won.

With all these sources of inspiration, it’s easy to desire your own Regency ensemble. The hardest part is deciding how to get started. Jessamyn Reeves-Brown has created a fascinating page full of links to resources, tips, fashion plates and historical information. Jennie Chancey, a noted seamstress, designed what many call the easiest Regency gown pattern. Her site, Sense and Sensibility Creations, is a treasure-trove of information, help and links. Her patterns can be purchased from the site. One other site, Austentation, focuses on Regency fashion accessories– hats, bonnets and reticules. They supply a list of most of the Regency gown patterns available, along with other period costumes, seamstresses, supply sources and historical information.


Originally printed in the JASNA-NY Newsletter, Spring 2002. Reprinted and modified with permission from the author. For a complete study of Jane Austen film fashion, read Jennie Chancey’s article at Celluloid Wrappers.

Posted on

The Importance Of Wearing White – The White Regency Gown

white regency gown

The White Regency Gown in Austen’s Novels

“`Mrs. Allen,’ said Catherine the next morning, will there be any harm in my calling on Miss Tilney today? I shall not be easy till I have explained everything.’

`Go, by all means, my dear; only put on a white gown; Miss Tilney always wears white.'”

Jane Austen, Northanger Abbey, 1818

British Fashion Plate of White Walking Dress and White Full Dress or Evening Dress

Why does Jane Austen’s Miss Tilney always wear white? The simple, tubular white gown was for the women of Austen’s day what the little black dress is today: a fashion basic for every season, every year. In the early years of the nineteenth century, a white gown was the important clothing item for any woman who wanted to be stylish. From her letters, we know Austen herself owned white gowns. Fashion plates, like the one below, commonly feature white gowns for day and evening wear from 1790-1820. When the shape of dresses in the 1820s became an hourglass, rather than a tube, many of the stylish, white gowns of earlier years could not be modified to match the new style and were stored away. Thus, according to Jane Ashford’s The Art of Dress (1996), a fairly large number of these white gowns still exist and can be seen in museum collections around the world (page 179). In the last five years, several of these white gowns have even been offered for sale on the internet by various sites specializing in historical textiles and clothing. Continue reading The Importance Of Wearing White – The White Regency Gown