A wonderful article on the (im)practicalities of underwear, from the Regency period through to the modern day likes of the Wonderbra.
Kindly reproduced here with permission from its author, Laurie Viera Rigler, who is also the author of the popular Jane Austen Addict novels.
It may be the third millennium, but not much has changed* since the days of getting laced into a corset so stiff that one could barely lean over, let alone breathe. It’s no wonder ladies had to carry around smelling salts, or “vinaigrettes,” as they were called in Jane Austen’s day. Those Mr. Darcy types may have been swoon-worthy, but it was likely more a lack of oxygen than romantic flutterings that caused ladies to faint.
It wasn’t only ladies who were wearing corsets or “stays.” The Prince Regent was a favorite target of cartoonists for trying to mask his size with a corset.
Today, we call these instruments of torture “shapewear.” Sounds friendly and appealing, doesn’t it? After all, who doesn’t want to have a shape?
The promise and the reality of shapewear, however, can be two very different things. If you’ve ever had a shapewear nightmare of your own, you will love Melissa McCarthy’s story.
But here’s where we can really explore the WHY of shapewear–and ROFL in the process. This is about three guys who decide to test out a girlfriend’s Spanx just for a laugh, and get more than they bargained for. Brilliant.
If sheer discomfort isn’t enough to inspire you to choose jiggles over bodily strangulation, this fab piece in Bustle talks about the compression of organs, yeast infections, and other fun stuff that shapewear supports.
In any case–and whether you are still armoring yourself in shapewear, stowing them away in a rarely visited corner of your wardrobe, or indulging in a full-on ceremonial burning**– may you temper it all with a good laugh and a healthy dose of compassion–for yourself, and for all of us who have ever worried about measuring up to an impossible standard.
On that note, here’s another funny and heartfelt piece in Bustle: The Seven Emotional Stages of Wearing Spanx for the Very First Time. Here’s one of the seven GIFs from the piece: Emotional Stage #1:
*There is, of course, one very important change since Jane Austen’s day. Which is that while we can get our knickers in a twist over the pressure to wear shapewear, Jane Austen could not. Why? Because we’re talking pretty much a panty-free zone. Which I suppose made it way easier to do one’s business in these:
**Although the whole bra-burning thing is a myth, we’re wondering if somehow, somewhere, women are setting a trash can full of shapewear on fire.
What’s the Jane Austen News this week?
Pride and Prejudice is the Bishops’ Pick
A television channel owned by Italy’s conference of bishops and endorsed by the Pope is to broadcast BBC shows for the first time. Among the nine period dramas it has chosen to show are the BBC’s 1995 Pride and Prejudice adaptation, which considering the fact that it has that wet shirt scene in it, which has left women weak at the knees for years, it might not be quite the safe and genteel choice they think it is.
Usually TV2000, the name of the Roman Catholic station which is also known as “the Italian Church’s TV”, shows in a typical day’s schedule broadcasts of Holy Mass and the Holy Rosary from Lourdes, with occasional showings of Doris Day films.
Other programmes the channel has signed up for are adaptations of Jane Eyre, Great Expectations, Elizabeth Gaskell’s North and South, The Paradise, and Gerald Durrell’s My Family and Other Animals.
They’ve also asked for the 2008 version of Sense and Sensibility. However this adaptation was criticised after its original airing by the Jane Austen Society for “sexing up the story” by opening with a scene in which John Willoughby seduces a 15-year-old girl. Hopefully this won’t take away the bishops’ seal of approval from Jane Austen adaptations, which was also given to (through their purchase of) a 2009 version of Emma, starring Romola Garai, and a BBC feature film, Miss Austen Regrets, which charts the author’s later years.
Winning Illustrator Chosen
Darya Shnykina has been selected as the winner of The Folio Society’s 2017 competition to see who will illustrate The Folio Society edition of Mansfield Park. Darya, who is a student of the Moscow State University of Printing Arts, was one of 23 illustrators who were selected for the longlist of finalists. This year the entrants were asked to submit three illustrations and a binding design for Mansfield Park by Jane Austen. The new edition, featuring illustrations by the winner, will be published by The Folio Society in October 2017.
Darya was presented with the prestigious commission, worth £5,000, by eminent historian Lucy Worsley during a ceremony at House of Illustration on Thursday 23 February. The rest of the shortlist, who each receive a £500 prize, are; Natasa Ilincic (Italy), Katie Ponder (UK), Meizhen Xu (Germany), Alexandru Savescu (Romania) and Pedro Silmon (UK). The winner of the first ever Visitors’ Choice Award, which saw over 1,500 people voting, was Katie Ponder.
Darya did the perfect cover: fitting in beautifully with the rest of the series, charming to look at, clever with the layering, and bold. But we were equally charmed by her illustrations for inside which managed to suggest character and some of the powerful feelings in the novel, like anger and disappointment.
The Regency 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, the fashions of childhood 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 the fashions of childhood 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 relation 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. You can see the young girl is dressed almost as a miniature adult and, small as she is (about 2), stands stock still.
In 1787, Reynolds would paint the Marsham children. Jane Austen would have been 11 or 12 at the time– about the same age as the oldest girl in the picture. Here the children are given at least some childlike pastimes to entertain them while being painted and their clothes show the shift in fashion that came with the French Revolution. Though still mimicking the adults, their styles are much more comfortable and easy to wear.
A few years later, in 1794, Thomas Lawrence painted the famous Pinkie portrait. Here, a young girl stands with her back to the sea. The setting is out of doors, like the former, but much more casual in style, as both parenting and fashion had become. Her gown reflects the new “Regency Style” similar to the one seen in The Rice Portrait, which some believe to be Jane Austen, painted in 1790.
A portrait of The Fluyder Children painted in 1805 and a later one of Mrs. Henry Baring and her Children (1817) shows the complete turnover from stiff and formal attire, parenting and painting styles, to loose, playful and involved.
Many thanks to Heather Laurence for supplying high resolution scans of fashion plates, especially the fashions of childhood, in her collection. See more of her work and collection on her site, Solitary Elegance.
This little reticule was first featured as a project in Petersen’s Magazine in 1857. As you can see from the
Regency fashion plate, it is a style that was popular even then. By definition, a reticule (or ridicule as they
were sometimes called) was a small purse. They became popular in the late 18th century when narrow gown styles
prevented the installation of pockets.
This is a very pretty design for a reticule. Materials: green silk, purple morocco [fine soft kid as from
gloves] and pasteboard. Cut the bottom out of pasteboard the size you wish, and cover it with the morocco,
bringing the morocco a little up the sides as a finish, the pasteboard having first been turned up for that
purpose. Then sew on the four pieces of silk, and complete with a drawing string of sewing silk below to match the
silk of the bag.
Copied from Fabrics.net
Laura Boyle is fascinated by all aspects of Jane Austen’s life. She is the proprietor of Austenation: 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.)
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.
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.
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
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.)
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!
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.
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.
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.
Congratulations! A custom piece to complement your period ensemble!
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.
What is Prussian Blue?
Considered the first artificial pigment, Prussian Blue was created in the 1700’s, ironically, by an artist seeking to create a new source for red paint. It rapidly gained popularity as first an artist’s medium, and later as a color fast dye. It is the traditional “blue” in blueprints and is used as an antidote for certain kinds of heavy metal poisoning
Prussian blue was probably synthesized for the first time by the paint maker Diesbach in Berlin around the year 1706. Most historical sources do not mention a first name of Diesbach. Only Berger refers to him as Johann Jacob Diesbach. It was named “Preußisch blau” and “Berlinisch Blau” in 1709 by its first trader. The pigment replaced the expensive Lapis lazuli and was an important topic in the letters exchanged between Johann Leonhard Frisch and the president of the Royal Academy of Sciences, Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, between 1708 and 1716. It is first mentioned in a letter written by Frisch to Leibniz, from March 31, 1708. Not later than 1708, Frisch began to promote and sell the pigment across Europe. By August 1709, the pigment had been termed “Preussisch blau”; by November 1709, the German name “Berlinisch Blau” had been used for the first time by Frisch. Frisch himself is the author of the first known publication of Prussian blue in the paper Notitia Coerulei Berolinensis nuper inventi in 1710, as can be deduced from his letters. Diesbach had been working for Frisch since about 1701.
In 1731, Georg Ernst Stahl published an account of the first synthesis of Prussian blue. The story involves not only Diesbach but also Johann Konrad Dippel. Diesbach was attempting to create a red lake pigment from cochineal but obtained the blue instead as a result of the contaminated potash he was using. He borrowed the potash from Dippel, who had used it to produce his “animal oil”. No other known historical source mentions Dippel in this context. It is therefore difficult to judge the reliability of this story today. In 1724, the recipe was finally published by John Woodward.