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Regency Bucks, Beaus and Dandies

Beaus and Dandies

Bucks, Beaus and Dandies

Though not specifically mentioned by Jane Austen, it does not take much reading up on the Regency to come across descriptive terms for generalizing a young man’s London habits. Bucks, Beaus and Dandies (and Corinthians) make their appearance throughout fiction set in this era. It can be hard to decipher just which character qualities are inherent to which, now obscure, terms such as Beaus and Dandies. The following definitions, excerpted from Jennifer Kloester’s 2005 book, Georgette Heyer’s Regency World, give a more complete picture. Heyer, herself, was known for her meticulous research and knowledge of the era and is considered one of the foremost experts in the field. This book is based on her own catalog of facts and historical insights.

Northanger Abbey's John Thorpe is an ideal Regency Buck.
Northanger Abbey’s John Thorpe is an “ideal” Regency Buck.

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The Bandeau: Hairbands, Regency Style

The Bandeau: Hairbands, Regency Style

During Austen’s era, fashion leaders looked to the past for inspiration. Anything that resembled ancient Rome or Greece was bound to be popular, from sandals and nymph like gowns, to short hair cuts for ladies, like the Titus or Brutus.

The woman in this painting from Pompeii wears a narrow ribbon bandeau.
The woman in this painting from Pompeii wears a narrow ribbon example.

One accessory that remained popular from the late 1700’s through mid 1800’s, was the bandeau (plural=bandeaux). The name comes from the French word for “strip” and  involved wrapping ribbon, pearls or a length of fabric though one’s hairstyle, or around one’s head (sometimes even the forehead). The result was often styled “à la Grecque”, no doubt heightening it’s appeal all the more.

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Polemoscope: Georgian “Jealousy Glasses”

fatwomanspyPolemoscope: Georgian “Jealousy Glasses”

This article, by author Laurie Benson, originally appeared on her blog, Laurie Benson’s Cozy Drawing Room. It is used here with permission.

Imagine attending a performance at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane and you discover the object of your affection is sitting in a box to your right. You have no desire to make a spectacle of yourself by leaning out of your box to see who they are with, so you take out what appears to be a straight-barrel spyglass and point it at the stage. While it looks as if you are focusing your attention on the performance, the ingenious spyglass you are holding is allowing you to watch the people in the box to your right. Now you can stare to your heart’s content and no one will be the wiser.

While researching a pair of antique opera glasses this past week, I stumbled across a fun accessory I’d never heard of known as the “jealousy glass.” It looks like a single barrel opera or field-glass, but it actually contains an oblique lens and side aperture that allows the user to discretely see what is happening to their left or right.

Georgian Polemoscope
Georgian Polemoscope

The jealousy glass, also known as a polemoscope, was invented by the German-Polish astronomer Johannes Hevelius in 1637. Hevelius believed his invention could have military uses, but the viewing angle was found to be too narrow. During the 18th century, the general population began using the polemoscope to spy on other people.

images
Made in France, 1750-1770

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The Well Dressed Clergyman

Mr Collins - the well dressed clergyman?

As the daughter and sister of Anglican clergymen, Jane Austen was intimately familiar with the rites, rules and habits of church ministers. Clergy members and their families were among her closest friends and feature strongly in all her novels.

What, however would a clergyman of her time have worn?

Portraits of the era give a good idea of what they would have had in their closet:

clergy
Clockwise from top left: James Austen (Jane’s brother), George Austen (Jane’s Father, circa 1764), Henry Austen (Jane’s Brother), John Wesley, Parson Woodforde.

The well dressed Clergyman, then, would have dressed somberly, in a black suit, with with stock or cravat. Over this, while preaching, he would have worn the black Cassock, mandatory to his office. Many clergy chose to augment this sober attire with white bands, also known as Geneva bands (named for the birthplace of the reformation). Additionally, while performing some sacraments, such as weddings, baptisms and funerals he might add a white surplice (hence the fee paid for such services was called a “surplice fee”.) Continue reading The Well Dressed Clergyman

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A Little Sea Bathing Would Set me up Forever!

Sea Bathing – What was it and who did it?

During Jane Austen’s day, taking a holiday by the sea was no uncommon thing. The popularity of towns such as Brighton inspired Jane to write her last, unfinished novel, Sanditon, about a small town with big city aspirations.

The Sea air and Sea Bathing together were nearly infallible, one or the other of them being a match for every Disorder…
Sanditon, pp.329-30

Sea bathing in York in 1814
Sea bathing in York in 1814

Sea bathing itself, would prove to be an interesting experience for any young lady bold enough or ill enough to be encouraged to attempt it. Wagons, called Bathing Machines, were invented especially for the purpose, and would be drawn out into the water by sturdy women, who might then assist you down into the water where you could paddle about or swim in relative privacy, shielded from view of the shore.

A period Bathing Machine

Jane Austen’s cousin, Eliza de Feuillide and her son Hastings spent part of December 1790 through part of January 1791 at the seaside town of Margate. She wrote of her time there, as quoted from JASA’s Jane Austen at the Seaside:

I had fixed on going to London the end of this Month, but to shew You how much I am attached to my maternal duties, on being told by one of the faculty whose Skill I have much opinion of that one month’s bathing at this time of the Year was more efficacious than six at any other & that consequently my little Boy would receive the utmost benefit from my prolonging my stay here beyond the time proposed, like a most exemplary parent I resolved on foregoing the fascinating delights of the great City for one month longer … Was not this heroic? … Hastings grows much & begins to lisp english tolerably well, his education is likewise begun, his Grandmamma having succeeded in teaching him his letters. The Sea has strengthened him wonderfully & I think has likewise been of great service to myself, I still continue bathing notwithstanding the severity of the Weather & Frost & Snow which is I think somewhat courageous.

Jane Austen’s ‘Outlandish Cousin’, pp 97-99

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Smocking: Regency Elasticity

Elizabeth took up some needlework, and was sufficiently amused in attending to what passed between Darcy and his companion. The perpetual commendations of the lady either on his hand-writing, or on the evenness of his lines, or on the length of his letter, with the perfect unconcern with which her praises were received, formed a curious dialogue, and was exactly in unison with her opinion of each.
-Pride and Prejudice

This 1812 fashion plate from Costume Parisien features smocking at the neck of the gown.

During the Regency the stitching style known as smocking became increasingly popular. Used for generations to add “stretch” and “elasticity” to garments, it provided yet another outlet for the creative seamstress to express herself.

The following images, provided by Kass McGann of Reconstructing History, offer a visual tutorial for creating a Regency style smocked chemisette, like the one seen in the above fashion plate.

The cloth is marked for pleats.
Crease the pleats into place.

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Smocking: A Stitch in Time

Smocking example

A History of Smocking And Techniques to Try

Elizabeth took up some needlework, and was sufficiently amused in attending to what passed between Darcy and his companion. The perpetual commendations of the lady either on his hand-writing, or on the evenness of his lines, or on the length of his letter, with the perfect unconcern with which her praises were received, formed a curious dialogue, and was exactly in unison with her opinion of each.
-Pride and Prejudice

This 1812 fashion plate from Costume Parisien features smocking at the neck of the gown.

Smocking is an embroidery technique used to gather fabric so that it can stretch. Before elastic, smocking was commonly used in cuffs, bodices, and necklines in garments where buttons were undesirable. Smocking developed in England and has been practised since the Middle Ages and is unusual among embroidery methods in that it was often worn by laborers. Other major embroidery styles are purely decorative and represented status symbols. Smocking was practical for garments to be both form fitting and flexible, hence its name derives from smock — a farmer’s work shirt. Smocking was used most extensively in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

A lovely example of the honeycomb stitch (reverse smocking) on an 18th c. gown (sleeves and neckline). A lovely description of how to incorporate this stitch into your Regency gown can be found at theleonoraproject.

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George IV

Regency

George IVThe Regency Era spanned the years 1795-1830. The era began with King George III being declared unfit to rule because of fits thought to be of some kind of inherent madness. This was until recenty thought to be the result of lead poisoning or more likely as porphyria.

His son, George IV took over the throne and adopted the title the Prince Regent. It was in this period that Jane Austen was composing her novels. Emma is dedicated to the Prince Regent.

The Regency era can be characterized as a time of great class distinction and intellectual richness. Industrialisation was growing, creating a greater distinction between the wealthy and poor.

With new ways of obtaining wealth through industry came a desire for the astrocratic class to maintain its distinction of wealth and privilege. New money or money from trade or industry was looked down upon as less genteel. With these severe class divisions came a focus on showing immense respect to those occupying a higher class.

It was considered more desirable to have a family fortune passed down from generations than via trade or labour. Families with fortunes from trade would often try to hide it by having their children educated to behave as gentry so they could seamlessly mix with the higher class.

Popular culture emphasized opulence and a display of wealth. Britain was becoming a global trader and importation of goods from all over the world was becoming very common. People responded to this by decorating their homes with expensive, exotic good from India, France, China  ect. It was the fashion to have tea sets from China and furniture from France.

People took great pride in their possessions and even the less fortunate took pride in the few luxuries they could afford.

Fashion

regency FashionThe fashion of the period was long empire waist dresses for women, which were my light and airy. Male regency fashion included linen trousers, overcoats, breeches and boots. Think Beau Brummel! This simplistic elegance was adopted to preserve the distinction of a more lavishly dressed upper class.

Jane Austen’s work focuses mainly on this era from the perspective of country life. Romantic and simplistic, away from all the industry and its by-products. Her world is more focused on the social aspects of life rather than the functions of politics or global affairs.