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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.

Raimundo_Madrazo_-_La_Toilette
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 Wikipedia.com

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Create a Faux Bandeau

The Bandeau hairstyle was favored throughout the Regency as a throwback to ancient times. Here is an easy way to “fake” the look of this period court head piece using a modern headband. Traditional etiquette for presentation at court required white ostrich feathers to be worn, but getting them to stay in place could be tricky!

Court Dress, 1799
Court Dress, 1799

To create your own headpiece, you’ll need:

  • one fabric covered hairband (satin or velvet works nicely)
  • some feathers of various sizes
  • fabric glue
  • jeweled brooch.
louisapeacock
The “Louisa” style hairband is available in custom colors from Austentation.com
  1. Pin your hair up in your preferred style and slide the hairband into place.
  2. Pin the brooch onto the hairband where you want your plumes to begin.
  3. Experiment with your plumes to find the perfect arrangement.
  4. Remove the band in order to attach the feathers.
  5. Dip the ends of your plumes in fabric glue and slide into place behind the brooch. The pin should cover the ends of the feathers.

Viola! A lovely Regency look in just a few minutes! Don’t have time or resources to create your own? Order a custom made “Faux Bandeau” from Austentation.com

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Strawberry Hill: A Gothic Fantasy

Strawberry Hill House, often referred to simply as Strawberry Hill, is the Gothic Revival villa that was built in Twickenham, London by Horace Walpole beginning in 1749. It is the type example of the “Strawberry Hill Gothic” style of architecture, and it prefigured the nineteenth-century Gothic revival. Walpole, an author in his own right (among many other things) was said to have been inspired by his home, to write the  novel, “The Castle of Otranto” generally regarded as the first gothic novel.

800px-Strawberry_Hill_House_from_garden_in_2012_after_restoration
Strawberry Hill House in 2012 after restoration

Walpole rebuilt the existing house in stages starting in 1749, 1760, 1772 and 1776. These modifications added gothic features such as towers and battlements outside and elaborate decoration inside to create “gloomth” to suit Walpole’s collection of antiquarian objects, contrasting with the “riant” (smiling) garden. The interior included a Robert Adam fireplace; parts of the exterior were designed by James Essex. The garden contained a large seat shaped like a Rococo sea shell.

Continue reading Strawberry Hill: A Gothic Fantasy

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Create A Regency Style Turban

Turbans were popular forms of head decoration during Austen’s era, adding both drama and height to the wearer.

The Bingley sisters epitomized London style and elegance in 1995's Pride and Prejudice by A&E/BBC.
The Bingley sisters epitomized London style and elegance in 1995’s Pride and Prejudice by A&E/BBC.

Fashion magazines of the time displayed an amazing variety of style and form, all under the heading “turban”.

 La Belle Assemblee, April 1818
La Belle Assemblee, April 1818

Continue reading Create A Regency Style Turban

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Trim your own Regency Bonnet

A Regency Bonnet

So many styles of Regency Bonnet to choose from! 

Flowers are very much worn, and fruit is still more the thing. Elizabeth has a bunch of strawberries, and I have seen grapes, cherries, plums, and apricots. There are likewise almonds and raisins, French plums, and tamarinds at the grocers’, but I have never seen any of them in hats… Elizabeth has given me a hat, and it is not only a pretty hat, but a pretty style of hat too. It is something like Eliza’s, only, instead of being all straw, half of it is narrow purple ribbon. I flatter myself, however, that you can understand very little of it from this description. Heaven forbid that I should ever offer such encouragement to explanations as to give a clear one on any occasion myself! But I must write no more of this. . .
Jane Austen to Cassandra
Queen’s Square, Bath
June 2, 1799


If you had to choose only one fashion accessory with which to represent the entire Regency period, no doubt it would be the Bonnet. Large and small, close and wide, they came in an array of sizes and styles, each season bringing newideas and new requirements of what it was to be “Fashionable”. Fashion magazines of the day seemed never to tire of describing this brim and that cockade, and the colors! Where Puce was once reigned supreme, Jonquil now led the way. Or so they would tell you.

While wealthy socialites might spend their afternoons seriously pondering the style and purchase of a new bonnet, less fortunate young ladies might employ themselves with equal diligence to trimming and retrimming an older bonnet to meet the new style standards. For these young ladies, books like The Ladies’ self instructor in millinery and mantua making, embroidery and appliqué, canvas-work, knitting, netting, and crochet-work, by R. L. Shep, would be invaluable. Careful perusing of its pages, along with those of La Belle Assemblée would offer all they would need to know to be found in the most current mode, even when “buried” in the country.

One such period book advises, “it is well to avoid the two extremes [of fashion] into which some people are apt to fall. The one is an entire disregard to the prevailing taste, and the other is a servile submission to its tyrannic sway. A medium course is the only sensible one, and, in this, good sense will dictate how far to go, and where to stop.”

As you can see from the following fashion plate and historic gown and bonnet, simple decorations were often the most tasteful and appropriate. The addition of simple trim (make your own or use grosgrain ribbon or bias tape) and lace along with a few ribbons can turn a plain bonnet into a lovely summer chapeau.

Of course, simplicity and moderation did not always rule the Regency, as a look at a few more period fashion plates and examples of the period Regency bonnet will show you! Both of these following fashion plates are from Costumes Parisiens, 1812.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

These historic bonnets are from the Old Sturbridge Village Collection:

Styles of Regency Bonnet

The Elinor:

To trim the crown with fabric, use a long strip of fabric, an inch taller than your crown. Fold one long, raw edge under, and baste in place around the crown. Fold over the short edge to make a finished seam up the back and baste in place over the matching raw edge. Fold the remaining long edge over and run a gathering stitch along this line to pull the edges together. Tack in place. You might also wish to add a small square of matching fabric under the hole created by the gathered fabric, or sew a rosette over this spot. Pleating the fabric before basting it on gives a rounder look, which is lovely in sheer cottons.

To create the ruffled ribbon trim seen on the cream and green bonnet, run two lines of gathering stitches down the center of a length of wide ribbon. Pull the threads to create a long gathered line. Tack in place and add an extra row of trim over the gathering stitches to hide them. In general, 3-4 yards of ribbon, a bunch of flowers and berries or fruit, and a few feathers will turn a plain bonnet into a thing of beauty.

Bonnets by Laura Boyle of Austentation: Regency Accessories

The Eliza (A Poke Bonnet)
Trimming the Eliza is nothing but a joy. A few yards of ribbon wound around the crown creates a lovely period look. Take it a step farther by cutting an 18 inch circle from your favorite fabric. Run a gathering stitch around this and pull it tight to fit the crown of the bonnet. Tack in place. Wrap a length of ribbon around the crown to cover the raw edge and finish it off with ribbon bows and ties. 3-4 yards of ribbon will give you plenty with which to work.

Bonnets by Serena Dyer, author of Bergère, Poke and Cottage: Understanding Early Nineteenth-Century Headwear

The Cottage Bonnet

The Cottage bonnet is another adorable style of Regency bonnet. Trim it with simple ribbons and feathers or rosettes and ties.

 

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Toothpicks, Snuffboxes, Card Cases and Canes

[Mr. Robert Ferrars] was giving orders for a toothpick-case for himself; and till its size, shape, and ornaments were determined, all of which, after examining and debating for a quarter of an hour over every toothpick-case in the shop, were finally arranged by his own inventive fancy, he had no leisure to bestow any other attention on the two ladies than what was comprised in three or four very broad stares; a kind of notice which served to imprint on Elinor the remembrance of a person and face of strong, natural, sterling insignificance, though adorned in the first style of fashion.
-Sense and Sensibility

Toothpicks

Tooth Pick Silver toothpicks were commonly carried regency accessories in the seventeenth through nineteenth centuries. They could be quite elaborate with a jewel on the end like the example shown here. Continue reading Toothpicks, Snuffboxes, Card Cases and Canes

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Gentleman’s Watches and Fobs

Gentleman's watches

“We have been exactly a quarter of an hour here,” said Edmund, taking out his watch.

“Oh! do not attack me with your watch. A watch is always too fast or too slow. I cannot be dictated to by a watch.”
-Mansfield Park

Gentleman’s Watches in the 18th and 19th Centuries

In 1675, Charles II of England introduced long waistcoats. As this became the fashion, men’s watches began to be worn in the pockets of the waistcoat instead of pendant style from the neck.

In 1704, English watchmakers Facio de Duillier and P. and J. Debaufre developed a method for using jewels as bearings. Though in 1715, this practice was still rare, byabout 1725 it was common to find a fairly large diamond endstone mounted in the time piece. The most common watches of the early 1700’s had pair cases in gold or silver, both of which were plain. Dials were mainly champlevé, but were slowly replaced by white enamel dials with block numbers. Continue reading Gentleman’s Watches and Fobs

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Cravats, Tail Coats and Breeches

Regency Dress for Gentlemen

Towards the end of the 18th Century the tail coat appeared: a style based on the English riding coat. This was made of good wool cloth and gradually became the fashionable garment for men in Europe and America.

Tail Coat The tail coat on display at the Centre is made from 100% English wool doeskin, and is fashioned after a style current about 1810. Notice how few seams there are – just one on each side of the centre back seam. A waist seam to give a better fit to the body was first seen about 1820 and the underarm seam appeared between 1820 and 1830. The tails of the coat at this time finished just above the knee and if you look carefully, you will find that each tail has a pocket concealed in its central seam.

The tailcoat was usually only partially lined and that lining was the same fabric as the body of the garment. The cloth was so tightly woven and heavily milled that most of the edges of the garment were left raw and finished with a row of hand stitching all the way around. Here it is possible to see this detail on close examination. This practice survives in top-quality tailoring with the “hand pricked” finish only on the lapels.

The waistcoat shown here is in a fancy fabric suitable for an evening occasion: for day wear, the fabric would be plainer and of a sober colour – cream, buff, or grey. Only the fronts are in the fancy fabric, the back being made of a plain cotton cloth; a gentleman never removed his coat in company so it would not be seen. The stand collar was very popular for both day and evening. The back is adjusted by means of lacing rather than a buckle.

Tail Coat Breeches were very popular and did not completely fall out of fashion for day wear until about 1825, thereafter still being required for court dress, riding and country wear. The waist is high and the braces were worn to support them. They were often embroidered by the females in the family. The rear of the breeches is quite full to ensure comfort in the saddle, and the waist is adjusted by lacing. The fabric from which the display breeches are made is 100% cotton moleskin.

Following the example of Beau Brummell, a gentleman and his valet would spend a great deal of time and effort in the morning, in search of the perfect arrangement for the cravat- discarding several along the way. Most shirts and cravats were made at home, again, by female relatives. In a letter of January 1799, Jane wrote to Cassandra, “When you come you will have some shirts to make up for Charles [brother]; Mrs. Davies frightened him into buying a piece of Irish [linen] when we were in Basingstoke.” The next year she wrote, “I have heard from Charles, & am to send his shirts by half dozens as they are finished. One set will go next week.”

Costume researched, designed and constructed by Yvonne Roe, Gloucester. Special to the Jane Austen Centre, Bath.

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