August 9, 2011

Design of the Times: Regency Era Dress

Whenever I am feeling particularly blue I turn to my "Chicken Soup for the Soul", adaptations of Jane Austen novels.  I am not entirely sure why this particular brand of film/tv lifts my spirits.  It could be the sweeping English country vistas and great houses, the juicy drama, the guarantee of a happy ending or the lush and sumptuous costumes. After a week of JA binge watching the results were twofold; one  I can now boast that I have seen every adaptation of "Persuasion" and two I became so enamored with the period costumes that I went on a quest for more.  

The results of this knowledge quest have resulted in this post; a little history (which is hopefully accurate) and a lot of imagery, both of which I will share below.The Empire and Regency styles of dress span the years 1795-1820.  The term Regency style is used in reference to the reign of the Prince Regent in Great Britian from 1811-1820. Since the focus of my search was based on Jane Austen, all of the period costume and fashion plates shown are from the nine year Regency Era in Great Britain. 

The fashions of this time period were drastically different than the fashions before or after it.  This decade saw the rise of the waistline, a more relaxed and less embellished style of clothing and the accentuation of the natural feminine form.  Layers of clothing were still involved in getting dressed, but women, to keep the appearance of classical inspired dress with a long flowing skirt, discarded as many layers as deemed necessary (heck with multiple petticoats) to achieve this effect.

The first layer was always the chemise, a lightweight shift that fell about to the knee, next would be stays or a corset layered over the chemise, followed by a the petticoat (the hem of which would be decorated with lace or delicate tucks) and then last the overdress (which would be made of the better fabrics and be the most ornate layer).  Coats and hats were also customary when going out. While corsets sometimes were used as a part of dress they were not as restricting as the lace and boning corsets of the previous century. Those with a youthful enough figure might go corset free and instead would don "stays" (the Regency predecessor to the wonder bra) which would be cut shorter than traditional corset and would force the bosom up and out.  These are just a few facts of the era that I wanted to share for more information please visit the links at the bottom of this post.

Morning Walking Dresses, 1808, Great Britain, Fashion Plate Collection, University of Washington.

White muslin evening dress worn with a scarf,1800-10, Great Britain

Ball Gown, 1811, Great Britain, The Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
White muslin day dress, ~1815, Great Britain, Fashion Museum Collection, Bath.
Ball Gown, 1818, Great Britain, Fashion Plate Collection, University of Washington.

This is just a small sampling of the styles from the Regency Era that I was able to find.  For additional information and images please visit one of the listed websites.

1 comment:

  1. Most women of wealth from that time period did not have to work. Therefore they had all day to fuss over their appearance. What a life!


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