Brrr, I’m cold

OK, I admit it. I’m still in my odd nightwear and wearing a wonderful shawl which I affectionately call the horse blanket because it is so very large. The heat isn’t on yet because my office is sunny but my feet are cold…

We have another big storm in the forecast for the Washington DC area this weekend. Here I am digging out the last one, wearing the most unflattering pants in the world and my Attila the Hun hat. Pic courtesy of my husband who was safely inside. I quite enjoy digging out because I get to chat with the neighbors but I didn’t expect to do it again.

So how did Regency ladies, in their flimsy muslins, fare in the winter? Those elegant Georgian fireplaces look great but might not throw out a whole lot of heat; or more likely, they’d be hot enough to necessitate the use of a firescreen (to protect the complexion, not to prevent wax makeup melting–that’s a myth) while your back froze.

I’m pretty sure women could resort to woollen petticoats, although I haven’t been able to find a whole lot of evidence of any existing. In the eighteenth century, and later in the nineteenth century as skirts became full again, quilted petticoats, like this gorgeous example from Williamsburg, were worn.

In the Regency, of course, shawls were in fashion, like this amazing red wool twill with embroidered panels. I found it at, a site well worth looking at (and for breeding covetousness).

At the same site I discovered this gown from 1800, made of silk faille, that looks warm even if it isn’t. Wouldn’t this be a great dress to make a heroine stand out in society…

Outside (the thought of wind whistling up however many petticoats, whatever they were made of, makes me shiver) the well dressed woman would wear a muff and/or tippet. You’ll be glad to hear that muffs became smaller than this monstrosity. She isn’t carrying a hedgehog.

And she’d probably wear pattens, still around since medieval times, to protect her feet from the mud and muck of the street, although walking on ice in these must have been hazardous.

How’s your winter weather and what do you like to wear when it’s cold, indoors or out?

SSP: Title and release date–October 2010, Jane & the Damned (HarperCollins); and Improper Relations is still on sale, with free shipping worldwide, at

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Jane Austen
12 years ago

I don’t think pattens are very sturdy looking and am wondering why none of the BBC or Masterpiece Theatre productions had their heroines wearing them. As a side note we did a medieval banquet in Sr. High and had to dress the part. There were two guys who came in pattens and clomped and clodded around.

I think I would be okay as a Regency lady. I like to be cold. I prefer it to being warm. The only place I indulge is in my bed where I cover myself with tons of blankets piled high. But I keep my house at 58-62 degrees. Like I said, I like to be cold. Maybe it comes from living in the snowbelt.

Jane Austen
12 years ago

PS I like the title Jane and the Damned. It just has a nice and yet fun, edgy ring to it.

Diane Gaston
12 years ago

I hate to be cold! But I also hate puffy winter coats, gloves, and hats so when I shovel the snow I wear a couple of layers under my fleece jacket. Around DC, where Janet and I live, snow is a traumatic event. Although it has nicely confined itself to weekends this season. Mostly.

I do love to shovel the snow. If I didn’t do that, I’d never get outside. But ask me again on Monday and I may have a different opinion. We’re in for LOTS of snow.

As a Regency lady, I would probably been happy in woolen petticoats and swathed in shawls, as long as I could curl up on my chaise longue in front of the fire.

Pattens always remind me of the wooden geta shoes from Japan. They are sorta wooden zorries on stilts. I have a pair, not that I wear them much. See more here:

Maggie Robinson w/a Margaret Rowe

Just ordered! I love watching the Book Depository map…hope my boss doesn’t walk behind me. 🙂 I hate winter. We’re going on a cruise soon (unfortunately I don’t think your book will arrive in time) and I can’t wait to get warm. Maine winters are no picnic, but I do like sweaters because they cover a multitude of sins. 🙂

12 years ago

Ooh, those pictures are pretty. Sigh. Except the pattens. I know I would fall down in them.

Amanda McCabe
12 years ago

No more snow here yet, luckily! I’m so tired of the stuff. At least I have some Ugg snow boots and don’t need to wear pattens. 🙂 (that shawl is gorgeous, though)

Emma Hox
12 years ago

I could not even imagine wearing pattens, how uncomfortable they must have been.

The weather in Washington is warmer than usual and no snow in my town at the moment.

Louisa Cornell
12 years ago

We are getting the icy rain precursor to your snow, Janet. I am devoutly tired of winter and all of this rain. Another few days of this and I will have a pool in my back yard.

I am off work for the next four days. Glorious! And I fully intend to spend the entire time writing, reading, watching Cranford and North and South and wearing my slouchiest, warmest and most hideous clothes! Pink long johns, flannel pjs, sweatpants and sweatshirts. I do have some lovely tartan wool shawls I got in Scotland and they are great for snuggling. And I sleep under mounds of fleece blankets in the company of a number of small dogs and large cats.
The only negative is that when the weather is cold getting those small dogs into their coats to go outside is quite and ordeal.

Maggie, I lived in Maine for two years as a small child. The older of my two younger brothers was born in Bangor. There are some great photos of me aged three, I think, in a great snow suit with the pointed hat. The neighbor boys dug out rooms and passages in the snow and in the photos the walls are well over my head. I enjoy the photos far more than I think I would enjoy the actual cold these days!

Stay warm all of you in the path of the storm.

Janet Mullany
12 years ago

Yeah, we’re bracing ourselves here! I have a pair of men’s sweatpants from Target (on sale for $4), various shapeless acrylic sweaters, a pair of unpleasant pink slippers (stained from a cranberry sauce incident), and the horse blanket shawl for my indoor wear. And no bra because it’s an opportunity to wash them.
A writer’s life is so glamorous
I plan to be inside writing all weekend, and, with any luck, beyond.