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Author Archives: Isobel Carr

1780s habit2

Habit, c. 1780s

This week’s post fulfills my promise to showcase red gowns. There are numerous extant examples, ranging from habits (red is a very common habit color, and the most common color for cloaks from what I can tell) to day dresses, to fancy evening gowns. They come in every fabrication possible (wool, silk, netting, linen, cotton) and appear across classes (you see plenty of reds in the scraps preserved in Threads of Feeling). Frankly, Pinterest is overrun with examples.

open robe 1790

Open Robe, c. 1790

1795 round kci

Round Gown, c. 1795

red net dress

Shawl Gown, c. 1800


Printed Gown, c. 1800-1805

1808 example front

Red Dot Apron Gown, c. 1800-1810

net dress 1811

Red Net Gown, c. 1810-1815

1820 1822 red muslin evening dress

Red Muslin Evening Gown, c. 1820



Block Print c.1800

Today’s post is going to be more of a gallery. I want to build on my last post (The Colorful Regency) and highlight print gowns. The two methods of printing were block and roller (which are exactly what they sound like). Block predates roller, which was invented in the late 18thC and really came into its own in the 1820s.

It was common to see “penciling” combined with block printing. What this means is that the blue part (and sometimes the yellow part) of the design was painted on after the main pattern or “springs” were printed (yes, that’s what “sprigged muslin” means, printed with a small repeating design).

An unusual method of printing that was period was “chine”. The fabric was printed on the warp before weaving, resulting in a blurred design. I couldn’t find one from the Regency, so there’s an 18thC example in the pictures below, but it WAS used throughout the Georgian period (including the Regency) and Victorian era and beyond.


Print Gown c. 1800

A bit about terminology: Calico is a general catch-all term for medium-weight cotton fabric of Indian origin (heavier than muslin). Chintz is calico which has been printed or painted. Many sources state that chintz was also glazed (note: glazed fabrics can’t be laundered!), but this clearly does not seem to be true of all chintz. These fabrics were commonly used for day dresses throughout the entire Regency period.

Indiennes was the term applied to French imitations of Indian chintz,, the most famous of which were produced in Jouy (such as the copperplate printed scenes we now call “toile,” which were only used for furnishings in the 18th and 19th centuries, so don’t dress your heroine in them).

As you’ll see below, white and cream backgrounds were common, but so were da

rk backgrounds in any color you can think of.

Jane Austen’s World has a nice post on this topic with more examples that are worth looking at when you’re done here.


Orange “Sprigged” Gown c. 1800-1810

drawstring dress 1800 1810 detail

Blue “Sprigged” gown c. 1800-1810

Sprigged Gown c. 1795-1805

1830s dress brown

Brown Printed Gown c. 1830

1820 roller printed dress bodice

Roller Printed Gown c. 1820

1805 1840 green blockprint

Green Block Print Gown c. 1805-1810

1795 1800 hooded perline 3

Printed hooded perline c. 1795-1800

floral front fall back detail 1820

Floral Gown, 1820s

1808 close up of back

Tiny Red Dots 1805-1810




Printed Gown c.1800-1810

dress 1810 detail front

Woven Stripe w/printed sprig c. 1805-1810


Chine printed gown

Example of Chine printing, 18thC

1805 1812

Puce silk c. 1805-1812

1820 striped evening

Purple silk c. 1820

For my first guest post here, I want to talk about the common impression that the Regency period was a sea of plain white gowns (another “inspired by Twitter” post from me). Yes, white was fashionable during the Regency, but it was hardly the only color worn. There was a big kick for all things ancient during the Regency, and as the statues from Rome and Greece had all lost their paint (yes, they weren’t plain white when they were new!) the period conception of the costumes of that period was white. So from the late 18th century into the early decades of the 19th, white ruled the fashionable set (not only was it all the rage, but because it was hard to keep clean, it functioned almost like an in-built sumptuary law: the poor could not ape you).

1820 1822 red muslin evening dress

Red Muslin c. 1820-1825

But even during that period, white was not the only color worn (though I’d lay money it was the most common color worn when sitting for a portrait, which adds to the overemphasis it seems to have on our minds today). When you look at extant garments from the period, what appears is a sea of color: Puce, orange, silvery grey, red, yellow, blue, purple, pink, stripes and block-printed and roller-printed fabrics in all sorts of patterns and colors (with improved patterning and vibrancy by the 1820s).


Blue Blockprint c. 1800

And while many of the examples look plain compared to the huge amounts of decorative passementarie used both before and afterward, if you look at the garments, they often have quite a few decorative elements (and would have often had more once accessorized in a period manner). If you look at the examples in Ackerman’s, you’ll see gowns of every color imaginable, and with enormous decorative variety: net overlays, lace, eyelash or fly trim, beading, spangles, tassels, Elizabethan collars/ruffs, elaborately pleated and tucked chemisettes, silk embroidery, chenille embroidery, and then we hit 1811-1815 and everything goes à la militaire or à la hussar and there’s just BRAID everywhere. By the time we get into the 1820s and the gowns have moved away from the flowing, Grecian lines into belled skirts and natural waists, the ornamentation goes wild. There are stuffed hems, and ribbon embroidery, and chenille ball trim, and rows and rows of big honking decorative stuff all around the hems.

1810 yellow gown

Yellow Muslin c. 1810

I highly recommend Fashions in the Era of Jane Austen (it’s fashion plates from Ackermann’s c. 1809-1820) to anyone who wants to see just how spoogy the gowns can be. Or you can find select examples (in all their colorful glory) on Candice Hern’s site.

When you picture ball scenes when you’re reading, is it an all white scene, or a colorful swirl?

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