Elk: The Theory by A. Elk brackets Miss brackets. My theory is along the following lines.

Host: Oh God.

Elk: All brontosauruses are thin at one end, much MUCH thicker in the middle, and then thin again at the far end. That is the theory that I have and which is mine, and what it is too.

Monty Python, The Dinosaur Sketch

So my theory is…

It wasn’t bare arms, bosoms, or ankles, it was the bared nape of the neck that defines Regency gowns.

(Although with the lady at the right, you get the best of all worlds.)

Have you ever noticed how so many fashion prints show women with their necks crooked or bent, even if they’re covered by the brim of a hat or a ruff? Men, for the most part, were paying for ladies’ gowns, and while they might appreciate the bared skin, they might not want wives, daughters, mistresses to assume that just because they were dressed as a goddess, that they might assume immortals’ free behavior.

Women might not have to appear in public any more with heads and shoulders decently covered, but submissiveness was expected (unless they were extremely well-born and/or mad, bad, and dangerous to know).

I think there’s a great comparison here with the geisha’s kimono, cut to expose what in Japanese culture is a potent erotic zone–yes, the nape of the neck.

I have to admit I’ve been thinking about this quite a lot as I’ve been reading Pam Rosenthal‘s wonderful The Edge of Impropriety, in which clothes, and the massive changes in fashion of the first two decades of the nineteenth century, play a supporting role. Pam will be here as our Riskies guest this Sunday, November 16, to talk about the book and give away a signed copy.

And today I’m over at the Hoydens, talking about dumb luck in a box. Come and visit!