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Tag Archives: Regency clothing

One of the reasons so many of us love the Regency is the elegance of the clothing: the simplicity, the reliance on truly beautiful lines and well-chosen details rather than fussiness and tight corseting. But among the many beautiful creations of the time there were also some fashion horrors, especially near the end of the period with the advent of Victorian excess.

So here’s my take on the Best and Worst of Regency fashion.

Best #1: from a painting by Constance Mayer (left), 1801, possibly a self-portrait. This is everything I love about Regency style: simple, elegant with just a touch of decoration around the sleeves and a ribbon threaded through the hair. Forever chic.

Best #2: a dress for dancing, circa 1809 (right). With the same elegant lines plus simple gold embellishments, it’s the perfect thing to wear to Almack’s and attract the attention of an eligible lord. (No wonder the Republic of Pemberley chose to incorporate this image into its coat of arms.)

Best #3: Portrait of a lady by Henri François Mulard, ca. 1810 (left). She just looks so pretty, with her simple white dress, nice touches of blue in the sash and fichu, contrasting color in the coral jewelry and the shawl. And her hair is so pretty, too!

Best #4: Walking dress, La Belle Assemblée, 1813 (right). Pretty and white, again with nicely coordinated touches of blue and the gold of the straw bonnet. What a cute little sash at the back, and such dainty footwear. One never knows whom one might meet when out for a stroll, after all!

Best #5: Ingres, Mlle de Senonnes, 1815 (left). Those French women just know how to do it. Velvet in a passionate red, that naughty look-but-don’t touch gauzy neckline, and the froth of lace. The perfect ensemble in which to seduce your rakish romance hero. Tres sexy!

And now for the worst…

Worst #1: A walking dress from around 1810 (right). Look at all those silly tassels, the overly vertical lines, the silly lacing over the breasts. No wonder the dog is barking at her. Hope he snaps off some of those extra tassels.

Worst #2: Bathing Place Evening Dress, 1810 (left). I don’t even know where to begin on this one. What a hideous shape, and that short skirt length, and all those silly ruffles! Makes me think of those frilly things they used to put on lamb chops. Ugh! And this is supposed to be evening wear?

Worst #3: Evening dress, from Ackermann’s Repository, 1816 (right). Now we see a new fussiness in the rosettes, the patterns, the flounces. If you are at all short or plump, you will look like a wedding-cake in this!

Worst #4: Evening dress, 1818 (left). They put everything but the kitchen sink onto this dress: strands of pearls, the sleeves with spiral-wound ruffles of lace, all that padded satin down the front. And that turban! All proof there are always some people who are into conspicuous consumption.

Worst #5: Court dress, modeled by Queen Caroline. How hideous is this???!!! Whoever thought that an empire waist should be combined with a hoop skirt is guilty of the most heinous Fashion Crime of the Millennium.


So what does everyone else think?

Which ensemble would you like to wear? Which one deserves the honor of Best Regency Style?

Which do you think is the least becoming? The overall Worst Fashion Faux Pas of the Regency?

LADY DEARING’S MASQUERADE, RT Reviewers’ Choice Award nominee

Critique night for me was last night, and it was at my house,
and in my case that entails quite a bit of preparation since I am not easily made “company ready.” So I spent a few hours picking up,
rushing around with this and that, and running various noisy machines, all of which had my four cats either staring at me in astonishment or running in the opposite direction. It all came together though, and we
got together, ate (an important component of our critiques), read our chapters and discussed. We always have a very good time, too—and it was late before we were finished, again usual for us, which is why we meet on Friday nights.

Well, today I am suffering from the aftereffects! I am sore, tired, and ready to write. It just happens to be a tiny bit later than usual…Ahem.

I thought I’d put up a few shots of some pictures I have on my hard drive from the Beau Monde conference I attended in 2003.

Here is Gail Eastwood, Elena Green, and I at the evening event. I fail to remember the theme, but we attend in appropriate costume and have various activities—lessons in the card games of the period, lessons in dance (conducted by Gail Eastwood, who is knowledgeable not only of Regency dance, but of other periods as well) and the like.

All of these photos were taken in a closed room under artificial lighting, so it is hard to get the colors right. I did some photo editing to try to make the best of it.

Here are some shots of the dancing…and gorgeous costumes!

And some of my favorite costumes…

The flowered gown below is our Cara. The “gentleman” is Regina Scott, whose “Reginald” steals the evening.

Below is a lady, whose name I unfortunately do not have, who told me that her gown (orange and gold) is made from sari material. I tried to get a better shot of her gown, but my batteries died. 🙁

I truly love this gown. I believe she said it was made by a seamstress in India—but my memory could be failing me. It doesn’t show well in this small picture, but it is a figured material–there are tiny blue flowers all over it.

Another lovely white gown.

Please, everyone—pitch in and supply names of anyone I could not, or if I have wrongly identified anyone…thanks so much!

PS–I am wearing my Golden Heart from the previous year, and if I remember correctly, this is the year that Cara won the Beau Monde Royal Ascot contest and Ammanda won the Bookseller’s Best. Am I right?!

Signet, January, 2006

When I was putting together last week’s post on best and worst Regency dress fashions, I also ran across many…um…inspiring images of headgear. As with the dresses, some were gorgeous and flattering (just what we like to see on a proper Regency heroine) and some were downright ridiculous (let’s save them for comic villainesses, please!)

Some of my favorites:

Best #1 (upper left): 1810, from Ackermann’s. This style was called a “cottage hat”. I think it’s nice and simple and just the thing to go with the elegant dresses of the time. It also strikes me as a bit 1920’s ish, but I’m no expert on that.

Best #2 (right): 1811, also from Ackermann’s. For me, this is the right way to use flowers. Not too many (even though it does look rather as if she has a bee in her bonnet!) and the asymmetry is cute.

Best #3 (left): A gypsy hat, popular for country wear throughout the early 19th century. Nice and casual and, in the days before SPF 45, good protection for that delicate skin. I also saw a portrait of a somewhat older woman wearing one of these, and it looked great on her, too.

Best #4 (right): Gilmore’s portrait of Sarah Reeve Ladson, 1823. Turbans often look ridiculous to me, but this one struck me as kinda cool, exotic, maybe a bit Byronic. Not everyone could pull this off, but if you have this sort of sultry dark coloring, I think it works.

Now for the sublimely ridiculous…

Granted, some of these are caricatures of contemporary styles, but they give us an idea of the results of a trend gone wild!

Worst #1: “Lady Godina’s Rout — or — Peeping-Tom spying out Pope-Joan. Vide Fashionable Modesty”, a March 12th 1796 caricature by Gillray. OK, this one speaks volumes on its own. But I’ll add that feathers do appear to have their use as a hiding-place. Also, perhaps, to balance out wide hips????

Worst #2 (right): French satire on the poke bonnet (“Invisible”); No. 16 in the series of engravings, “Le Suprême Bon Ton” from the second half of the 1810’s. More proof that outrageous millinery has its uses. Any guesses as to what they’re actually doing in there? But of course, these people are French. Need I say more?

Worst #3 (left): 1810 turban. I’m rather surprised she can stand upright under that thing. Looks like she’s wearing a miniature beanbag chair on her head, and the feathers look like they came from an anemic rooster. If you’re going to wear dead bird feathers on your head, at least invest in some good peacock or pheasant!

Worst #4: 1817, The Lady’s Magazine. Everything I’ve heard about carriages of the time indicates they were rather small. Did the lady wearing this have to crawl in on hands and knees? Just think about what she might have exposed in doing so! OTOH maybe this is a style adopted by petite women in a vain attempt to look taller. You’re not fooling anyone, dears, just embrace who you really are!

Worst #5: 1818, from La Belle Assemblée. These bonnets trimmed with a profusion of flowers and/or fruit make me wonder. Imagine you’re wearing the latter out for a drive with a rakish gentleman, and then unexpected weather drives you to seek shelter in some secluded cottage or barn (of course that never happens in novels!). Perhaps you could disassemble and eat it.

Actually, I have to admit this last one is kinda fun, the sort of thing that would be a blast to wear to a costume party, for laughs. I think it would be fun to wear a turban sometime, too, though most of them seem a bit . . . dowagerish. For now, I’d rather see myself as a stylish matron.

So, Riskies and dear guests, which hats do you like, or think you would most enjoy wearing?

LADY DEARING’S MASQUERADE, RT Reviewers’ Choice Award nominee

Continuing my sewing theme from last week, I am going to provide a few links for finding period fabrics and accessories.

Fabrics aren’t that hard if you know what you are looking for. If you know something about period fabrics, you are ahead of the game.

The best way of getting an idea what fabrics of the time were like is to look at real Regency gowns. There are sites on the internet—unfortunately, Cathy Decker’s Regency site is on the fritz again ( ) but there are others where pictures of real gowns can be found, as the Kent State University Museum:

There are samples of fabrics also on Jessamyn’s Regency Costume Companion site, which also happens to be an invaluable resource when considering your first costume.
Jessamyn’s Regency Costume Companion on fabric:

You can look for vintage costume sellers on line, if not for clothing to buy, but to peruse for research.

Once you have an idea what type of fabric you need, you can find the right kind of cotton print, for instance, in a Joann’s Fabrics. Here are some sources that offer more specialized fabrics including vintage reproductions:

Now, for the trimmings: Accessories

Austentation—hats, reticules, and research too:

Ostrichs on Line—feathers, fans, Masks…

A site with a shop for various items including US Civil War and Victorian costume, but many items could be used for the Regency as well, including the ladies’ corsets. Click Victorian clothing, then Ladies (if you are a lady!) to see the choices.

Frederick’s of Hollywood for their renaissance corset, which creates the “right line” for a Regency lady (unless you are undressing in public, no one will know it isn’t fully ‘period’!)

Check wedding gown suppliers for things like flat shoes (dyeable) and long gloves. Certain flat dance shoes can double for Regency shoes as well. Lastly….you all know this…there is Ebay.

Ebay is where I have found the classic Javamar shawl (NOT in pure cashmere, but close enough, with the woven pattern and length that wealthy Regency Ladies used with their gowns), reproduction Georgian jewelry, vintage hats, vintage fans, long leather gloves and vintage style fabrics. I have also done searches for parasols and walking sticks.

I am stopping here…I am somewhat limited by being on a newer computer, and I have not yet found a way to copy my shortcuts from my old computer onto this one. (Somehow I can’t copy my old, huge favorites file to disk—sigh). But hopefully this helps you on your costume venture.


In the mood to play dress-up? Do you have a Christmas party coming up and a hankering to attend as Elizabeth Bennett (or Darcy, for that matter)? It isn’t so very hard to put a costume together, even with the problem of obtaining period shoes, shawls, jewelry, and hats. You can do a lot by using a little ingenuity.

The easiest solution is to have your costume made. I made a quick list of costumers I am aware of. I know there are more, and a little internet searching would find them.

Seamstresses: The one I used for the beautiful gown I have and wore at a Beau Monde Function is Ute Forlano of Dragonfly Formals:
She still has a page showing the gown she made for me, by the way! Just click on the little purple button on the Welcome page that says “Laurie” on it.

Others are available, but of course, I have not tried them. Here are some: (includes gentlemen’s costumes) (An ebay store—this costumer has good feedback)

If you make the costume yourself, you will need the pattern and the supplies. If you are a novice sewer, as I am, you probably want to find a simple pattern that isn’t period authentic (i.e. regarding the cut of the garment, where the seams are, how it is finished inside, the exact style of closures, etc.). Being a dreamer (I dream that someday I will sew that gown!) I am a collector of patterns, material, trims, shawls, hat forms…you get the idea. So I thought that I would make a list of sources I have at hand.

For the pattern: the “big” pattern makers as McCalls and Simplicity have made Regency “costume” patterns, although I am not sure what ones are in print right now. It is worth a search for one. But there are other patterns available. The first that comes to mind is one which was designed by Jennie Chancey of Sense and Sensibility Patterns.

The second place to identify a pattern to purchase is at The Great Pattern Review.
These pattern reviews are unfortunately not listed by period but by maker, so it takes a bit of looking to find the Regency pattern reviews. Folkware has an empire gown pattern that has been favorably reviewed, and be sure to look at La Mode Bagatelle Regency wardrobe pattern. There are many patterns in the GPR for the gentlemen, too.

You will want to do a lot of surfing to research styles if you aren’t already familiar or aren’t sure what you want, whether you plan on sewing your costume yourself or not. There are lots of sources of costume prints in the internet, and there are also period portraits—possibly the best resources of all.

Finding fabrics, shoes, hats, gloves, parasols…well, I’m afraid I’ll have to leave that for another time.



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