I’d like to share why I like this period, and why it’s so rewarding to read-write about.
First, the clothes. Yeah, I know this sounds really superficial, but it was a period of about twenty years when women were not corseted and constricted, and I think that’s very significant. Stays were for support more than shaping. If you look online on costume sites, you can see that some stays were virtually like sports bras. Women could actually move–look how often Jane Austen’s heroines stride across-country. The men’s clothes are a tribute to beautiful, athletic male bodies–hideous on overweight slobs, of course, but then what fashion isn’t–and those tight pants–well, say no more…consider too that women wore no underwear. Oh, the possibilities.
There was so much happening in the early years of the 19c–terrific architecture, music, and literature, the abolitionist movement, and great political change. There were women writers, musicians, and artists, and at least one female astronomer. England was considered a sort of maverick country by the rest of Europe–its monarch, under the control of Parliament, was not a despot; there was a very high level of literacy and many regional newspapers, each issue of which was read by several people, and although a small minority (of men) could vote, the public held the effective and powerful tool of the petition.
And of course the fairy-tale world of the Ton, which I guess I do have to mention. I have to admit a few aristocrats go a long way with me, although I find the concept of great families and their politicking fascinating–one of my favorite books is “The Other Boleyn Girl” by Phillippa Gregory, which is rather like the Sopranos at the Tudor court. And generally my heroes are motivated by family honor and duty to the family name, which leads to some tremendous conflict.
So, what about everyone else?