Posts Tagged ‘Fashion in the Time of Jane Austen’

Brock illustration of Persuasion

My book contest for Fashion in the Time of Jane Austen is closed, and the winner, Lesley-Ann Mcleod was announced. I was left with a legacy of Jane Austen quotes that I would like to share with my readers. The comments were outstanding and I loved every one of the quotes. For those who would like to read all 164 of them, click on this link. Every week, I will post another 5 – 10 until everyone has been featured.

keriluna: “I cannot speak well enough to be unintelligible.” Catherine Morland to Mr. Tilney / Northanger Abbey :)

lydiane: “Dare not say that a man forgets sooner than woman, that his love has an earlier death. I have loved none but you. Unjust I may have been, weak and resentful I have been, but never inconstant.” – Captain Wentworth, Persuasion

QNPoohBear: We’re on the same wavelength Lydiane! That’s my favorite part of the whole book. That letter kills me every time! Here’s my line: “I offer myself to you again with a heart even more your own than when you almost broke it, eight years and a half ago.” Captain Wentworth, Persuasion Chapter 23

Sherry Blackwell: In teaching literature to 8th grade gifted students, I often borrowed quotes from the author being studied. The following quote from Jane Austen was posted to encourage students to produce one work of quality rather than amass a quantity of mediocre work. We used the symbol Q/Q = Quality over Quantity. “The power of doing anything with quickness is always prized much by the possessor, and often without any attention to the imperfection of the performance.” Pride and Prejudice, Chapter 10

Cindi: “I have no pretensions whatever to that kind of elegance which consists in tormenting a respectable man.” Lizzie to Mr. Collins~ Pride and Prejudice

Lindsay: “There is a stubbornness about me that never can bear to be frightened at the will of others. My courage always rises with every attempt to intimidate me.” Elizabeth to Mr. Darcy in Pride & Prejudice….I love this part :)

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Contest Closed: Using a random number generator, the winner is Leslie Ann McCleod. Her quote was:

“Tell me if, when I returned to England in the year eight, with a few thousand pounds, and was posted into the Laconia, if I had then written to you, would you have answered my letter? would you, in short, have renewed the engagement then?”

“Would I!” was all her answer; but the accent was decisive enough. – Persuasion

Thank you all for participating!

Good news! You have an opportunity to win a copy of Fashion in the Time of Jane Austen! All you need to do is leave a comment with your favorite line from a Jane Austen novel. The line can come from any character and be on any topic. The winner will be announced two weeks from today on April 19th. One lucky person will be chosen using a random number creator. Those who live in Canada and the U.S. are eligible to enter the contest.

Read my review of the book

Format: Trade Paperback, 64 pages
Author: Sarah Jane Downing
Price: $12.95
ISBN: 978-0-7478-0767-4 (0-7478-0767-1)

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Ever since I learned that this book would be coming out in the spring, I couldn’t wait for its arrival. The title alone told me that it was tailor made to my interests. Slim and more a monograph than a book, Fashion in the Time of Jane Austen‘s 62 pages are jam-packed with information and images. Some of the material that author Sarah Jane Downing wrote about was familiar, but much of it was new. While I finished the book in two sittings, I know I will be using it frequently for future reference.

Until the Napoleonic Wars, France had influenced fashions in Britain and Europe. It was the custom of messengers known as les grandes couriers de la mode to deliver the latest French fashions to the great courts of Europe in person. Wearing designer creations, their costumes were analyzed from head to toe and then tried on and taken apart. Patterns were made from the resulting pieces. People who visited cities and returned home were plied with questions about the latest trends in fashions by those who stayed behind. Soon, fashion journals appeared showing images of fashions, home furnishings, and architectural plans, and new styles trickled down to even those who lived in the farthest reaches of England.

Walking gowns, 1796

The French Revolution marked a radical shift from the elegant, wide-skirted brocade gowns so prevalent for most of the 18th century to the streamlined, body-hugging, empire-waisted silhouettes of the Directoire Period that were inspired by classical antiquity. Wide hooped skirts were still worn for appearances at court, but gowns became simpler, narrower, and more vertical. In fact, the change in dress silhouettes was so dramatic that such a radical shift in style would not occur again until the flapper era and the jazz age over a century later.

Jane Austen’s books were written during the narrow time frame when empire dresses with their high waists, short sleeves and décolletté necklines reigned supreme in the fashion world. When long sleeves were introduced in evening dress, she wrote Cassandra:

I wear my gauze gown today long sleeves & all; I shall see how they succeed, but as yet I have no reason to suppose long sleeves are allowable. Mrs. Tilson has long sleeves too, & she assured me that they are worn in the evening by many. I was glad to hear this. – Jane Austen, 1814

1815 Long sleeved evening dress. Costume of the ladies of England 1810-1823.(NYPL Digital Collection)

Male attire also went through a dramatic change. Ruffles and ornate brocaded fabrics gave way to intricately folded neckcloths, simple shirts, stark jackets and leg-hugging breeches. The emphasis was on the neckcloths, but not the shirts, which were sewn by women, not tailors. Jane was known to be an excellent seamstress, and she wrote about completing a batch of shirts for her brother Charles: “[I] am to send his shirts by half dozens as they are finished; one set will go next week,” and “In Mansfield Park Fanny price works diligently to ensure that her brother’s linen is ready when he goes to sea.” – p 13.

1816 Riding Habit

There are so many other interesting tidbits of information that I won’t share in this review lest I spoil the reader’s pleasure. Fashion in the Time of Jane Austen discusses accessories, underwear, half dress, full dress, court dress and more. I wish a timeline had been included of when hems were raised and when they became decorative; precisely how the Napoleonic Wars affected fashion in both England and France and who influenced who and when; and when waists when up, then down, then up and down again. Another quibble I had was with the book’s cover, which John Pettie painted in 1887. With all the lush images and paintings available of regency misses and their chaperones and suitors, why choose a Victorian painting? The woman in this painting belongs so obviously to another age that I find her face a little creepy.

Be that as it may, I give this book three out of three regency fans and recommend it highly to all readers who are interested in Regency fashion and historical romance writers who are interested in precise details of dress.

More on the topic

Another excellent book about fashion is Penelope Byrd’s A Frivolous Distinction: Fashion and Needlework in the works of Jane Austen.

Regency Fashion History is an excellent site.

And Cathy Decker’s comprehensive site cannot be topped.

Order the book here.

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