Posts Tagged ‘regency dress’

1803 Mirroir de la Mode Evening Dress

In 1803, a woman named Madame Lanchester of Bond Street, published  ‘Le Miroir de la Mode‘. By 1804, scarcely two years after it appeared, the magazine had vanished. (Although The Museum of London has at least one plate published by Madame Lanchester which is dated 1807).  Very little is known about the woman, who had designed for other publications, such as Richard Phillips Fashions of London and Paris.

La Miroir de la Mode was a short-lived, expensive, and large quarto-sized magazine published only from 1803 to 1804, clearly a failed attempt to follow in the footsteps of the defunct Gallery of Fashion, which was also quarto size. The publisher was the famous modiste, Madame Lanchester, who later wrote fashion descriptions and commentary for Ackermann’s Repository. – Word Wenches: Regency Ladies Magazines, Part 3

Ebay is a rich resource for people who are interested  in viewing Regency fashion plates, as this page by Cabrio4 attests. People can purchase their own fashion plates for a reasonable  price, with this particular seller enjoying a reputation of 100% satisfaction. The small image below of a Full Walking Dress  from  ‘Le Miroir de la Mode’, April 1803 (Measures approx: 10.5″ x 8.5″), is extremely rare (and has been sold).

Walking dress, 1803, Mirroir de la Mode

More about the topic

Early Georgian & Regency Fashion Prints to 1806 – Guide written by Cabrio4, eBay seller
Regency Ladies’ Magazines, Part One
Regency Ladies’ Magazines, Part Two
Regency Ladies’ Magazines, Part Three

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Share/Bookmark// Find examples of Regency dresses and unmentionables in this extensive database by Démodé. The clothes featured in this link are from 1800 through 1830. Examples include corsets, bodices, shifts, underdresses, petticoats, day dresses, spencers, robes, etc, from collections around the world. These images are representative of the Démodé Regency collection.

Corset, Metropolitan Museum, c. 1798-1810

1800 Muslin gown from the V & A Collection

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Everything we now use is made [in] imitation of those models lately discovered in Italy. – Observation by an Englishman

diana sackville detail 1777

Diana Sackville, 1777

In the late 18th century, hairstyles for women took a dramatic turn from the pouffed-up and constructed hairdos of the earlier Georgian age to the simple hair styles inspired by the Greeks, Romans, and Egyptians. Curls now framed the face and chignons replaced the complicated, almost architectural concoctions that took hairdressers hours to create. Ancient statues and works of art brought back as spoils of war or as souvenirs from grand tours revealed classical hairstyles. Women began to wear simpler hairdos with long hair pulled back in chignons or simple pony tails, long curls trailing over the shoulder, and short ringlets framing the face. Hair ornaments consisted of flower wreaths, ribbons, jewelry, tiaras, and combs.

greek and roman influences

Hairstyles on statues from antiquity

Lady Caroline Lamb (lower left) sported a saucy short bob, whose influence can be seen from the portrait in the Roman mural at the Metropolitan Museum. Madame Recamier, whose hair is longer, achieves a similar effect with ringlets around her face. Her curly hair, gathered in back, allowed the ringlets to fall. At right, the Marchioness of Queenston achieved a very similar style to Madame Recamier’s, but her bandeau sat further back on her head and the ringlets framing her face were thicker.

Curly styles

Longer hair, while not as prevalent as the up-do’s, usually took the form of a long curl draped over the shoulder. At second to right, Mrs. Henry Baring wore a more casual “do”, with her locks streaming around her neck and shoulders.

long hair

The long curl

Straight, simple hairstyles with few ringlets and ordinary bangs, or a style simply parted in the middle were worn, but were not drawn or painted by artists or depicted in fashion plates as often as the curlier styles.

plain ringlet free

Fashion plates of the time show how these hairstyles looked with bonnets and hair ornaments with a (l – r) walking dress, ball gown, afternoon dress, or morning dress.

fashion plate

The hairstyles that Kate Winslet and Emma Thompson wore in Sense and Sensibility seemed to be particularly true to the period (in my opinion). Some of you may have noticed that I use Kate Winslet’s image of Marianne as my avatar.

hair styles

This image of a Roman statue (a copy of an earlier Greek statue) shows the hairstyle that would become prevalent in the later Regency/early Victorian era (1820’s to 1830’s).

marble head of a woman roman copy of greek statue

1st C. AD Roman bust

“We wore white crepe dresses trimmed with satin ribbon & the bodices & sleeves spotted with white beads. . . Thursday night, Pearl combs, necklaces, earrings, & brooches. . . Tuesday evening we had sprigged muslin. . . gold ornaments & flowers in our heads & Friday we wore yellow gauze dresses over satin, beads in our heads & pearl ornaments” – Fanny Knight Austen

Evening dresses, fronticepiece, The Mirror of Graces,, 1811

Fanny Knight wrote a vivid description of how women dressed and what sort of accessories were popular when she was a young woman. The 1811 fronticepiece to The Mirror of Graces (above) shows how simple and elegant the combination of Neoclassical hair, dress, and accessories looked.  Jewelry styles favored smaller, lighter forms of draped chains and classical motifs, which were reflected in hair ornaments. These days jewelry from the Georgian era is difficult to find, for many of the pieces were refitted or redesigned to reflect motifs of the neoclassical period. (Neoclassical Jewellery ). Ebay Guides can be extremely useful in researching information about this era, such as this one entitled,  Georgian and Regency Combs and Hair Accessories – 1800-1814. (Click here for the PDF document.)

tiaras and combs

Georgian tiara and combs, early 19th c.

In addition to gold and silver hair ornaments, such as tiaras and diadems, young women wore silk ribbons, strands of pearls, feathers and other fancy hair ornaments in their hair, most notably for balls and formal occasions. These hair jewels were a visible sign of a family’s or husband’s wealth. Bonnets, hats, or turbans were also worn on social outings. The second image from the right (above) is of a George III silver comb, 1807.  “Silver combs of this type appear to have been a speciality of Birmingham, where they were produced in a small quantity and in a collectable variety of forms.” (Cinoa)

As the Regency era progressed long hair became increasingly popular and full ringlets began to appear near the side of the face. Hair ornaments for balls included jewellery, bandeaux, turbans and wreaths of grapes and towards the latter end of the Regency era flowers, turbans and ostrich feathers were seen to adorn the hair. (Overseale House)


These days we achieve curls and ringlets with a hot curling iron. The use of hot irons in the 19th century was tricky, for hair could easily be singed. Back then, curls were made with pomade, a hair gel, and curling papers. The lost art of the paper curl describes how a person today can make a similar curl using old-fashioned techniques.

Lydia is exposed to an unregency like cut

Perdita Weeks as Lydia Bennet in Lost in Austen

The transition from the structured hairstyles of the mid-18th Century to the Regency period was not achieved without its own set of complications, as this James Gillray cartoon shows. The cartoon was drawn in the earlier Neoclassical period, when round gowns were still worn.

gillray fashion cartoon

A lady putting on her cap, Gillray, 1795

The fashion plate below shows how charming and uncomplicated, yet classic, the combination of the 1802 hairstyles and afternoon dresses are together, whereas the 1811 fronticepiece showed how rich both hair and fabric can be made to look using similar principles of fashion design.

1802 Lady's Monthly Museum afternoon dress june Payne Milliner Old Bond Street

Afternoon Dress 1802 Lady's Monthly Museum

More links on this topic:

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The National Gallery of Victoria

The National Gallery of Victoria

Inquiring Reader: Emma, the author of this post, lives in Melbourne, Australia. After she interviewed me for a class assignment, I asked her if she would give us her impressions of the the fabulous fashion show at the National Gallery of Victoria. Happily, she said yes. Click here to read an article on Jane Austen Today and for more images from the exhibit. I first featured this post on Jane Austen Today and decided to embellish it a little, adding more images of the museum and items in the exhibit. New links have been added, as well as additional comments about the dresses. About 50 costumes were shown in the exhibit. If you click on all the links to view images on other sites, you will see about 20% of the outfits and a few of the Regency items that accompanied them.

Entrance arch to the National Gallery of Victoria

Entrance arch to the National Gallery of Victoria

Entrance to exhibit

Entrance to exhibit

The National Gallery of Victoria has a permanent space for textile exhibits that is often overlooked by visitors. So, you can imagine my surprise when I entered the Persuasion space and found it far from empty. There were young children, middle aged couples, elderly couples and a selection of tourists, all gathered in the rooms openly admiring the clothing and documents behind their glass cases.

Exhibits with dresses, drawings and artifacts

Exhibits with dresses, drawings and artifacts

The collection was set up beautifully in their cases, decorated to become rooms – painted blue, with pianofortes, writing desks and sitting chairs.

It was interesting listening to the thoughts of those around me, with many observing the “heaviness of the walking dress” and the “gorgeous detailing on that white muslin.” Of course every woman in the room stopped to admire the outfit worn by Colin Firth in the BBC adaptation of Pride and Prejudice, no doubt reliving the lake scene.

Detail, cotton muslin dress, 1815

Detail, cotton muslin dress, 1815

Regency chair "throne"

Regency chair "throne"

With so many pieces to choose from I had no idea how I was going to pick one or two to write about, but finally I have settled on the ball and the walking dress.

Having read many ball scenes in Austen’s works it what inevitable that I would love the ball dress. The dress was an empire line, with a skirt that went outwards into a cone shape, and the sleeves were puffed with lace detailing. It was interesting to read the plaque which revealed just how complicated the ball dress actually was – with there being gauze, embroidery with silk floss, lace, satin, piping and some sort of plants vine used in its construction.

And then there was the walking dress, a dress that I’m not sure I’d like to go for a walk in myself. I’d expected something lighter so I was very surprised by the heavy bronze satin dress in the case. It appeared very restrictive – fitted, long tight sleeves – but was incredibly beautiful and well made.

The bronze walking dress is at right

The bronze walking dress is at right

The exhibit closes at the gallery on November 8, 2009. I encourage anyone that can make it to go. It’s free of charge and definitely a collection not be to missed.

This 1802 round gown is similar to one that Jane Austen would have worn

This 1802 round gown is similar to one that Jane Austen would have worn

Click here for an audio tour of the exhibit. In it you will learn that this exhibit shows the more provincial, country dresses that were designed for walking and outdoor activities. Empire dresses allowed for a greater freedom of movement than in previous eras. The thin cotton, often low-cut gowns also revealed more of a woman’s figure than before, prompting Jane Austen to write about a vicar’s wife that she was “nakedly and expensively dressed.”

Pelisse and dress, 1818

Pelisse and dress, 1818

More links to images:

Carriage dress, silk gros de naples, 1830

Carriage dress, silk gros de naples, 1830

Photos NVG

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rolinda sharples men ballRolinda Sharples’s 1817 painting of the Cloak-Room, Clifton Assembly Rooms is a familiar one to most Jane Austen fans. This image graces many book covers and has been used for depicting life in the Regency era. Looking closely, one sees that the assembled party seem to be enjoying the occasion as they wait and chat. A lady’s maid is helping a woman exchange her shoes, a man holds a lady’s fan, and the ladies are wearing an assortment of pale dresses, and colorful headwear and shawls. John Harvey, author of Men in Black, 1996, a book about the predeliction men have had over the centuries for wearing black, noted on p. 37 that Rolinda’s painting illustrates the direction that fashion was taking in the 19th century:

The white-haired man to the left is dressed in the older style, with light-coloured knee-breeches and lighter stockings. The stooping man to the right is a transitional type, wearing black knee-breeches, black stockings.

Cloak Room, Clifton Assembly Room, 1817, Rolinda Sharples

Cloak Room, Clifton Assembly Room, 1817, Rolinda Sharples

The man to centre-left is dressed as Brummel dressed, in skin-tight black trousers.

The above style and the two previous styles would have been familiar to  Jane Austen, for she died the same year that this painting was made.
Rolinda Sharples Clifton detail of brummel type

Rolinda Sharples Clifton detail

It is the man to the right of him, in looser black trousers, who is dresed as the century was in future to dress. The men at Mr. Rochester’s party [in Jane Eyre] would all be in his style.

These links do not describe formal menswear, per se, but the are descriptive of men’s clothes of the era:

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