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A Brief Guide To Regency Fashions

October 20, 2010
04/07/2009 19:16:33

As I have been asked about the fashions of the period that I am constantly talking about, I
thought I would write a brief blog about my favourite subject…

Commonly referred to as ‘Regency’, the period roughly covered dates from about 1795 to about 1825, even though George, Prince of Wales ruled as Regent only from 1811 to 1820.  In America the era roughly covering the years 1785 to about 1815 is known as Federal, in France the years roughly coinciding were known as Empire, and in Germany Biedermeier.

Prior to the 1790s, eighteenth century costume had reached towering heights, with big hair, big
hats, hoops, loops, frills and flounces to be seen in abundance…

By the 1780s all this excess began to diminish and give way to a simpler, more pared-down elegance, which by the mid-90s was beginning to look to the Classical world for inspiration…


Waistlines began to rise and the simple muslin round-gown or chemise dress began to be favoured by ladies of fashion…

1800 (Lady's Monthly Museum)

So, put simply: 1800 – 1807 was the pure Classical period, with Greek, Egyptian and Etruscan ornament in imitation of the marble statues that Lord Elgin had brought back from Greece, and Napoleon’s expedition to Egypt saw a new wave of Orientalism, which made turbans fashionable again…

From 1808 – 1810 Spanish ornament became more fashionable as the hostilities between France and England, in the Peninsular, created an interest in all things Spanish.  Also during the Peninsular Campaigns military details were to be seen in abundance, like braiding and buttons on spencers and pelisses, cockades in hats and bonnets, and even designs were named after the heroes and campaigns, such as the Blucher spencer and bonnet, Wellington boot, etc….

Blucher bonnet and spencer

1811 – 1813 and Gothic elements begin to creep back in. 1814 – 1817 and the Gothic is becoming more popular, and by 1821 the Classical form has finally given way to Gothic as hemlines widen, waists begin to lower and ornament takes over again.  (C Willett and Phylis Cunnington)

1817 Ackerman

Silk pelisse 1820

As the waistline begins to lower and hemlines again widened, we begin to move into the Romantic era, and a return to restricting corsets and multiple petticoats, and thence on to crinolines and bustles of the Victorian age.

I hope this is of some help in describing the changes that took place during the early years of the
nineteenth century.

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