Top Post for 2014 – The Eye of the Beholder: Standards of Regency Beauty

Vanessa here,

As we anxiously await the new year, we thought we’d repost the top two posts for 2014. This is one on beauty is the runner up for most read post here at RegencyReflections.com.

The Eye of the Beholder: Standards of Regency Beauty

Kristi here. In a recent fit of nostalgia, I’ve been watching some of my favorite shows from the eighties on Netflix. Aside from the huge difference in sound and film quality and the stiltedness of some of the acting, I was struck by the vast gulf that existed between what was considered beautiful then, and what it is now.

The fashioning of hair and clothes are obviously different – high-waisted jumpsuit with enormous shoudlerpad,s anyone? – but as I put on my analytical thinking cap, I saw it went deeper. The size and shape of the bodies and even the eyebrows is different.

If standards of beauty can change that much in thirty years, imagine how they could have altered in 200 years. What was considered beautiful in the Regency era?

natural-regency-makeupPale Skin

Pale skin was considered a sign of wealth as it meant you didn’t have to work outside. In Pride and Prejudice, Elizabeth Bennet’s tan is remarked upon when she travels to Derbyshire with her aunt and uncle. Caroline attempts to use Elizabeth’s darkened skin to diminish Darcy’s attraction.

Curves 

The Regency ideal was a good deal plumper than today’s standard of beauty. Paintings and poetry from the day show an affection for plumper backsides and dimpled thighs. Again this was a sign of wealth. The plumper people didn’t have to work psychically and they had plenty to eat.

The appealing curves extended to the facial regions as well, with rounded, young looking faces reigning the day instead of the cut cheekbones of modern times.

1817 fashion plate

Delicate Clothing

Light colors, embroidery, and nearly translucent fabrics were the epitome of fashion. Yards of ruffles and ropes of jewels were the epitome of beautiful. The glittery adornments and delicate clothing were, once again, signs of wealth.

The more delicate appearance also extended to the hair, with wigs and enormous headpieces falling out of fashion, curls, feathers, and natural hair were prized. This signified that not only could your delicate hairdo withstand your lifestyle, but that you were healthy, as wigs had become popular in an attempt to disguise illness induced hair loss.

Shoes were also delicate, especially evening shoes. Men were known to still wear the occasional heel on a night out and more than one woman packed an extra set of dancing slippers in her reticule.

 

Beauty trends of the Regency era were obviously tied to what the wealthy could attain. Do you think that holds true today? Do you think the working classes of the Regency had the same opinions of beauty as the upper classes did?

 

Matchmaking Pudding ~ A short story by Laurie Alice Eakes

Merry Christmas from Regency Reflections! Our gift to you is this charming short story written by Laurie Alice Eakes. This is a revised edition of a story previously published in an American Christian Romance Writers (Now American Christian Fiction Writers) newsletter. 

(Note: To the English, “pudding” is not the custard-like substance Americans call “pudding.” English pudding is more like a cake, though it Is boiled, not baked, and plum pudding does not necessarily contain plums.)

 

The Devere family entered the kitchen once a year. From Lord Devere, to his wife ; from Rebecca, the youngest of their nine children, to Sarah, the eldest , the family gathered around the worktable on Christmas Eve morning to take turns stirring the plum pudding. According to tradition begun a century earlier when the last Stewart, Queen Anne,  sat on the throne, each person prayed as he or she stirred—prayed for prosperity and joy, prayed for strength and future spouses.

“Let us say a special prayer for the new year,” suggested Belinda, the middle daughter.

Everyone agreed—except for Sarah. Christmas might now have more meaning to her heart , but to her, what went into and came out of the pudding needed a helping human hand, not divine intervention.

She intended to control the disbursement of the charms, those tiny trinkets that made each slice of the pudding an adventure. When the family gathered with friends and neighbors to partake of the pudding, Sarah would ensure that each person received the charm that she thought befitted their needs.

Belinda would receive the thimble, reminding her to be thrifty with her pin money. Rebecca would receive the wishbone because she, being so small, needed all the blessings she could get during the next year. Their father would find the anchor in his slice of pudding, for he was such a stronghold for all of them he needed a safe harbor himself. The crown would go to fifteen-year-old Geoffrey because he would enjoy directing the festivities as “king” and wouldn’t be mean about his revels. Finally, to Lance would go the ring. Although he was only four and twenty, he was the heir and should wed sweet-natured Eliza. They’d loved one another since infancy.

Sarah frowned as she stirred the pudding with one hand and fingered the trinkets in her pocket with the other. “And, Lord, don’t bring Alexander calling again.”

Eliza’s older brother Alexander Featherstone had begun to court her, Just because I’m the only female in ten counties who hasn’t thrown her cap over the windmill for him.

Not that she was impervious to his looks, charm and intellect. She could love him. . .if he came around too often. She feared she already did love him; thus, she wanted him to stay away from her rather than add her to his quiver of fawning females.

“Tharie.” Rebecca, tugged on the skirt of Sarah’s round gown, “you’re taking all the turnth.”

Sarah released the spoon and stooped to lift her baby sister high enough to grasp the wooden spoon. Once on the floor again, Rebecca looked up with a seraphic smile. “I athked Jethuth for a huthband for Tharie.”

Sarah grimaced. “You’re better off praying for a wife for Lance. That won’t take a miracle.”

Belinda giggled. “Oh, I don’t think it’ll take a miracle—for either of you.

Blushing himself, yet smiling, too, Lance grasped the spoon from Belinda. “I pray that Eliza accepts my offer.”

“We’d like excellent matches for both of you,” their father said. “Who has the charms?”

“I do.” Sarah gave the trinkets to the cook to drop into the batter as she poured it into the bag for boiling.

Except the cook wouldn’t drop them in. Sarah had persuaded her and the butler to press the charms into the pudding slices of the right people. The cook’s nod assured Sarah she would carry on the game, and Sarah followed the family upstairs to rest before church.

At the service, Alex and Eliza joined the Deveres at the church. Somehow, Alex ended up sitting beside Sarah in the box pew.

When they stood, he slipped his large, warm hand beneath her lace-clad elbow. When they prayed, he took her hand in his, and she couldn’t pull it away without drawing attention to them. When they departed, he draped her cloak over her shoulders and allowed his fingertips to brush the side of her neck. Those were courting gestures, and she didn’t know why he teased her so.

Nor why God had ignored her prayer to keep Alexander away.

Disturbed, she tried to climb into the carriage with her parents and younger siblings, but they declared the vehicle overcrowded and insisted she go with the Featherstones. But that carriage was also full, so Sarah and Alex strolled the half mile from village to the Devere estate over ground white and hard with frost, through air that turned white with each breath, beneath a sky that resembled candle flames frozen in black glass. Cold, Sarah didn’t object when Alex tucked her hand in the crook of his elbow, then covered her fingers with his.

At least she said she didn’t object because of the cold. In truth, she felt warm all the way through, and that made her uncomfortable, unsure of herself.

Sarah hated being unsure of herself. She never was unsure of herself—except around Alex lately.

Lord, I don’t want to be another foolish female with a broken heart over him. But she feared she already was, for she’d seen him courting many girls in the decade she’d known him noticing females.

The Lord seemed to be ignoring her. Alex sat beside her at the table as the butler carried in the pudding and began to serve. Smiling, she watched everyone take their first bite of pudding, anticipating the moment when each found his charm.

But no one did.

Family member after guest savored the rich sweet until half of everyone’s slice vanished—except for Sarah’s, as she hadn’t taken so much as a nibble of hers. Everyone glanced around the table, curious,  puzzled.

“Who’th got a charm?” sleepy-eyed Rebecca asked. “I wanted the crown.”

Everyone shook their heads.

Lord Devere looked at Sarah. “You gave Cook the charms, didn’t you?”

“Yes, Father.” Sarah glanced at the butler, who gave her a twinkling glance, and her stomach knotted, her heart pounded.

Alex touched her arm. “You haven’t touched your pudding.”

Sarah read laughter in his gaze, and had to steel herself against running  from the table.

“Here, have a bite.” He seized her fork and cut off a generous mouthful of pudding, then held it up for her.

Face heating, Sarah sprang to her feet. “I don’t want pudding. I want to see everyone finding the charms I made certain they’d receive.”

Everyone looked shocked that anyone dared interfere with the discovery of plum pudding charms—everyone except for Alex and Geoffrey. They started laughing so hard the bite of pudding slid off the fork in Alex’s hand and plopped onto the white linen tablecloth. The pudding fell apart to reveal the tiny silver ring.

“Hurray!” Rebecca clapped her hands. “God anthwered my prayer. Tharie will get married this year.”

Alex turned serious. “I certainly hope so.”

“Oh, you!” Sarah spun on her heel and fled with a cacophony of laughter and exclamations running behind her.

She barely reached the nearest refuge, the winter parlor, before she heard footfalls behind her and felt a hand drop onto her shoulder, stopping her. “Wait,” Alex said.

She faced him, shaking. “Why? So you can make more of a fool of me?”

Alex met her glare with a challenging gaze. “More of a fool than what you’ve been making of me for the past three years?”

“What?”

“Sarah, everyone in the county knows I love you except for you.” He clasped her hands between his. “You treat me like I’m poison.”

“You are as dangerous as poison if anyone gets too close.” When he kept gazing at her in silence, she plunged. “You love every female so much you don’t love any of us. My Christmas prayer was for  God to keep you away tonight.”

“But God has other plans for us.” He took her hands in his. “What better time than Christmas to remember that He knows what we need more than we do?”

Sarah frowned. “And you claim God believes I need you?”

Alex grinned. “You wouldn’t care if I were here if you didn’t love me.”

“Oh—”

He kissed her before she could say more.

She still said nothing because he’d stolen her breath.

“And I went through a great deal of trouble to ensure you got the ring.” His eyes pleaded with her. “Doesn’t that count toward you believing I love you?”

“It’s cheating—”  Blushing, she began to laugh. “If I’m the only lady you’d do that for…”

“The only one. A match made in”—he kissed her again, his lips sweet from the confection he’d been eating at the table—”pudding.”

Interesting Facts about the Prince Regent

Susan here — let’s take a light look at the Prince Regent — the namesake of our beloved Regency period. Born in 1762, died 1830, King George the 4th (Prince Regent) was one of 15 children. The oldest son of King George the 3rd, he did not follow his father’s conservative ways. He was Prince Regent from 1811 to 1920, and then king for ten years.

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Age he “left home”: 18

Favorite vacation spot: Brighton

Age at ascension to the Regency: 49

Age at ascension to the throne: 57

Number of concurrent marriages: 2 (Maria Fitzherbert, Caroline of Brunswick)

hated: flat roofs

Took unjust credit for: British victory in Spain, and the overthrow of Napoleon

Was firmly convinced that: he fought in the Battle of Waterloo

Favorite authors: Jane Austen, Sir Walter Scott

Famous book dedicated to him: Emma, by Austen

Waist measurement: 50″ (1824)

Health problems: gout, arteriosclerosis, dropsy, and possibly porphyria

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Information about George the 4th (the Prince Regent) is accessible and understandable. I recommend a brief study of his life to better frame your Regency knowledge.

Who’s your favorite historical figure of the Regency?

 

 

I’ve Got a Headache… Now What? ~ A Look at Regency Pain Medicine

Kristi here, emerging from my medicine induced stupor to contemplate illness in Regency England. Last January I looked at Regency cures for coughs and colds. Today, my mind is, quite literally, more absorbed with pain.

Anyone who has ever awoken with a stabbing pain in their head has been grateful for a bottle of Tylenol.

Our Regency heroes didn’t have Tylenol.

So how did they manage pain?

For things such as headaches and body aches, there wasn’t much to do but go to bed or perhaps rely on the effects of alcohol. Home remedies such as willow bark tea were around, but not necessarily well known across the country.

Laudanum was prescribed for multiple ailments. But many households had their own version of the medicine, mixing the key ingredient – opium – with a bit of alcohol.

More dramatic medical pain such as broken bones relied on the natural remedy of fainting to save the patient from the excruciating pain. Anesthesia didn’t make an appearance on the medical front until the late 1850s.

If one were lucky enough to be in a place with an ice house, they might numb the injured area with ice, but most of the time, especially during the war, ice wasn’t an option.

While medicine was moving towards many of the medicines we know today, they weren’t available to the public at large, or even known by the majority of physicians and apothecaries.

There are days when I wish we wore beautiful gowns and danced at social gatherings, but today I’m more than happy to live in the 21st century where I can take a long, hot shower, pop a Tylenol, and get on with my day.

Gerard’s red and black scarf – done!

Gerard's scarf211

I finally finished Gerard’s scarf! This is the scarf that my hero gives to the heroine in my Regency romance, The Spinster’s Christmas, in the Mistletoe Kisses romance anthology.

I chose a knitting pattern book originally published in 1837, but the pattern was likely being used during the Regency era because many of these patterns had been handed down by word of mouth long before they were published.

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The picture doesn’t do it justice because it doesn’t show how soft and squishy it is! Because of the double-knitting and drop stitch, it’s essentially two lofty layers knit back to back.

Here’s the link to my Revelry project page if you’re interested.

PreludeCoverI gave away this scarf and 10 copies of Prelude for a Lord on a contest on my blog and announced the winners today.

I so enjoyed knitting this antique pattern! I felt a bit connected to Jane Austen. And she might have been given this pattern and used it to knit her father a scarf, who knows?

I enjoyed it so much that I’m going to knit another antique pattern from the The Lady’s Assistant for Executing Useful and Fancy Designs in Knitting, Netting, and Crochet Work by Jane Gaugain, published in 1840. She is thought to be the first person to use knitting abbreviations, at least in a published book, although they are not the same abbreviations used today (our modern abbreviations were standardized by Weldon’s Practical Needlework in 1906). Mrs. Gaugain was a contemporary of Miss Watts, who wrote the knitting book where Gerard’s scarf pattern is from.

I think I’m going to knit the Pyrenees Knit Scarf in Mrs. Gaugain’s book. It is described as being knit in blue and white, which sounds lovely! I’ll keep you posted on this blog as to my progress.