What in the Regency World is a Round Gown?

Susan Karsten here.  I love historic costumes, but am by no means an expert, even though I took the subject in college.  If you are at all like me (Regency fiction reader/fanatic), you’ve come across the archaic and forgotten term “round gown”. Again, if you are like me, you will take a mental guess what that might be, and move on, flipping pages as fast as you can read them.

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To the best of my research,  the round gown appears to be a pre-Regency style that hung on, or was used for day-wear even as fashion moved to a different silhouette. Marie Antoinette is said to have inspired the round gown, then a dress and robe joined together and tied in the front  Later came Josephine Bonaparte who ushered in the slim, high-waisted, gossamer thin chemise dress of the early 19th Century, that we think of first when we think of Regency dresses.

Back to the round gown, the Empire gown’s precursor. The round gown had a soft, round skirt silhouette, with full gatherings at a slightly raised waist, a train, and straight, elbow-length sleeves.  The round gown’s train, which was common for a short time for day wear and lasted until 1805-06 for the evening, would be pinned up for the dance, as mentioned in Austen’s Northanger Abbey. One shudders at the impracticality of these long white muslin dresses in England, a country renowned for wet weather and muddy roads.

So, when you encounter the term “round gown” in your favorite Regency fiction, think of probably a day dress, kept for wearing at home, and more modest than their evening counterparts. An earlier silhouette, and not in the first stare of fashion.

I so hope some of you will add to this description with more yummy details about the mysterious round gown.

Shell Pattern Manchettes

Camy here, and I’m knitting Regency knitting patterns again! This time, it’s “Shell Pattern Manchettes” from The Ladies’ Knitting and Netting Book by Miss Watts, originally published in 1837. You can download the .pdf of the Fifth Edition, with additions, which was published in 1840.

Shell Pattern Manchettes Watts-Ladies' Knitting and Netting Book 1st series 5th edition 1840 1

Shell Pattern Manchettes Watts-Ladies' Knitting and Netting Book 1st series 5th edition 1840 2

Shell Pattern Manchettes Watts-Ladies' Knitting and Netting Book 1st series 5th edition 1840 3

I had to Google what “manchettes” were. 🙂 In the 1838 version of this same book, the pattern calls them “cuffs” instead of “manchettes,” but they seem to be longer than what we would consider cuffs, so they could have been perhaps wrist-warmers or arm-warmers.

(And autocorrect keeps trying to turn “manchettes” into “machetes,” so I apologize in advance if the blog mentions long blades instead of long gloves.)

The pattern mentions adding lace to the top and bottom, so I think they were meant to be worn over the dress sleeve, like the “muffatees” (fingerless gloves) patterns in the same book.

Even though this pattern was first published in 1837, I’m almost positive these patterns were in use during the Regency era. Most knitting patterns were passed down from one woman to another by word of mouth or copied instructions, hence they were called “receipts” since they were received from someone else.

The intricacy and complexity of British knitted artifacts dated from before 1800 (in the Georgian, not Regency era) point to knitting skills already fully developed beyond just knit and purl patterns. Knitting was mostly done by wealthy women for themselves, or for poor women who knit fine articles to sell to the rich.

Spinsters Christmas, The web 388I originally picked this pattern because I wanted my heroine to be knitting a gift for her friend in my next Regency novel. 🙂 So I think I’ll knit these manchettes and then hold a contest to give them away when my Regency releases, like how I did with Gerard’s Red and Black Scarf from The Spinster’s Christmas.

Since most of us don’t have a maid to tie the ribbons of our manchettes for us (le sigh), I think I’ll knit these with ribbing to fit the manchettes to the wrist instead of the ribbon holes. But since these will be a giveaway, I’ll keep the arm part loose (no ribbing) so they’ll fit more people.

If you’re on Ravelry, here’s my project page for these manchettes.

Here’s the start of my machetes!

Peony Manchettes 1

Knit lace evening gloves

Camy here! Lately I bought a hand-made Regency-style dress from my friend and Steampunk author, Shelley Adina, (it was a steal because she didn’t want it anymore) and so now I’ve been looking for accessories. (I’ll post pics of the dress soon!)

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I realized that the blue dress is perfect for some lacy gloves I had made for myself a while ago. Actually, I originally made these gloves because Shelley had wanted opera gloves (designated “16-button gloves” even though there aren’t actually 16 buttons on the gloves) for when she goes Regency dancing, and I made my gloves as a test run before making Shelley’s.

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These are a pale blue lace-weight alpaca yarn, although the original pattern called for crochet cotton. I also had to extrapolate a bit to extend the gloves beyond my elbow.

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The gloves have pearl buttons at the wrist because Shelley had requested that, for ease of removing the hand portion when she has to eat. I found out later that the button slit is actually Victorian, and not Regency, but it’s extremely practical, don’t you think?

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I’m rather proud of these gloves because they’re just so pretty! 🙂 I’m also so excited that they’re light blue, which matches the gown I just bought!

If you’re on Ravelry, here’s the link to my project page.

Do any of you own Regency style gowns? Where do you get your accessories, or how do you make them?

When Is a Dress Not Just a Dress ~ Regency Fashion Explained

If you’ve ever read a Regency-set novel, you’ve no doubt run across a description of the heroine’s clothing. It’s one of those things we do. But have you ever stopped to wonder what makes an afternoon dress different from a carriage dress? Or a ball gown different from a dinner gown?

Here is a rundown of a few of the qualities that make a Regency dress fit for the proper occasion.

MorningGownRuffleMorning Dress

Morning dresses were used for just that. Morning. They weren’t meant for company or for going out. They were the yoga pants of Regency England. They were plain, unadorned, and frequently made of thinner, cheaper materials than a woman’s other clothes. Silhouette-wise, morning dresses were the same as any other day dress, though they were replaced less frequently given that no one cared whether or not their morning dress was fashionable.

Often times, an old afternoon dress might have the trim salvaged off of it before being used as a morning dress.

Afternoon Dress

Which then does beg the question of what makes an Afternoon Dress.

rdAfternoon dresses were meant to be seen. Afternoons were for going visiting or walking in the park. As these were still day dresses, they had high necklines and full length sleeves. They would, however, been trimmed and fitted to the best of a lady’s fashion ability.

There were several types of afternoon dresses as there were several types of activities one could participate in during the afternoon.

Walking or Promenade Dress

Often the most decorative of the afternoon dresses, a walking dress was for strolling among the masses. Because they were meant to be noticed, care was taken to make sure they were flattering and impressive.

They weren’t, however, always practical since they followed the fashion of the day like everything else, including when it came to the length of the train.

ridinghabitCarriage or Traveling Dress

Carriage dresses were made of heavier fabrics, intended to put up with the stress of traveling by coach for long periods of time. The cotton muslin frequently used in walking dresses was prone to wrinkle. Carriage dresses were also less trimmed, since those could get crushed while traveling, particularly if your coach was full of companions.

Riding Habits

Riding habits were very sturdy, very simple, and very modest. They would have very full skirts to drape over the lady’s legs while riding side saddle.

Evening Dress

GauzyEveningDressEvening dresses were the finest dresses in a lady’s wardrobe. The fabrics were thinner than the afternoon dress but were also much finer. Silks, satins, light taffetas, and very fine muslins were the fabrics of choice. Sleeves were frequently shorter and bodices were cut lower.

The different types of evening dress were indicated more by the level of embellishment than by the style. A lady’s ball gowns would be trimmed and embroidered to the utmost fashion, with the intention of catching the light as well as the gentleman. Many ball gowns were actually two gowns, with a sheerer gown worn over another. The bottom gown was sometimes colored and the top layer might only fall 3/4 of the way down the skirt, allowing the embellished hem of the underdress to show.

Opera gowns and dinner dresses were, by comparison, a bit simpler. They were still made of fine fabrics, still cut to show off more than a day dress, but were not intended to be quite as impressive as the ball gown.

Court Gowns

courtdressCourt gowns were worn for the very special and rare occasion that a young lady went to the royal court. These gowns were a throwback to a bygone era, forgetting fashion entirely in the name of tradition. Wide, hooped skirts, long trains, and overly elaborate hair decorations ruled the court.

When people tried to mix these traditions with modern fashions you ended up with some very silly looking high-waisted gowns with elaborate bell-like skirts.

 

With all these dresses, it’s a wonder that Regency ladies ever got anything done besides changing their clothes.

Didn’t win Brentwood’s Ward? Have some fun making your own Regency hero or heroine!

Congratulations to Merry for winning the drawing for a copy of Brentwood’s Ward! Check your email for more details from Michelle!

While Merry is entertaining herself with the adventures of Nicholas and Emily, the rest of us can have some fun of our own.

I found these really fun links from Deviant Art. It’s virtual Regency paper dolls. The time I spent playing around on this site could be why this post is late this morning… oh well.

Here’s the Regency couple I made:

HeroDoll HeroineDoll

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Aren’t they adorable?

You can make your own Regency couple at the links below.

Heroines and Heroes

Unfortunately there isn’t a way to post pictures in the comments, but if you make a character and post it elsewhere (Twitter, Pinterest, Facebook, Tumblr, etc.), please leave the link below. We’d love to see them!

Technical Directions for saving the picture: 

On a PC running Windows 7 or higher, go to the Start menu and search for the “Snipping Tool”. Select new and drag a square around your picture. Then save it.

I don’t have a Mac, but the internet says you can do something similar in OSX by pressing command + shift + 4.

If these methods don’t work for you, search the internet for how to do a screen capture on your operating system. If you end up with the entire screen, you can go to pic monkey to crop it. (Select edit, load your picture, then select crop. Save your picture to your computer.)

 

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.

The Natural Look ~ cosmetic trends in the Regency, by Susan Karsten

If you were a young lady during the late 1960s -1970s, you put up with the domination of the bare-faced aesthetic that ruled our beauty efforts.

To this day, at the beauty shop, I am asked if I am okay with hairspray. Yes, yes, yes — I want that hairdo to last as long as possible. But I know the question is a holdover from the days when natural reigned.

What does this have to do with the Regency Period? In that day, styles moved away from the previous heavy macquillage which included white lead, pasted-on beauty marks, and powdered hair and wigs. The less contrived and more-freeing fashions of our beloved Regency Period, called for a simpler look as far as cosmetics as well.

The simpler Regency make-up’s similarities to the make-up of the 60s-70s is amazing! Think of their colored lip salves (like our lip gloss), a touch of rouge (like our blusher), eyelash tints (like our mascara), and home made beauty aids were popular in both periods as well. Innocence was the look they were going for, and in our 20th century day, we were going for natural.

The move away from heavy facial cosmetics lead to an upsurge in perfumes, lotions, creams, oils, salves, and cures. Freckle creams were big, because those little spots were a major no-no.

So, when you are reading Regency fiction and you are picturing your heroine, your imaginary face should more than likely be without any noticeable make-up — the bare minimum.

Do you remember the period of the 60s-70s? What were your favorite cosmetics? Did you usually go without?

Thanks for reading! from Susan Karsten

The best thing is to look natural, but it takes makeup to look natural.”  {Calvin Klein}

Gerard’s red and black scarf

Gerard's scarf211

Camy/Camille here! As I write this blog post, I’m working on finishing “The Spinster’s Christmas,” a new Regency romance short novel that will be included in the upcoming Inspy Kisses anthology, Mistletoe Kisses. The anthology features 7 other authors with me and includes contemporary romance, romantic suspense, and historical romance stories.

It was absolutely fascinating to research Christmas in the Regency, and especially kissing boughs. 🙂 There is a scene where the house party goes skating, and my heroine, Miranda, has lost her scarf (in an earlier scene). The hero, Gerard, gallantly gives her his scarf, which is knit in red and black.

Knitting patterns were called receipts because they were literally received from someone, passed down from generation to generation. There is a receipt of a Gentleman’s Comforter in the book, The Ladies’ Knitting and Netting Book, First Series by Miss Watts, originally published in 1837. You can download the .pdf of the Fifth Edition, with additions, which was published in 1840.

I am fairly certain that although this knitting book, one of the first of its kind, was published after the Regency era, the patterns were probably much in use during the Regency period and perhaps even in the Georgian era before that. The patterns simply were passed from friends and families by word of mouth or hand-written patterns.

I based my hero’s scarf after this Gentleman’s Comforter pattern, although I embellished it a bit by having it knit in red and black rather than a single color. Here’s the original pattern from the book:

Gentleman's Comforter from Watts-Ladies' Knitting and Netting Book 1st series

I am going to knit this! It looks to be made with very fine yarn, probably lace weight or fingering weight yarn. My yarn is ordered and I’ll be posting my progress. I’ll also rewrite the original pattern to make it easier for today’s knitters. 🙂

Want to knit this with me? Let me know!

Update: Part 2 is here!

mistletoe_lowresMistletoe Kisses is available for $0.99 only until November 30th! Preorder your copy today!

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The Cravat ~ More than just a necktie

Kristi here. If you’ve ever read a Regency you’ve come across a man wearing a cravat. It’s a staple of early 19th century menswear. We know it goes around the neck. We know a man would be underdressed without one. And you’ve probably come across one described as “intricately tied” or some variation thereof.

But what did they actually look like?

Cravats were a great deal more than the precursor to the modern necktie. They were a fashion statement and one of the most changeable features of menswear at the time.

Louis XIV with his new neckwear.
Louis XIV with his new neckwear.

When the cravat first crossed the channel from France it was a simple thing, resembling a scarf knotted around the neck.

Louis XIV of France adopted the fashion after dealings with Croatia. It had the double benefit of being more comfortable than the stiff collars as well as sending all the men scrambling to change fashions.

The idea changed over the years, becoming a simple rectangle of fabric attached behind the neck at one point.

By the time Beau Brummel got ahold of it, the cravat had become much more. Some knots required a hour to tie correctly. Starch also came into play helping the collars and cravats maintain sharp creases and points as well as height. It was not uncommon for collar points to reach into the cheek area.

During the Regency, an intricately tied cravat became more of a fashion statement than an overly embellished neckcloth.

In 1818, an entire book was published on the tying of cravats and neckcloths. Another was published in 1828.

Neckclothitania (1818)

The Art of Tying the Cravat (1828) (Unfortunately some of the pictures are missing from this copy. One is below. You can see the rest here.)

neckcloths

cravatBecause of the starched nature of the Regency cravat, a man could go through several cloths in a day.

If a mistake was made in the tying, an incorrect crease would be visible, requiring him to start afresh.

If he changed clothes or the cravat became limp, he had to start again. All to obtain male fashion perfection.

Kind of makes the hassle of tying a tie today seem a little less bothersome.

The idea of a fancy knot is coming back into fashion though. Have you seen the Eldredge or Trinity knots? Or even the return of a real bowties? They could make a man long for the days of cravats and valets.

EldridgeKnot

But they sure do look cool.

 

Pelisses, Spencers, and Redingotes, Oh my!

Our question page is open! If you have a question about the Regency era or a book set in the Regency, let us know! We’ll do our best to answer. Like this question:

Women never just wear a coat in Regency books. What is the difference between a pelisse and a spencer jacket?

There were three types of jackets for females in Regency England. The redingote, pelisse, and spencer.

The Bennet Sisters
Spencer jackets worn by the Jane and Elizabeth Bennet in 1995’s Pride and Prejudice.

The Spencer Jacket

Spencer jackets were short and followed the bodice lines of the dress. These were inspired by the tailless men’s top coats of the late 18th century. The men’s coat were believed to come into fashion after the Earl of Spencer singed the tails on his coat and had them trimmed off. Hence the name Spencer Jacket.

Pelisse from 1811, notice how the closures run all the way down the garment
Pelisse from 1811, notice how the closures run all the way down the garment

The Pelisse

Pelisses also followed the line of the dress, but they went much longer. When completely buttoned, the pelisse could hide all but the hem of the dress underneath. It was almost like wearing an entire second dress which would be necessary during colder time periods because the women’s dresses were very thin.

A Regency redingote where the fastenings are only over the bodice.
A Regency redingote where the fastenings are only over the bodice.

The Redingote

Similar to the pelisse, the redingote is long. However, it does not close completely in the front. As the Regency faded and skirts began to widen and grow, the Redingote became a favored outer garment because it revealed the dress beneath and didn’t have to close over an enlarged skirt.

 

 

Visit our question page to tell us what you’d like to know about Regency England.

What’s your favorite style of jacket?