Category: Fashion

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.

Originally posted 2015-05-05 14:26:53.

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.)

 

Originally posted 2015-03-02 10:25:17.

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.

FullSizeRender

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.

Originally posted 2014-12-01 05:00:00.

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}

Originally posted 2014-11-06 09:04:11.

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!

Kindle
iBooks
Kobobooks.com
Nook

Originally posted 2014-11-03 06:00:00.

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.

 

Originally posted 2014-10-23 01:00:00.

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?

Originally posted 2014-09-04 05:00:00.

Regency Best Dressed List ~ What would you wear?

Kristi here. It’s no secret that part of the Regency era’s appeal is the clothes. Fancy and glamorous, yet relatable with it’s lack of hoop skirts and horse hair bustles. I’m going to the ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers) Conference in September and one of the events is a dinner where everyone is invited to dress up as one of their characters.

I don’t have a Regency era dress. I’m seriously considering making one (with the help of my considerably more sewing skilled mother). If I do it will probably be a fairly simple cotton one, not a fancy ballgown. But if I were to dream, what kind of Regency dress would I want?

MorningGownRuffleFirst off, it would definitely be an evening dress. The ruffles around the neck and face that often accompany morning dresses would drive me insane.

Second, I’d want some color. I have no desire to look like a ghost walking around in an all white gown. I’d stay away from the lavenders and purples, since those indicated a state of half-mourning. Red would be a bit garish, though the Hubs always likes me in it. I think I’d lean to the blues or greens. I see more blue in Ackerman’s prints than green, so we’ll go with blue.

GauzyEveningDressI think my favorite would be something like this, but with a blue underskirt instead of the pink. ReproductionBlueDress

And guess what? I could actually order a reproduction dress very similar to it… though of course it’s rather expensive. It’s gorgeous though, isn’t it?

PlaidEveningGownOf course, this was all dreamed up before I came across this beauty. One day I’m going to have to write a heroine with the gumption to walk into a ball wearing a plaid evening gown. That is just amazing.

What about you? Do you have a dream Regency outfit?

Originally posted 2014-07-31 10:00:00.

Men’s Regency Hair Styles, by Susan Karsten

Hi, Susan Karsten here!

Grecian influence held sway over the men’s hairstyles (as it did for women as well). Short hair prevailed for men during the Regency. Many wore their hair natural, parts were not popular. But the fashionable set wore one of the following hairstyles.

Windswept:

 

Brutus: As popularized by Beau Brummel

Titus:

 

Coup au Vent: This modern hairdresser is doing a style that is very close to what my research describes!

Cherubin:

Which one’s your favorite? Are they what you’d imagined?

Originally posted 2014-06-19 10:00:00.

Knitting a Victorian shawl

Hi guys, Camy here!

IMG_1162

My mom taught me basic knitting when I was young, but then I forgot it all as an adult. I wanted to knit again, so I learned from online videos (so awesome! I can hit repeat over and over).

IMG_1153One thing that has fascinated me since I started knitting has been historical knitting patterns. One book I love is Victorian Lace Today by Jane Sowerby. There are tons of lacy shawl patterns to knit and they’re all gorgeous. They range from easy to difficult.

I love knitting these patterns because they make me feel like a woman in those times, knitting delicate shawls for an evening by the fire or for a day out in London.

IMG_1150This shawl is called “Large Rectangle with Center Diamond Pattern” in the book. It’s actually a combination of two knitting patterns:

“Close Diamond, Surrounded by Open Stitch” from The Lady’s Assistant by Jane Gaugain, volume 1, edition published in 1847

And

“Vandyke Border” from My Knitting Book by Frances Lambert, first edition published in 1843.

IMG_1165I’ve included links above to the digitized versions of these books, which you can download for free! The books themselves are fascinating, because the patterns and the items women could make represented the industrious needlework of women in the early 1800s. In addition to shawls, women could make mittens, caps, purses, stockings, ruffs, counterpanes, even garters!

For you crocheters, Jane Gaugin’s book also includes crochet patterns, although they’re not very detailed. The book also includes netting patterns.

The shawl I made looks like a complicated pattern, but it’s actually very easy. The center portion repeats the same diamond motif over and over again, and the edging is knitted on, also in a repeating pattern that’s easy to memorize.

IMG_1163I used a lace weight yarn, which is a wool yarn that is very thin, almost like crochet cotton, but it’s very light and lofty. I also used a pretty large needle size for the yarn, so the holes are larger and the lace pattern shows up better.

After knitting, I blocked it, which is basically just dampening it and then pinning it out on my bed to dry, stretching it a little so the lace pattern opens up. Once dry, it stays opened up.

IMG_1168Can you imagine a young Victorian lady throwing this shawl about her shoulders as she heads out for a carriage ride at the park? Or perhaps tucking it about her bodice for modesty as she receives morning callers?

In Victorian Lace Today, Sowerby writes: “Not only did a shawl provide warmth, it was a modest cover-up for décolleté dresses. Mrs. Gaugain (the author of the first knitting pattern I linked to above) suggested that a shawl should be ‘for throwing over the shoulders indoors, or for very young ladies wearing out-of-doors.’”

If any of you are knitters and you haven’t tried lace knitting yet, I encourage you to try it! The first several patterns in this book are super easy, and you can feel you’re a Victorian lady knitting a shawl for an evening out. 🙂 If you’re on Ravelry, here’s the link to my knitting notes.

PreludeForALord lowresTo celebrate the release of my first Regency romance in August, I’m busy knitting away so that I can offer some Victorian lace shawls in a few giveaways I’ve planned! I’ll be giving away several gift baskets with shawls, a violin ornament, and some Jane Austen tea. 🙂 I hope you all will preorder Prelude for a Lord!

Originally posted 2014-06-05 05:00:51.