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.

Image result for round gowns are defined as

 

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.

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}

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?

The Shawl: A Regency Fashion Essential, by Susan Karsten

Either utilitarian or elegant, the shawl joins the pelisse and spencer as a main regency outerwear option. Over an evening dress, draped artistically, the shawl appeared as an ornament. At home or when not on display, however, they would be used to cover the shoulders and upper body to provide warmth.

Shawl worn with an evening dress

The shawls came either rectangular or square and some were over six feet long.
Cashmere shawls imported from Kashmir in the Himalayas were warm, beautiful and popular. Also popular was the English Norwich silk shawl which cost 60 pounds and was one yard square. It’s clear the shawl was a fashion essential during the regency, particularly as the dresses tended to be scanty.

A wide array of shawls

Contest Winner and A Peek at the Handmade Dress on the Cover of Moonlight Masquerade

We have a winner!

The winner of our Moonlight Masquerade contest for a $25 Amazon gift card is:

Melissa!

Who correctly answered last Friday’s question about where Napoleon escaped from in 1815.

If you’re wondering whether you answered your questions correctly, we have the answers for all four questions at the bottom of the post. But first, we want to give you a peek at the dress that appears on the cover of Moonlight Masquerade. Did you know it was handmade as a homage to the 1820’s? This petticoated Regency dress was made by Patricia Franco, who wrote a little snippet about the dress for us to share with you:

The cover of the book, Moonlight Masquerade, is much more than a collection of words on 1820 ch.backa blank page.  A photographer and designer play a pivotal role in bringing a book to the public’s attention. For Moonlight Masquerade, photographer and designer Brandon Hill brandonhillphotos and the team at Revell Books wanted something richer, something that gave a sense of the era and conveyed an emotion. He found the right place, and the right model, but  jeans wouldn’t do. A quick search through Etsy found a sweeping, blue satin dress – made by Patricia Francisco of Patrician Designs. Nice find!

The dress you see is handmade, true to the period, complete with petticoats and custom fabric trim. This isn’t some Butterick or Simplicity pattern. It is a lot of custom work. Whew! It’s a work/art/passion and the kind of work that keeps Patrician Designs busy.1820 sleeve detail 2

Of course, let’s be real. Truly in period would be hand-stitched by the light of an oil lamp using fabric that somehow survived a couple of centuries. Welcome to the new millennium. Sewing machines and electric lights were involved in the production of this gown.

1820charm.The dress was a project encouraged by a Victorian reenactment  group, back before Patrician Designs was dreamed up. The basic dress probably didn’t take as long as the trim or the petticoats. The trim was cloth not even intended as trim, but the pattern and texture were just right for the band at the high waist and down the front. The petticoats, which are hard to see, took just as much time, especially fitting the petticoats to the dress. All of the layers must hang and flow together. Imagine going for a walk in this dress, maybe even dancing. It is what they did in the regency era.

moonlight-mas-cover-updateIt is a joy to see the dress on the cover, and to have a copy of the book (which will be treated tenderly, no broken spine!) If you want to see more such work, including other eras (even steampunk) go to the same site used by the book cover designers .  Enjoy!

http://www.etsy.com/shop/PatricianDesignsEtc

www.whidbeysewing.com

www.facebook.com/whidbeysewing

 

Thank you for sharing with us, Patricia. The dress is absolutely stunning! (Though I must admit, anything that involves a sewing machine often has me running for the other room.) The last time I attempted to sew something, I spent 45 minutes trying to get the bobbin to wind. At that point, I gave up and decided it would be easier for me to just pay someone else to do my sewing. You have a really remarkable talent!

And now for the answers to our quiz questions from last week:

1) The summer of 1814 was known as the victory summer in Britain because the war with France was over. But in 1815 they were mobilizing troops once again. Why?

a) Napoleon had escaped from Elba.
b) Napoleon had allied himself with Russia.
c) Napoleon had escaped from St. Helena.
d) Napoleon had escaped to America.

Answer.: a) Napoleon had escaped from Elba. He had been put on an island off the coast of Italy by the British and other Allied governments but escaped in a ship with 1000 men and landed at Antibes in Southern France.

2) Which allied armies fought the French in the battle of Waterloo?

a) British, German, Russian
b) British, Austrian, Prussian
c) British, Russian, Prussian
d) British, Dutch, Prussian

Answer.:  d)  The Duke of Wellington led the British forces alongside the young Prince of Orange who commanded the Dutch troops. They were joined by the Prussian troops led by von Blücher who arrived from the east.

3) The hero in Moonlight Masquerade is lent to the Home Office from his job at the Foreign Office, in order to spy on Lady Céline Wexham.  Céline was born in France but spent her adult life in England when her mother and she escaped France during the French Revolution. What were these French living in England called?

a) foreigners
b) émigrés
c) francais
d) frogs

Answer: b) émigrés, a French word for emigrant, was used by the British aristocracy and gentry, who were conversant in French, to describe all the arriving French aristocrats fleeing the Reign of Terror.

4)  The title of Moonlight Masquerade refers to a masked ball. Which of the following costume would not be a typical one at a regency bal masqué?

a) shepherdess
b) pirate
c) hula girl
d) Harlequin

Answer: c) hula girl, which is a Hawaiian dancer. Europeans were not very familiar with Hawaii in the Regency period. The islands had only been discovered by Capt. Cook in 1778, and the only people traveling there were military advisers and merchant ships.

5) Who was made the leader of France after Napoleon abdicated?

a) Louis XVI
b) Louis XVII
c) Louis XVIII
d) Charles X

Answer: c) Louis XVIII, formerly the Comte de Provence, a younger brother of Louis XVI, who was beheaded during the French Revolution. His son, who would have been Louis XVII died from sickness at the age of ten while in prison. Charles X, a younger brother of Louis XVI & Louis XVIII, reigned as king after his brother Louis XVIII died.

Thank you for everyone who participated in our contest. It was lovely to read your answers and get to interact with you, and we really appreciate your enthusiasm over the release of Moonlight Masquerade! Next month we have two more books releasing, and we look forward to telling you more about each of those!

The Evolution of the Empire Waist

Regency fashions are so iconic that one can tell at a glance if a clothing ensemble is from that era.

Constance Mayer 1801, free flowing white dress
Note the flowing lines and the Grecian draping of the gown in this 1801 painting.

The easiest thing to spot is, as one would suppose, on the women’s fashions. During this time period the waist of dresses rose higher and higher until it rested just under the bust. This was a drastic change from the heavily corseted fashions that preceded and followed the Regency era.

But why the change? What spurred a three decade shift away from the structured gown to the flowing silhouette we know and love?

Greece and France.

While the English might not want to move to France or have Napoleon take over their country, there were plenty of French things they did like. Fashion was one of them. So when French ladies began emulating paintings of Grecian goddesses in their fashions, England followed suit.

The Grecian influence can be easily seen in some of the first high waisted dresses from the early 1800s. Crossed trimmings, geometric shapes, even shawls and drapes hearkened back to the depictions of Aphrodite and  Queen Hera.

1813 gown with horizontal line trim
This 1813 Ackermann’s Repository gown shows the military lines and trim becoming popular during the war.

Gradually these Grecian influences softened as designs strove to be new and different each year. As the war began, military stylings began to appear. Frog closures, military trimming, and even boxier shoulders made an appearance. As this happened, the waistline crept ever higher, until there was little to be called a waist for it fell so close to the bust line.

Skirts tended to flow close to the body, lending themselves to many a cartoon about the potential risqueness of the fashion.

1817 fashion plate
Notice the ruffles and the wider skirt bottom of this 1817 gown.

After the war, the British once more traveled to France and incorporated their fashion trends. The skirt belled out a bit more, forming a A-line shape. The waist also began to lower. Inch by inch, year by year, it crept back down to it’s original position. Ruffles and voluminous shoulders and necklines appeared. Corsets finally returned and the waistline went from rising and falling to shrinking.

I have to think that if you were a young woman who had grown up in the looser clothing of the Regency, the fashion requirement of lacing corsets would have been a harsh adjustment.

What do you think? Do you like a high waistline? Wish the free-flowing, high-waisted gown would make a fashion comeback?