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Fashions of the Extended Regency Era
1800-1820

:: Fashion Overview :: Ladies' Fashions :: Gentlemen's Fashions ::
 

The illustrations below were culled from the 1807 pages of
La Belle Assemblee or Bell's Court and Fashionable Magazine Addressed Particularly to the Ladies
All of the gowns show the linear lines of the Grecian influence and show simple decoration, even the evening dresses.

On the left, please note the child's charming garments; the small pantalets and the dress edged with scallops--almost vandyked points. Is it a little boy?

 

On the right, a plate from December shows one lady well wrapped in her scarlet mantle, the other quite inadequately garbed in a narrow scarf.

Fashion is never so attractive as when Delicacy assists at her toilet.
 
Fashion Overview
We all, as readers and as writers, have a picture of the elegantly dressed people of the Regency era in our minds.
The picture comes from a variety of sources--Jane Austen, Georgette Heyer, perhaps Ackermann's Repository of the Arts.
A picture of people like these:
     
These are the epitome of the well-dressed aristocracy at the height of the Regency, say 1815.
Once the fashionable had abandoned the ladies' hoops and panniers, and the gentlemen's brocades and clocked stockings, fashion settled into a more predictable mode. Nevertheless it did have an evolution of its own over the years.
 
From the classical simplicity of 1800 to the subtle enhancements of 1805::
"How often do we see simplicity and youthful loveliness obscured by a redundancy of ornaments!"
 
From the subtleties of 1805 to the embellishments of 1810:
"...in the present style of female dress, (there is) a want of that proper distinction
which should ever be attended to in the several degrees of costume."
     
From the trimmings of 1810 to the flourishes of 1815-1820:
"A walking-dress cannot be constructed too simply."
 
"Dress is the natural finish of beauty. Without dress a handsome person is a gem, but a gem that is not set."
     
 
Ladies' Fashions
 
"...it is not she who spends the most time at her toilet that is usually the best dressed; a too zealous care generally subverts the effect it was meant to produce. It is very easy to 'varnish till the painting disappears'."
 
 


"On such occasions (ceremonious visits or evening parties), as well as at the theatre and opera, richly laced caps, with flowers, toques, or turbans, may be worn with propriety."
     
 
Their accessories and costume details:
 

"The long sleeve belongs with strict propriety
only to the domestic habit (excepting in spencers and redingotes, and pelisses)"
"To women of the most exalted as well as of the more humble ranks, we recommend a moderate, rather than a profuse, display of conspicuous and showy ornaments. ...regulate the adoption or rejection of striking decoration."

"Clear brunettes shine with the greatest lustre when they adopt pearls, diamonds, topazes, and bright amber. The fair beauty may also wear all these with advantage, while she exclusively claims as her own, emeralds, garnets, amethysts, rubies, onyxes, etc. Cornelian, coral, and jet, may be worn by either; but certainly produce the most pleasing effect on the rose and lily complexion."







 
Their style--increasingly decorated from the neoclassical look of 1800 to the flourishes of 1820:
"As a walking habit, we know of none in summer which is more graceful than the light-flowing shade of lace or finest muslin."
"Some ladies seek for notoriety by wearing the oddest patterns and colours they can find,
and adopting the most outre fashions the moment they are announced."
"...a diversity of colours bespeaks vulgarity of taste, and a mind without innate elegance or acquired culture."
"Women no longer consult their figures, but the whim of the moment...every consideration must yield to the prevailing mode."
 
 
The following is a post titled --

'Plain Silk Stocking, with Laced Clocks'

which appeared in my blog in July of 2010.

Most of us will never wear that ultimate luxury in hosiery, silk stockings. But in the Regency period, silk stockings were a requisite for the wardrobe of the aristocracy and the well-to-do, both ladies and gentlemen. Then, as now, they were expensive. In Georgette Heyer's Arabella, the eponymous heroine vows to save a little of the money she has for finery for her London season for at least one pair of fine silk stockings.

The title of this blog comes from the fashion notes of Ackernmann's Repository of the Arts for April 1815. The stockings mentioned were part of an evening dress ensemble, largely composed of white, particularly white satin. Though clocks had fallen somewhat out of fashion they were obviously still being worn.

2
This illustration is from the eighteenth century but shows the clocks that decorated the gusset heel turning of the stocking.

The following advertisement appears in many of the 1815 Ackermann's Repository journals:
SILK STOCKINGS
The cheapest and by far the largest Stock ever produced by any one House now, on Sale at the Manufacturer's Warehouse, 51, Cheapside. The patterns are of the richest and most elegant description, beginning at the extraordinary low price of 8s. usually sold 10s. 6d. to the very best and finest quality at 12s.6d. usually sold 16s. Economical Silk Stockings, both plain and ribbed, are selling off from 5s to the very best quality cheap in proportion. Children's Dress Silks of every size, an article few houses can produce. JOHNSON and Co. who are the sole manufacturers, wish particularly to recommend their … Black Silk Stockings so much in demand by professional gentlemen, and which, for strength of fabric and brightness of colour, stand unrivalled. To be had exclusively at Johnson & Co.'s 51, Cheapside, near Bow Church
In June of that same year, a competitor clearly thought he needed to advertise:
                    A WONDERFUL SAVING IN SILK STOCKINGS

The Nobility and Gentry are most respectfully informed, by purchasing at the original and old-established Nottingham Stocking Warehouse, No. 81, Charlotte-street, Fitzroy-Square, they will realize a saving of near 20 per cent in that fashionable and elegant part of dress, silk stockings.

Wm. Harris having just received from his Manufactory a superb Assortment of the newest designs in Embroidery and real Lace-Work Clocks, with the greatest variety of plain, from 5s. 9d. up to the very finest qualities, all of which are proportionally cheap;…
1Author Kalen Hughes has an interesting article on stockings here. The illustration at left of 1820's silk stockings and their garters is borrowed from her article. Jessamyn's Regency Costume Companion  has an interesting take on Regency underclothes including silk stockings. Reconstructing History has likewise an interesting post on silk stockings.

Gentlemen, it is reported, had often to wear a pair of cotton stockings under their silk ones, to conceal their hairy legs! Ladies accused of improper behaviour were said to have 'tied their garter in public'. The garters that held up silk stockings varied from ribbon to cord, to those with small buckles as above.

The Classical Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue, that invaluable collection of slang, describes a run in a stocking as a 'louse ladder'. A revolting simile to be sure, but a reminder of the truth often behind the glamour of such articles of clothing as silk stockings.

One only hopes that the silk stockings of the past did not 'run' with the irritating frequency of their present day counterparts. Then, as now, the expense of clothing the legs could be crippling.
     
 
 
Gentlemen's Fashions
 
 
And now a closer look at the gentlemen:
 
     
 
Their accessories and costume details:
 
Snuffbox above Banyan below
"Dark men, of bilious complexions, it must be remarked, generally look wretched in the extreme, in white neckcloths; while to fair men, they are very becoming."
"Of all portions of the male costume, however, most attention, perhaps, should be directed to the linen; if this be soiled, the appearance of the finest dress that was ever made is instantly destroyed;..."
"The hat, to look well, should always have a look of newness, as no one article of dress casts a greater gloom over the rest than a shabby hat."
"...one slight piece of advice, which is, to avoid all unnecessary display and glitter;
but, on the contrary, rather to seek to show an elegant simplicity..."
Their style--more and more simple as the century advanced:
above Beau Brummell by Tom Tierney
left & below dandies by Daniel Maclise
     
"This (full dress) dress, in fashionable circles, is always worn at dinner, and during the evening;
n and consists of a dress coat, pantaloons, pumps, and silk stockings, a white cravat,
white cambric handkerchief, and light kid gloves."
   
   
Bold text from "The Manual of Politeness" from Google Books