Yesterday I presented my Regency Costume Talk and Display ‘Enter the World of Jane Austen’ for Sunderland Embroiderers Guild. We had a splendid afternoon and the ladies said they really enjoyed my talk. I described the fashions worn around the time of Jane Austen who was born in 1775 and only lived until 1817 dying at the age of only 42 years old.
It was an era immortalised by Jane Austen who adeptly used the new found diversity of fashion to enliven her characters – Mr Darcy’s understated elegance, Miss Tilney’s romantic fixation with white muslin and Mr Whickham’s military splendour.
I compared the different types of dresses worn during the period – the casual morning dress worn only in the house – created of old fabric or restyled dresses – why with all the money you saved you could spend it on your going out dresses!
The afternoon or going out dress which would be of the best fabric and decorated beautifully to go out and be seen in. I created a very elegant gown in white windowpane cotton and lace.
I also included a very ornate and elaborate pure silk evening gown – which I created in lilac silk fabric decorated with crystal beading and gold lace which would be worn for a ball.
Not forgetting my set of Regency reproduction underwear – it is extremely important to wear the right undergarments to give the correct period shape. I designed a short stays bra worn about 1800 – 1830 and a chemise which would be the first layer nest to the skin. I also included a set of the first pair of knickers ever worn in about 1790 – before then NO KNICKERS were worn at all.
They were separate legs tied separately around the waist – not a not a very sturdy arrangement, as one woman found out the hard way in 1820:
“They are the ugliest things I ever saw: I will never put them on again. I dragged my dress in the dirt for fear someone would spy them. My finest dimity pair with real Swiss lace is quite useless to me for I lost one leg and did not deem it proper to pick it up, and so walked off leaving it in the street behind me, and the lace had cost six shillings a yard…’
An embarrassing disaster for the lady, and a source of amusement for everyone else.”
My final costume was a very ornate masquerade costume which was commissioned for a friend as it was based on the coronation gown for Empress Josephine – wife of Napoleon Bonaparte who was crowned in 1801 – it was created in beautiful velvet with gold trimming.
I received the message below after my talk –
“Many thanks for coming to our Guild meeting yesterday. You gave us a splendid afternoon, your costumes were lovely and we learned a lot about the fashion of Jane Austen`s time. The talk was delivered with enthusiasm and a delightful sense of humour. `Mr Darcy` was great too, an added bonus!”
We had a super afternoon presenting my Regency Talk and we were very pleased that the ladies enjoyed it too.