Fashion in the Time of Jane Austen (Shire Library)
Sarah Jane Downing
Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub
The broader Regency period 1795-1820 stands alone as an incredible moment in fashion history unlike anything that went before or after. It was the most naked period since Ancient Greece and before the 1960s, and for the first time England became a fashion influence, especially for menswear, and became the toast of Paris. With the ancient regime deposed, court dress became secondary and the season by season flux of fashion as we know it came into being, aided and abetted by the proliferation of new ladies' magazines.
Such an age of revolution and innovation inspired a flood of fashions taking influence from everything including the newly discovered treasures of the ancient world, to radical new ideas like democracy. It was an era of contradiction immortalized by Jane Austen, who adeptly used the newfound diversity of fashion to enliven her characters, Wickham's military splendor, Mr. Darcy's understated elegance, and Miss Tilney's romantic fixation with white muslin.
concentrated higher at the artificial waistline below the bosom. At this point stays still had shoulder straps, and in September 1813 Jane was ‘really glad to hear that they are not to be worn so much off the shoulders as they were’, and was pleased to note that ‘the stays now are not made to force the bosom up at all; – that was a very unbecoming, unnatural fashion.’ She may well have been referring to a ‘divorce’ – a punning name for a new corset that kept the breasts separate and according to
once a method of splitting straw was perfected, the English straw trade rose successfully to the challenge of replacing the delicate Italian leghorn straw that had been embargoed during the wars with France. Smarter afternoon and promenade hats were of fabrics shaped with wire, and evening styles were silk. Little could seem more feminine than the bonnet, but the close-fitting style was originally masculine, based on a military helmet. The casquet à la Minerve (Le Bon Genre, 1810).
In December 1798 when Jane is deeply involved in making a new cap, she writes to Cassandra: I took the liberty a few days ago of asking your black velvet bonnet to lend me its cawl, which it very readily did, and by which I have been enabled to give a considerable improvement of dignity to my cap, which was before too nidgetty to please me. I shall wear it on Thursday, but I hope you will not be offended with me for following your advice as to its ornaments only in part. I still venture to
bout of illness, ‘On the King’s Happy Recovery’. Fans celebrated Nelson’s sea victories and followed each development in the war, giving details of the ships involved, those captured and sunk. Other fans were ivory or bone with incredibly intricate carving to look like muslin. There was a system of fan etiquette designating the correct ways to use and hold a fan to enhance the beauty and grace of the hands. There was also a language of the fan, probably derived from The Speaking Fan published by
in light of growing awareness of the links between health, hygiene and activity Rousseau advocated that: …the limbs of a growing child should be free to move easily in his clothes; nothing should cramp their growth or movement; the French style of dress uncomfortable and unhealthy for a man, is especially bad for children … the best plan is to keep children in frocks as long as possible and then to provide them with loose clothes, without trying to define the shape... Their defects of body and