Fashion Plates in Regency England
By Catherine Lloyd, author of Death Comes to Bath of The Kurland St. Mary Mysteries
Even before I started writing the Kurland St. Mary mystery series, I was already in love with the Regency era. I read Jane Austen, Georgette Heyer, War and Peace, and anything I could get my hands on about that time period. I studied the politics and wars at university and concluded that it was a very interesting yet unstable time to be alive.
Growing up in England, I often spent Sunday afternoons looking through bookstores and antiques fairs for affordable research books. I came across a publication called Ackermann’s Repository of Arts, Literature, Commerce, Manufactures, Fashions, and Politics. (And, yes, the periodical really did cover all of those areas of interest.) Each issue came with a series of engravings that might depict current trends in furniture, the architecture of a stately home, the newest lace pattern, or an elaborate gown.
The magazine also featured reviews of theater productions, novels, biographies of famous people, and lots of advertisements on the back page for medical cures, incoming shipments of goods, and a court section about what the royals were getting up to. Reading those long articles today takes some doing as the word use, the punctuation, and the often rather lecturing tone of the writer reflect writing styles that have gone out of fashion. But the publication did have a strong influence on English society’s views on culture and fashion.
It is rare to find an intact copy of an Ackermann’s Repository because, over the years, the engraved plates have been ripped out and sold while the text portions are discarded. The original title was published between 1809 and 1828 and then became Ackermann’s Repository of Fashion, kind of the Vogue of their day. Families would subscribe to the journal. Then the women might take the fashion plates, with their very detailed descriptions, to their local dressmakers or make the gowns themselves.
I started collecting the fashion plates before I even realized where they had come from. These artistic portrayals were engraved and then individually hand-colored, a job usually done by women who might not have been able to read the instructions but could follow an already completed original. And they are exquisitely rendered, from the expressions on the faces to the dainty feet and deliberately elongated, willowy figures that defined the day’s ideals for the feminine form.
About Death Comes to Bath
On a visit to Bath, Major Sir Robert Kurland and Lady Lucy Kurland discover that the English spa town is not beneficial to everyone’s health ….
After Sir Robert’s injury from the battle of Waterloo begins troubling him again, his wife, Lucy, insists that they relocate from the village of Kurland St. Mary to Bath, along with her sister, Anna, so that he can take the waters and recover.
At the Roman baths, Robert befriends an elderly and pugnacious businessman, Sir William Benson, ennobled by the crown for his service to industry. Their acquaintance is short-lived, however, when the man is found drowned in the baths. Robert vows to find his killer, with Lucy’s aid.
The members of Sir William’s family seem the most obvious suspects to benefit from the wealthy man’s demise, but his will has gone missing. To deduce who sent Sir William to a watery grave, Robert and Lucy must investigate with the utmost discretion—before they, too, find themselves in over their heads.
About the Author
Catherine Lloyd was born just outside London, England, into a large family of dreamers, artists, and history lovers. She completed her education with a master’s degree in history at the University College of Wales, Aberystwyth, and uses the skills she gained there to research and write her historical mysteries. Catherine currently lives in Hawaii with her husband and four children. Visit Catherine at website or at the social media platform below.