If you’ve read Jane Austen novels or watched movie adaptations, you’re probably familiar with the dress style of the Regency era, which we now refer to as Empire, although the term would not have been employed at the time.
In contrast to the ornate, heavy, and far more structured-looking clothing of the Georgian era—which included hoopskirts or panniers and false rumps, to name but a few items—the garments of the Regency era invoked a sleeker, more classical Greco-Roman style.
Empire gowns have an extremely high waist; in fact, the gowns are fitted right below the bust. The skirt is long, loose, and was usually worn with minimal petticoats to present a lengthened and more columnar silhouette.
Empire gowns, by their very design, emphasized a lady’s bosom. The bodices were snug and low-cut, but one’s decolletage could also be stylishly concealed with a chemisette, fichu, or tucker for less formal occasions.
Although the silhouette of Regency gowns was more svelte, there were still a number of layers beneath each gown.
A chemise, or shift, would be worn close to the body to protect the more expensive overgarments. It served the same purpose as the twentieth-century slip.
Next came a petticoat, or petticoats, depending on the gown and the time of day. Fashionable ladies in the Regency wore very insubstantial petticoats, especially under ball gowns. Some women were even accused of misting their thin gowns with water before balls to cause the fine muslins and thin silks to adhere to the wearer’s body!
Over the chemise was a corset—also called “stays” during this period—which were shorter and unlike the full-torso corsets of the Georgian or Victorian eras.
For daytime activities, a lady would likely wear a chemisette or tucker over her corset and directly beneath her gown. A chemisette served to raise the neckline of the gown a bit.
Hosiery as we know it didn’t exist during the Regency. If you’ve heard the term “don’t tie your garter in public,” you might have wondered what that meant. Knit stockings—made from wool, cotton, or silk—usually went up to the knee or just above and would be tied on with decorative garters to keep them secure.
And I haven’t even begun to describe the various outerwear … .
But that’s a subject I’ll have to save for another day. So, what do you think—would you be willing to trade in your cardigans and ballet flats and embrace the more formal clothing of the Regency era?
About the Author
Minerva Spencer was born in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. She has lived in Canada, the United States, Europe, Africa, and Mexico. After receiving her M.A. in Latin American History from the University of Houston, she taught American history for five years before going to law school. She was a prosecutor and labor lawyer before purchasing a bed-and-breakfast in Taos, New Mexico, where she lives with her husband and dozens of rescue animals. Readers can find her at MinervaSpencer.com.
From handsome hostage …
When Eva de Courtney kidnaps Godric Fleming, her only plan is to stop the irritating earl from persecuting her beloved brother. But once she has the intriguing rogue in the confines of her carriage, she longs to taste the passion she senses simmering beneath his rugged exterior. Her forbidden plan is foiled, however, when Godric turns the tables, taking her hostage instead—and demanding they marry at once.
To unexpected suitor . . .
The last thing Godric wants to do is make the fiery, impulsive Eva his wife, despite her delectable mouth and alluring innocence. He knows from experience that nothing is forever, not even love. But honor demands he do right by the lady, no matter how stubbornly Eva tries to hold on to her independence. And while the road to the Scottish border is beset with danger, Godric’s greatest challenge is to keep his hands—and his heart—from his captivating bride-to-be.