Friday, October 10, 2008

Regency Dress

After much exploration I have found a myriad of representations of clothing styles of the (British) Regency Era, which was during the early 19th century between the Georgian and Victorian Eras. The following portrayals and explanations should give readers a basic knowledge of English and English-inspired U.S. fashions around the publication year of The Asylum (1811). I can easily imagine Melissa frolicking around the houses and gardens in these designs (although maybe not frolicking too comfortably in those stays).

Image:Fig 33 -- Corset a la Ninon 1810 (Costumes parisiens)b.gif Image:Fig 33 -- Corset a la Ninon 1810 (Costumes parisiens)a.gif

One Regency version of "long stays." Note that even in the case of these long stays, the object was not to produce a narrow waist like those corsets of the mid and later 19th century.


Called "short stays" at the time. Not really a "brassiere" (despite having side straps), since breasts were supported by pushing up from below.

An overview of woman's fashions during the period 1794-1887. First row: 1794, 1796, 1800, 1805.Second row: 1813, 1820, 1830, 1840. Third row: 1850, 1860, 1864, 1868. Fourth row: 1872, 1877, 1881, 1887


Ball gown from Ackermann's Repository (1810), an illustrated, British periodical published from 1809-1829 by Rudolph Ackermann. In its day, it had great influence on English taste in fashion, architecture, and literature.

Image:Five positions of dancing Wilson 1811.jpg

Although being from an English publication, the style of dress and dance would have been copied by ladies and gentlemen of the United States. The five "Positions of Dancing" from Thomas Wilson's Analysis of Country Dancing (1811) is an analysis of country dancing, designed for "those who possess no knowledge whatsoever of country-dancing." The manual uses text, tables, and color-coded diagrams to explain the figures for English country dances. The English country dance was one of the most popular early nineteenth-century ballroom dances. Originally published in 1808, the manual was reissued in 1822, and another version appeared in 1815 under the title The complete system of English country dancing.

"The Country Wedding", is an 1820 painting by German-American artist John Lewis Krimmel, depicting the marriage (at home) of the daughter of a moderately prosperous Pennsylvania farmer in the late 1810's. The bride's wedding dress would probably be used as her regular "Sunday best" dress for the next year or so (note that the hem of her dress is an inch or two above the ankle, as was practical for even the Sunday-best dress of a farmer's wife -- while a special-purpose wedding gown, which generally only the rich wore, would probably be floor-length and/or with a train trailing behind). She happens to be wearing a white dress, but wedding dresses were very commonly of other colors also during that period. (The artist might have put the bride in white just to ensure that she's the natural visual focus of attention.)

The bridesmaid is holding the bride's right glove, which she's taken off so that she can clasp the groom's hand directly skin-to-skin (something which at the time would be considered an inappropriate display in many other contexts, but not here).

Symbolic lovebirds are in a cage above the bride and groom. The cat is hiding away on top of the cupboard. The whip-like thing that the little boy is holding is for spinning children's tops very fast.

The following is commentary which accompanied an engraving of the painting that was printed in the Analectic Magazine in 1820:

"The Country Wedding is engraved from a painting by Krimmel, an artist not sufficiently known to be duly appreciated. He is a native of Germany, but long since chose this country for his residence, and has painted many pictures in which the style of Wilkie -- so much admired in England -- and Gerard Dou so much celebrated of yore -- is most successfully followed. He avoids the broad humor of the Flemish school as much as possible, as not congenial to the refinement of modern taste, and aims rather at a true portraiture of nature in real, rustic life.

In the picture here presented he has delineated a scene of no rare occurrence in the dwelling of our native yeomanry. The whole is in admirable keeping. The furniture and decorations of the rooms, the costume and attitudes of the characters show perfectly the inside of a farmer's dwelling, and the business that occupies the group. The old clergyman appears to have just arrived, his saddlebags, hat and whip, lie on the chair near the door, the bride stands in all her rustic finery, rustic bloom and rustic bashfulness. The bride-groom's hand on her shoulder, seems intended to revive her courage, while the manner in which he grasps her hand is at once affectionate and awkward. The distress of the mother solaced by the father, who points to the younger daughter, as if indicating her as the successor to her sister's rank in the family, is well expressed. And the by-play at the door, which is opened by a servant girl to admit an old woman, the awkward affectation of grace and importance in the bride's-maid, whose attention seems to be attracted by what is passing between the young man and young woman on the other side of the room, all are full of life and true character of painting."


Dr. Logan said...

Hi Ash, The clothing that the man in the engraving at the front of the novel matches what you've shown quite well. I wonder if you might look in APS at Mitchell's _The Political Barometer_ to see if there were any essays about clothing (esp. of women). In the periodicals that I've viewed from the 1790s, many essayists composed rants about dress. Excellent painting at the head of your blog, and the green is SO much easier to read. Great connections here! LML