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Archive for February, 2008

Estimating lace and muslin: dress and fashion in Jane Austen and her world, by Jeffrey A. Nigro is a fabulous article about fashion in Jane’s day. This conference paper was published in Persuasions: The Jane Austen Journal in 2001. Some of Mr. Nigro’s observations include:

Convenience was another reason for the increasing simplicity in dress beginning in the 1780s. Dry cleaning was not invented until the middle of the nineteenth century, and did not become commonplace until the twentieth. In Austen’s time, a silk dress that got dirty was essentially ruined. The fabrics that started to become fashionable from the 1780s onward (muslin and other cotton fabrics, linen, lawn) were much easier to care for, which was part of their appeal. Nevertheless, given the absence of modern appliances, the care and maintenance of clothing still meant much work for the servants in upper- and middle-class households.

Outerwear garments included the spencer, a long-sleeved jacket that extended only to the raised waistline. Worn by both men and women, it was named for the 2nd Earl Spencer, who, according to one version of the story, cut off the coattails of his jacket after wagering that he could invent a new fashion. For colder weather, there was the pelisse, a skirt-length overcoat, often lined and trimmed with fur, which originated in Hungary as a part of military dress. Bonnets became fashionable, essentially smaller versions of the straw hats of the 1780s, but now pulled in to frame the face. Bonnets, like shawls, would become staples of feminine dress until at least the middle of the nineteenth century.

Click here for more links about fashion:

* Jane Austen Pellise coat

* A Quilted Regency Spencer Jacket

* The Spencer Jacket

* The Importance of Wearing White, Jane Austen Centre Magazine

* Kyoto Costume Institute

* Bonnets, Caps, Turbans, and Hats

Images:

Muslin dress, Vintage Textile (top)
Jane Austen’s Pellisse Coat (middle)
Kyoto Costume Institute, Spencer Jacket (bottom)

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    Update: Jane Austen Today is running an icon contest. Vote for your favorite icon and help its creator win one of two Becoming Jane DVDs. Click here to see the icon entries, and to vote. The contest is open until March 5. This icon was submitted last night by Sawcat.

    Edited 2-28-08

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    Jane Austen Sequels, written by Jane Odiwe, has recently been featuring a series of posts on Regency Brighton, including Brighton Encampments, Donkey Riding and Sea Bathing in Brighton, Stopping for Refreshment (on a coach from London to Brighton), and Brighton Entertainments. Jane also paints lovely watercolors and sells her images, cards, and books, such as her recently published Lydia Bennet’s Journal, on Austen Effusions. Jane has begun a third blog, which will discuss all things Austen and the Regency world. I become quite dizzy when I think of all her activities!

    Image of Refreshments at a Coaching Inn from Jane Austen Sequels

    Michelle Ann Young from Regency Ramble has just completed a series of posts on Bath. Michelle Ann frequently describes the flora and fauna of the era, and fashions of the season. She is also promoting her most recent novel, No Regrets.

    Visit Jane Austen Addict.com to read Laurie Viera Rigler’s posts about PBS Masterpiece Classic’s The Complete Jane Austen series. Laurie, author of The Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict, described a JASNA ball she attended in 2004. This photo shows her with her own Mr. Darcy, and looking beautiful in her red regency gown. Such fun! Also, don’t miss her posts about Mansfield Park and Pride and Prejudice. In addition, she oversees a forum on her website, and is writing a sequel to her best-selling novel. My, my, Laurie, you have been busy!

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    Genealogy and census records record the life in 19th century England in remarkable detail. Take Appleby, for example, a village in Leicestershire which has been occupied since the iron age. The 1841 census provides a complete record of how the inhabitants of this small village made their living at that precise time, including farmers, tradesmen, drapers and dressmakers, people in domestic service, and professional people. Descriptions for each group follow a similar pattern to this one for skilled workers:

    There was always a demand for skilled workers in the agricultural world and this is reflected in the large number of craftsmen supporting the farming community.Many were concerned with horses, the main means of providing power and transport.The particular men performing jobs which required skills relating to the agricultural world were:

    • 5 blacksmiths – shoeing horses and making wrought iron products for farm and home
    • 2 farriers – shoeing smiths also acting as horse doctors
    • 1 harness maker
    • 2 wheelwrights – making carts, wheels with their iron tyres (often fitted by the blacksmith)
    • 2 gamekeepers – looking after the squire’s game
    • 1 gardener employed in the new hall grounds
    Parish of Gorleston

    An inventory of goods during the 18th century recorded the possessions of established and prosperous middling farmers in such precise detail as: In ye dairy & kittchin, potts, kettles, one Copper, Barrills & tubes, In ye Chamber over ye house, one bed & Beding, Curtaines, chairs & table, In ye Chamber over ye dairy, 2 beds & beding, 2 bolsters & linnin, etc. I would imagine that history students and authors of history and historical romances would find such authentic descriptions invaluable in their research.

    The extract for Appleby in 1835 states that “letters arrive every morning at half-past ten, and are despatched every afternoon at three”, and that James Hatton was the Post Master. These details make history come alive again. Amazingly, records on almost every parish in England still exist. I’ve listed a few more below:

     

    Raunheim, Sleeping Kitchen Maid, 1850, Wikimedia Commons
    St. Michael’s Church, Appleby (Upper image)


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    Illustration from Modes et Manieres Du Jour, 1798 – 1808

    I have changed my mind, & changed the trimmings on my Cap this morning, they are now much as you suggested, – I felt as if I should not prosper if I strayed from your directions, & I think it makes me look more like Lady Conyngham now than it did before, which is all that one lives for now. Jane Austen to Cassandra, December 18-19, 1798

    Women during the Regency period wore headdresses outdoors as a matter of course. When a woman married, or if she was a spinster in her late twenties, she would also take to wearing a cap indoors. This image from Wikipedia shows Mme. Seriziat wearing a bergere, or shepherdess-style straw bonnet over a cap, as was the custom back then. When her child was a baby, he might have worn a simple bonnet, as infants still do today.

    Aside from sheltering delicate skin from the sun or hair from the elements, or protecting one’s head in drafty rooms, headdresses took on many other functions. They denoted class and economic status, as well as fashion sense and one’s marital state. Hats were also worn as a sign of respect, inside a church, for instance, and this custom remained widely popular until well into the 20th-century.

    Lace caps, mob caps, or draped caps, were made of lace, white linen or delicate muslin, and trimmed with ribbon. They could be ruffled, embroidered, or plain, depending on who wore them and their status. A housekeeper, for example, would wear a more elaborate cap than a scullery maid, whose mob cap was simple by comparison. In Pride and Prejudice 1995, Mrs. Bennet wore such frilly caps with so many ruffles and trimmings that they complimented her image as a silly woman. One can imagine how much fancier her caps were than her maid’s!

    Trimming and redecorating old bonnets provided a topic of conversation for women of all ages and social strata. In her novels and letters, Jane Austen frequently mentioned trimming new hats and making over old bonnets as a female activity. According to Penelope Byrde in A Frivolous Distinction, it was quite the fad during the last decade of the 18th century to adorn hats and bonnets with artificial fruits and flowers. As Jane Austen wrote Cassandra in June, 1799 (tongue in cheek we suspect):

    Flowers are very much worn, & Fruit is still more the thing – Eliz: has a bunch of Strawberries, & I have seen Grapes, Cherries, Plumbs & Apricots – There are likewise Almonds& raisins, french plums & Tamarinds at the Grocers, but I have never seen any of them in hats.

    In addition to professional milliners and modistes, there was quite a large cottage industry for making caps, hats, and turbans from home, which provided a meager salary for women who needed the income. The materials used in making headdresses were as varied as their styles: straw (chip or strip), beaver, velvet, silk, crape, satin, muslin or cloth (Byrde, p 6). Trims included ribbons, the above mentioned artificial fruits and flowers, veils, net, lace, or feathers, and even beads, pins, and brooches.

    For a more detailed explanation of the headdresses worn during this era and to view additional illustrations, please click on the following links.

    • Hats and Bonnets, Victoriana: Scroll to the bottom of this page to see illustrations from 1811 and 1812.
    • Fileblogs, Regency Caps, Linore Rose Burkhart: Linore describes the various hat styles in this link, along with materials and trims.

    For people interested in ordering their own Regency caps, or in trying their hand at making a bonnet, the following links will lead you to patterns, suppliers, and resources:

    • Louise MacDonald Millinery (link suggested by Laurel Ann, see above image). Louise created the caps for Pride & Prejudice 1995, and describes making them for the movie.

    Byrde, Penelope, A Frivolous Distinction: Fashion and Needlework in the works of Jane Austen, Bath City Council, 1979.

    Four Hundred Years of Fashion, Victoria and Albert Museum, edited by Natalie Rothstein, V&A Publications, 1984.

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    Want a chance to win a Becoming Jane DVD? Go to the Jane Austen Today blog and enter an icon of Tom Lefroy or Jane Austen, like Kayla did last fall. View contest rules here.

    Adore Josh Groban? Lady Jane from A Lady’s Diversions is giving away a free CD of Awake. All you need to do is leave a comment. She’ll draw names from a hat, and voila! You might be the winner!

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    One of my favorite blogs on the blogosphere is ::Surroundings:: by interior designer Linda Merrill. Linda, who is a fan of the 1995 version of Pride and Prejudice, has been hard at work finding scrumptious pieces of furniture and objects d’art that would fit perfectly inside Netherfield Park, Longbourn, and Pemberley. Click on the following links to view her interior shots of these fabulous houses and some of the objects you can order today.

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