To our modern eyes, Regency empire dresses represent a charmed and romantic era. But in 1794, the high-waisted look that had so recently come into fashion aroused much ridicule, and was described as the “banishment of the body from the female form.” The Rage, or Shepherds I have Lost My Waist was a doggerel based upon a popular song of the time: “Shepherds I have lost my love – Have you seen my Anna?”
Shepherds, I have lost my waist,
Have you seen my body?
Sacrificed to modern taste,
I’m quite a hoddy doddy!
For fashion I that part forsook
Where sages place the belly;
T’is gone – and I have not a nook
For cheesecake, tart, or jelly.
Never shall I see it more,
Till common sense returning,
My body to my legs restore,
Then I shall cease from mourning.
Folly and fashion do prevail
To such extremes among the fair,
A woman’s only top and tail,
The body’s banish’d God knows where!”
The implication of the ditty was of the poor lady’s predicament. She had to refuse cakes and jelly for her dressmaker had left her with no body. Worse, her legs looked as if they started just below her breasts.