So I made this French Regency(1790-1818) costume last summer (that would be the summer of 2011).
I chose the time frame somewhat at random- I had been reading a lot of Jane Austin- but once I started researching the era I found it far more interesting than I thought I would.
That seems to be a pattern with me..lol.
So here is my distilled research. IE: what I found interesting or applicable.
The Regency styles we associate with Jane Austin are actually from France- Austin was wearing the ‘tame’ English version of what the french rebels were wearing.
Why French people were wearing these styles is slightly more complicated-
The political reasons-
Rebels had overthrown the french monarchy, Marie Antoinette was slated to be executed and gangs of ‘dandies’ were roving about reeking havoc.
(Yes, this is when dandies were new- they were bad-ass gangsters whom you would not want to fuck with. I’m not really going into detail about those dudes right now.)
Because of all the froofy- frivolity, tight-laced stays and class-based fashion that was custom under Marie’s reign, the young rebels chose to wear the exact opposite of her.
Instead of high-piled wig hair- they wore short minimalist styles, like the women of ancient grease. Short hair was also mocking Antoinette by mimicking what her hair would look like when she was beheaded- to be beheaded your hair is all cut off- Also to mimic beheading- men and women would both wear red ribbons or cravats at their necks, like a red wound from being beheaded.
Instead of huge wide gowns using yard after yard of fine silk, they wore slim, reveling dresses that any woman could afford, regardless of class. Classess could mingle without anyone really knowing if someone was from a rich family or not. This is when the first nightclubs appeared- giant balls anyone could go to as long as they paid a small cover fee, you didin’t have to be rich, but they were still nice enough for rich people to want to go too. (The waltz was soo risque, the guy would actually put his hand on the girls waist. And, to top it off, she’s poor and he’s not! OMG!)
Gone were tight stays and in came primitive bras and slim petticoats- this allowed women to be hugely more mobile and independent- again allowing low-class women to wear and work in the same styles as the upper crust.
-Sexxxy, you can totally see the curvature of these girl’s bums. But compared to the previous decade of fashion, this is showing a lot of body.
But it did get really risque, even to us now. Napoleon’s wife, Josephine, is reported to have gone to the opera wearing a transparent gown, with no undies on either. This was not uncommon- but women would usually wear flesh colored knitted body suits under these gowns, so it would only look like they were nekked. Other than that, women would drape their long trains and skirts over an arm, to show a lot of leg and to make walking less cumbersome.
Textile reasons for these fashions-
New exploration to India and Asia allowed easier trade between those country, so fine cottons and silks were far more affordable and far superior quality compared to what people had before. This also lead to turban-like hats, frog closures and Indian or Chinese slippers being popular. Those sorts of shoes also allowed women to be more mobile then the common shoes worn by women prior to this.
-Turbans, and lose flowing fabric.
The body ideal of the time was round and fertile, that’s another reason high waist lines were ‘In’.
-A fashion plate, from the time.
This is also one of the first times we see fashion plates. Fashion plates are just pictures of what fashionable people were wearing- think Vogue magazine 1800.
So as a byproduct of fashion plates, more people in more parts of the world and more classes are able to dress exactly alike each other.
British women can see a french fashion plate displaying Indian slippers and Chinese textiles, take that fashion plate to their local dress maker and end up looking almost exactly alike a Spanish woman who saw the same fashion plate.
-And here’s me, doing the same thing those rebellious women did in 1795.
-I liked the idea of having a layered gown, green during the day, white for a party! That holds true to the era as well though. I’d like to see how I can incorporate it into modern dressing.