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Entries in regency (12)


Imperial Edict:

Designs on an Empire-line resurrect regal draperies, wrapping prestige in high-waisted shapes of softest chiffon.

When I was posting the images from the Jane Austen exhibition, I was already thinking I must also include the pages of this fashion shoot from FOLLOW me magazine. In testament again to how great a magazine it was, they are torn from the Dec/Jan 1988 issue, and have stuck in my memory all these years.

The hairstyling is of course extremely eighties, but the fashions are certainly inspired by the Regency period, especially the fourth image (above right), a dress by Stephen Galloway of silk chiffon over linen. I can’t quite see what the print is; it could be orange polka dots or hearts, but either option is charming enough for a young English lady of quality.

Click on images for larger versions.

FOLLOW me, Dec/Jan 1988. Photos: Martyn Thompson; background: Jayson Brunsdon.


Regency Style

Last week I went to see the new fashion exhibition at the NGV International, Persuasion: Fashion in the age of Jane Austen. I’d known it was coming up, and was excited to go and see it, as I have loved Georgette Heyer’s – and Jane Austen’s – books for years. Both of course are set in the English Regency period, although there is rather more about fashion in the former than the latter’s writings.

I love this passage in particular, from Heyer’s Arabella:

There were unimagined delights in the trunks: curled ostrich plumes of various colours; branches of artificial flowers; an ermine tippet… a loo-mask; a whole package of finest thread-lace; a tiffany cloak, which set Margaret peacocking around the room; several ells of ribbon of a shade Mama said was called in her young days opera brulé, and quite the rage; scarves of gauze, lace and blonde, spangled and plain; a box containing intriguing knots of ribbon, whose names Mama could not quite remember, though she rather thought that the pale blue bunch was A Sign of Hope, and the pink bow A Sign of Venus; point-lace tuckers, and lappet-heads; a feather muff; innumerable fans; sashes; a scarlet-flowered damask mantua petticoat – what a figure Mama must have looked in it! – and a velvet cloak, miraculously lined with sable, which had been a wedding-gift to Mama…

Although I don’t even know what some of those things are, the descriptions are such that one can imagine the utter delight of unearthing them.

…nothing could be prettier, said Madame, than crêpe or fine jaconet muslin for the Assemblies at Almack’s.

Arabella, the heroine of the novel, has been invited to London and requires a new wardrobe. Due to the family’s straitened circumstances, ingenuity is required, and her mother’s old wardrobe is refashioned into:

One or two ball-dresses of satin, or orange-blossom sarsnet, would be needed for grand occasions, but nothing could be prettier, said Madame, than crêpe or fine jaconet muslin for the Assemblies at Almack’s. Some silver net drapery, perhaps – she had the very thing laid by – or a Norwich shawl, carried negligently across the elbows, would lend cachet to the plainest gown. Then, for a morning half-dress, might she suggest a figured French muslin, with a demi-train? Or perhaps Mademoiselle would prefer a Berlin silk, trimmed with silk floss? For carriage dresses she would recommend fine cambric, worn with a velvet mantle, and a Waterloo hat, or even a fur bonnet, ornamented – Mademoiselle’s colouring made it permissible, even imperative! – with a bunch of cherries.

Morning dresses, afternoon dresses, carriage dresses, walking dresses, ball dresses – it seemed to Arabella and Sophia that the list would never come to an end. “I cannot imagine how you will find time to wear the half of them!” whispered Sophia.

Dress (c. 1816), National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne; The Schofield Collection.All the clothing is behind glass in the gallery, of course; some on mannequins, some laid flat, but I marvelled over every delicious detail: all the pleating and pintucks, frills and furbelows.

To quote Sophia: how I’d love the chance to wear at least some of these!

The exhibition is on until November 8th. Do go. Press your face against the glass, and peer into another world: a time of grace and charm.

See some period fashion plates here

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