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Fashion and Class During the Regency Era

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Jessica Donaldson

on 2 April 2014

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Transcript of Fashion and Class During the Regency Era

Fashion and Class During the Regency Era
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In 1810, George III was declared incapable of ruling due to mental incapacity. The Regency Act was passed the following year and his son George IV became the Prince Regent.

The Regency Era lasted from February 1811 to January 1820, when George III died.

The Romantic Period was already established when the Regency Era began.
The Regency Era
Social status was very important during the Regency Era. Birth played the primary role in rank, with the eldest son inheriting the family fortune. For younger sons occupation determined their class.

Titled people, referred to as 'peers', were ranked the highest socially. Royalty and nobility were considered to be peers.

The landed gentry were also considered members of the upper class. They could be ranked too. The landed gentry were distinct from the middle class as they survived solely off their land.

There were also middle and lower classes. During this time middle class people aspired to join the upper classes. To do so, they would purchase an estate and sever all business ties “to remove all the stain of trade from their family” (Grace, 2013, p. 2).
Class of Men
Social status for women was determined by men; originally from their fathers and later by their husbands.

“He is a gentleman; I am a gentleman's daughter; so far we are equal.” Pride and Prejudice
Class of Women
These terms were used to describe the different levels of formality of clothing.

'Undress' was charactierised by its informality. It was casual and simple.

'Half-dress' was considered to be halfway between undress and full-dress.

'Full-dress' was the most formal type of clothing. 'Evening dress' was considered to be part of full-dress.
Undress, Half-dress and Full-dress
Men's fashion was inspired by equestrian clothing of the late 18th century and the French Revolution.
Men's Fashion
Undress, Half-dress and Full-dress
For men, undress was considered impolite. They would remove their cravat and jacket.

For men, half-dress was casual clothing and simple knots in their neck cloths.

For men, full-dress was the most formal and elaborately tied neck cloths would be worn.

The Basics...
Shirts were pulled on and not completely buttoned. They were high collared and made of white muslin.

Waist coats and tail coats were high collared and either double or single breasted.

Neck cloths were made of starched linen and knotted in various ways.

Men either wore breeches, pantaloons, inexpressibles, trousers or buckskins.

Men either wore tall boots or shoes.

Popular accessories included canes, watches, wallets, quizzing glasses and hats.

Women's fashion was inspired by classical Grecian robes.
Women's Fashion
Undress, Half-dress and Full-dress
For women, undress was considered informal. It was far warmer than 'half-dress' and 'full-dress' and less expensive.

For women, half-dress was casual.

For women, full-dress was reserved for the most formal occasions.

The Basics...
Shifts and chemises were the forerunners of the slip. They were either short sleeved or sleeveless and made of white linen.

Stays (corsets) were less uncomfortable than those of previous eras.

Petticoats were worn.

Stockings or pantaloons were held up by garters and made of either cotton or silk.

Fichus, chemisettes or “tuckers” were worn for modesty.

Women either wore slippers or simple pumps, mules, half-boots and pattens.

Women's clothing was categorized further into morning dress, walking dress, promenade and carriage dresses, riding habits, dinner dresses and ball gowns.
Wraps and shawls were worn for warmth.

Spencers and pelisses both had high waist lines and relatively tight sleeves. Spencers were modelled
on the riding coats worn by men. Pelisses were basically overdresses and were often trimmed or lined with furs.

Redingotes were long, fitted and worn open to reveal the dress.

Cloaks and mantles were worn to formal occasions.
Tippets, pelerines and muffs were worn for warmth.

Hats and gloves were worn for modesty.

Women also carried reticules or redicules and parasols.
Fashion and Class
“The aristocracy and upper crust, steeped in tradition and manners, had no trouble following the rules, but... the rising middle class often found the code of conduct bewildering” (Sanborn, 2012, p. 1).
From Regency Etiquette: The Mirror of Graces (1811) or The English Lady's Costume
by a Lady of Distinction Reprinted by R. L. Shep Publications.

"...we totally disapprove, at all times, of the much ornamented stocking."

"Excess is always bad."

"...a diversity of colours bespeaks vulgarity of taste, a mind without innate elegance or acquired culture."

"...your dress... should correspond to the station you hold in society."
From Manual of Politeness from Google Books.

".... in the present style of female dress, (there is) a want of proper distinction which should ever be attended to in the several degress of costume."
Court Dress
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