Monday, January 30, 2006

The Regency Period: Society, culture and fashion

I have compiled this information from different Regency sites* in the hopes that it will help historical romance readers have a better picture of what the Regency period was like. Later this week, I will have a little surprise for you about falling in love before indoor plumbing existed LOL. Until then...

The Regency. Officially spanning the years from 1811 to 1820 (but often extended to the years 1795-1830).

By 1811, the recurrent madness of England’s King George III reached the point where his son George, Prince of Wales, was appointed Regent. The short decade that took his name was the last gasp of Georgian exuberance before the steadier morality of the Victorian era. The Prince, “Prinny,” set the tone for the period with his lavish expenditures and indolent lifestyle. In 1820, after becoming king, George tried to divorce his wife for adultery. The scandalous trial entertained the country, but his claim was not upheld.

London was the center of fashion and culture; the center of the Regency universe. The Season, a time of lavish social display and indulgence by the upper classes in London, and by the aristocratic families living in their great country houses in the provinces, began with the opening of Parliament, usually in March and lasted until late June, when the haut ton fled to their country estates. Young girls made their “come out” to the aged Queen, and then started off on the great husband hunt. Women visited with their friends, patronized the fashionable shops and showed off their finery at lavish balls, the theater and the opera. Gentlemen, when not busy at their clubs, courted the ladies.

They seemed to pay little attention to the hardships of the working class, or to the political upheavals that were taking place elsewhere in the world. Social connections were considered very important, everyone dressed in the best of taste, and strict codes of etiquette and conduct were followed. The Grand Ball—a lavish formal dance—was considered to be the “black tie affair” of the era.

It was also a time of culture, prosperity, elegance, and neoclassical aesthetics. Some of the most beautiful music in history was composed during the Regency period. Beethoven, Haydn, Rossini, Liszt, Schubert, and Mendelssohn all wrote classical music during this time. English country dances were a popular pastime, as were games like charades and cards. Outdoor activities included horseback riding and cricket.

Women. The Regency dress is both light-weight and light-colored. The full skirt has a high waist attached just under the bustline, frequently covered with a band of trim. The skirt can be gathered, flared, or straight, often with a small train. The bodice, which can be gathered or snug, has a deep neckline. The sleeves are usually short and puffy, but can be long and tiered. These gowns were often worn with a short Spencer jacket (daytime), a shawl (evening wear), and long white gloves. Ladies had ringlets showing beneath poke bonnets and turbans. Shoes were flat-heeled and often resembled slippers, made of soft silk or satin with a bit of embroidery on the toes.

Men. A typical man’s outfit for both day and evening was a waistcoat and cutaway jacket with tails at the back. Cloth trousers instead of satin knee breeches were introduced for evening wear. The two-cornered cocked hat and top hat of brushed beaver were popular, as were neck cloths and side whiskers. This “poet shirt” with billowy sleeves dates from the 1820s, when Romantic poets wore their collars open in defiance of conventional fashion.

*All About Romance, The Regency: 1811-1820 by author Melinda McRae
*The English Regency by Terri Ann Berg Olsen
*Regency Illustrations

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3 comment(s):

Anonymous Simi said...

Hey Trollop


Nice Article and great visuals too.
Your regency articles are always interesting

1/31/2006 11:47:00 AM  

Anonymous Ann said...

Thanks Trollop, this is a huge help since I'm new to the historical side of romance. Once again you have given me a better visual for the eras.
Great article.

2/01/2006 12:01:00 AM  

Blogger Vicious Trollop said...

Ann, Simi Tk you. I really love working on regency pieces, b/c I learn so much :D

Right now working on a historical post, that will be up either tomorrow or tuesday (depending on how lazy I get, lol also Harlot and I are working on template, and that ladies is a BITCH).

2/05/2006 10:01:00 AM