The Regency

A little about the Regency Period:

The English Regency period occurred roughly between 1790 and 1820 (although some people will debate that–saying the true Regency period was between 1810 and 1820).  It took place between two rather distinctive periods; the Georgian Era, which dominated the 17th and 18th centuries, and the Romantic Period, which harkened the arrival of the Victorian age.

The Georgian period (1600-1750) was garish and gaudy. In the Georgian/Baroque period, women wore towering wigs and massive, elaborate gowns, and men wore heels, white wigs, false moles (mouches), and they powdered their faces.  The Romantic Period followed the Regency.  Styles were fussier, the sleeves to much puffier, and waistlines dropped.  The Regency period was brief, but it made a lasting impression; mostly because the early nineteenth century produced

some of the most notable pieces of art and literature in history, and several major historical events occurred during this time.

The Regency period is known for its elegant style.  The hair, dress and accessories emulated the statues of Roman\Greek design.  Ladies dressed in columnar gowns that grew fuller and fussier as the period progressed; gentlemen wore the dignified full-standing collars, and clothing that accentuated width of shoulders, narrowness of waist, and displayed the masculine shape of their calves and thighs.  There was a ‘masculinisation’ of the men’s style as the Georgian period, which was markedly effeminate, progressed into the Regency era.

Historic writings imply that the real reason for the shift from the outlandish fashions of the Georgian era to the simple lines of the Regency was the French Revolution. Fashions were simplified in order to blur the stark distinction between the poor and the privileged–to quell any sense of inequality that would cause further revolution to spread.  Of course, only a few decades later, the class-defining fashions gradually made themselves distinctly noticeable again as we moved into the Victorian and Industrial age.

Regency social manners were all politeness and gentility.  There was protocol for every social interaction; down to the way a woman holds her fan to indicate her interest in a gentleman.  The social hierarchy was the core of everything, and everyone knew their place, whether they agreed with it or not.  Women largely did not inherit wealth, nor were they openly allowed to find their own means; so marriage was one of the few options she had to secure a comfortable future.  A marriage based on love was rarely an an option for a Regency woman, income was the first consideration.  It is probably why this period yielded some of the best literary romance available today (no bias here).

Some of the most famous representations of this period were Jane Austen’s works (most popular: Pride and Prejudice, Sense & Sensibility, Mansfield Park, Emma, Northanger Abbey, etc) and the artwork of Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres—whose finely detailed paintings gave a flawless image of the materials and fashions of the period.  This was the time of Beau Brummell, the scandalous Lord Byron and Almack’s Assembly rooms.  Charles Dickens and the Brontë sisters also grew up during this period.

The Napoleonic wars raged during this time, as well as the war of 1812. It was also the dawn of the age of science, when some of the greatest scientific discoveries were about to occur.

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