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Painting of a family game of checkers ("jeu des dames") by French artist Louis-Léopold Boilly, c. 1803.
At the turn of the nineteenth century, women wore thin gauzy outer dresses while men adopted trousers and overcoats. Rutger Jan Schimmelpenninck and his family, 1801–02.

Fashion in the period 1795–1820 in European and European-influenced countries saw the final triumph of undress or informal styles over the brocades, lace, periwig, and powder of the earlier eighteenth century. In the aftermath of the French Revolution, no one in France wanted to appear to be an aristocrat, while in Britain, Beau Brummell introduced trousers, perfect tailoring, and unadorned, immaculate linen as the ideals of men's fashion.

Women's fashions followed classical ideals, and tightly laced corsets were temporarily abandoned in favor of a high-waisted, natural figure.[1]


Women's fashion

1811 dance dress
In Spain, some women rebelled against French fashion by dressing as majas, like Doña Isabel de Porcel, 1805.


In this period, fashionable women's clothing styles were based on the Empire silhouette — dresses were closely-fitted to the torso just under the bust, falling loosely below. In different contexts, such styles are commonly called "Directoire" (referring to the Directory which ran France during the second half of the 1790s), "Empire" (referring to Napoleon's 1804–1814/1815 empire, and often also to his 1800–1804 "consulate"), or "Regency" (most precisely referring to the 1811–1820 period of George IV's formal regency, but often loosely used to refer to various periods between the 18th century and the Victorian).

These 1795–1820 fashions were quite different from the styles prevalent during most of the 18th century and the rest of the 19th century, when women's clothes were generally tight against the torso from the natural waist upwards, and heavily full-skirted below (often inflated by means of hoop-skirts, crinolines, panniers, bustles, etc.). The high waistline of 1795–1820 styles took attention away from the natural waist, so that there was then no point to the tight "wasp-waist" corseting often considered fashionable during other periods.

Inspired by neoclassical tastes, the short-waisted gowns sported soft, flowing skirts and were often made of white, almost transparent muslin, which was easily washed and draped loosely like the garments on Greek and Roman statues. Thus during the 1795–1820 period, it was often possible for middle- and upper-class women to wear clothes that were not very confining or cumbersome, and still be considered decently and fashionably dressed.

Among middle- and upper-class women there was a somewhat basic distinction between "morning dress" (worn at home in the afternoons as well as mornings) and evening attire — generally, both men and women changed clothes in preparation for the evening meal and possible entertainments to follow. There were also further gradations such as afternoon dress, walking dress, riding habits, travelling dress, dinner dress, etc.

In the Mirror of Graces; or the English Lady's Costume, published in London in 1811, the author ("a Lady of Distinction") advised:

In the morning the arms and bosom must be completely covered to the throat and wrists. From the dinner-hour to the termination of the day, the arms, to a graceful height above the elbow, may be bare; and the neck and shoulders unveiled as far as delicacy will allow.[2]

  • Morning dresses were worn inside the house. They were high-necked and long-sleeved, covering throat and wrists, and generally plain and devoid of decoration.
  • Ball gowns, or evening dresses, were often extravagantly trimmed and decorated with lace, ribbons, and netting. They were cut low and sported short sleeves, baring bosoms. Bared arms were covered by long white gloves. Our Lady of Distinction, however, cautions young women from displaying their bosoms beyond the boundaries of decency, saying, "The bosom and shoulders of a very young and fair girl may be displayed without exciting much displeasure or disgust."

A Lady of Distinction also advised young ladies to wear softer shades of color, such as pinks, periwinkle blue, or lilacs. The mature matron could wear fuller colors, such as purple, black, crimson, deep blue, or yellow.

Many women of this era remarked upon how being fully dressed meant the bosom and shoulders were bare, and yet being under-dressed would mean one's neckline went right up to one's chin.[citation needed]

Hairstyles and headgear

Miniature portrait of a Russian lady, Russian school, c. 1800
Portrait of Caroline Murat and her daughter Letizia, painted in 1807 by Elisabeth Vigée-Lebrun. Madame Murat wears the formal red train of court dress over her high-waisted gown.

During this period, the classical influence extended to hairstyles. Often masses of curls were worn over the forehead and ears, with the longer back hair drawn up into loose buns or Psyche knots influenced by Greek and Roman styles. By the later 1810s, front hair was parted in the center and worn in tight ringlets over the ears.[1] A few adventurous women like Lady Caroline Lamb wore short cropped hairstyles.

In the Mirror of Graces, a Lady of Distinction writes,

Now, easy tresses, the shining braid, the flowing ringlet confined by the antique comb, or bodkin, give graceful specimens of the simple taste of modern beauty. Nothing can correspond more elegantly with the untrammeled drapery of our newly-adopted classic raiment than this undecorated coiffure of nature.[3]

Conservative married women continued to wear linen mob caps, which now had wider brims at the sides to cover the ears. Fashionable women wore similar caps for morning (at home undress) wear.[4]

No respectable woman would leave the house without a hat or bonnet. The antique head-dress, or Queen Mary coif, Chinese hat, Oriental inspired turban, and Highland helmet were popular. As for bonnets, their crowns and brims were adorned with increasingly elaborate ornamentations, such as feathers and ribbons.[5] In fact, ladies of the day embellished their hats frequently, replacing old decorations with new trims or feathers.


1811 illustration of underclothes, showing one form of Regency "stays"

Fashionable women of the Regency Era wore several layers of undergarments. The first was the chemise, or shift, a thin garment with tight, short sleeves (and a low neckline if worn under evening wear), made of white cotton and finished with a plain hem that was shorter than the dress. These shifts were meant to protect the outerclothes from perspiration and were washed more frequently than outer clothes. In fact, washer women of the time used coarse soap when scrubbing these garments, then plunged them in boiling water, hence the absence of color, lace, or other embellishments, which would have faded or damaged the fabric under such rough treatment. Chemises and shifts also prevented the transparent muslin or silk gowns from being too revealing.

The next layer is a corset. However, high-waisted classical fashions required no corset for the slight of figure, and there were some experiments to produce garments which would serve the same functions as a modern bra. (In the Mirror of Graces, a "divorce" was described as an undergarment that served to separate a woman's breasts. Made of steel or iron that was covered by a type of padding, and shaped like a triangle, this device was placed in the center of the chest.[6]) "Short stays" (corsets extending only a short distance below the breasts) were often worn over the shift or chemise (not directly next to the skin), and "long stays" (corsets extending down towards the natural waist) were worn by a minority of women trying to appear slimmer than they were (but even such long stays were not primarily intended to constrict the waist, in the manner of Victorian corsets.)

The final layer was the petticoat, which had a scooped neckline and was sleeveless, and was fitted in the back with hooks and eyelets. These petticoats were often worn between the underwear and the outer dress. The lower edge of the petticoat was intended to be seen, since women would often lift their outer dresses to spare the relatively delicate material of the outer dress from mud or damp (so exposing only the coarser and cheaper fabric of the petticoat to risk). Often exposed to view, petticoats were decorated at the hem with rows of tucks or lace, or ruffles.

"Drawers" (underpants with short legs) were only beginning to be worn by a few women during this period. They were tied separately around the waist.

Stockings (hosiery), made of silk or knitted cotton, were held up by garters until suspenders were introduced in the late 19th century.

Outerwear and shoes

Madame Rivière, 1806, Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres, Louvre.

Throughout the period, the Indian shawl was the favored wrap,[7] as English town houses and the typical English country house were generally draughty, and the sheer muslin and silk gowns popular during this era provided scant protection. Shawls were made of soft cashmere or silk or even muslin for summer. Paisley patterns were extremely popular at the time.[8]

Short (high-waisted) jackets called spencers[7] were worn outdoors, along with long-hooded cloaks, Turkish wraps, mantles, capes, Roman tunics, chemisettes, and overcoats called pelisses[9] (which were often sleeveless and reached down as far as the ankles). These outer garments were often made of double sarsnet, fine Merina cloth, or velvets, and trimmed with fur, such as swan's down, fox, chinchilla, or sable. On May 6, 1801, Jane Austen wrote her sister Cassandra, "Black gauze cloaks are worn as much as anything."[10]

Thin, flat fabric (silk or velvet) or leather slippers were generally worn (as opposed to the high-heeled shoes of much of the eighteenth century).

Metal pattens were strapped on shoes to protect them from rain or mud, raising the feet an inch or so off the ground.


ca. 1813

Gloves were always worn outside the house. When worn inside, as when making a social call, or on formal occasions, such as a ball, they were removed when dining.[11] About the length of the glove, A Lady of Distinction writes:

If the prevailing fashion be to reject the long sleeve, and to partially display the arm, let the glove advance considerably above the elbow, and there be fastened with a draw-string or armlet. But this should only be the case when the arm is muscular, coarse, or scraggy. When it is fair, smooth, and round, it will admit of the glove being pushed down to a little above the wrists.[12]

Longer gloves were worn rather loosely during this period, crumpling below the elbow. As described in the passage above, longer gloves were fastened by "garters".

Reticules held personal items, such as vinaigrettes. The form-fitting dresses or frocks of the day had no pockets, thus these small drawstring handbags were essential.

Parasols (as shown in the illustration) protected a lady's skin from the sun, and were considered an important fashion accessory. Slender and light in weight, they came in a variety of shapes, colors, and sizes.

Fans, made of paper or silk on sticks of ivory and wood, and printed with oriental motifs or popular scenes of the era, were used by fashionable ladies (and gentlemen) to cool themselves and enhance gestures and body language. These ubiquitous accessories were constructed in a variety of shapes and styles, such as pleated or rigid. Fans and their use in body language and communication are described in this information sheet from the Cheltenham Museum (click and scroll to page 4).[13]

Directoire (1795–1799)

1799 portrait of Mme. de Verninac by Jacques-Louis David, showing the late 1790s Parisian high Greek look
An idealized classicized depiction of an English Regency domestic scene

By the early-to-mid 1790s, several influences had combined to produce a certain simplification in women's clothes: aspects of Englishwomen's practical country outdoors wear leaked upwards into high fashion, there was a reaction in revolutionary France against the ornately cumbersome aristocratic style of dress of the former royal regime (see 1750-1795 in fashion), and the aesthetic of Neo-classicism began to be applied (it was associated in France with ideas of ancient Athenian and Roman "republican virtue"). Also, a simplification of the attire worn by preteen girls in the 1780s (who were no longer required to wear miniature versions of adult stays and panniers) probably paved the way for the simplification of the attire worn by teenage girls and adult women in the 1790s. Waistlines became somewhat high by 1795, but skirts were still rather full, and neo-classical influences were not yet dominant.

It was during the second half of the 1790s that fashionable women in France began to adopt a thoroughgoing Classical style, based on an idealized version of ancient Greek and Roman dress (or what was thought at the time to be ancient Greek and Roman dress), with narrow clinging skirts. Some of the extreme Parisian versions of the neo-classical style (such as narrow straps which bared the shoulders, and diaphanous gowns without sufficient stays, petticoats, or shifts worn beneath) were not widely adopted elsewhere, but many features of the late-1790s neo-classical style were broadly influential, surviving in successively modified forms in European fashions over the next two decades.

White was considered the most suitable color for neo-classical clothing (accessories were often in contrasting colors). Short trains trailing behind were common in dresses of the late 1790s.

Directoire gallery

  1. This portrait of the Frankland sisters by John Hoppner gives an idea of the styles of 1795.
  2. "Ruth entreating Naomi and Orpah to return to the land of Moab" by William Blake. Blake is not a typical neo-classicist, but this shows a somewhat similar idealization of antiquity (as well as predicting the future high fashions of the late 1790s).
  3. Leipzig fashion plate showing woman and girl wearing elegantly-simple high-waisted styles, which are not strongly neoclassical, however.
  4. Portrait of Gabrielle Josephine du Pont.
  5. 1798 picture, showing a lady who seems none too warmly attired for a balloon journey in her low-cut thin-looking directoire gown.
  6. Fashion plate of white directoire gown worn with contrasting red shawl with Greek key border.
  7. A 1798 sketch of a day outfit with short "spencer" jacket (less neo-classical, though still following the empire silhouette).
  8. Riding habits of 1799. The habit on the right features a short jacket with tails. The green habit on the left may be a redingote rather than a jacket and petticoat.


  1. "TOO MUCH and TOO LITTLE, or Summer Cloathing of 1556 & 1796", a February 8 1796 caricature engraved by Isaac Cruikshank (father of George) after a drawing by George M. Woodward. (In 1796, strongly neoclassically-influenced styles were still very new in England.) Notice the single vertical feather springing from the hair of the 1796 woman.
  2. "Tippies of 1796", a highly-stylized parody which caricatures women's feather headdresses and dandies' tight trousers, among other things.
  3. "Parisian ladies in their full winter dress", an over-the-top caricature by Isaac Cruikshank of allegedly excessively diaphanous styles worn in late 1790s Paris.

Empire (1800–1815)

English and French fashions, 1815. The morning dress has back gathers and long sleeves, and like the walking costume, has trim at the hemline and new detail at the upper sleeve.

During the first two decades of the nineteenth century, fashions continued to follow the basic high-waisted empire silhouette, but in other respects neoclassical influences became progressively diluted. (In many countries, the strictest or most uncompromising versions of the neoclassical style were never quite as popular as in Paris.) Gowns remained narrow in front, but fullness at the raised back waist allowed room to walk. Colors other than white came into style, the fad for diaphanous outer fabrics faded (except in certain formal contexts), and some elements of obvious visible ornamentation came back into use in the design of the gown (as opposed to the elegant simplicity or subtle white-on-white embroidery of the gown of ca. 1800).

Empire gallery

  1. Dolley Madison wears short sleeved, light-pink dress with a high waist line. She also wears a thin, chain necklace, a golden-colored shawl, and her hair in a bun with loose curls; the simplicity, yet elegance, of her attire is typical of the era.
  2. Conservative fashion: Mob cap of c. 1805 is pleated in the front and has a narrow frilled brim that widens to cover the ears. America.
  3. Mrs Harrison Gray Otis wears a gown with a sheer top layer over a partial lining and a patterned shawl. She wears a gold armlet on her left arm. Her hair is styled in loose curls at the temples and over her ears. Massachusetts, 1809.
  4. 1809 dancing dress worn with elbow-length gloves.
  5. 1810 ball gown, shown with elbow-length gloves.
  6. 1810 sketch of woman in "Schute" bonnet and blue-striped dress with flounces.
  7. Portrait of a woman by Henri Mulard, ca. 1810.
  8. Marguerite-Charlotte David wears a simple white satin gown and the ubiquitous shawl. Her headress is trimmed with ostrich plumes.


  1. "The Fashions of the Day, or Time Past and Present", a caricature purporting to show the provocative and revealing character of 1807 fashions as compared to those of the 18th century (deliberately exaggerating the contrast).
  2. "Three Graces in a High Wind", 1810 caricature by Gillray. A satire of clinging gowns worn with few layers of petticoats beneath.

1815–1820 gallery

  1. 1815 walking costume — probably more realistic to the everyday wear of Jane Austen's characters than most fashion-plates.
  2. Comtesse Vilain and her daughter wear their hair parted in the front center with tight ringlets over each ear; back hair is brushed back into a bun. 1816.
  3. 1817 dancing illustration, showing the beginning of the trend towards a conical silhouette.
  4. 1817 walking costume is heavily trimmed and tasseled.
  5. 1818 evening dress, with shoulders about as bare as they got among 1795–1820 Englishwomen.
  6. Mary Lodge wears the new fashion for rich color. Her crimson gown with frills at neck and sleeves is worn with an ivory shawl with a wide paisley-patterned border, 1818.
  7. 1819 evening dress, with ornamentation near the hem.
  8. "Morning dress" (for staying inside the house during the mornings and early afternoons), 1819.


  1. "Monstrosities of 1818", a satire by George Cruikshank of the female trend towards a conical silhouette, and male high cravats and dandyism.

Men's fashion

Pierre Seriziat in riding dress, 1795. His snug leather breeches have a tie and buttons at the knee and a fall front. The white waiscoat is double-breasted, a popular style at this time. His tall hat is slightly conical.
Artist Jean-Baptiste Isabey wears a cropped riding coat and dark breeches tucked into boots. He carries his hat and gloves, 1795.
This gentleman wears a double-breasted frockcoat in dark blue over a buff waistcoat. His gray trousers have straps under his shoes. His slightly conical tall hat sits in the windowsill, Germany, c. 1815.


This period saw the final abandonment of lace, embroidery, and other embellishment from serious men's clothing outside of formalized court dress—it would not reappear except as an affectation of Aesthetic dress in the 1880s and its successor, the "Young Edwardian" look of the 1960s. Instead, cut and tailoring became much more important as an indicator of quality.[14]

This was also the period of the rise of hair wax for styling men's hair, as well as mutton chops as a style of facial hair.

Breeches became longer—tightly-fitted leather riding breeches reached almost to the boot tops—and were replaced by pantaloons or trousers for fashionable street wear. Coats were cutaway in front with long skirts or tails behind, and had tall standing collars. The lapels featured an M-shaped notch unique to the period.[14]

Shirts were made of linen, had attached collars, and were worn with stocks or wrapped in a cravat tied in various fashions. Pleated frills at the cuffs and front opening went out of fashion by the end of the period.[14]

Waistcoats were relatively high-waisted, and squared off at the bottom, but came in a broad variety of styles. They were often double-breasted, with wide lapels and stand collars. High-collared white waistcoats were fashionable until 1815, then collars were gradually lowered as the shawl collar came into use toward the end of this period.[14]

Overcoats or greatcoats were fashionable, often with contrasting collars of fur or velvet. The garrick, sometimes called a coachman's coat, was a particularly popular style, and had between three and five short caplets attached to the collar.[14]

Boots, typically Hessian boots with heart-shaped tops and tassels were mainstay in men's footwear. After the Duke of Wellington defeated Napoleon at Waterloo in 1815, Wellington boots, as they were known, became the rage; tops were knee-high in front and cut lower in back. The jockey boot, with a turned-down cuff of lighter colored leather, was correct for riding.[15]

The rise of the dandy

The clothes-obsessed dandy first appeared in the 1790s, both in London and Paris. In the slang of the time, a dandy was differentiated from a fop in that the dandy's dress was more refined and sober.

In High Society: A Social History of the Regency Period, 1788–1830, Venetia Murray writes:

Other admirers of dandyism have taken the view that it is a sociological phenomenon, the result of a society in a state of transition or revolt. Barbey d'Aurevilly, one of the leading French dandies at the end of the nineteenth century, explained:

Some have imagined that dandyism is primarily a specialisation in the art of dressing oneself with daring and elegance. It is that, but much else as well. It is a state of mind made up of many shades, a state of mind produced in old and civilised societies where gaiety has become infrequent or where conventions rule at the price of their subject's is the direct result of the endless warfare between respectability and boredom.

In Regency London dandyism was a revolt against a different kind of tradition, an expression of distaste for the extravagance and ostentation of the previous generation, and of sympathy with the new mood of democracy.[16]

Beau Brummell set the fashion for dandyism in British society from the mid-1790s, which was characterized by immaculate personal cleanliness, immaculate linen shirts with high collars, perfectly tied cravats, and exquisitely tailored plain dark coats[14] (contrasting in many respects with the "maccaroni" of the earlier eighteenth century).

Brummell abandoned his wig and cut his hair short in a Roman fashion dubbed à la Brutus, echoing the fashion for all things classical seen in women's wear of this period. He also led the move from breeches to snugly-tailored pantaloons or trousers, often light-colored for day and dark for evening, based on working-class clothing adopted by all classes in France in the wake of the Revolution. In fact, Brummel's reputation for taste and refinement was such that, fifty years after his death, Max Beerbohm, wrote:

In certain congruities of dark cloth, in the rigid perfection of his linen, in the symmetry of his glove with his hand, lay the secret of Mr Brummell's miracles.

Not every male aspiring to attain Brummel's sense of elegance and style succeeded, however, and these dandies were subject to caricature and ridicule. Venetia Murray quotes an excerpt from Diary of an Exquisite, from The Hermit in London, 1819:

Took four hours to dress; and then it rained; ordered the tilbury and my umbrella, and drove to the fives' court; next to my tailors; put him off after two years tick; no bad fellow that Weston...broke three stay-laces and a buckle, tore the quarter of a pair of shoes, made so thin by O'Shaughnessy, in St. James's Street, that they were light as brown paper; what a pity they were lined with pink satin, and were quite the go; put on a pair of Hoby's; over-did it in perfuming my handkerchief, and had to recommence de novo; could not please myself in tying my cravat; lost three quarters of an hour by that, tore two pairs of kid gloves in putting them hastily on; was obliged to go gently to work with the third; lost another quarter of an hour by this; drove off furiously in my chariot but had to return for my splendid snuff-box, as I knew that I should eclipse the circle by it.[16]

Hairstyles and headgear

Older men, military officers, and those in conservative professions such as lawyers and physicians retained their wigs and powder into this period, but younger men of fashion wore their hair in short curls, often with long sideburns.

Tricorne and bicorne hats were still worn, but the most fashionable hat was tall and slightly conical; this would evolve into the top hat and reign as the only hat for formal occasions for the next century.[17]

Style gallery 1795–1809

  1. Portrait of boxer "Jem" Belcher wearing a patterned cravat and a double-breasted brown coat with a dark (fur or velvet?) collar, c. 1800.
  2. Watercolor of Beau Brummell by Richard Dighton.
  3. In this self-portrait of 1805, Washington Allston wears a tan cravat with his high white collar and dark coat. Boston.
  4. Rubens Peale wears a white waiscoat with a tall upright notched collar over his high shirt collar and wide cravat. America, 1807.
  5. Friedrich von Schiller wears a brown double-breasted coat with a contrasting collar and brass buttons. The pleated frill of his shirt front can be seen next to the knot of his white cravat, Germany, 1808–09.
  6. Chateaubriand has fashionably touseled hair. He wears a long redingote over his coat, tan waistcoat, white shirt and dark cravat, 1808.
  7. Count Victor Kochubey's collar reaches his chin, and his cravat is wrapped around his neck and tied in a small bow. His short hair is casually dressed and falls over his forehead, 1809.
  8. Portrait of Gwyllym Lloyd Wardle depicts him in a dark coat over a tan waistcoat and high collar and cravat, 1809.

Style gallery 1810–1820

  1. Les Modernes Incroyables, a satire on French fashions of 1810; long tight breeches or pantaloons, short coats with tails, and massive cravats.
  2. Marcotte d'Argenteuil wears a high-collared shirt with a dark cravat, a buff waistcoat, a double-breasted brown coat with covered buttons, and a dark gray overcoat with contrasting collar (perhaps sealskin). 1810. His bicorne hat lies on the table.
  3. Daniel la Motte, a Baltimore, Maryland merchant and landowner, strikes a romantic pose that displays details of his white waistcoat, frilled shirt, and fall-front breeches with covered buttons at the knee, 1812–13.
  4. German physician Johann Abraham Albers wears a striped waiscoat under a black double-breasted coat, 1813.
  5. American artist Samuel Lovett Waldo wears a frilled shirt with a knotted white cravat.
  6. Lord Grantham wears a double-breasted coat which shows a bit of the waistcoat beneath at the waist, tight pantaloons tucked into boots, and a high collar and cravat, 1816.
  7. Nicolas-Pierre Tiolier wears a rich blue tailcoat and brown fall-front trousers over w hite waistcoat, shirt, and cravat. His tall hat sits on a rock, 1817.
  8. Unknown artist wears a double-breasted tail coat with turned-back cuffs and a matching high collar of velvet (or possibly fur). Note that, while the man's obvious wasp-like torso is not overly-emphasized in a caricature-like fashion, as was often the case in male fashion plates of the day, there is a definite and deliberate nipping of the waist. It is highly likely that the sitter in this portrait wore some sort of tight-laced corset or similar undergarment. The coat-sleeves are puffed at the shoulder. He wears a white waistcoat, shirt, and cravat, and light-colored pantaloons, 1819.

Children's fashion

Cultural memory of Directoire/Empire/Regency fashions

During the first half of the Victorian era, there was a more or less negative view of women's styles of the 1795–1820 period. Some people would have felt slightly uncomfortable to be reminded that their mothers or grandmothers had once promenaded about in such styles (which could be considered indecent according to Victorian norms), and many would have found it somewhat difficult to really empathize with (or take seriously) the struggles of a heroine of art or literature if they were being constantly reminded that she was wearing such clothes. For such reasons, some Victorian history paintings of the Napoleonic wars intentionally avoided depicting accurate women's styles (see example below), Thackeray's illustrations to his book Vanity Fair depicted the women of the 1810s wearing 1840s fashions, and in Charlotte Brontë's 1849 novel Shirley (set in 1811–1812) neo-Grecian fashions are anachronistically relocated to an earlier generation.

Later in the Victorian period, the Regency seemed to retreat to an unthreateningly remote historical distance, and Kate Greenaway and the Artistic Dress movement selectively revived elements of early 19th century fashions. During the late Victorian and Edwardian periods, many genre paintings, sentimental valentines, etc. contained loose depictions of 1795–1820 styles (then considered to be quaint relics of a bygone era). In the late 1960s / early 1970s, there was a limited fashion revival of the Empire silhouette.

In recent years, 1795–1820 fashions are most strongly associated with Jane Austen's writings, due to the various movie adaptations of her novels. There are also some Regency fashion "urban myths", such as that women dampened their gowns to make them appear even more diaphanous (something which was certainly not practiced by the vast majority of women of the period).

  1. An 1857 cartoon making fun of the contemporary distaste for early 19th century clothes.
  2. "Before Waterloo" by Henry Nelson O'Neil (1868), a mid-Victorian painting which deliberately does not show accurate women's styles of 1815.
  3. "Two Strings to her Bow" by John Pettie (1882), a later Victorian genre painting which uses the Regency period for nostalgia value.
  4. May Day by Kate Greenaway.

See also



  • A Lady of Distinction: The Mirror of Graces, R.L.Shep, 1997. ISBN 0-914046-24-1
  • Arnold, Matthew (ed.): the Works of Max Beerbohm, Bodley Head, 1921.
  • Ashelford, Jane: The Art of Dress: Clothing and Society 1500–1914, Abrams, 1996. ISBN 0-8109-6317-5
  • Austen, Jane: My Dear Cassandra: The Illustrated Letters, Selected and Introduced by Penelope Hughes-Hallett, Collins & Brown, 1990. ISBN 1-85585-004-4
  • Baumgarten, Linda: What Clothes Reveal: The Language of Clothing in Colonial and Federal America, Yale University Press, 2002. ISBN 0-300-09580-5
  • Black, J. Anderson and Madge Garland: A History of Fashion, Morrow, 1975. ISBN 0-688-02893-4
  • Campbell, Cynthia: The Most Polished Gentleman: George IV and the Women in His Life, A Kudos Book, 1995. ISBN 1-86052-003-0
  • de Marly, Diana: Working Dress: A History of Occupational Clothing, Batsford (UK), 1986; Holmes & Meier (US), 1987. ISBN 0-8419-1111-8
  • Hughes, Kristine: Everyday Life in Regency and Victorian England: From 1811–1901, Writer's Digest Books, 1998. ISBN 0-89879-812-4
  • Murray, Venetia: High Society: A social History of the Regency Period, 1788–1830, Viking, 1998. ISBN 0-670-85758-0
  • Payne, Blanche: History of Costume from the Ancient Egyptians to the Twentieth Century, Harper & Row, 1965. No ISBN for this edition; ASIN B0006BMNFS
  • Rothstein, Natalie (editor): A Lady of Fashion: Barbara Johnson's Album of Styles and Fabrics, Norton, 1987, ISBN 0-500-01419-1
  • Simond, Louis: An American in Regency England, Pergamon Press, 1968. ISBN 0-08-007074-4
  • Tozer, Jane and Sarah Levitt, Fabric of Society: A Century of People and their Clothes 1770–1870, Laura Ashley Press, ISBN 0-9508913-0-4

External links

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