Saturday, June 9, 2012

Revisiting the Regency Era

Daywear, circa 1815
Created by Judy Frank
Due to civil unrest, a revolution broke out in France in 1789 leading to the end of the French monarchy.  From 1794 to 1799, a new government – known as the Directoiregoverned the country (quite ineffectively, as it turned out).  By 1799, the opportunity was right for a young military leader by the name of Napoleon Bonaparte to stage a coup.  In 1804, Napoleon crowned himself Emperor of France and began reestablishing order. Although his reign was marked by series of wars abroad, Napoleon was successful in bringing stability to the country as well as reestablishing a prosperous French economy, specifically the French textile industry.  The reign of Napoleon Bonaparte is now referred to as the Empire period in France.

This period is also referred to as the Georgian periodnamed after England's King George III.  Unlike France, England enjoyed a stable political climate during this period. King George was a virtuous man who enjoyed the simple life, but by 1810, a genetic disorder had fully incapacitated him, and his son, the Prince Regent, stepped into power to rule in his father's place.  Thus, the period from 1810 to 1820 is known as England's Regency period. 

Created by Ana Delia Mercado

Close up, without the Spencer jacket
During the revolutionary period in France, women's fashions began to change drastically. Extravagant corsets, panniers, and gowns made of silk brocade were cast aside as thin, almost transparent Grecian-like cotton gowns were adopted.  It was this idea of Neoclassical simplicity that changed the way female form was treated.  Garments began to drape and flow.  Corsets were discarded altogether.  For the first time since antiquity, the body was free to remain in its natural shape.  By1802, all of fashionable Europe was wearing what we now refer to as the Empire style gown.  
Sheer cotton fabrics such as muslin, gauze, and percale were the most popular English gown materials.  Raw cotton was imported from the Americas and India and manufactured in English textile mills.  Since the gowns of this period were so thin, the cold of winter required the adoption of large shawls imported from Kashmir, India (a British colony during this period).  Another defense against the cold of winter was the jacket.  English tailors fashioned the Spencer jacket, a short close fitting jacket cut from the same style as the dress bodice.  Later in the period, the Redingote - a full length coat – was worn.  
Created by Judy Frank, circa 1820

Bonnets, hats, and turbans were necessary to complete a lady's ensemble. While in public, women always had at least one of these. At home, ladies wore close fitting cotton caps to cover their unstyled hair.  Other important fashion accessories include the reticule, a small purse-like bag that closed at the top with either a drawstring or metal frame. Gloves were also prominent during this period and varied in length from wrist (for day wear) to above the elbow (for evening wear).

Presentation court dress, designed by Jimmy Ramos
Circa 1805-1815



  1. Your dolls are exquisite and thank you for sharing them with us. Also, your narrative is wonderful and helpful! I have to ask, did you mom make the dress and coat in the second photo? If so, she is very talented....the dress is beautiful!

  2. Hi Terri,
    Thank you for your compliments on my dolls! And mother did make the second ensemble with the coordinating blue Spencer jacket. I am still in awe of how wonderful the bonnet came out LOL!

  3. Muy bonitas Damarys, además el texto explicativo es muy interesante. Gracias!!

  4. Felicidades Damarys, soy Guillem Medina, el director de TOYLAND y amigo de Núria. Nos gustan mucho tus artículos.

  5. Estimado Guillem,
    Mil gracias por tus cumplidos, y claro que me acuerdo de ti...por parte de Nuria, siento como que te conozco personalmente. Me alegro muchisimo saber que vas a seguir mi blog. Este fin de semana espero estrenar mas munecas, aunque todavia no se la epoca que voy escoger.

  6. These dresses are so stunningly beautiful! The detail is exquisite and quite impressive. I sew a little and I know how talented one must be to do small scale work as well as I see here. Fantastic!

    1. Thank you so much for your compliments on my dolls! The Regency era is very popular for the element of romance it represents, thanks to Jane Austen.