|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 Directoire –governed 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 period, named 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. 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.
|Created by Ana Delia Mercado|
Close up, without the Spencer jacket
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 |