Fashion in the period 1810–1820 in European, or the Regency Style fashion, adds elegance and lightness. This period coincides with the Empire style fashion in France.
This era signaled the loss of any lingering neoclassical, pseudo-Grecian styles in women’s dress. This decline was especially evident in France due to the Emperor Napoleon’s suppression of trade in the fabrics used in neoclassical dress. While waistlines were still high, they were beginning to drop slightly. Larger and more abundant decoration, especially near the hem and neckline foreshadowed greater extravagance in the coming years. More petticoats were being worn, and a stiffer, more cone-shaped skirt became popular. Stiffness could be supplemented by layers of ruffles and tucks on a hem, as well as corded or flounced petticoats. Sleeves began to be pulled, tied, and pinched in ways that were more influenced by romantic and gothic styles than neoclassical. Hats and hairstyles became more elaborate and trimmed, climbing higher to balance widening skirts.
In fashion, Neoclassicism influenced the much greater simplicity of women’s dresses, and the long-lasting fashion for white, from well before the French Revolution, but it was not until after it that thorough-going attempts to imitate ancient styles became fashionable in France, at least for women.
By the start of the 19th century, such styles had spread widely across Europe. Very light and loose dresses, usually white and often with shockingly bare arms, rose sheer from the ankle to just below the bodice, where there was a strongly emphasized thin hem or tie round the body, often in a different colour. The shape is now often known as the Empire silhouette although it predates the First French Empire of Napoleon, but his first Empress Joséphine de Beauharnais was influential in spreading it around Europe. A long rectangular shawl or wrap, very often plain red but with a decorated border in portraits, helped in colder weather, and was apparently laid around the midriff when seated—for which sprawling semi-recumbent postures were favoured.
Influence of Industrial Revolution on fashion
In the late 18th century, clothes were mostly sold by individual shopkeepers who were often the artisans who made the goods. Customers usually lived in the same neighborhood as the shops and the shops would gain popularity by their customers’ word-of–mouth recommendation, with the exception of warehouses (i.e., any retail on wholesale), where goods being sold were not necessarily made in the shop. However, things started to change during the transition to the 19th century. People sought efficiency and variety; under the influence of the Industrial Revolution, improved transportation and introduction of machines in manufacturing allowed fashion to develop at an even faster pace.
The first sewing machine emerged in 1790, and later, Josef Madersperger began developing his first sewing machine in 1807, presenting his first working machine in 1814. The introduction of the sewing machine sped up garment production. Meanwhile, advanced spinning, weaving and cotton-printing techniques developed in the 18th century had already brought detailed, washable fabrics. These durable and affordable fabrics became popular among the majority population. These techniques were further developed by the introduction of machines. Before, accessories like embroidery and lace were manufactured on a small and limited scale by skilled craftsmen and sold in their own shops; in 1804, a machine for embroidering was constructed by John Duncan, and people started producing these essential accessories in factories and dispatching the products to shops throughout the country. These technical developments in clothing production allowed a greater variety of styles; rapid changes in fashion also became possible.
The Industrial Revolution bridged Europe and America with regards to travel. When Louis Simond first arrived to America, he was struck by the mobility of the population and frequency of people made trips to the capital, writing “you meet nowhere with those persons who never were out of their native place, and whose habits are wholly local — nobody above poverty who has not visited London once in his life; and most of those who can, visit once a year.’ New canals and railways not only transported people, but created national and even broader markets by transporting goods that manufactured in factories in great distances. The rise of industry throughout the Western world increased garment production and people were encouraged to travel more widely and purchase more goods than ever before.
Communication was also improved in this era. New ideas about fashion were conveyed by little dolls dressed in the latest style, newspapers, and illustrated magazines; for example, La Belle Assemblée, founded by John Bell, was a British women’s magazine published from 1806 to 1837. It was best known for its fashion plates of Regency era styles, showing how women should dress and behave. When fashion became available for everybody, people were expected to dress according to the latest fashion. Dressmakers would show the fashion-plates to their customers, so that customers could catch up to the latest styles.
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. Regency fashion 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 regency 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. Without the corset, chemise dresses displayed the long line of the body, as well as the curves of the female torso.
Women fashion in 1810s: soft, subtle, sheer classical drapes; raised back waist of high-waisted dresses; short-fitted single breasted jackets; morning dress; walking dress; evening dress; riding habits; bare bosoms and arms; hair: parted in the center, tight ringlets over the ears
Women fashion in 1820s: dress waist lines began to drop; elaborate hem and neckline decoration; cone-shaped skirts; sleeves pinched
Inspired by neoclassical tastes, the short-waisted dresses sported soft, loose 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. Since the fabric clung to the body, revealing what was underneath, it made nudity à la grecque a centerpiece of public spectacle. 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 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.
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.
Evening gowns 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.
Due to the importance of showing social status, the fashion industry was very much influenced by society during the Regency era. One’s position was determined by the person’s wealth, etiquette, family status, intelligence, and beauty. Women financially and socially relied on their husbands. The only socially-acceptable activities in which women could participate centered around social gatherings and fashion, the most important component of which was attending evening parties. These parties helped to build relationships and connection with others. As etiquette dictated different standards of attire for different events, afternoon dress, evening dress, evening full dress, ball dress, and different type of dresses were popular.
Women’s fashion in the Regency era started to change drastically. It popularized the empire silhouette, which featured a fitted bodice and high waist. This “new natural style” emphasized the beauty of the body’s natural lines. Clothing became lighter and easier to care for than in the past. Women often wore several layers of clothing, typically undergarments, gowns, and outerwear. The chemise, the standard undergarment of the era, prevented the thin, gauzy dresses from being fully transparent. Outerwear, such as the spencer and the pelisse, were popular.
The empire silhouette was created in the late 18th century to about early 19th century, and referred to the period of the First French Empire. This adoption had been linked with France’s Relation and adopted of Greek and Roman principles. The style was often worn in white to denote as a high social status. Josephine Bonaparte was the one of the figureheads for the Empire waistline, with her elaborated and decorated Empire line dresses. Regency women followed the Empire style along the same trend of raised waistlines as French styles, even when their countries were at war. Starting from 1780s and early 1790s, women’s silhouette became slimmer and the waistlines crept up. After 1795, waistlines rose dramatically and the skirt circumference was further reduced. Few years later, England and France started to show the focus of high waist style and this led to the creation of Empire style.
The style began as part of Neoclassical fashion, reviving styles from Greco-Roman art which showed women wearing loose fitting rectangular tunics known as peplos which were belted under the bust, providing support for women and a cool, comfortable outfit especially in warm climate. The empire silhouette was defined by the waistline, which was positioned directly under the bust. The Empire silhouette were the key style in women’s clothing during the Regency era. The dresses were usually light, long and fit loosely, they were usually in white and often sheer from the ankle to just below the bodice which strongly emphasized thin hem and tied around the body. A long rectangular shawl or wrap, very often plain red but with a decorated border in portraits, helped in colder weather, and was apparently lain around the midriff when seated—for which sprawling semi-recumbent postures were favored. The dresses had a fitted bodice and it gave a high-waist appearance.
The style had waxed and waned in fashion for hundreds of years. The shape of the dresses also helped to lengthen the body’s appearance. The clothing can also be draped to maximize the bust. Lightweight fabrics were typically used to create a flowing effect. Also, ribbon, sash, and other decorative features were used to highlight the waistline. The empire gowns were often with low neckline and short sleeves and women usually worn them as evening dresses. On the other hand, day gowns had higher neckline and long sleeves. The chemisette was a staple for fashionable ladies. Although there were differences between day dresses and evening dresses, the high waistline was not changed.
Hairstyles and headgear
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. Adventurous women like Lady Caroline Lamb wore short cropped hairstyles “à la Titus”, the Journal de Paris reporting in 1802 that “more than half of elegant women were wearing their hair or wig à la Titus”, a layered cut usually with some tresses hanging down.
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.
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.
For the first time in centuries, respectable but daringly fashionable women would leave the house without a hat or bonnet, previously something often associated with prostitutes. However most women continued to wear something on their head outdoors, though they were beginning to cease to do so indoors during the day (as well as for evening wear). 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. In fact, ladies of the day embellished their hats frequently, replacing old decorations with new trims or feathers.
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 outer-clothes 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 dresses from being too revealing.
The next layer was a pair of stays or 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 brassiere. (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.) “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 could have a scooped neckline and was sleeveless, and was fitted in the back with hooks and eyelets, buttons or tapes. These petticoats were often worn between the underwear and the outer dress and was considered part of the outer clothing not underwear. 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 below the knee until suspenders were introduced in the late 19th century and were often of a white or pale flesh color
Outerwear and shoes
During this time period, women’s clothing was much thinner than in the eighteenth century so warmer outerwear became important in fashion, especially in colder climates. Coat-like garments such as pelisses and redingotes were popular, as were shawls, mantles, mantelets, capes and cloaks. The mantelet was a short cape that was eventually lengthened and made into a shawl. The redingote, another popular example, was a full-length garment resembling a man’s riding coat (hence the name) in style, that could be made of different fabrics and patterns. Throughout the period, the Indian shawl was the favoured wrap, as houses and the typical English country house were generally draughty, and the sheer muslin and light silk dresses popular during this time provided less protection. Shawls were made of soft cashmere or silk or even muslin for summer. Paisley patterns were extremely popular at the time.
Short (high-waisted) jackets called spencers were worn outdoors, along with long-hooded cloaks, Turkish wraps, mantles, capes, Roman tunics, chemisettes, and overcoats called pelisses (which were often sleeveless and reached down as far as the ankles). These outer garments were often made of double sarsnet, fine Merino 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.”
Thin, flat fabric (silk or velvet) or leather slippers were generally worn (as opposed to the high-heeled shoes of much of the 18th century).
Metal pattens were strapped on shoes to protect them from rain or mud, raising the feet an inch or so off the ground.
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. 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.
Longer gloves were worn rather loosely during this period, crumpling below the elbow. As described in the passage above, “garters” could fasten longer gloves.
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. These handbags were often called buskins or balantines. They were rectangular in shape and was worn suspended by a woven band from a belt placed around the figure above the waist.
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.
Fashionable ladies (and gentlemen) used fans to cool themselves and to enhance gestures and body language. Made of paper or silk on sticks of ivory and wood, and printed with oriental motifs or popular scenes of the era, these ubiquitous accessories featured a variety of shapes and styles, such as pleated or rigid. An information sheet from the Cheltenham Museum describes fans and their use in body language and communication.
Regency style gallery
1 – 1815
2 – 1816
3 – 1817
4 – 1817
5 – 1818
6 – 1818
7 – 1819
8 – 1819
1.1815 walking costume
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 gown
6.Mary Lodge wears the new fashion for rich color. Her crimson evening gown with frills at neck and sleeves is worn with an ivory shawl with a wide paisley-patterned border, 1818.
7.1819 evening gown, with ornamentation near the hem.
8.”Morning dress” (for staying inside the house during the mornings and early afternoons), 1819.
1 – 1818
1.”Monstrosities of 1818″, a satire by George Cruikshank of the female trend towards a conical silhouette, and male high cravats and dandyism.
European fashion 1810-1820
Source from Wikipedia