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Regency Fashion

Sunday, 10 May 2009

Regency FashionWhen Napoleon Bonaparte became Emperor in 1804, he indented to make France the leader and trendsetter of fashion and innovator of design and craft skills. Within the French Revolution period, the French textile industry did not develop to the extent as that in England, for example. Thus, Napoleon banned to import English textile and made all attempts to revive Valenciennes lace industry. He made the curious policy in fashion when with the commercial and business reasons he set the trend to wear a dress for one event and change it for another. The fashion forced women purchase more fabric. Regency fashion really touched the heart of the people. That was the epoch of romance and sensitiveness.

Women's wears

In this period, fashionable women's clothing styles were mainly directed by on the Empire silhouette, such dresses were closely-fitted to the torso just under the bosom line and falling loosely below. The wide, open neckline was much loved by women to show their beauty and by men to enjoy such beautiful parts of body.

Frequently small neat puff sleeves barely capped the shoulders of women. They were pulled back by the narrow cut of the bodice and this restricted arm movement to a certain daintiness. Though, there was the time that changed it for more comfortable dresses. The fabric of dresses mainly was with nature motifs and stripes. The most preferred colors were white and beige. The fabric proposed by manufacturers included cotton, Indian printed cotton, silk, muslin, taffeta and satin. Plain morning dresses with tall necks and long sleeves wrapping the throat and wrists were set by fashion unlike the evening dresses trimmed and embroidered with lace and ribbons. Classic Greek and Roman style were much favored by the French women, that show shorter tightly fitted skirts, and thin straps that bared the shoulders. Under such dresses, women would wear transparent gowns and petticoats. The style was in fashion in the European society for the long period.

Women's hairstyles and hats

The Regency epoch created the endless number of fascinating head wear that became more and more outrageous with the time pass by. The classic style was noted in hairstyles with lots of curls worn over the forehead and ears, tying the longer hair back into loose buns or Psyche knots impressed by the Roman and Greek styles. Later on, under the fashion trend, the front hair was parted in the center and worn in tight ringlets over the ears to show earrings. And only very adventurous and brave women wore short hairstyles.

That was the good manners that a woman should wear a hat or bonnet when she goes out. The most popular styles involved antique head-dress, or Queen Mary coif, Chinese hat, Oriental inspired turban, and Highland helmets. Turbans, feather trimmed satin jockey hats and poke bonnets presented the part of Regency woman's wardrobe. At night events the striking turbans were usually worn, and white satin mameluke turban with an ostrich feather was like the exotic headwear for many.

Men's wear

Men preferred wearing high-waist coats squared off at the bottom. Coats were available in various styles from double breasted waist coat with wide lapels, simple cravat to sharp bottoms.

Also straight-shaped vests were popular. The low cutaway coats were usual garment in their wardrobe. Overcoats were also trendy with various collars made of fur or velvet.

Skin tight breeches were mainly used by men of white chocolate and beige colors. Nankeen and buckskin were used for the breeches. Also men liked costumes like tuxedo.

Men's hairstyles and hats

The most demanded men’s hairstyle of the Regency epoch was short to medium at the sides and back but longer on top where the hair was often brushed upwards for height. In some cases the hair was cut short all the way around and combed forward on the sides. As well as for women, the fashion set short curly bangs and curls at the sides of the face above the ears. Some men wore longer hair, particularly on the European Continent. All men were clean shaven. Moustaches were worn by a few persons only. Beards or goatees would not be worn by anyone for several more decades.

A very tall, straight top hat with a narrow curled up brim was highly demanded by men of this era. The bicorn was high, wide and of shallow depth. Many specialized types of headwear were in use as well such as the flat, round hats of sailors, the shakos of soldiers.

Shoes for men and women

Lace up shoes came in fashion. Light slip on shoes sans the buckle was in style as well. Most shoes would be black and of leather. Both low cut shoes and ankle high bootees were worn. Boots were high and of black or brown leather. «Bluchers», «Wellingtons» and an ubiquitous style very like modern English riding boots were all applied. Stockings were long made of wool, cotton or silk mainly.

Women shoes had narrow latchet and the rounded toecap. Simple flat and pump shoes made of soft cloth like silk were very comfortable to wear. Half boots were mostly used for outdoor activity. For everyday wear soled boots of leather were believed to be the elegant shoes. Within short time the boots became so popular that bride's boot and dancing boots were sooner manufactured to follow the fashion trends.

Outerwear and underwear for women

Fashionable ladies of the Regency Era wore several layers of undergarments. The first and inner one was the chemise, or shift, a thin garment with tight, short sleeves made of white cotton and finished with a plain hem. These shifts were meant to protect the outer clothes from perspiration. Chemises and shifts also prevented the transparent muslin or silk gowns from being too revealing and provocative. Corset is the next. Also women tent to wear pelisse and Spencer jackets, Indian shawls and other garments for their outdoor wear.

Pelisse looked like a traditional wear, long enough, just like a bathrobe with darts. Women wore heavy or light pelisse for different seasons.

Spencer jacket was the only short top cardigan so much demanded by women during that period. Most of the garments were long but the length of the jacket was short, so it looked very nice, and it had a very high waistline. Silk or wool was used to make Spencer jackets. Coats were mostly made of wool. And as for the children, they normally wore simple loose gowns.

In current years, 1795-1820 fashion trends are most strongly associated with Jane Austen's writings, thanks 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).

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