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Regency Clothing

The Jane Austen Festival in Bath brings the beautiful Georgian City alive and for 10 days of the year the streets are full of people in Regency costume! 

Only two of our events have a strict Regency dress code, the Grand Regency Promenade, and the Masked Ball held in the Pump Rooms. If it’s your first time in the world of Jane Austen, or your first time dressing up, our guide will give you a few pointers in the direction of finding that perfect Regency outfit. (Please note: These pages are meant as a guide for Regency outfits only, it may not be completely historically accurate.)

Lady’s Regency Wardrobe

Dress

A ladies Regency dress is a long ankle length dress, with a high empire waistline, resting just under the bust. This gives you the long classically Regency silhouette. Sleeves can be short or long covering the shoulders. Day dresses are normally made from cotton print fabrics, with ball dresses made from silks or more luscious fabric.

Undergarments

A Regency lady would normally wear a chemise, or petticoat as a base layer, with stays/corset over the top. The stays create that shelf look and the high waistline silhouette. A 21st Century brasserie also creates a perfectly adequate shape too of course, for those people who don’t wish to suffer in a corset all day! Stockings would also be worn.

Spencer Jackets/Pelisse Coats

Over the top of your dress, for an added layer out of doors a short Spencer jacket would be worn. A long Pelisse coat is also very fashionable, again with the empire high waistline.

Bonnet

A Regency bonnet is normally a basic straw made shape, covered in fabric, and with added feathers, flowers, and other accessories to create a decorative hat. Ribbons tied under the chin hold it in place on your head.

Accessories

There are endless options to accessorise an outfit with, depending on what event you are heading to.A Reticule, the Regency version of a clutch bag, is a good idea for keeping those 21st Century valuables close to you at all times, but concealed inside a period authentic bag. Although it might not “always rain in Bath”, a practical item to add to your Regency outfit is a parasol or umbrella to keep yourselves cool or dry as you need.

For any of our Regency Balls, your essential items are long, above elbow length gloves, normally white.Ballrooms in Regency times were crowded hot places with lots of bodies dancing around, so a hand-held fan to cool yourself with is very necessary.A shawl is also a great idea for those chilly evenings as an extra layer. Good for accessorising an outfit with, for a grand entrance into a ball.

Footwear

Regency footwear for ladies depended on what activity they were partaking in.When attending an event that includes dancing is it always a good idea to wear comfortable flat shoes. Little pumps, ballet shoes, trainers etc. are the best things to wear. High heels are not a good idea as Regency dancing can involve quick footwork.For outside wear little heeled, lace up ankle boots are practical, especially if you’re a lady who enjoys a long walk on a fine day.

Hairstyles

A lady’s hair in the Regency period would always be up, never hanging loose. Curls were fashionable, a few tiny curls to frame the face, and the rest of the hair would be piled up on top of the head into a bun. Little embellishments such as flowers, jewelled pins or braids were popular for balls and evening activities.A few Regency hairstyle rules to follow are: Centre parting, high bun on top of the head, a few tiny curls to frame the face, and a clean bare back of the neck, this was to elongate the nape of the neck, as was considered slightly sexy in Regency times!

Gentleman’s Regency Wardrobe

Regency fashions for men were characterised by a tailored silhouette. Military, Navy and Army uniforms also had an influence on fashion during the Regency period, with many gentleman’s outfits having elements of them included in the design.

Breeches or trousers

Knee length tight breeches were starting to go out of fashion during the Regency era, and were replaced with full length trousers. The trousers have a front flap opening fastened with buttons.

Tailcoat (jacket)

A fitted tailcoat was the fashion during the Regency period, usually made in a solid colour but with contrasting lapels. Tailcoats were cut to emphasise a gentleman’s small waistline and broad shoulders.

Shirt and Collar

Shirts were almost exclusively white with a chin height, square cut collar to allow for a cravat to be tied over the top round the neckline.

Waistcoat

A waistcoat was fitted and stopped a few inches below the line of the jacket at the front, so a bit of the sometimes very ornate waistcoat was shown off to the world.

Cravat

Jane Austen Centre Online Gift Shop
The Jane Austen Centre Online Gift shop stock a selection of patterns, parasols, fans, gloves, and other Regency items for sale.

Creating your own Regency outfit

Regency dresses are quite simple to sew yourself. The basic drawstring neckline dress is the best place to start if you are a new seamstress. Once you get into making your own Regency outfits you will never look back, and your Regency wardrobe will expand quickly!

Regency Patterns

Jane Austen Centre Online Giftshop Sewing Patterns

There are instructions for many different costume pieces at the Jane Austen Centre’s Website – https://www.janeausten.co.uk/online-magazine/hands-on-regency/fashion-to-make/

Adapting an outfit

It is also possible to create a Regency outfit from clothes you already have at home, or from items you find in charity shops. Here are a few ideas on creating your own Lady’s Regency outfit.Long dresses, preferably with short puffy, or long slim sleeves are best. With an ankle length skirt, and no shape in the waist. A dress with an under the bust waistline is even better. You can then use a piece of ribbon or fabric to create a sash. Fitting it right under the bust creating that Regency high waistline.

Find a short jacket, preferably in a robust, stiff material, tuck under the bottom edges so it fits just under the bust line, and secure with a few stitches, or a few ties with ribbon. This will create a Spencer Jacket.

Cropped military style jackets for ladies have been in fashion recently (as well as in Regency times!) They’re great for making your own Spencer Jacket.Shawls can be large scarves, preferably light in weight so they droop nicely. Pastels or plain patterned fabrics are best.

Old brooches, necklaces or hair accessories can often be found in charity shops. Contemporary shops also sometimes have older-looking accessories. Fans can be harder to find, but souvenir or novelty fans work fine. Reticule bags are almost impossible to source, but it is very easy to sew your own reticule, they are basically just a little drawstring bag.

Gloves can sometimes be found in charity shops but it is usually easier to buy these from a fancy dress store or online. Just make sure to buy matte gloves rather than shiny ones.

Light pink or white tights can be bought from dance shops or online.Flat ballerina style pumps are easy to source as Regency shoes.

Hire or Buy a Regency Costume

Jane Austen Centre Online Gift Shop
The Jane Austen Centre Online Gift shop stock a selection of patterns, parasols, fans, gloves, and other Regency items for sale.

Festival Fayre

The Jane Austen Festival Fayre runs on the first Saturday of the Festival, opening in the Guildhall Banqueting Hall as the Promenade finishes.

Most of the Costume suppliers listed on this page attend the Fayre. It is a great opportunity to pick up those last few Regency accessories needed for the week of events to come. And also a good time to chat and discuss future costume wishes with these talented people.

Bath Theatrical Costume Hire
Unit 8, Wallbridge Industrial Estate, Frome,
Somerset,
BA11 5JZ.01373 472 786

Bath Theatrical Costume Hire can provide whole wardrobes of Regency outfits, from ballgowns to day wear. Give them your measurements, make an appointment, then turn up and be amazed! Although based (only) 14 miles away in Frome, they have a pop up costume collection in Bath during the festival.