Susan/Miranda, stepping up to the podium to welcome frequent commenter Kalen Hughes back to the blog….
Kalen Hughes’s new book, LORD SCANDAL, is a June 08 release and she’s here to talk about the clothing of the late Georgian era. Romantic Times Book Reviews described Kalen’s take on the late 18th century thusly: “Hughes’ lusty, emotional second romance perfectly depicts the Georgian era in all its naughty glory — with house parties, races, matchmaking, gossip rags and duels. This author is on her way to stardom.” For more about Kalen the author as well as her books, please stop by her site: www.kalenhughes.com.
Since the age of three, Kalen has been involved in various living history events from the Middle Ages to the Roaring 20s. She is an expert historical seamstress as well as a scholar of fashion and clothing. We’re delighted to have her as a resource here today. Let the questions begin!
Hi, everyone. It’s so wonderful to be back here. I had such a great time last year when my debut book, LORD SIN, came out and I visited the Wenches and talked about Regency fashions. This time around I’m going to go back in history a bit and take a look at the fashions of the parents and grandparents of those Regency era characters (several of the Wenches write Georgian-set books, so this is familiar territory for them and hopefully for many of their fans).
The clothing of the Georgian era is heavier than that of the Regency. The fabrics are richer, the corsetry is stiffer (though I personally find 18th century stays to be the most comfortable of all), and everything just seems a little grander (in presentation as well as scale). Hoops (called panniers by the Victorians) and false rumps or bums (more familiar as the Victorian “bustle”) were worn throughout the period. I’m going to concentrate on the fashions of the transitional 1780s/1790s (when my books are set), but if you have questions about earlier eras, just ask!
The underpinnings are a tad more involved than those of the Regency. Our Georgian heroine would still be wearing a basic white linen shift, stockings, garters, and stays (no drawers!). Her stays (corset) would be much heavier and much stiffer than those of her Regency-era daughter, and she’d be wearing some kind of contraption to pad out her hips. The large hoops of the mid-century have gone the way of the dodo (which of course, still exists in the 1780s). The fullness of the skirts has moved from the side to the back, and false rumps (bum pads) are now worn to plump out the skirts (rather like an Elizabethan bum roll). These pads could be made of wadding (rather like a pillow) or they could be made of cork. This fashion lead to cartoons like the one shown here called “The New Regatta” which shows several women shooting the Thames, balanced on their rumps. Women’s fashions have always been open to the wicked pen of the satirist.
Over all this she would have worn her gown. It might be a robe á l’anglaise (sadly the wonderful a robe à la française, which its hanging pleats had gone out of style for everything but court). These styles of gown are usually open at the front (below the waist), allowing the petticoat to be seen (note: “petticoat” applies to all of a woman’s various skirts during this time period, not just to those that are underskirts). The petticoat could be made to match or of contrasting fabric. If not “open” the gown would have an “apron skirt” which was sewn in at the back, but was open at the sides and was pulled up to tie around the waist (under the bodice of the gown). The gown could be made with a “compère” front (meaning that it fastened closed over the chest) or it could be made to be worn with a separate stomacher. Regardless, the dress most likely pinned shut. Yes, pinned. A lady’s pin money wasn’t so much for sewing as it was to buy the pins required to keep her gowns on! The main alternative to pinning was for the lady to be sewn into the gown (try getting that back on at a ball, LOL!). A very few gowns, comparatively, laced shut or were held closed with hook and eyes.
A lady of this period might also have worn the newly popular Perriot jacket and a petticoat, or she might even have worn the very daring robe à la rein (or chemise gown), made popular—and infamous—by Marie Antoinette. As the 1780s pass into the early 1790s, the fashions of the Revolution come to England and we begin to see “round gowns” (meaning that the gown goes all the way around the body, no separate petticoat necessary), usually worn with some kind of open robe over them (think of gowns worn by Marianne in the Emma Thompson version of Sense and Sensibility).
I know this is a bit bare-bones (oh the pictures I could show you if I had unlimited room and time) but I think I’ve covered the basics. I’m more than happy to answer questions, show you more pictures and explain any garments you might have questions about. I even have some images of the insides of gowns if you want more info on just how they worked. So ask away!