Regency look or Georgian?

JostellaHi, Jo here, comparing and contrasting Regency and Georgian ladies' fashion.

I've been interested in the Regency since my teens, but that was entirely because of Georgette Heyer. At that time I didn't distinguish between the Georgian (ie 18th century) novels such as These Old Shades and The Convenient Marriage, and the Regency, such as April Lady, Sprig Muslin etc. If I had, I'm sure I'd have voted for the Georgian, because even then I adored the peacock men, the hooped silk gowJoteenns, and the atmosphere of sophisticated decadence.

On the subject of clothes, there's me as a teenager with my sister the nun. They left habits behind fairly soon after that, thank heavens. That was taken in the 1960s, the only other period that favored high-waisted dresses, but it's caught me in a suit. It was a very mannish, very tailored suit I bought from a charity shop. Once I'd cut the skirt well above the knee it was great. The one on the right is of me in a high-waisted dress. I don't like it much.

I don't think a highAug18182-waisted style is flattering to many, which is perhaps why, throughout history, it rarely catches on. For one thing, the waist is very important in female allure.

If we look at Regency fashion plates, I don't see a style likely to flatter many women, and the high breasts would be uncomfortable for most because of the corsets needed to achieve that.

Years ago, people would say they liked Regency fashion because women back then didn't have to wear corsets, but we now know that isn't true. For the fashionable look, a lady had to wear one, and a substantial one, too, which could restrict movement as much and perhaps more than the Georgian stays.

Why more? Just my deduction, but when the appropriate look is flattened breasts, light garments achieve it reasonably well. They were called jumps. (See right.) When the look is breasts at armpit level, there's no way to achieve it withou94jumpsandpetticoatt heft, including wide shoulder straps that make it imp93plainercorsetsossible to raise the arms above shoulder level. See the right hand example in the picture on the left.

However, the belief that women could enjoy the freedom of a gown over a shift perhaps helps with the appeal of the Regency.

What do you think?

Another matter is hair. We all know the stories of the extreme hair fashions of the later part of the 18th century, when fashionable ladies wore feet high constructions which were kept in place so long that mice took up residence. I'm sure that was as common 1764mary,_countess_of_howe-largeas Regency belles dampening their skirts so they'd cling to their bodies.

Oddly, the 1960s also saw high hair such as the beehive look, achieved with serious back-combing and loads of strong hair-spray. Thank heavens that soon gave way to the long, loose look. But is there a connection between rising waistlines and rising hair?

The Georgian period is long and for most of it hairstyles were rational. See the lady with the jumps. I chose to set my Georgian romances, the Malloren World books, in the 1760s in part because I liked the hairstyles.They did powder their hair for court and some other major events, but not all the time. The neat hair look is obvious in my favorite period portrait, which is from the 1760s, and which I think is perfect for my character Diana, Countess of Arradale and Marchioness of Rothgar.
Lowbodice

Isn't that a more gorgeous look than the Regency on the right? Mind you, if you click on that to enlarge it, you'll see her skirt is almost transparent! However, enlarge "Diana" and look closely and you'll see she's flashing a nipple. Strange goings-on.

1805contrastwith1755Here's a French fashion plate from the early 19th century that compares the latest look, on the left, with the older style on the right. The lady on the right is dressed for court rather than every day, so the contrast isn't entirely fair, but for fantasy and fun I'd rather play dress up in the old style than in the new.

What about you?

In my opinion the Georgian look works for any age, whereas the Regency style best suits the young.

Agree or disagree?

Jo