Archive for the ‘Jane Austen Fashion’ Category

Because Regency dresses were on the whole elongated and close fitting, the reticule, ridicule or pocket came into its own.

From the Times 1799: Every fashionable fair carries her purse in her work-bag… the new custom of carrying a bag with her handkerchief, smelling-bottle, purse etc..
Jane Austen used pockets and ridicules for secret correspondences, often used to give the observer a shock or embroil the perpetrator in a veil of mystery. Here are some examples from Emma, Northanger Abbey and Sense and Sensibility.

Emma: She soon believed herself to penetrate Mrs. Elton’s thoughts, and understand why she was, like herself, in happy spirits; it was being in Miss Fairfax’s confidence, and fancying herself acquainted with what was still a secret to other people. Emma saw symptoms of it immediately in the expression of her face; and while paying her own compliments to Mrs. Bates, and appearing to attend to the good old lady’s replies, she saw her with a sort of anxious parade of mystery fold up a letter which she had apparently been reading aloud to Miss Fairfax, and return it into the purple and gold ridicule by her side…

Northanger Abbey: Catherine had not read three lines before her sudden change of countenance, and short exclamations of sorrowing wonder, declared her to be receiving unpleasant news; and Henry, earnestly watching her through the whole letter, saw plainly that it ended no better than it began. He was prevented, however, from even looking his surprise by his father’s entrance. They went to breakfast directly; but Catherine could hardly eat anything. Tears filled her eyes, and even ran down her cheeks as she sat. The letter was one moment in her hand, then in her lap, and then in her pocket; and she looked as if she knew not what she did.

Sense and Sensibility: “I begged him to exert himself for fear you should suspect what was the matter; but it made him so melancholy, not being able to stay more than a fortnight with us, and seeing me so much affected. – Poor fellow! – I am afraid it is just the same with him now; for he writes in wretched spirits. I heard from him just before I left Exeter;” taking a letter from her pocket and carelessly shewing the direction to Elinor. “You know his hand, I dare say, a charming one it is; but that is not written so well as usual. – He was tired, I dare say, for he had just filled the sheet to me as full as possible.”

Elinor saw that it was his hand, and she could doubt no longer. The picture, she had allowed herself to believe, might have been accidentally obtained; it might not have been Edward’s gift; but a correspondence between them by letter, could subsist only under a positive engagement, could be authorised by nothing else; for a few moments, she was almost overcome – her heart sunk within her, and she could hardly stand; but exertion was indispensably necessary, and she struggled so resolutely against the oppression of her feelings, that her success was speedy, and for the time complete.


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News of a new blog – Austen Endeavours
– I am enjoying this blog from Aimee Fry and thought you might too! Aimee indulges her love of all things Austen and Regency along with her quest to become a writer!

Thanks to Jenny for a mention of Lydia Bennet’s Story from Wondrous Reads which is a really interesting and entertaining teen book blog. There’ll be a review from Jenny coming soon!

Finally from ABC news in Australia:

The National Gallery of Victoria is preparing to open an exhibition charting the fashion changes during Jane Austen’s lifetime (1775-1817).

Persuasion: Fashion in the Age of Jane Austen features over 70 works and will include fashion, prints and drawings, decorative arts and paintings, with a focus on English women’s dress from the early 19th century.

Curator Roger Leong says fashion played an important role in Jane Austen’s novels.

“Austen’s witty and perceptive comments about fashion mirrored the complex relationships within English society during her lifetime, especially between different classes and men and women,” he said in a statement.

“The era witnessed radical changes in the way people dressed.

“The variations of the waistline, upwards from the natural waist and then back again, were a distinctive characteristic of the time, one of the most dynamic periods in fashion.”

The exhibition is open at the NGV International from 22 May to 8 November 2009.

You lucky people! I wish I could come and see it – I love a fashion exhibition. If you are in the UK like me you can always visit the Fashion Museum which always has wonderful displays includng a current one on historical dress, or another favourite of mine is the dress collection at the V&A. The illustration is of a little character – Dizzie Lizzie – that I drew for a book made for my children some years ago.

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