Here at La Robe de Chambre we love digging into the history of the breakaway liberating style of Regency fashion for women.
For those of you tickled by a passion for Jane Austen and her epoch we have put together a little rundown of what made the fashion of the period so unique, transformative and wonderful in an era where a sense of self was becoming more important that exhibition of class and wealth.
The Regency Era refers roughly to a period longer than the formal decade of Regency (1811-1820) and rather extends up to about 1837 when Queen Victoria succeeded William IV. The era is characterised by very distinctive trends in architecture, literature, fashion, politics, culture and more. It is especially noted for its elegance and great achievements in fine arts as well as private and public buildings, the period is also known as ‘high Georgian’ as it is the elevated and neoclassical styling of signature Georgian styling that really elevates the Regency period. Some of the most celebrated buildings include Ashridge House, Belvoir Castle, Sezincote House, Regents Park Terraces and the most unusual Royal Pavillion in Brighton. One of the greatest patrons of the arts and architecture was the Prince Regent himself who ordered the costly building and refurbishing of the beautiful and exotic Brighton Pavilion.
Great social change influenced the fashion in the period, as European and European-influenced countries saw the final triumph of undress or informal styles over the brocades, lace, periwigs and powder of the earlier 18th century. This was likely because in the aftermath of the French Revolution, people didn’t really want to prance about looking regal like the aristocracy and clothing became more a form of individual expression of the true self.
Iconic ambassadors of these changes are so clearly embodied in the characters of Jane Austen and their fashion is almost as famous. The iconic coat pictured above worn by Keira Knightley as Pride & Prejudice’s Elizabeth Bennet is a key example of why this styling has remained such a great fashion era.
Women’s dress in particular was more about the day-to-day outfit of skirt and jacket styles that were practical and austere, even going so far as to reference the working class. The fashion followed classical ideals, and tightly laced corsets were temporarily abandoned in favour of a natural figure. This natural figure was emphasised by being able to see the body beneath the clothing.
By the end of the eighteenth century, a major shift in fashion was taking place that extended beyond changes in mere style to changes in philosophical and social ideals, one's identity was considered malleable; subject to change depending on what clothes one was wearing. For example house coat that went from indoors to outdoors as a day coat or riding coat was often fashioned in linens and silks to give the wearer an empowering sense of practicality. By the late 18th century a big push towards this new natural style in linens and silks which allowed, especially for women, one's inner self to transcend their clothes.
Women's fashion was influenced by the practicality of men’s clothing with tailored coats and jackets used to show off a woman’s mobility in a way that allows designed to suit one’s daily routine. Fashion mags started to really take off at this time.
This “new natural style” emphasized the beauty of the body's natural lines. Clothing became lighter and easier to care for with less complex laundering and maintenance required. Women often wore several layers of clothing, typically undergarments, gowns, and outerwear. The chemise, the standard undergarment of the era, prevented the thin, gauzy dresses from being completely see-through. Outerwear, such as the spencer, pelisse, and linen walking coats or day coats were popular. The shape of the dresses also helped to lengthen the body's appearance which is still a modern dress principal we employ today, of course!
The style’s classicism is undeniable and still very relevant to the modern woman of today. The ethos of the fashion movement rings true: Be beautiful, be yourself, wear it proud and enjoy your clothes as a part of your identity. Think simplicity and understatement with personal and tasteful touches of glamour. That’s certainly what inspired us to make La Robe de Chambre!