Five Regency Gowns

By Manolo the Shoeblogger

Manolo says, the Manolo, who has just this past week joined the Pinterest, has been thoroughly enjoying himself, acting like the curious, acquisitive crow, gathering up various things that catch his eye, and nothing has been more catching of the eye, than the photos of the historical clothing.

Here, then, are five photos of Regency gowns (all dating from 1810 to 1820, and in various museums and collections around the world) that the Manolo has gathered together and now wishes to show you.

Empire Waisted, Regency GownEmpire Waisted, Regency GownEmpire Waisted, Regency GownEmpire Waisted, Regency GownEmpire Waisted, Regency Gown

Such marvelous fun!

The yellow gowns went in and out of fashion throughout the period, and the Manolo remembers the passage from Susan Edmonstone Ferrier’s 1818 novel, Marriage, in which one of the most wonderfully awful characters, Mrs May Gawffaw, wears the yellow silk gown.

Mrs Gawffaw was the daughter of a trader in some manufacturing town, who had lived in opulence and died insolvent. During his life, his daughter had eloped with Bob Gawffaw, then a gay lieutenant in a marching regiment, who had been briefly esteemed a very lucky fellow in getting the pretty Miss Croaker, with the prospect of ten thousand pounds. None thought more highly of her husband’s good fortune than the lady herself; and though her fortune never was realised, she gave herself all the airs of having been the making of his. At this time, Mr Gawffaw was a reduced lieutenant, living upon a small paternal property, which he pretended to farm; but the habits of military life, joined to a naturally social disposition, were rather inimical to the pursuits of agriculture, and most of his time was spent in loitering about the village of G____, where he generally contrived to either pick up a guest or procure a dinner.

Mrs Gawffaw despised her husband–had weak nerves and headaches–was above managing her house–read novels–dyed ribands–and altered her gowns according to every pattern she could see or hear of.

Such were Mr and Mrs Gawffaw; one of many ill-assorted couples in this world–joined, not matched. A sensible man would have curbed her folly and peevishness: a good-tempered woman would have made his home comfortable, and rendered him more domestic.


May’s reply consisted in putting her hands to her head, with an air of inexpressible vexation; and finding all her endeavours to be elegant frustrated by the overpowering vulgarity of her husband, she remained silent during the remainder of the repast; solacing herself with complacent glances at her yellow silk gown, and adjusting the gold chains and necklaces that adorned her bosom.

Such brilliant writing! The Manolo had almost forgotten about the very funny and perceptive Susan Ferrier, the writer whose world will thankfully never be invaded by zombies and sea-monsters.


6 Responses to “Five Regency Gowns”

  1. Patty Says:

    *sigh* Oh, Manolo, for it is a sadness that I was born too late to wear the lovely yellow Regency gown, whilst sitting in the parlor reading the perceptive Susan Ferrier.

  2. Judith Says:

    I do not share either the Manolo’s or the Patty’s eloquence, but as to “born too late to wear the lovely yellow Regency gown,” I beg you to reconsider. Two words: indoor plumbing. We shall just have to find solace in the Manolo’s shoe fetish.

  3. Patty Says:

    So true, dear Judith, so true, for no matter how prettily decorated the chamberpot, in the end it is still a chamberpot.

  4. AnthroK8 Says:

    Oh, I was just looking at my copy of Marriage the other day, thinking I ought to take it out and re-read it. These terrific dresses and that quoted passage are the motivation I need.

    I do think the heroine of the book, whose name escapes me now, is a little bit of a wet blanket, but an endearing wet blanket.

    Also, commentary on Scottishness in the Regency!

  5. Jezebella Says:

    When,oh when, will the Regency silhouette return? It is the perfect dress for the busty apple-shaped ladies, such as myself. Sigh.

  6. Charlotte Allen Says:

    College English major though I was, I had never heard of Susan Ferrier. That excerpt from her book is wonderful: “Madame Bovary” with touches of Jane Austen. Another writer to discover.

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