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Monday, February 7, 2011

Ladies Regency Fashion--"Undress"

The Regency era brought dramatic changes in women's fashion. Those huge hoop skirts and pinched waistlines popular in the Elizabethan Era disappeared in favor of the Roman style gown with high waistlines and lighter fabrics.

Ladies of the Beau Monde changed her clothing at least three different times a day depending on the time of day and her activities. Because the aristocracy and upper crust were so steeped in tradition and manners, they had no trouble following the rules. However, I have no doubt that arrivistes and the rising middle class found this custom bewildering.

The term Undress, or dishabille, was the more casual or simpler style of gown worn at home usually in the morning. These were loose, comfortable gowns made with warmer fabrics and had higher necklines than gowns worn later in the day. Ladies often wore a cap in the morning, too. Ladies wore Undress gowns all morning until noon, depending on scheduled outings or visitors. On a quiet day, a lady might wear Undress until four or five in the afternoon. Sometimes undress gowns were quite decorative. Alison Steadman as Mrs. Bennet in the 1996 film version of Sense and Sensibility wore a morning gown in the film that closely resembled an 1815 Ackermann fashion plate. The actresses playing the Dashwood women often wore an apron or pinafore over their dresses when picking herbs or working in the kitchen. I don't know how accurate this is, or if they only did so because they were not overly wealthy and had to be very careful with their clothing.

Mornings were a time for solitude and tending to the house. For the lady of the house, her morning activities were fairly regimented. After rising, dressing, and eating breakfast, she consulted with her cook and housekeeper, and caught up on her correspondence.

Young ladies such as Jane Austen often practiced the pianoforte first thing in the morning. Ladies also read, sewed, wrote letters, made preserves, and oversaw the gardens.

When I'm staying home, I like pajama pants or stretch pants and a big soft T-shirt. (My favorite writing attire) Of course, if I were to tell my husband I planned to wear undress today, he'd imagine something entirely different ;-)

What do you like to wear when you're at home?


Vicky Alvear Shecter said...

What an interesting post! People are so funny. As for me, it's sweat pants.

Elizabeth said...

I'm fairly convinced that the 'Undress' dress is much prettier than anything I choose to schlep around in all day (I mean, just the morning). I'm all about a nice pair of stretchy pants and a t-shirt - if I want to pretty it up for my husband, I'll wear a nicer shirt, but the pants stay!

catslady said...

Imagine spending your days like that lol. I wear jeans and t-shirts or sweat shirts and don't like to fuss. I did enough of that when I worked outside the house. I always thought I worked better when I was more comfortable so good for the regency era for being more comfortable than the era before.

Kathryn Kane said...

A fascinating article. However, you did not mention that "morning" during the Regency is not the same as the morning we know today. During the Regency, as it had been for centuries, "morning" was defined as the period from dawn until the main meal of the day, which was dinner. And dinner, in the country, was usually served around 5 o'clock, while it might be as late as 8 o'clock in London.

That certainly gave the ladies more time to relax in their "undress." :-)