Life is getting difficult for writers of Georgian and Regency romance
Shave? Our Regency heroes have traditionally been clean shaven. In fact a quick flick through Mills & Boon’s book of cover designs, The Art of Romance, has only one cover with any facial hair on a man. It is a small, neat moustache. I confess I haven’t read the book, but I am not convinced that he is the hero. However, a quick look in any street or on social media will tell you that beards are now becoming fashionable. Designer stubble is already creeping in, will full beards follow?
My latest Harlequin/Mills & Boon release is set in the Highlands in 1746, so I think we can get away with a small amount of facial hair…
In this occasional series on costume, we’ve featured a lot of day wear, but never what ladies wore when they went riding. The image above shows the Berrington Hall stables and a green riding habit on a mannequin. The waist is around the normal place and it doesn’t have full upper sleeves, so it probably dates from the late 1820s or early 1830s though it could be Victorian.
The development of the riding habit
Judging by the Paris prints, the riding habit changed a lot in the early part of the 19th century. In the Regency period, they looked pretty much like pelisses, except with much more skirt. Here are two, dating from 1816 and 1817, courtesy of the Victoria & Albert Museum collection.
Just before the start of the first lockdown — and doesn’t that seem a lifetime ago? — I spent an afternoon in the jewellery galleries at the Victoria & Albert Museum, in London. What struck me was how much of the fabulous bling on display was royal, or had royal connections. At the beginning of the 19th century, a lot of money went on bling. And the ladies of consequence were happy to flaunt it.
In 1806, Emperor Napoleon was intent on securing an alliance with the Prince-elector of Baden as part of the Confederation of the Rhine. To cement the alliance, Napoleon arranged a marriage between his adopted daughter, Stéphanie de Beauharnais, and the elector’s heir. Napoleon presented the bride with this beautiful set of emerald and diamond jewellery. Continue reading →
Apologies to our visitors expecting our normal Sunday morning blog. Things got a bit complicated in the hive this week, and there was no time to prepare a proper blog.
Instead, for an improper (and late) blog, I offer a few pretty pics, especially for those who like our costume series. And normal service will be resumed next weekend 😉
That poor seamstress again?
My blogs have often mentioned the poor seamstress who made those fabulous gowns and, probably, received a pittance for her work. Below are some examples of embroidery from the Hereford museum collections. I don’t know whether these are the work of a seamstress or by a lady, sitting comfortably by her fire. They’re worth a look, whoever did them. [Click to enlarge]
If you’ve read your Jane Austen and Georgette Heyer, you’ll be familiar with the term “half-boots”.
But what were they?
And what were they made of?
The pair on the right, from the marvellous V&A collection, is made of striped cotton with buff-coloured leather toecaps. The sole is leather and there’s a little heel. From the picture, it looks as though they, like the shoes I discussed in my last blog, are not made for left and right feet. They also look as if they’ve hardly been worn. If they were worn, it probably wasn’t in the rain and mud, judging by how clean and shiny they still are. Continue reading →
Why shoes? Well, a few weeks ago, I was ranting about boots. Specifically, the fact that, in images intended for Regency covers, all the male models seem to wear knee-high boots, even with evening dress.
This kind of boot, from the Wade costume collection at Berrington Hall, really doesn’t look appropriate for evening, does it? Imagine dancing with a man wearing those 😉
To be fair, the cover images don’t normally include spurs, as this original does, carefully separated by tissue paper to protect the boot’s leather.
I haven’t found a cure for the boot problem yet—other than cropping out the blasted things—but it gave me the idea of doing a blog about footwear.
And, for the record, an example of the kind of shoe the gents should wear with evening dress is below. (Yes, I admit they look more like slippers to us, but the V&A says they’re shoes.)
Designer stubble, I contend, is the bane of a cover designer’s life, if she’s trying to create something that’s reasonably faithful to the Regency period.
Regency men often had side-whiskers, but their chins were clean shaven.
Today’s cover models? Not so much.
In fact, hardly at all.
Try typing “Regency gentleman” into any site that offers stock images — places like Shutterstock, Adobe, and so on. I bet that at least half of the images that come up will show a male model with designer stubble. Or a beard. On some sites, almost every single so-called “Regency gentleman” has chin hair of some kind. Continue reading →
You may have seen the image above in my blog about pelisses, a few weeks ago. I’m repeating the picture here because of that parasol. Or is it an umbrella? It rather looks like one. In fact, apart from that tassel, the proportions look very modern.
Parasols : for the sun, not the rain
Parasols, especially early in the Regency period, had different proportions, as you can see from the examples below, all courtesy of the Hereford Museum costume collection.
On the left is a pale pink silk parasol, very small, with a long handle, a neat metal ferrule and a tassel. On the right is a pale pink lace parasol, again with a long handle. If you look closely — click on any of the images to enlarge them — you’ll see that the long ivory handle of the lace one is carved. Its ferrule has a ring rather than a tassel.
Both Pale pink?
Do you begin to see a theme here?
There’s another one — also pale pink, but with a fringe this time — below. Continue reading →
It’s winter. Dark and gloomy. Though, here in UK, it’s still quite warm. Or at least not as cold — yet! — as winter sometimes can be.
We have houses with central heating and double-glazing to keep out the cold and the draughts. Back in the Regency, they weren’t so lucky. Though, to be honest, I remember a house we bought in the 1970s that was incredibly draughty. I used left-over curtain material to sew a draught-excluder in the shape of a snake for the gap under the sitting-room door.
And I grew up in a non-centrally-heated house with a draught screen as part of the standard furnishings, about six feet high and with four brocade-covered panels. We had draughts and we definitely needed it. Continue reading →
I usually write Regency romances. So I have to keep an eye on developments in the market. And covers are a vital part of getting readers to pick up a book.
What prompted a modern woman to pick up a Regency romance?
If I were to generalise from the many Regency covers I’m seeing these days, I’d say that quite a lot of them look too modern. They don’t say “Regency” to me.
I’m not sure whether it’s the heavy make-up, or the hairstyles, or the clothes, or just the knowingness that 21st century models seem to display. Whatever it is, very few of the females on today’s Regency covers look (to me) anything other than a modern woman playing at being in the Regency. Continue reading →