Posts Tagged ‘1817 Regency Ball’

This post is contributed by Celeste Sargent as part of the 1817 Regency Ball Blog Series.

Music and dance play an important role in Jane Austen’s novels.  Consider the Netherfield, Mansfield, and Mr. Weston’s balls; Mary Crawford’s harp and Jane Fairfax’s pianoforte; Anne Elliot and Mary Bennet playing country dances and reels; and Catherine Morland at the Upper Rooms in Bath.  However, Austen provides few cultural details regarding specific songs, composers or dances so it is hard to imagine what they may have really been like.  Fortunately, we can fill in the blanks from her personal collection of music and other historical sources.  Since the purpose of my research was to organize a Regency ball, this article gives the briefest introduction to Regency music and focuses on Regency dance.  Unfortunately, I am not a scholar in either field so I beg the forgiveness of those who are knowledgeable and encourage those who are not to follow the links to my sources.1812vaux

Music Eras-2The English Regency Era (1790-1820) was situated at the peak of the Classical period and the cusp of the Romantic period in music (which are different from the Literary periods).  Then, as now, people enjoyed a variety of music.  Popular, new music came from the stage and theatre. Haydn,  Mozart and J.C. Bach were writing operas, oratorios, symphonies, and sonatas that exemplified the famous “classical style” but there were also pop artists, like Charles Dibdin and Stephen Storace, who wrote popular songs and then faded into obscurity.  People continued to appreciate the old masters like J.S. Bach and Handel from the Baroque period, while some, like Vivaldi, fell out of favour.  In Britain the people celebrated their cultural roots with Scottish and Irish Airs from the Renaissance and earlier.  Around Europe, Classical composers wrote variations on (read: re-mix) of their various folk songs.  In the late Regency, Beethoven, who started in the Classical style, was developing a new style of music, which would come to be known as “Romantic” and would define music for over 100 years.  If you’re wondering about Strauss, Chopin, Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninov, or Saint-Saens … they were all to come later in the Romantic Period.

Toy Theatres originated in England in 1811.  This one is c. 1845

Toy Theatres originated in England in 1811. This one is c. 1845


Original Playbill for ‘The Magic Flute’, an Opera by Mozart c. 1791

Jane’s musical preferences tended towards the songs and dances that were popular at the time. That some of yesteryear’s tunes have become today’s classical music (Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven) happened purely by chance, for many of the composers whose music and songs Jane Austen preferred have faded into obscurity. Jane favored Ignaz Pleyel over Haydn… She played folk songs, Scotch and Irish airs (many arranged by Haydn and Beethoven), and songs from the popular stage by such composers as Dibdin, Arne and Shiled. She also collected works from Piccinni, Sterkel, and J.C. Bach, and owned Steibelt’s ‘Grand Concerto, Haydn’s English Conzonets, glees music of John Wall Callcott, and Che Faro from Gluck’s Orfeo ed Euridice.” [4]

The Pianoforte


Muzio Clementi piano belonging to Jane Austen

“Yes, yes, we will have a pianoforte, as good a one as can be got for 30 guineas, and I will practice country dances, that we may have some amusement for our nephews and nieces, when we have the pleasure of their company.”Jane Austen, 1808 [3]

It is often easy to recognize Baroque music from the distinctive sound of the harpsichord and the transition to the Classical period was strongly influenced by the invention of the pianoforte.  The harpsichord generated it’s sound by plucking strings with a metal hook.  The sound, while piercing, was usually considered too quiet to carry the melody in an ensemble. The pianoforte was a revolutionarily superior instrument. The pianoforte had a different method of producing sound.  It struck the strings with a padded mallet. As its name suggests, the ability to control the force of the strike, gave the player control over the volume of each note (loud and soft).  It was loud enough to carry the melody in a concerto, had a more pleasing sound and could be played with “expression”, a quality which made it an appealing solo instrument and which would be even more fully explored in the Romantic period.

“it was the Bach sons Philipp Emanuel and Christian; as well as Mozart and Clementi who learned to exploit and appreciate the advantages of the piano, contributed to its successful introduction around the world.”[5]

manuscriptMusic copied out by Jane Austen

The pianoforte could also be made relatively small, portable, and affordable.  It became a common feature in middle-class homes and brought music and dancing into everyday lifeYoung people would keep collections of their favourite music, often copying it out from their friends for free (the illegal download of the day). As we see in Austen’s novels, it also made it easy to have a house concert or impromptu dance.

Mary, play a reel!  Nobody wants your concertos

“Mary, at the end of a long concerto, was glad to purchase praise  and gratitude by Scotch and Irish airs, at the request of her younger sisters, who with some of the Lucases and two or three officers joined eagerly in dancing at one end of the room.” – Pride and Prejudice[7]

Lively Regency Dancing circa 1805

Lively Regency Dancing circa 1805

The dancing style of the Regency ballroom might surprise you with its liveliness.  Dancers hopped and span, clapped, laughed and talked (often encouraged by drinking).  Though regulated by social conventions, it was not stately and formalized as we imagine. That would come in the Victorian Era and would contribute to the decline in the popularity of social dancing.

It turns out the Regency ballroom contained a wide variety of dance and music styles as well.  During Austen’s life she might have danced jigs and reels like “the Virginia Reel” from the Renaissance Period; English country dances like “Mr. Beveridge’s Maggot” from the Baroque Period; and cotillions and quadrilles from the Classical Period.   The unifying factor was the social nature of the dance. They were all group dances in which many dance couples interact in a larger pattern.  Changing partners throughout the evening, and even during the dance itself, was integral. It was considered rude for any couple, whether courting or married, to dance more than two dances together in one evening.  However, they were all on the verge of being swept away by the emerging Romantic Period and the waltz which was just beginning to permeate the music and dance scene in 1815.

The Virginia Reel

Typically, Regency dances and balls included Irish and Scottish jigs and reels, which originate in the Renaissance period or earlier and continue to be popular today.  Much of the liveliness in Regency music and dance come from this heritage.  It is fast passed and involves a lot of bouncing, turning and clapping.  The Virgina Reel is one example.countrydance

“It stems from the rinnce fadha’, a pre-Christian Irish dance that evolved into the English dance called the Sir Roger de Coverley. Brought to Virginia by English colonists, the Sir Roger de Coverley in time became the Virginia Reel”

Playford – The English Dancing Master

The term “English country dance”  refers generally to dances that were popular during the Baroque period and continued to be enjoyed into the Regency. In France they came to be called ‘contra dances’.


John Playford published The English Dancing Master in London in 1651. It was “the first printing of these group social dances that were to dominate Western ballrooms for the next 150 years” New editions of the book continued to be made until 1728. [8]

“A country dance is a social dance form in which two or more couples dance together in a set … The main forms of country dancing are: longways sets, square sets and circle dances.

While it is clear that reels were an integral part of the Regency Ballroom, there is some debate about whether the Playford dances continued to be enjoyed or were considered passe. However, in Austen’s Novel Persuasion, Anne Elliot plays “country dances” for the Musgrove girls to dance to, which may indicate their continued popularity in the country, if not in the cities.

Mr. Beveridge’s Maggot

One example of a typical English country dance is Mr. Beveridge’s Maggot.  This dance is famous as the dance that Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy dance together in the BBC mini-series “Pride & Prejudice,” 1995 (enjoy the clip below).  As with most dances of this era, the name belongs to both the dance and the accompanying song.  The term “Maggot,” pronounced the same as the wriggly white larvae, was commonly used to describe dances that were unique and particularly fanciful.

“The middle english word maggot meant a whim, fancy or silly idea. It is believed this came from the belief that the brain was full of maggots (probably from observations of cadavers) and the bite of one of these maggots would give rise to an unusual thought or idea. … There was an expression “when the maggot bites” that meant `when the fancy takes me.’ (Dictionary of Phrase and Fable 1884).”

The Cotillion

The cotillion was the primary dance of Austen’s youth.  Started in France in the 1700s, it came to England in 1766, and consisted of four couples in a square formation with a caller who called out the steps.  The spontaneous and indeterminate nature of the cotillion is the reason why specific dances were not often mentioned in Austen’s novels.full-cotillion-dance

“Its name, from French cotillon, “petticoat”, reflected the flash of petticoats as the changing partners turned.”

The Quadrille

The quadrille was introduced in England around 1803 and almost completely supplanted the cotillion.  The quadrille was very similar but simpler.  Like the cotillion, four couples dance in a square but the steps were pre-set into short “Figures” to avoid the need for a caller.  Each dance consisted of performing several Figures (usually 5). Image-quadrille

When Austen was sent quadrilles by her niece Fanny she replied “Much obliged for the quadrilles, which I am grown to think pretty enough, though of course they are very inferior to the cotillions of my own day.” from a letter of February 20, 1816 [1]

Square Dancing, Cotillion Balls and Kwadrils

There are several modern dances that derive from this heritage.  In America, the cotillion went back to it’s folk roots and became square dancing (combining the called patterns with folk/country music) [10]. Conversely in America, Europe and the Phililpines, the term “cotillion” has come to mean specifically a debutant ball even though the waltz is actually the main form of dance. Quadrilles have gone on to become popular in former French colonies, like Guadeloupe, where they are now called Kwadrils.

La Boulanger

La boulanger was a simple round-dance performed at the end of the evening when everyone was tired. This is the one country dance mentioned by name in Austen’s Novels.


“The boulanger, meaning ‘baker,’ was the finishing dance at a ball. It took place in a circle formation and alternated between turning the other dancers in the circle and their partner. Once everyone had done those movements in one direction, the dance was repeated going the other way to finish the dance.”[10]

The Viennese Waltz

One of the biggest revolutions in dance history happened at the end of the Regency period: The invention of the waltz.  Up to this point, dancing was a group, social activity.  While people danced in pairs, they interacted constantly with the other dancers in the set and even with the spectators in the room (as we see portrayed in Austen’s Novels).  The waltz was radical because of the closed hand-hold, which brought partners into close embrace and excluded everyone else in the room.  Therefore it was considered both inappropriate and anti-social.

WaltzWilson1816The waltz originated in Austria, and was an adaptation of the German Folk dance, the Landler. The original Viennese waltz  is often called a “rotary” waltz, since the couple rotates on each step, in addition to traveling in a circle around the ballroom.  The Viennese waltz was first introduced to the English Court in 1815 but took time to filter down to the general population.  It is unlikely that Austen, who died in 1817, ever danced a waltz.  A faster version of the waltz, like the polka, became popular first, since it was livelier and less ‘intimate’, and brief waltzing steps began to be incorporated into group dances like the quadrille.  But, eventually, everyone fell in love with both the new Romantic music and romantic dancing.  Waltzing and other forms of partner dancing eventually became the dominant form of dance, so much so that it has become implicit in the term ‘Ballrooom dance’ , while “country dancing” and “contra-dancing” have become relegated to historical dance.

VIDEO: Viennese Waltz

VIDEO: Polka at 8min, 20sec

Time to Order the Carriage

“Oh! My dear Mr. Bennet,…we have had a most delightful evening, a most excellent ball.  I wish you had been there…First of all [Mr. Bingley], asked Miss Lucas…and asked [Jane] for the two next. Then, the two third he danced with Miss King, and the two fourth with Maria Lucas, and the two fifth with Jane again, and the two sixth with Lizzy, and the Boulanger.”

“If he had had any compassion for me,” cried her husband impatiently, “he would not have danced half so much!  For God’s sake, say no more of his partners.  Oh! That he had sprained his ancle in the first dance!” – Pride and Prejudice [7]

So we see that a ball was no stately walk in the park.  If a dance took approximately half an hour, we see that at Netherfield they danced (and the musicians played) for at least 3 hours straight, not including the boulanger.  Phew, no wonder the corset fell out of style!  A ball also typically included a late supper (served between 11-midnight).  Though Mrs. Bennet talks about their “evening,” it seems likely that the ball went into the morning hours.  It was the night-club of the 1800s.  Now it becomes easy to see where the expression comes from, when someone asks whether you had a good time, and you say “I had a ball!”.  You probably mean it was as much fun as a Regency ball.


1. What did Jane Austen dance? http://www.kickery.com/2009/11/what-did-jane-austen-dance.html#more

2. Dancing at the Netherfield Ball: Pride and Prejudice. http://janeaustensworld.wordpress.com/2010/06/28/dancing-at-the-netherfield-ball-pride-and-prejudice/

3. Research#9: Regency Music and Composers. http://afoemma.wordpress.com/2012/01/13/research-9-regency-music-and-composers/

4. Jane Austen and Music. http://janeaustensworld.wordpress.com/2010/07/12/jane-austen-and-music/

5.The History and Development of the modern Piano. http://www.rennerusa.com/rennerhistory.asp

6. Regency Dancers don’t turn single. http://www.kickery.com/2008/03/regency-dancers.html

7. The Works of Jane Austen. http://www.austen.com/novels.htm

8.The Dancing Master – Playford’s Dance Manual. http://www.shipbrook.net/jeff/playford/

9. World Wide Words: Investigating the English Language Around the World,  “Maggot”. http://www.worldwidewords.org/weirdwords/ww-mag3.htm

10. The York Regency Dancers. http://www.yorkregencydancers.com/regency-dance.html

11. The Quadrille Arrives. http://www.colonialdance.com.au/the-quadrille-arrives-1097.html

12. History of Square Dance. http://www.cdss.org/sd-history.html

13. History of the Viennese Waltz. http://www.austria.info/us/the-big-waltz-at-lincoln-center/history-of-the-viennese-waltz-1345134.html

14. Almack’s Assembly Room. http://www.regencyhistory.net/2011/10/almacks-assemby-rooms.html

Read Full Post »

Today’s guest post is by Celeste Sargent who is an artist by nature, a scientist by nurture and a teacher by profession.  This is the first in a series of posts about Regency Balls.

I am not a “Janeite”

I am not a “Janeite” or at least, I have not been. Janeitism is defined as

“the self-consciously idolatrous enthusiasm for ‘Jane’ [Austen] and every detail relative to her”[1].

Like many, I first read Pride and Prejudice as a teenager and I literally couldn’t put it down. The story goes that on a school trip in Alberta I was so absorbed in the book that I missed the rest stop and, when we were stopped by a train crossing, had to use a snowy field.  Since then, I’ll admit that I’ve read all of her books many (many) times.  My personal favourite is Mansfield Park.  But my enjoyment of her books has rarely led to interest in derivatives. Pride and Prejudice and Zombies? No Thanks.  A trip to the Jane Austen Festival in Bath?  Yikes. When Miss Bingley tries to pigeon hole Elizabeth as “a great reader” who “has no pleasure in anything else.”  Elizabeth protests, saying:

“I deserve neither such praise nor such censure, … I am not a great reader, and I have pleasure in many things.”[2]

Like Elizabeth, I object strongly to being labelled. But, as it happens the many things that give me pleasure include history, drama, classical music, singing and dancing.  So it recently occurred to me that it would be a lot of fun to hold a Regency Era house concert and ball, which was a key feature in all of Jane Austen’s novels. Thus, 20 years after my first exposure, I find myself afflicted with a severe case of late-onset Janeitism.

Lively Regency Dancing circa 1805

Lively Regency Dancing circa 1805

The Spirit of the Age

I am a Baha’i and Jane Austen died in the same year that Baha’u’llah (the Founder of the Baha’i Faith) was born (1817).  The approaching 200th anniversary of these two events seems like a good enough reason to hold a ball but is there also a connection between these two individuals? English Literature (and Western thought) changed dramatically in the early 19th century from Romanticism to Realism (also called “Victorian” Literature”).  Indeed, all of humanity was changing dramatically at that time. Theologians believe that the coming of a Manifestation of God on earth releases spiritual forces that transform humanity.

“the Holy Manifestations of God are the centres of the light of reality…When the Holy Manifestation of God, Who is the sun of the world [shines] then the spiritual spring and new life appear, the power of the wonderful springtime becomes visible, and marvelous benefits are apparent.  As you have observed, at the time of the appearance of each Manifestation of God extraordinary progress has occurred in the world of minds, thoughts and spirits.”[3]

Often miss-identified as romance novels, Jane Austen’s work is actually an early example of realism. Is it possible that Jane Austen felt the gentle influence related to the re-birth of religion? Certainly Jane was influenced by her sincere Christian faith and she was in tune with the emerging zeitgeist, whatever your belief about it’s cause may be.  Her understanding of human nature and clear-sighted moral reasoning seem ahead of her time and her writing continues to appeal to modern sensibilities.  It therefore seems, if not apropos, then at least not inappropriate, to celebrate Ayyam-i-Ha this year by holding a Regency Ball.

Having a Ball

In order to recreate a house concert and ball as it would have occurred in 1817 England, I had to do a good deal of research, the fruits of which labour I share with you here (Chloë has very kindly allowed me to temporarily hijack her blog) in the 1817 Regency Ball Blog Series:

– Having a (Regency) Ball
Ladies and Gentlemen, Regency Fashion!
Easy P’easy Regency: From bed to ball gown in 30 minutes or less
‘Mary, play a reel! Nobody wants your concertos’: Regency Music and Dance

I am hoping that with a strict treatment of blogging, dressing up, dancing and reading fan fiction I can get over this late-onset case of Janeitism quickly. My friend, Melanie Kerr, who I recently discovered has chronic Janeitism, has written a Prequel to Pride and Prejudice titled “Follies Past”, which I look forward to reading as my very first fan fiction.

Disclaimer: This blog series and event is an independent, individual initiative, not associated with any institution or organization.  It does not represent the Baha’i Faith or the Baha’i Community of Vancouver.


1. Johnson, Claudia L. “Austen cults and cultures.”1997

2. Austen, Jane. “Pride and Prejudice.” 1813

3. Abdu’l-Baha. “Some Answered Questions.”

Read Full Post »

This guest post is by Celeste Sargent as part of the 1817 Regency Ball Blog Series

Ivory notebook

Ivory was often used for notes instead of paper as pencil and even ink easily rub off.

What should I do with your … spirited Sketches …?” Jane Austen wrote her nephew Edward “How could I possibly join them on to the little bit (two Inches wide) of Ivory on which I work with so fine a Brush …?“[1]

Jane Austen used the metaphor of her small, ivory notebook to modestly describe her ordinary characters and the narrow scope of her stories, but it is also an apt metaphor for the time and place in which she lived and in which her stories take place: Regency England.

The ordinary ivory notebook (as opposed to expensive paper) is also a good metaphor for the themes on which she wrote and the ideas that influenced the Regency Period (and Regency Fashion). Within their seemingly small, ordinariness they contain an enduring quality and value. 

The Regency Period

regencyfashion1810The Regency Period in England was very short. Technically it spans from 1811-1820 when King George III was deemed unfit to rule and his son ruled as his proxy until the King’s death. More generally it spans from 1790 to 1820s [3]. Though born into the Georgian Era in 1775, Jane Austen’s adult life was Regency.  Her first book (Sense and Sensibility) was published in 1811 and she died in 1817[4].

Regency Fashion is notable for it’s ordinariness for both men and women.  It was a changing social time in Europe (and the world), with revolution in the air (notably the French Revolution in 1789). The foundations of society and social classes were shifting.  Disgusted with the excess as much as the oppression of the Regents and ruling classes, many people were attracted to simplicity and equality, which affected their fashion choices.

“Indeed it [the Regency Era] was a time of revolution in every sphere – political as well as domestic. Social reform was in its infancy, but would soon become the catch-phrase of the Victorians. On other fronts, a religious revival had begun to kick with the rise of the middle classes, a stricter morality, or at least the appearance of it. And fashion changed with the times, from the simplest of white muslin gowns of the Directoire to the elaborate embroidered, flounced and trimmed toilettes that were the forerunners of the even more ornate Victorian era. It is against this backdrop of war and technical advancement, over consumption and poverty, we are to see those times; the true beginning of our modern times.” [5]

Ladies’s Regency Fashion

Regency Dancing Woman

Derived from an admiration of the Greeks, perhaps for their ideas of democracy, simple and comfortable shifts, gathered below the bust became the fashion for women[6].  The empire waist was a welcome respite for the tortured waistline.  For this period the corset gave way to a shorter, lighter and more comfortable undergarment almost comparable to a modern bra which was not seen again until the 1920s.[7] En even more modern change was that,

people began using clothing more as a form of individual expression of the true-self than as a pure indication of social status“[6]

Lady Catherine de Bourgh is clearly depicted as a matriarch from another era when Mr. Collins says

Lady Catherine will not think the worse of you for being simply dressed.  She likes to have the distinction of rank preserved.” [8]

Dress Timeline 1800-1900

The Empire Waist suddenly appears in the Regency Era (1790-1820) but then fashion returns to the corseted waistline until the 1920s.

A Regency Era Lady in the Ballroom

  • Gown:
    • Ankle-length
    • Empire waist (under the bust)
    • Any neckline
    • Any sleeves (cap, short, long)
  • Chemise (optional white blouse worn under a dress to cover the shoulders and/or bust)
  • Spencer (optional VERY short, fitted jacket)
  • Slippers (flat dancing shoes)
  • Shawl (large square of coloured fabric like a pashmina, often Indian silk)
  • Long white gloves
  • Fan
  • Reticule (fabric draw-string purse)
  • Hair: Grecian (curled, up and simple or ornamented with ribbons, combs, beads, feathers etc)

For Easy Women’s Regency Gown tips and tricks check out:

  1. How to Fake Regency: A Guide to the Silhouette” by Experiments in Elegance
  2. Easy P’easy Regency: from bed to ball gown in 30 minutes or less“, by Celeste Sargent
  3. How to Get a Proper Regency Look From a Thrift Store“, by Regency Exhibition Ball
  4. Women’s Hairstyles“, by Jessamyn’s Regency Costume Companion

Gentlemen’s Regency Fashion

Fashion-GentlemanMen’s fashion was also influenced by ideals of simplicity and was notable for beginning the transition to the modern suit[9].  Gentlemen who had previously worn breeches and pantaloons (knee/calf length with socks) or tight leggings began to wear slightly looser fitting, full length trousers which had been the fashion of the lower classes [10].  Soon the trouser would be included as a part of evening wear with the tailcoat (the tuxedo)[11].

The cravat (precursor of the tie) was also introduced in this era and, like any new fashion trend, was promptly taken to extremes.  Contrasted with the stated desire for simplicity this was the era when the term “Dandyism” was coined for men. “Beau Brummel”, a contemporary of Jane epitomized men’s Regency fashion in both respects.  I apologize for simply quoting wikipedia directly here.

“George Bryan “Beau” Brummell (7 June 1778 – 30 March 1840) was an iconic figure in Regency England, the arbiter of men’s fashion, and a friend of the Prince Regent, the future King George IV. He established the mode of dress for men that rejected overly ornate fashions for one of understated, but perfectly fitted and tailored bespoke garments. This look was based on dark coats, full-length trousers rather than knee breeches and stockings, and above all immaculate shirt linen and an elaborately knotted cravat.

Beau Brummell is credited with introducing, and establishing as fashion, the modern men’s suit, worn with a necktie.  He claimed he took five hours a day to dress, and recommended that boots be polished with champagne.  His style of dress is often referred to as dandyism.” [12]

A Regency Era Gentleman in the Ballroom

  • Trousers (full length, slim-leg, high waisted dress pants)
  • Collared dress shirt (White)
  • Cravat  (white linen scarf tied around a popped collar)
  • Waistcoat (vest) – double or single breasted
  • Tailcoat – double or single breasted
  • Dress shoes
  • Gloves (white)
  • Top Hat
  • Hair: Long or high and tousled on the top and shorter at the sides with side-burns (think Greek)

For Easy Men’s Regency tips and tricks check out:

  1. Faking Regency Fashion For Men” by Experiments in Elegance
  2. My Mr. Knightly: Tying a cravat” by Tea in a Teacup
  3. Easy P’easy Regency: from bed to ball gown in 30 minutes or less“, by Celeste Sargent
  4. Men’s Hairstyles” by Jessamyn’s Regency Costume Companion


1. Francis Beer. “The Three Sisters”: “A Little Bits of Ivory”,

2. James Follet, “Jane Austen’s Laptop Word Processor”, 1996

3. Wikipekia. “Regency Era

4. The Republic of Pemberly. “Jane Austen Information Page

5. Regency England, a Brief Introduction

6. Wikipedia. “1795-1820 in Western Fashion

7. The Republic of Pemberly. “Notes and Illustrations on Regency Clothing Styles

8. Austen, Jane. “Pride and Prejudice.” 1813

9.Wikipedia “History of Suits

10. Koster, Kirsten. “A Primer on Regency Era Men’s Fashion

11. Jane Austen’s World. “Regency Fashion: Men’s Breeches, Pantaloons and Trousers

12. Wikipekia. “Beau Brummell

Read Full Post »

This post is contributed by Celeste Sargent as part of the 1817 Regency Ball Blog Series.

Have you been invited to a Regency Era Ball?  Has your wardrobe fallen behind on the hottest 1817 England fashion trends?  Are you unwilling to sew or buy a costume for just one evening?  Well, you could go to a thrift store and find a dress or tuxedo to modify as these people did:

How to Get a Proper Regency Look From a Thrift Store

But if you’re like me and that is still way too much time and money, here is how to make a Regency gown out of a sheet in 10 steps.  BONUS! “Men’s Regency Attire: 3 easy cravats” at the end.

10 Steps to a Regency Gown

Step 1. Start with a single sheet (a double sheet will work, but it is bulkier), 20+ pins, 2 draw strings (approximately 1 m long), and your choice of sleeves and belt (see Step 9).


Step 2. Fold the sheet in half to make a long cylinder (if you are using a double sheet, you will have to fold it in 3rds so it is just wider than your hips).


Step 3. Overlap the edges to make a long, narrow cylinder and“Sew” the edges together using pins, being careful not to catch the bottom layer.


Step 3. (If you are using a double sheet, you will have to pin the bottom and top edges of the overlap as well)


Step 4. Tie the first draw string around the middle of the sheet, keeping it loose and easy to untie.


Step 5. Fold the sheet in half OVER the draw string by pulling the thin edge of the sheet down over the thick edge. You should have a double layered cylinder. (adjust the size by folding it more or less.  Top crease above the bust and bottom around ankles)


Step 6A. Step into the middle of the cylinder, with the seam at the back, and tie the draw string tightly ABOVE the bust.


Step 6B. OR, secure the draw string BELOW the bust.


Step 6B. then fold the top layer of fabric up over the bust to the desired neckline.


Step 6B. Pin crease to bra at desired neckline (FRONT).


Step 6B. Pin crease to bra at desired neckline (BACK)


Step 7. Arrange the fabric so it falls smooth and flat in the front and sides and bunches in the back (the double sheet is a lot bulkier in the back).


Step 8A. Tie the second draw string around the outside of everything under the bust.


Step 8B. Tie the second draw string over the top of everything under the bust.


Step 9A. Add your choice of sleeves and belt


Step 9B. Add your choice of sleeves and belt

Step 9.  Add your choice of sleeves, and decorations.  The regency had a diversity of necklines (U, V, square, scoop) and sleeves (cap, puff, short, med, long).  In addition, women often wore a chemise (a light, white collared shirt) under a dress to cover the chest and/or shoulders.  Here are some different combinations using:

  • blouses
  • wrap around shirts
  • sports bra
  • wire edged ribbon
  • scarf

20140111-222252.jpg20140111-222232.jpg20140111-221910.jpg20140111-221854.jpg20140111-222138.jpgsports bra20140111-222150.jpg

Step 10.  Accessorize with flat shoes, a shawl (long rectangle of coloured fabric like a long Pashmina, often of Indian silk), a reticule (a fabric purse with a draw string), a fan, and/or long gloves.

Step 10. Accessorize with flat shoes, a shawl (long rectangle of coloured fabric like a long Pashmina, often of Indian silk), a reticule (a fabric purse with a draw string), a fan, and/or long gloves.

Men’s Regency Attire: 3 easy Cravats

1)Start with a white collared shirt (not a tuxedo shirt) and piece of white linen (in this case I used Jersey because that’s what I had). The cravat should be about 4-6 inches wide and 1.5-2 meters long.

2). Pop the collar and wrap the cravat around the neck a few times, finish up with the style of your choice.  Here’s three fun options: bow, scarf or knot.

3) Finish up your outfit with dress pants, dress shoes, and a vest. (WARNING: It is best to avoid a jacket.  The tailcoat was extremely time-specific.  It had a VERY short waist and puffed shoulders, which are hard to find or imitate)


Read Full Post »

This post is contributed by Celeste Sargent and relates specifically to those interested in attending the 1817 Regency Ball being held in Vancouver, Canada in 2014.

Why an 1817 Regency Ball?

  • For fun! Live Rennaissance, Baroque and Classical music, lively group dancing and food.
  • We are approaching the 200th anniversary of Jane Austen’s Death in 1817 and the Birth of Baha’u’llah in the same year (see Disclaimer).

LINK: Having a (Regency) Ball

What is Regency Dancing?

  • Regency Dances – social group dances where many “dance couples” form larger patterns (usually lines, squares and circles). Regency Dancing is the ancestor of modern square dancing.
  • A “Dance Couple” – any two individuals willing to dance together.  One person will perform the “women’s” steps and the other will perform the “men’s” steps but there is very little difference between the two parts.
  • Dance style – lively, simple, repetitive, and will be conducted at an introductory level.  A friend who does not like to dance said. “It’s like organized walking.  I know how to walk!”
  • Learning the Dances – It is assumed that no-one will know the dances in advance and the learning will be part of the fun.

LINK: ‘Mary, play a reel! nobody wants your concertos.’: Regency Music and Dancing

What if I don’t like to dance?

  • The evening will begin with a concert.
  • When the dancing begins, tables with alternative activities will be set up.
    • Cards
    • Children’s games (pick up sticks, jacks etc.)
    • Paper dolls and toy theatre
  • Enjoy the music and watch the dancing
  • Visit and enjoy refreshments from the English Sideboard (non-alcoholic adaptation)

Guide and Recommendations on Dress

  1. Be comfortable –  so that you can dance all night.
  2. Dress nicely – This is a semi-formal occasion (no jeans, T-shirts or runners please)
  3. *Optional*  Incorporate some Regency fashion – this is not a ‘costume’ party, so feel free to incorporate a little or a lot after you’ve considered 1 and 2.  Men can wear dress pants and a white shirt. Women are not required to wear dresses but if you do, try to avoid heels, knees, and bare shoulders).  Regency fashion was pretty simple, so check out these links.

LINK: Ladies and Gentlemen, Regency Fashion!

LINK: Easy P’easy Regency: from bed to ball gown in 30 minutes or less.

Tickets and Charity

  • This is a charity ball.  All net profit (after expenses*) will be donated to a local women’s shelter.  Information about the shelter will be provided at the event.
  • Tickets cost $20.00 (students $10, children 10 and under are free)
  • Please reserve your ticket(s) and receive your ticket number(s) by
  • Reserved tickets will be picked up and paid for at the door.
  • Space is limited!  Get your tickets now.

*Expenses consist of the material resources (rentals, refreshments etc.) All human resources are volunteer.

What is Ayyam-i-Ha?

Ayyam-i-Ha is a Baha’i celebration that occurs annually from February 26th to March 1st (The Baha’i Calendar). They are

“days of preparation for the Fast; days of hospitality, enjoyment, charity, paying special attention to the plight of the poor and sick, and giving presents. They do not mark any particular event, but the way they are celebrated is, in some ways, similar to the way Christmas is observed worldwide.”(“Celebrating Ayyam-i-Ha Imaginatively”, Baha’i Blog)

Disclaimer: This event is an independent, individual initiative and is not associated with any institution or organization.  It does not represent the Baha’i Faith or the Baha’i Community of Vancouver.

Read Full Post »