Regency fashion was a reaction to the previous Georgian age with its more elaborate, lavishly decorated designs in heavier richer materials. Hoops and stays were abandoned for a simpler classic style. This, because in spite of the tension between England and France, cultural influences of the Empire style came across the channel. In fact, French Modists, were so much de rigueur, that British ones used to adopt a French name and an imitated accent to enhance their status.
Evening dresses were made of silk or satin. Bust lines went up to just below the breasts. Necklines were square, low and wide, exposing ladies’ bosoms. Bare Arms with little puff sleeves were a la mode. Buttons at the back of the gown required the help of a lady’s maid to put on and take off. Toward the end of the era, fashion became more elaborate with layers of lace and gauze and added beading. Married ladies and older matrons could wear bright, rich colors. Young debutants wore white muslin. A chemise would be worn under the gown to protect in from clinging and to keep the gown clean. Kidskin slippers were worn for dancing.
Day dresses were made of cotton or linen. They were simply pulled over the head. A drawstring would be used for gathering the material under the bust line. A lady’s maid was in charge of dressing her mistress and caring for the cleaning and pressing of both day dresses and gowns. Outerwear consisted of spencers, which were short jackets with long sleeves. For colder weather, ladies would wear a full length wool coat called a pelisse. Walking shoes resembled today half boots with low to medium height heels.
Hair would never be worn down. A lady would wear her hair gathered back in a chignon. More elaborate hair styles would involve curling it into locks and arranged to frame the face. Hair could be decorated with flowers, pearls or fancy combs. Debutants would wear a string of pearls or a simple pendent. Married ladies would wear the family jewels.
A gentleman’s valet would be in charge of dressing him. He would be responsible for haircuts, shaving, and pressing and brushing his clothes. A valet would take pride in the shine of a gentlemen’s boots, or hessians. Those would be knee high and worn in daytime or outdoors. They were so snug, a valet would need to help his master pull them off. Regular leather shoes were part of eveningwear with knee long breeches and knee high white socks. It included black tailcoats and brocade vests in different colors from subdued to very florid. Snow white shirts with up-to-the-chin pointed collars were worn with a white cravat. The cravat would be the masterpiece of the valet who could fold it as elaborately as his master would allow. It was decorated by a jeweled pin. Watches, fobs and quizzing-glasses were part of the ensemble. Breeches, pants and pantaloons were of different lengths. Falls opened the fronts with buttons running from simple to decorative. Gentlemen would always wear their signet rings. Special riding clothes were designed for both men and women.
Young children of both sexes were initially in gowns. Girls wore dresses and boys wore sailor suits or shorts with jackets until they graduated to long pants. Servants were dressed in black, except for those who wore colored livery. The lower classes living in the city or off the estate would wear serviceable clothes in drab colors. Headgear included top hats and beaver hats for men, hats and bonnets for women. All would wear gloves in public. Caps were worn by women of all classes.