1811 Fashions, by Zoe Burton

1811 Fashions, by Zoe Burton

If you know me at all, you know I am one of the least fashionable women in existence. My favorite apparel when I’m not one hundred pounds overweight is jeans and a t-shirt. (My favorite fat clothes are leggings and t-shirts, so …) Totally not what’s in or has been in style for the last, like thirty-five years. 😉

As a writer, I like to keep things as historically accurate as possible, or in the case of a story with a contemporary setting, as currently accurate. I rarely describe clothing; I assume all my readers have seen at least one television or movie adaptation of Pride and Prejudice and have an idea, however vague, of what gowns looked like in the Regency era. Sometimes I’ll make a Pinterest board for the current work-in-progress and that board will sometimes have fashion plates pinned to it, but only if I need the inspiration for whatever reason. For my last book, I did this, I think. I know I used the cover model’s clothes to help me describe something, too.

Anyway, I thought it might be cool to look at some of the fashion plates from 1811, and see what ladies were wearing at that time. (Side note: Burton Cottage was built just 99 years later … too cool! 😉 ) This is in no way going to be academic. It’s just a collection of images of what ladies aspired to wear in that year, with my commentary.

Fur pelisse

Leenie Brown is one of those who have lots of pins on Pinterest, and she shared a couple links with me. It took me a few minutes to figure out how to find the pictures from 1811 but once I did, I was golden. LOL

The first picture I found was a fur pelisse. I’ve always wondered at the pelisse thing, because they don’t seem to be very heavy. I suppose women were not meant to be outside that much, at least women of the gentry. Anyway, this pelisse is a peach kind of color, is ankle length, and has fur around the collar, wrists, and edges. I can’t tell if the entire thing is lined or if the garment is only trimmed in fur. I hope it was lined, though. Winter can get pretty cold, and I figure it can be quite damp in England.

The next link I came across was a carriage dress. To be honest, it looks to me more like a coat. Trimmed in fur just like the pelisse, this is a shorter garment. It also appears to me to fit differently, and like it might perhaps be warmer. It’s not as fancy as the pelisse. I actually like the carriage dress, though I have to wonder why they call it a dress when it’s clearly a coat.

Another website I found has a whole page of fashion plates that appeared in 1811’s Ackermann’s Repository. The page has this morning dress on it that covers the lady from her chin to her toes. It’s got lots of lace. Possibly too much lace. Mrs. Bennet would approve. 😉 But, it looks comfortable.

Carriage dress

Because ladies in the Regency had a dress for every occasion, and horseback riding fascinates me (I’d love to learn, despite my serious allergy to the beasts), I had to share this riding habit. I know from previous research that these gowns were longer so as to cover a lady’s feet and ankles when she was in the saddle. They did not require split skirts because it was not done at that time for a lady to ride astride. Instead, her legs were both on one side of the animal and she rode a sidesaddle.

Now that our lady has taken the carriage to the neighbor’s place for a visit, had an early morning ride, and lounged around the house for a while, I thought she might like to go to a soiree. I have seen both ball gowns and opera gowns and while someone like me might assume a formal dress could be used for both, it apparently could not. What I did was to choose a plate that said “evening dress” on it and decided to let it stand in for everything. 🙂

This evening dress is very pretty. It’s a little longer than I expected, but that’s okay. I kind of have a thing for long skirts. LOL it has some cute trim of some kind at knee height and a dark blue or green (I really can’t tell which, though I lean toward green) piece on the top.

While I’ve not dressed my imaginary character for every possibility, I think I’ve covered her day quite well. What do you think? Do you have a favorite of the outfits I shared?  






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17 Responses to 1811 Fashions, by Zoe Burton

  1. I love looking at period pictures. I also enjoy wearing long dresses that I can wear around the house. I know. Otherwise, I wear leggings and a big over-sized top. That is my comfy go to. With me being a caregiver I need the comfort. I looked at the riding habit and think about the ones I’ve seen in the movies. In Northanger Abbey [2007], Catherine had a lovely one with a long train to cover the back of the horse as well as her legs. It was really full. I’ve always loved that one. The picture you have isn’t as full. Thanks for this fun post. Blessings, stay safe, and healthy.

    • I had forgotten about Catherine’s riding habit, but you’re correct … it covered the back of the horse, too! I think I like hers better than the one I found for my post. 🙂

  2. I think it’s interesting how confining and restrictive many of these outfits are. I don’t consider myself a feminist by any means, but I did find myself wondering if these clothes were designed by men. Long trailing skirts that make movement difficult, outerwear that doesn’t keep one warm and dry…? Of course, women were the ones who determined what was in fashion by wearing it, so I don’t know if my conjecture is plausible.

    • Honestly, I find many of today’s fashions restrictive, too. I look at people sometimes in their tight shirts and shiver, wondering how they can do that. Give me loose and flowing any day. I’ve also wondered about men’s involvement in fashion. I don’t know that they have been, but I could be wrong …

  3. I can’t imagine riding sidesaddle. For buturot – more Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/516717757221064866/
    Left foot in the stirrup, right leg in the pommel. Girth around the horse to hold the saddle in place. You use your legs and weight to move the horse where you want, so, since the right leg is pretty useless, the rider uses a crop to tap the horse on the right side or hip as needed.

    I’m with you on dressing for comfort. Nothing ever fits me anyway as the sleeves are too short so I wear large or men’s shirts. Saves money when you aren’t into fashion anyway. 😉 I think the most I got into fashion was my riding clothes!

  4. I always dress for comfort rather than fashion as well and have tons of t-shirts I love although since COVID I have been wearing Scrub tops because the pockets are so convenient for carrying hand sanitizer and disinfectant with easy access. I had a few already from when I was in an Early Childhood Education Program in High School were we went to a preschool.

    Thank you for sharing this interesting post and the pictures.

    Hope you are doing well and staying safe.

    • I’m doing as well as can be expected, I guess. Certain aspects of the whole mess are really getting to me, but I’m sure it will pass. Thanks for asking! 🙂 I actually need to replenish my t-shirt collection … they’ve all either gotten too small or pretty much disintegrated. LOL I think I have 2 purple ones, and one of those is really heavy and can only be worn in the coldest weather. LOL

  5. In general I’m not completely crazy about Regency fashions (says the woman who looks like a beached whale in empire waist dresses), but I do love the idea of dressing for the occasion. There is something to being comfortable, but it’s so nice to see when folks take it up a notch – an outfit suitable for a dinner out, a different one for a hike on the beach, etc.

    • LOL I know how you feel about the dresses, since I’m a beach ball with limbs. 😉 I can look really nice when I want to … it was once said of me many moons ago that I clean up well. LOL But I agree that we need to dress suitable for each occasion, though comfort still must reign supreme. 🙂

  6. I am not much into fashion. In our area, people I feel are a bit conservative. I remember going to the mll, some people were dressed in their jumpers with dirt or paint stains and nobody seems to notice…That’s when I felt I was home. nobody will judge me base on what I am comfortable wearing.

    One day, there was a girl dressed in a tube top and shorts and everyone she passes by seems to be surprise at what she was wearing….

    Thanks for the post. I had looked at some of the 1800s dresses too esp the ball gowns. I always wondered about the habits and I have not seen a sidesaddle before. I just wonder how they can keep from sliding off/falling from it

    • Once time in the early 90’s, I walked into a second-hand ladies’ clothing store in old shorts and t-shirt and was treated like dirt by the lady who ran the place. I never went back. Sadly, people judge us by what we wear and how we look (and currently, I look like a fat slob!) I’m happy you found a place to live where you feel comfortable. I forced myself to stop caring … I don’t look at people when I’m in a store so I don’t know how they react to me. I wear what’s comfy. <3

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