The Evolution of Men’s Fashion in the 18th Century

When I was writing An Uncommon Duke, I had fun playing with a character quirk of my hero, Gabriel Pearce the Duke of Winterbourne. Gabriel heads up an undercover group of operatives that protect King George and the Prince Regent. His work is dangerous and much of what occurs protecting the crown is out of his control. One of the things he can control is his wardrobe and because of that, Gabriel is a bit obsessed with his clothes. Someone referred to him as the Regency version of a sharp dressed man. Researching men’s fashion in the Regency era was fun and I spent many hours on Pinterest and museum sites looking for inspiration for Gabriel’s wardrobe.

Recently I had the opportunity to see the fashion exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art entitled Masterwork: Unpacking Fashion. I knew I’d enjoy taking a look back at 300 years of fashion history and I’d learn some new things. I was disappointed to find it did not include men’s fashion from the Regency era, however it did include 18th century men’s fashion and some of those styles did carry over into the Regency era. The collection highlighted garments from France and Great Britian reflecting the roles these nations played as centers of textile production and as styles leaders in Europe and America. Fashions from the 18th century are from an era shaped by political and industrial revolutions as well as expanding global trade. The examples given in this exhibition reflected that.

So sit back and enjoy this peek at what fashionable men wore in the 18th century.

Banyan

Beginning in the 18th century, British gentlemen wore loose, informal gowns in the privacy of their homes as a comfortable alternative to the stiff and physically restrictive suits they wore in public. These gowns were made of imported materials from the European East India companies and went by various names such nightgowns, morning gowns, India gowns, and banyans. This banyan is made of Chinese silk that was quilted for warmth and has a fitted cut which became popular in the mid-18th century. The fitted banyan combined Persian, Turkish, and Indian influences but followed the silhouette of contemporary European coats, making them well suited to wear informally when receiving guests at home. The banyan was an essential garment for fashionable men and suggested sophisticated, worldly masculinity. This banyan was made in England in 1760-1770, and is made of blue diamond-quilted silk satin.

A Gentleman’s Suit

The suit above was made of red wool-silk poplin in England between 1770 and 1780. It is an example of the relative simplicity in appearance of 18th century English menswear, which influenced fashionable men’s style throughout Europe in the latter half of the century. The plain style was an alternative to the elaborately embroidered and ornately patterned men’s wear in France. This reserved style of dress became linked with broader political values and greater personal liberty that French philosophers, such as Voltaire, associated with England. Just like the banyan above, this garment has a slim silhouette which was fashionable in the 1770s. English tailors were expert in making these tailcoats appear simple, while actually doing an excellent job emphasizing a man’s physique. The fine details of this coat include a gracefully curved front, narrow sleeves, and side seams that arch toward the center of the back, creating the impression of a tapered waistline. While the suit appears simple, the color shows a lingering taste for bold color.

The tailcoat above is French and was made in the 1790s from dark brown, gray, and blue warp-printed plain weave silk with green ombré silk satin stripes. With its high turned down collar, narrow back and wide lapels, it’s typical of the exaggerated silhouette that was fashionable in post-revolutionary France. The museum curators placed it alongside the redingote (the dress) to show the harmony between men’s and women’s fashions during this period that extended to fabric as well as cut. For men, stripes were a decorative substitute for the ornate embroidery of earlier suits. It was interesting to find out that in centuries previous to the 18th, stripes had been associated with the clothing of socially marginalized groups. I think it’s worth noting that even though embroidered suits went out of fashion, embroidery on waistcoats was still popular.

 

The exhibition also included a suit of a French Incroyable (Incredible) that made me smile. The Incroyables were rakish men who lived in France following the French Revolution. They stood out among fashionable men of the time due to their tightly fitted clothing which took on extreme proportions. This coat was made in France of red wool broadcloth between 1787 and 1792, and predates the most exaggerated styles embraced by the Incryoyables in the late 1790s. As the decade progressed, the cut of their clothing became even tighter than this. The high, turned-down collar, narrow sleeves, and sharply curved coat front of this coat still manages to create the impression of an elongated figure. I think the high cut of the top of the waistcoat also helps.

The banyan featured in this exhibition is close to the one I put Gabriel in in An Uncommon Duke. It seems to be the perfect thing for a sharp dressed man to wear while lounging in the doorway of his wife’s bedchamber.

 

How to Smell Like a Regency Era Gentleman

I fully admit to having a thing about the way my characters smell. I kinda get a bit obsessive about it. Maybe it’s because I can still recall which cologne each of my ex-boyfriends wore and, if I smell them today, the scent will bring back a distinct memory. And before you question that statement, I’m referring to smelling the cologne, not an ex-boyfriend.

Creating a distinct smell for a female character that lives during the Regency era is much easier than figuring out how I’d like my heroes to smell. I’ve read about so many male characters smelling of Bay Rum, that I was beginning to question whether there were other scents available to men. So during my recent trip to London I was on a mission to find out what scents gentlemen favored during the Regency era. There were two shops, in particular, that I wanted to visit because they’re chemists and perfumers who have been around since the late 18th century and catered more to a male clientele. Lucky for me, each shop had very helpful salesclerks that were happy to show me some of their oldest scents.

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My first stop was D.R. Harris & Co., Chemists and Perfumers on St. James’s Street. This shop was established in 1790. During the Georgian era they gained a reputation as purveyors of Lavender Water, Classic Cologne and English Flower perfumes. While I was there, I sampled some of the men’s fragrances that were around during the Regency era. Here is what I discovered. Classic Cologne is a typically fresh fragrance, Freshening Cologne has a tangy lemon note, and Traditional Cologne is a warmer scent with subtle orange notes.

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Two of their other oldest fragrances caught my eye. They were  Albany, named after the fashionable bachelors’ residence on Piccadilly, and Mayfair, named after the exclusive area of London where the Regency era elite resided. It was surprising to see such a modern technique of naming a product. I liked both of these fragrances so much, that I brought bottles of them back with me. Albany is a blend of lavender and citrus, and Mayfair had a sweeter floral fragrance.

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I also did smell Bay Rum. It was not to my taste at all and, for the record, none of my heroes will smell like it. I expected a very warm fragrance leaning more towards spicy rum. It actually smelled more like bay leaves.

 

 

Another shop I visited is Truefitt & Hill, which is also on St. James’s Street. This is the oldest barbershop in the world and was established in 1805.

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Famous Regency era men who were patrons of this shop include the sons of George III, the Duke of Wellington, Lord Byron, and Beau Brummell. Aside from the services of the barber shop, they also sell men’s cologne and shaving products. Sadly, I was not able to find out which scent was favored by Brummell.

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Statue of Beau Brummell on Jermyn Street in London

 

It was amusing to learn that their Freshmen Cologne was specifically blended in 1805 with fashion conscious Cambridge and Oxford students in mind. According to the shops description, it has “top notes of Lemon, Bergamot, Rosemary, Mint and Orange Blossom surrounding a heart of Clary Sage, Lily of the Valley, Jasmine and Ylang-Ylang which comfortably rest on a base notes of Musk and Oakmoss.”

Their Spanish Leather cologne dates back to 1814. I’ll often have my heroes smelling like leather, depending on what they are wearing or if they’ve been riding. To find a fragrance named leather made me laugh. It is described by Truefitt &Hill as “a rich, but subtle blend, with top notes of Fruit, Bergamot, Orange and Pimento, with a heart of Carnation, Cinnamon, Patchouli, Rose, Orris and woody notes, all resting on a base of Amber, Moss and Musk, Vanilla and Tonka.”

So now I have different scents to distinguish my characters, and you now know what a Regency era gentleman might have smelled like if you were standing beside him under the glittering chandeliers of a London ballroom. And best of all, you can still buy these fragrances today!

If you’re interested in learning more about these shops or buying some of there products, here are the links to their websites:

D.R. Harris & Co.

Truefitt & Hill

 

 

 

 

 

Costume Jewelry in the Georgian Era

A few days ago, I went shopping for a birthday gift for a friend. She likes to wear rather large statement pieces of jewelry, and I found a perfect necklace for her at Henri Bendel. Today, wearing costume jewelry is quite common, but did you know there was something similar to costume jewelry during the Georgian era? It’s true. In the 18th and 19th centuries, all that glittered was not gold.

Although the Merriam-Webster dictionary dates the term “costume jewelry” to 1927, jewelry made out of inexpensive materials to resemble gold and fine gems dates back much earlier. The first type of fake jewelry I’d like to discuss is paste stones, which are fake gem stones. Paste is a particular type of imitation gem stone that is made out of glass with a high lead content and has been around since the 18th century.

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A paste demi parure, ca. 1820. Courtesy of Bonhams.

 

According to Collector’s Weekly, “in 1724 the French jewel designer Georges Frédéric Strass created ‘paste,’ a kind of leaded glass that he cut and polished with metal powder until it appeared to shimmer like a diamond in the light. These white ‘diamante’ or ‘strass’ were a hit with glamorous Parisian high society.” Eventually the popularity of paste spread.

During the Georgian era it wasn’t technically possible to cut and polish diamonds the way we can today, and diamond jewelry had to be made around the shapes in which the diamonds were found. The advantage to using paste was that these stones could be cut and polished into the shapes jewelers needed for their designs. Therefore, some of the most exquisite pieces of Georgian jewelry are made out of paste.

Paste earrings from my private collection, ca. 1775-1790.

Early paste stones were backed with either clear or colored foil to reflect the light. The backs of foiled paste stones are “closed” which means the back of the stones are covered with silver or gold to protect the foil backing. If you look into the center of a white paste stone, you may see a black dot that was placed there to help the piece resemble a diamond.

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White paste earrings, ca. 1790. Courtesy of Three Graces.

I think it’s worth noting that you wouldn’t have been embarrassed to wear paste jewelry. The people who wore these pieces would not have been poor and weren’t wearing them to deceive people into thinking they were wearing precious gemstones. The settings they were placed into and their high sparkle made them very desirable in their own right.

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Lozenge-shaped cross in openwork decorative scrollwork set with paste stones, ca. 1809. Courtesy of Three Graces.

If you own antique paste jewelry, it’s important not to get it wet—especially if there is foil behind the stones. The moisture could ruin the stones’  appearance. Brushing the jewelry with a soft dry toothbrush is an ideal way to remove any dirt. You can also polish your piece with a soft dry cloth. Another thing to keep in mind, paste stones are softer than many natural gemstones, so they should be stored separately.

Another form of Georgian “costume jewelry” is Pinchbeck. Pinchbeck resembles gold but is made from a combination of copper and zinc. The formula for this metal was developed by Christopher Pinchbeck, a London clockmaker who lived from about 1670 to 1732.

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A bloodstone and pinchbeck fob seal. Courtesy of Bonhams.

Pinchbeck was an affordable substitute for gold, and records indicate that travelers often carried jewelry and accessories made from Pinchbeck if they felt they were at risk for robbery during their journey. Their more expensive pieces were kept safe at home.

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18th century portrait miniature with pinchbeck locket frame with engraved border. Courtesy of Bonhams.

Pinchbeck could be worked into the same intricate designs as gold, and it retained its yellow color unlike other gold substitutes of that period which were prone to fading. In the mid-19th century Pinchbeck’s popularity waned when nine karat gold became legal,which allowed buyers to purchase jewelry made from a less expensive type of gold. And about that time the plating process known as electro-gilding was invented, adding to Pinchbeck’s decline.

So the next time you look at a portrait from the Georgian or Regency eras, consider that the jewelry worn might not be what it appears.

References used:

http://www.bonhams.com

http://www.collectorsweekly.com/fine-jewelry/paste

http://www.georgianjewelry.com

Goldemberg, Rose Leiman, Antique Jewelry: A Practical and Passionate Guide. 1976.

 

 

Where Did the Fashionable Regency Gentlemen Shop?

Since I’ve been known to be a bit fond of shopping, researching where the fashionable gentlemen in my books might go to outfit themselves kept me occupied longer than it probably should have. I’ve gathered together all my notes and decided to share the highlights with you here.

Lord Granville Leveson-Gower by Thomas Lawrence, c1804-1809 (Yale Center for British Art)

Lord Granville Leveson-Gower by Thomas Lawrence, c1804-1809
(Yale Center for British Art)

During the Regency era, London tailors were considered the best in Europe. Any man who was interested in presenting himself as an arbiter of taste, let alone one of the Dandy set, knew he needed to shop in London. Two of the best-known tailors of the day were Schweitzer and Davidson of 12 Cork Street and John Weston, located at 34 Old Bond Street. Weston was known to be the most expensive tailor in London and a favorite of Beau Brummell and the Prince Regent.

Wool Broadcloth Greatcoat with Silk Velvet Trim by John Weston, 1803-1810

Wool Broadcloth Greatcoat with Silk Velvet Trim by John Weston, 1803-1810

Boots were what the fashionable man wore during the day. Hoby, on the corner of Piccadilly and St. James’s Street next to the Old Guards Club, was known as the finest boot maker in London. Their clients included George III, the Prince Regent, Lord Byron, Beau Brummell, members of the ton, and many officers in the army and navy. The Duke of Wellington thought so much of George Hoby that he worked with the boot maker to modify a Hessian boot to his specifications. In 1817, the Duke instructed Mr Hoby to cut his boots shorter and make them tighter. He wanted the trimming removed and the “V” shape straightened out. This new style of boot became the iconic Wellington boot.

Wellington boots made by Hoby between 1817 and 1852.

Wellington boots made by Hoby between 1817 and 1852.

For his beaver hat, a man of fashion could go to Lock & Co Hatters (1676-present) located at 6 St. James’s Street. Lock made hats for Lord Nelson, as well as the plumed hat the Duke of Wellington wore to Waterloo. They also made military helmets for officers in the Hussars and Royal Dragoon Guards, and the folding chapeau-bras gentlemen wore to Court or to Almack’s. Lock & Co. is still in existence and continues to make hats of the finest quality.

Lock & Co.

Across St. James’s Street, a gentleman could venture into Harris’s Apothecary, which was originally located at Number 11. Harris’s opened in 1790 and established a reputation selling Lavender Water, Classic Cologne and English Flower perfumes. They also were known for shaving supplies, soaps, and creams. The company is still in operation, and today you can find them down the street at Number 29 under the name D.R. Harris & Company.

D.R. Harris & Company, London

D.R. Harris & Company, London

After a day in the shops, a gentleman might continue on to Number 3 St. James’s Street, where he could stop in Berry’s for a bottle of his favorite port. Berry’s was established in 1698 as a grocer. In 1810 the owners began to focus more on wine. Beginning in the late 18th century, it became fashionable to be weighed by the shop’s weighing scales. Such notable names in Berry’s weighing books include royal princes, Lord Byron, Beau Brummell and William Pitt the Younger. In the 1940’s the name changed to Berry Bros. & Rudd and that name is still used by the shop today.

 

Berry Brothers and Rudd

If a gentleman wanted to have his hair cut by someone other than his valet, he could go to Flex Rowland, who was located at the Thatched House Tavern on Haymarket. It is said that Rowland invented macassar oil, which men used in their hair, and specialized in military style haircuts. I found this description in “Round About Piccadilly and Pall Mall or, A Ramble from Haymarket to Hyde Park” by Henry Benjamin Wheatley, published in 1870:

Beneath the tavern front was a range of low-built shops, including that of Flex Rowland, the fashionable hair-dresser, who made a fortune by the sale of his macassar oil.

If a gentleman had a penchant for watch fobs, rings, and snuff boxes, he would certainly know about Rundell, Bridge, and Rundell Jewelers, located at 32 Ludgate Hill (est. 1788). They were the principle jeweler and goldsmith of the Prince Regent. Other prominent jewelers of the day included Phillip’s on Bond Street, Gray’s on Sackville Street, and Jeffrey’s. The Prince Regent was so fond of Jeffrey’s that at one point he owed the jeweler £89,00 in unpaid bills.

Gold-mounted tortoiseshell snuff boxes, supplied by Rundell, Bridge & Rundell, were a favorite royal gift. The richness of their decoration varied according to the status of the recipient. Rundell’s accounts include a number of boxes of the type shown below. A similar tortoiseshell box was sold by Rundell to George IV in 1821 for £81 18s.

Snuff Box made by Rundell, Bridge & Rundell

To fill up his snuff box, the fashionable gentleman would visit Fribourg & Treyer in Haymarket (1790-1981), known throughout London as the purveryor of the finest snuff in Town.

Fribourg & Treyer

One of the best parts about researching these places was seeing how many of them are still in operation. I had visited a few of them the last time I was in London, and now I have one more to see the next time I’m in Town. It’s wonderful to be able to enter a store and know that you can still shop like a Regency gentleman.

If you know of other London shops from the Georgian era that are still in existence that might have appealed to a fashionable gentleman, please post a comment and let me know. I’d love to add them to my list.

Sources used:

 

Now You Too Can Look Like the Duchesse de Berry

Regency Fashion Print of The Duchesse de Berry

This fashion print of a ball gown appeared in Observateur des Modes No. 409 and was published in Paris sometime between 1818-1823. It’s hand colored and the description at the bottom translated from French to English reads:

Dress in tulle cotton embroidered and lined with volans bouquets of roses and beads. The belt and shoes are of stain. Neapolitan hairdressing by Mr. Urbain Peutier hairdresser to Madame Duchesse de Berry.

The idea of a celebrity as a fashion icon is not a new one. This is the second fashion print I own that features the image of the Duchesse de Berry and gives credit to her hairdresser. Apparently the Observateur des Modes thought the duchesse could help influence fashionable ladies. I often wondered what it was about her that made women want to dress like her. I did some research to find out.

La Duchesse de Berry and her children Francois Gerard 1822

La Duchesse de Berry and her children by Francois Gerard
                   1822

The Duchesse de Berry began her life as Princess Caroline of Naples and Sicily. She was born Maria Carolina Ferdinanda Luisa on November 5, 1798 to Archduchess Maria Clementina of Austria and Prince Ferdinand, heir to the throne of Naples and Sicily. In 1816 she married King Louis XVIII of France’s nephew, Charles Ferdinand d’Artois, and became the Duchesse de Berry otherwise known as Madame de Berry in France. The marriage was reported to be a happy one.

Caroline was quite popular with the French people and was a generous patroness of the arts. She was an enthusiastic art collector and avid theatergoer. She was a patron of the Théâtre du Gymnase, which changed its name, for a time, to the théâtre de Madame, in her honor.

In February of 1820, Berry was murdered before her eyes at the opera. She was 22 years old. In September of that year she gave birth to their second child, a son named Henri, Count of Chambord. Henri was a direct Bourbon line of King Louis XIV of France.

Caroline lived at the center of the royal court and became a fashion trendsetter wearing shorter skirts and adopting tailored menswear for riding. Her fame was magnified with the increased popularity of lithography. Printers sold lithographs of her portraits throughout Europe making her a true celebrity of her day.

The Duchesse de Berry by Pierre Louis ('Henri') Grevedon, after  Sir Thomas Lawrence, lithograph, circa 1829 (1825)

The Duchesse de Berry by Pierre Louis (‘Henri’) Grevedon, after Sir Thomas Lawrence, lithograph, circa 1829 (1825)

She was an important figure during the Bourbon Restoration. When France’s King Charles X was overthrown in 1830, she fled France and lived for a time in Bath and Edinburgh.  In 1832 she tried to regain the throne for her son but was unsuccessful.

Somewhere around this time she secretly married an Italian nobleman, Ettore Carlo Lucchesi-Palli, 8th Duke della Grazia. They had five children together. Caroline died in 1870 at the age of 71 in her castle in Austria.

Sources used include:

The Power of the Quizzing Glass

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The quizzing glass or quizzer was a popular accessory during the Georgian and English Regency eras.  It consists of a single round, oval or oblong lens rimmed in gold, silver or pinchbeck.  Some of the handles are quite elaborate and might even have compartments containing such items as vinaigrettes or a lock of hair.  The loop of the handle often swivels to make it easier to lay flat when hung from a chain.  Depending on the owner’s needs a quizzing glass was either set with a magnifying lens or a corrective lens.  The lenses were made by opticians and were most likely set into frames provided by goldsmiths and jewelers.

The quizzing glass appears to be an innocuous item that would have been used to assist a person who had poor vision, but when you look deeper you discover it was much more than that.

I first became enamored with antique quizzing glasses when I read Slightly Married by Mary Balogh.  The novel introduced the powerful and coldly disciplined Wulfric Bedwyn, the Duke of Bewcastle, who had the ability to intimidate people by simply studying them through his quizzing glass.  Georgette Heyer also featured this Regency accessory in some of her novels such as An Infamous Army, The Corinthian, and Devil’s Cub.  Maybe it’s because of stories like these that people often associate quizzing glasses with haughty English aristocrats or dandies.  But the popularity of using lenses for more than reading might actually have begun in France with the use of the lorgnette.

The lorgnette is a pair of glasses a person would hold up to their eyes by a handle and was popular in France during the late eighteenth century.  Lorgnette comes from the French lorgner, “to peer at.”  Frenchmen began using them for unashamed observation of feminine beauty.  In an article entitled “Les Lorgneurs” by Mercier, published in the Tableau de Paris in 1793, there is a wonderful description of how bold these Frenchmen were.

“Paris is full of these lorgneurs, setting their eyes on you, fixing your person with a steady and immobile gaze.  This behavior is so widespread that it is not even considered indecent anymore.  Ladies are not offended when they are observed arriving at the theatre or whilst taking a walk.  But should this happen when they are amongst themselves the lorgneur is considered uncouth and accused of insolence.”

In England the single lens quizzing glass became a fashionable way to observe people and objects.  It was possible to issue a set-down simply by peering through the lens of a quizzing glass with a critical eye.  Hogarth, Rowlandson and Cruikshank all caricatured its use.  And famous quizzing glass users included Beau Brummell and Charles James Fox.

The fashion was not limited to men as women also took to wearing them.  Typically a man would wear his quizzing glass about his neck with a black ribbon and a woman would suspend hers around her neck by a long chain.  In the painting below of Miss Rosamond Crocker by Sir Thomas Lawrence you can see how fashionable this accessory had become.

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So the next time you are on line at a shop and some rude patron tries to cut you off, just think how fabulous it would be if you could simply peer at them through a quizzing glass to put them in their place.  Oh and by the way, the one that I wear has also come in handy when my friends are trying to read the small type on restaurant menus.  It really is quite a versatile accessory.

Sources used include:

  • Candice Hern’s Website
  • The College of Optometrists Website
  • The Georgian Index Website
  • Mercier, “Les Lorgneurs” Tableau de Paris (1793)
  • The Word Wenches Blog 

What a Regency Lady Might Wear to Gunter’s

This is one of my favorite regency era fashion prints.  I love the contrast between the yellow gown and the black spencer.

Description under the hand colored fashion print translated from French to English:

“Hat from Naples split on the sides.  Spencer in velvet with bursts in satin.  Dress has flounces.”

Source used: Observateur des Modes, No. 91, circa 1819 -1823

A Regency Lady’s Walking Ensemble

A Regency Fashion Print from Observateur des Modes, c 1819-1823

During the Regency, ladies and gentlemen of the ton went to Hyde Park throughout the Season between the fashionable hours of 5:00 and 6:00 in the afternoon to see and be seen.  Wearing a fetching ensemble was one way to help a lady catch the eye of a potential suitor.  If all else failed, she could “accidentally” fall into the Serpentine.

Description under fashion print, translated from French to English:

“Straw bonnet has folettes and nodes of cornflowers.  Canezou [a type of Spencer] made of muslin.  Dress made of percale with ribbons and tulle.”

Source:  Observateur des Modes, No. 58, 1819-1823

How to Flirt Across a Crowded Ballroom Without a Cell Phone

You catch your lover’s heated gaze across the room at a party.  What you have to say shouldn’t be overheard, so you take out your cell phone. An intimately worded text could very well lead to an early departure or at least build anticipation for what might occur later in the evening. Today, flirting is as easy as texting.

But did you know, two hundred years ago ladies in Regency England had their own way to  silently communicate with their suitors? And they also used one of their fashionable accessories to help them flirt.

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This Regency era fan is made of lace and painted silk. The sticks are made of carved ivory.

During the Georgian and Regency eras one of the most popular fashion accessories was the fan.  Sophisticated ladies also knew their fans came in handy for more than stirring up a cool breeze.  When she made a particular gesture with her fan, a lady could send a silent message to a potential or current suitor across a crowded ballroom and remain discreet.

This fan language was revealed in etiquette books and magazines of the day.  Fanology or Ladies’ Conversation Fan by Charles Francis Badini was published in London in 1797. It outlined a list of gestures and the messages they sent.

Here is a sample of what could be said in a Regency ballroom without the use of words:

  • Carrying a fan in your left hand in front of your face = I want to make your acquaintance.
  • Touching the tip of the fan with your finger = I wish to speak to you.
  • Carrying an open fan in your left hand = Come and talk to me.
  • Carrying it in your right hand in front of your face = Follow me.
  • Placing it by your left ear = Leave me alone.
  • Twirling your fan in your left hand = We are being watched.
  • A half closed fan pressed to your lips = You may kiss me.
  • Twirling your fan in your right hand = I love another.
  • Placing the fan near your heart = I love you.
  • Shutting a fully opened fan very slowly = I promise to marry you.

With all these subtle indications a lady would hope her gentleman was also well-versed in fan language.  If he wasn’t, it might have led to a very frustrating evening.

What might the Duchesse de Berry wear to the ball?

ScanThe night is cold and you’re on your way to the ball. The ride will be long due to the line of carriages leading up to the house and the brick at your feet will stay warm for only so long. What’s a girl to do? If you are a girl of means, you might decide to wear this fashionable wrap over your gown. 

This print appeared in L’Observateur des Modes No. 479 and was published in Paris sometime between 1818-1823. It’s hand colored and the description at the bottom translated from French into English reads:

Hairstyle decorated with feathers, smooth crepe and branches of an olive tree; the composition of Mr. Peulier, Hairdresser of S.A.R.M. Madame Duchesse de Berry. Wrap is furnished for autumn with crepe weave rods and satin nodes; cashmere fur-lined coat of India doublee of satin and furnished with grebe…

455px-Berry,_Marie-Caroline_duchesse_de_-_1When I found this print in a shop, I was surprised to discover the Duchesse de Berry was mentioned in a fashion plate. The duchesse was born Princess Caroline of Naples and Sicily and in 1816 she married Charles Ferdinand d’Artois, the Duc de Berry. He was the nephew of France’s King Louis XVIII. She was very popular with the French people. I’ve included her portrait, which was painted by Sir Thomas Lawrence in 1825, so you could compare the likeness in the print to that of the duchesse.

The reference to her hairdresser and use of her likeness reminded me of today’s celebrity fashion magazines.  I suppose women back then were also swayed by who wore what.