Dressing up As If It Were 1810

Have you ever wondered why people dress up in Regency style or are you always explaining to people why you like it so much?

I never wondered why people dress up in Regency because to me it just comes naturally. Not the costume – that is quite hard – but the feeling behind it. I never had to decide whether I was going to do it or not. First chance I got I found myself inside a beautiful white dress given to me by a friend who was learning how to sew Regency costumes. By sheer miracle it was just my size. That still baffles me. I do not have a “standard” figure (isn’t that a clever way to say you’re fat?) but it fit like it was made for me. Most girls experience “what I call” the Cinderella moment when they get married but I never had a church wedding so that was it for me.

But that is just the beginning of the experience. Once I arrived at my first JASNA meeting dressed in a Regency inspired outfit I could see a twinkle in people’s eyes as if a little bit of Jane was closer to them. My outfit was far from perfect. It never is – that’s why I call it Regency inspired outfits. However, nobody cared. It was enough to evoke the era. It was enough to make the celebration of her birthday a little bit more special. That inspired me to try it another time and another. Every time I put the outfit on something special happens. Not only around but inside of me. You develop an intimacy with all of Jane’s characters and situations, an intimacy with her and her world not possible otherwise. It is like sharing a secret with History and with Jane herself. Not to mention the instant intimacy with people you never met because not only you share the same passion but that you have no shame in displaying it.

I have never been to a great gathering like the AGM (Annual General Meeting) all of North American Janeites or the amazing Jane Austen Festival in Bath due to monetary commitments – like housing and nourishment – minor details. But I plan to do so next year. I believe that all those feelings described above will increase exponentially. Not to mention I might meet someone that follows my page. That would be so much fun. Capital! Capital! After all, Bath becomes the United  Nations of Jane! We will share mutual understanding and there will be peace on a piece of Earth for a week where people of goodwill will drink tea and share their stories and favorite things about Jane.

Have you been? Did you dress up? How did you feel? Are you doing it again? Share your story with me. It would be great to hear your thoughts on the matter.

Austenesque regards,

Rita L. Watts, JAA

7 thoughts on “Dressing up As If It Were 1810

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  1. Fabulous post, Rita, and I adore the photos! ❤

    I have dressed up twice. I feel a little self conscious, though I had so much fun getting the outfits together, but once I am surrounded by friends in costume, it wears off, and I start to enjoy the sensation: the swish of the fabric against my legs, the desire to walk a little straighter, hold my head a little higher.

    The first time was the Jane Austen Festival in Bath in 2013, when I also walked the Grand Regency Promenade through the city with hundreds of other fans in costume. It was an amazing experience, one I will never forget.

    The second time was at Jane Austen Regency Week in Hampshire in 2015, where I had a gorgeous day dress and spencer (beautifully made by my friend, Rita, at Pemberley Dreams) for Alton Regency Day and then a simple but (I hope!) elegant duck egg blue dress for the ball in the evening.

    I'm not sure if and when it will ever happen again, but every now and again I open the wardrobe and run my hand down the fabric and remember the joy of wearing them, or I open the box labelled 'Regency Bits & Pieces' and take out the long gloves, the hair pieces and accessories or the gloves and reticules and just admire them for a moment.

    Can't wait to see you next year at the Jane Austen Festival in Bath!!!

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    1. Oh… long gloves! I longer to wear them. One of my favorite times dressing up was at a book fair here in Atlanta promoting both canon Jane Austen and fan fiction. I had a beautiful umbrella from the Jane Austen Centre in Bath and feathers on my bonnet. A lot of people want to take pictures of me or with me and that was funny but fun. But the best was to walk around outside the fair area looking for a restaurant and having people say “There must be a Jane Austen event around.” That made my day! I can’t wait to have the experience you and so many had at the Festival in Bath. My favorite event is the masked ball. I have been planning the outfit for a couple of years. I want to re-purpose I sari I bought. I hope it works.. Thank you so much for sharing your experience.

      Austenesque Regards,

      Rita L. Watts

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  2. I dressed up last summer at the Jane Austen festival in Louisville Kentucky. I bought one dress (my day dress) and sewed my own Ball gown. I made a bonnet but ended up buying a fabulous bonnet at the festival. It was like going back in time. I found I walked differently, talked differently and curtsied automatically. I can’t imagine going to a JA event and not dressing up, it adds so much to the experience. I would love to go to Bath but I will definitely be going back to Louisville.

    Liked by 1 person

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