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Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Tuesday Spotlight: Grace Elliot

5 Reasons the Regency is Romantic

Welcome back to my musing on what makes the Regency is romantic. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying I’d like to live in the Regency, but for pure escapism in my view it can’t be beaten.

As a modern woman perhaps I take equality for granted, but then the girly side of me shines through when I think of the silk gowns and gorgeous fashions of the Regency period.

“Mrs Powlett was at once expensively and nakedly dress’d.” ~Jane Austen in a letter to her sister.

How much more sensual can you get than wearing a fabulous silk chemise next to the skin? And how daring were drawers with no gusset (even if this was for the decidedly unromantic purpose of making chamber pot use easier.) Not to mention stockings held up by silk ribbons - ripe for an experienced male hand to slip undone.

      But I’m getting ahead of myself – let’s start with that essential Georgian and Regency article, the hat. Even this item is romantic – a wide brimmed bonnet shaded the face, preserving that perfect ivory complexion, whilst the addition of a veil spoke of mystery and hidden identity. And then there was what your head wear revealed about you. A woman wishing to be taken seriously might wear a lace cap ( to have it loving removed by the dashing hero) whilst ribbon trimmed bonnets spoke of innocence and ostrich plumes or turbans proved you a regency fashionista. 

      And the gowns. Gowns for every occasion and time – morning, walking, riding, evening and ball gowns. And the fabrics – whisper thin muslin, clinging lawns, semi-transparent cottons, whispering silks and luxurious satins. Each gown high-waisted with a tiny bodice, the wearer’s stays cunning thrusting the bosom upward so make  a maiden seem a siren. 

      And then there was the act of getting dressed…or undressed. Designed to make the wearer helpless with lacings and rows of tiny buttons down the back, again the scope for seductively undressing the heroine is mouthwatering, and the equally evocative risk of being caught half dressed just as tantalizing. 

      What do you think? Would you like to live in the regency or are you happy to savor it from a comfortable distance? Do share your thoughts in the comments below.

      EXCERPT – A Dead Man’s Debt.
      Easing kid leather slippers from aching feet, she rolled down her stockings, the air cool against her bare skin. Stretching her toes Celeste hoped that from sheer fatigue, if no other reason, she might sleep well for the first time in a month.
      A cursory tap and, without waiting for a reply, the door opened. 
      “Evenin’ Miss.” Amy bustled in with a lighted candlestick, the faint aroma of boiled cabbage clinging to her skirts. “I thought as yer’d be needing this-  sitting in the gloom an’ all.” Protecting the flickering flame with a cupped hand, she placed the candle on the dresser, the licking flame deepening the shadows.
      “Thank you.”
      “There’s a chill in the air, Miss. Would yer like a fire set?”
      “No need. I intend to retire directly.” With a humph Celeste struggled to reach the row of tiny pearl buttons at her back. “But please help me off with this gown. Honestly! Why fashion dictates such impractical garments is quite beyond me.” Only in her heart Celeste knew that women of her station were destined to be helpless.
      “But if yer had yer way Miss, us lady’s maids would be out of a job.”
      “I hadn’t thought of it like that.”
      Amy’s fingers worked nimbly down the delicate fastening until the silk sheath slackened and whispered to the floor. Celeste braced against the bedstead as Amy tugged at stay laces until the knots gave way and Celeste filled her lungs for the first time all day. How she ached to sink between cool linen sheets, her eyelids pleasantly heavy, closing under their own weight.  In a chemise Celeste stretched and arched her back, shaking away stiffness.
      “Shall I brush yer hair Miss?”
      With a sleepy nod Celeste settled at the dressing table. The weight of the chignon pulled at her scalp and it was sheer bliss as Amy deftly plucked out the pins, releasing the thick chestnut curls to tumble down about her shoulders. With a dreamy smile Celeste watched Amy in the mirror; parting sections of hair, her trance rudely shaken by unexpectedly ferocious brushing. The maid’s clear hazel eyes stared back in the mirror, her brow slightly furrowed.
      “Is something amiss Amy?”
      “Oh. It’s just as Mrs Jenkins is in a flap…ordering folk around as if the sky were falling in…linen to be aired, fires set…an’ Blenkinsopp made the scullery maid cry with his impatience…”
      “Whatever for?”
      A peculiar expression twisted Amy’s face. “Yer don’t know then?”

      [A Dead Man’s Debt is available from most eBook retailers including Amazon, Fictionwise, Smashwords and Books on Board.]
      To find out more about the author visit:


cheryl c said...

I really enjoy historical romances and reading about the customs and fashions, but I would not want to live in another time. The Regency fashions were certainly feminine and beautiful, but they seem like so much trouble. Just dressing, undressing, and using the chamber pot must have been complicated and time-consuming.

Grace Elliot said...

I couldnt agree more Cheryl! I suppose that's the essential element of romance - to cherry pick the nice bits and ignore they didnt have flushing plumbing! Nice to dream about but without the gritty reality!
Grace x

Denise said...

Hi, Grace! Enjoyed the post so much, I'll have to go back and find the other(s) - are you counting up or down? :-) Anyway, I adore the concept of the Regency gowns, but as Cheryl commented, they were awfully complicated beneath their beauty. Of course, these days, it's 6-inch heels, push-up bras, and such, so perhaps it's only an order of magnitude. However, the concept of elegant ball gowns, morning gowns, and the HATS! I adore the hats. Thanks for sharing your musings and I look forward to reading more.

Denise Golinowski

Linda Banche said...

Oh, yes, the clothes were gorgeous. Not just for the luxurious materials. Women's clothes were a lot less restraining than those of the previous Georgian era (think panniers and wigs) and the succeeding Victorian era (huge crinolines).

And then, let's not forget all the gorgeous men in their wonderful clothes!