Let’s start with a simpler question: when (or what!) was the Regency?

In 1811, there was a problem in Britain. The King, George III, was struggling with his mental health to the point that he was no longer lucid enough to rule. So who was supposed to take the place of the monarch?

No one wishes to depose him – but the business of government had to continue. Two options were put forward, and it’s not hard to see the reasonings behind each of them: his wife, Queen Charlotte, and their eldest son, George, Prince of Wales.

While I certainly would have loved to see what Queen Charlotte would have done with that sort of power, it was decided by the government that George would take over as Regent. Regent simply meant a kind of caretaker, looking after the kingdom while King George III (hopefully) got better.

This period, however, was not the short few months that some at the time predicted. In fact, the Regency of George, Prince of Wales, lasted from 1811 to 1820. We’ll call him Prinny from now on, to prevent him getting mixed up with his father! This was a nickname that was actually given to him during this time, so it’s totally historically accurate.

So, that’s the Regency! But what about its fashion, and why is it worth writing a blog about?

Well, firstly, there was a huge shift in British culture during this time because of the introduction of a Regent. Prinny adored the finer things in life: beautiful women, silks and furs, adornments, fine dining, and lots and lots of entertainment.

And fashions reflected that.

Necklines dropped, as did the waistline, becoming the ‘Empire’ waistline that we know and love from so many Jane Austen adaptations.

Secondly, Regency fashion fascinates us because of what was happening particularly in men’s fashion. Everything was getting more, and yet at the same time, less! For example, cravat knots were getting increasingly more complex, with ‘dandies’ trying to outdo each other. But on the other hand, fashion leaders such as Beau Brummell started to make it literally a full time job to look good.

He was asked once how much an unmarried man should budget for good clothes. Apparently, he said: “Why, with tolerable economy, I think it might be done with £800.”

It doesn’t sound much to our modern ears, but back then, the average annual wage for a craftsman was £52…

And thirdly, socialising drastically changed during this period. King George III was quiet, gentle, pious, and never took a mistress during his 57 year long marriage to Queen Charlotte. Prinny was very much NOT cut from the same cloth. So ribbons, feathers, turbans: fashion became whatever you could wear to look outrageous.

I hope that gives you an insight into why Regency fashion is so fun! What’s your favorite Regency fashion fact?

And so with this sudden influx of societal expectations,

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