Notes and illustrations on Regency clothing styles
(with 1895 Charles E. Brock illustrations for Pride and Prejudice)

*Return to Pride and Prejudice hypertext table of contents.

This page is now mostly devoted to images and notes on the women's clothing styles of the "extended" Regency period (see table of contents). Also, some 1895 illustrations to Pride and Prejudice by C. E. Brock are included at the end of this file; they seem to present Regency styles fairly well, and they also enter into the spirit of the humor often present in the book -- and above all, they don't make Elizabeth Bennet and other sensible young females look silly!

(Sept. 1999 update: New larger, clearer scans of the C.E. Brock illustrations are linked to at the end of the page.)


Some notes on contemporary dress

This section begins with comparisons between the women's clothing styles of the (broadly-defined) Regency period and those of other pre-WWI fashion epochs, followed by various illustrations of Regency fashions. For a few images of men's Regency fashions, see the general Regency images page.

Comparisons between periods

The period from the mid 1790's to about 1820 (which included all of Jane Austen's adult life) seems to have been pretty much the only one between the middle ages and the 20th century when women's clothing styles, in the predominantly Protestant and Catholic countries of Europe, were neither corseted or tightly-fitted from the waist up; nor hoop-skirted, crinolined, heavily full-skirted, or bustled below. Later (Victorian) authors such as Charlotte Brontë and Mrs. Gaskell sneered at the "scanty petticoats" of this period, but to our eyes these clothes generally seem much less burdensome (and much more like something somebody would actually wear in real life, instead of at a costume party) than the styles of the Victorian era.

In other words, because the basic pattern/design of women's Regency clothing styles wasn't conspicuously anti-functional, an upper- or middle-class woman could often choose to wear clothes that were not very restrictive, and still look decent and somewhat fashionable -- something which was not true of the Victorian period or most of the eighteenth century. However, this doesn't mean that the Regency styles -- to some degree practical in their basic outline or construction -- were free from the possibility of significant adornment and elaboration (which sometimes could result in impractical fashion excesses). It was also true that Regency hemlines weren't any shorter than several inches above the ankle at most, and were usually longer -- which was not very convenient for walking through mud (as Elizabeth Bennet discovered when she walked to Netherfield to visit her sick sister Jane...).

Here's an illustration summarizing the evolution of fashion in the latter half of the eighteenth century (leading up to the Regency period); click on this thumbnail to see the full image:
[18th cent. Fashion History .GIF]

See also an (extreme) example of what the 1790's/Directoire/Empire/Regency style was a reaction against: French aristocratic court dress of 1778 (from La Galerie des Modes); perhaps artistically exaggerated to some degree, but not by very much!

Here are several illustrations from the period 1790-1795, showing the transition to Directoire/Empire/Regency styles:

Sketch by Isaac Cruikshank, ca. 1790 (apparently depicting a daughter summoned to appear before her parents, because of an unexpected and suspicious flower that has been found):
[Isaac Cruikshank Flower Daughter GIF]

Lady with yo-yo, or "bandalore" as it would have been known then (French, 1791):
[1791 French Yo-yo Lady .GIF]

A 1795 fashion plate with naval background:
[Naval background 1795 fashion JPEG]

[1809 Dance dress]

The high-waisted Regency styles (or "short-bodied", as they were called at the time) focused attention away from the natural waist, and so counteracted against the tendency to constrict the natural waist which manifested itself in the fashionable women's clothes of almost all other periods from the 16th century until the beginning of World War I (and especially strongly during most of the 18th and 19th centuries, in the periods which surrounded the Regency) -- as discussed in the following posting from AUSTEN-L:

Date: Thu, 8 Feb 1996 11:41:23 EST
From: Dorothy Gannon

``Several years ago the Hood Museum at Dartmouth College produced a wonderful exhibit called The Artificial Silhouette: Crinolines, Bustles, and Tight-Lacing. It was an exhibit of women's undergarments during the 19th century, and of course, how these garments helped create the "correct" fashion shapes. It seems to be pretty close to the mark that the early 19th century was the golden age of comfort in women's apparel until the present day. I've quoted below from the notes from my program, which described the empire-waist dress, and undergarments to go with it, in the exhibit:

"A brief respite from the heavily-boned corset and exaggerated silhouettes of the 18th century continued from the 1790s into the early years of the 19th century. At that time the fashion for high-waisted, diaphanous, Grecian-style dresses emphasized the natural female form and required undergarments with little or no reinforcement. When the fascination with classically inspired dresses waned about 1810, styles changed and garments and fabrics gradually became more substantial. As the elements of the artificial silhouette re-emerged, the boned corset reappeared with it."

A model of a woman's clothing from the early 1820s was exhibited; the corset looked extremely comfortable, and sane -- especially when compared with those from the decades that followed.''

So as not to exaggerate, it is true that during the 1795-1820 "extended Regency period", Englishwomen apparently generally did wear "stays" of some kind when dressed -- but such "stays" could be relatively minimal and unconfining, and generally were not intended to constrict the natural waist in the manner of Victorian corsets.

Here's a picture of a woman wearing some immediately post-Regency "short stays" over a "shift"/"chemise" (long slip); detail from a woodcut showing a dressmaker attending to a customer, from The Book of English Trades, 1823-1824:
[1823/1824 Short Stays .GIF Image]
According to the original caption, this "represents the Dress-Maker taking the pattern off from a lady, by means of a piece of paper or cloth; the pattern, if taken in cloth, becomes afterwards the lining of the dress".

Also, a wider view of the same woodcut:
[1823/1824 Short Stays Scene .GIF Image]

Here's an 1822 boneless "corset" (or short stays, as they would have been known in English), laced in front and worn over a chemise, from Costumes Parisiens:
[1822 Corset .GIF]
(By contrast, Victorian corsets were stiffened with boning and laced in back, in order to be able to exert stronger shaping force.)

Modern drawing by Jean Webber of short front-buttoning linen stays in blue silk, 1790's:
[1790's Short Stays .GIF]

Somewhat longer stays, from a semi-satirical 1809 French engraving titled "La Fureur des Corsets" ("The Corset Fad"):
[1809 French Corsets Detail .GIF]

A wider smaller view of "La Fureur des Corsets":
[1809 French Corsets .GIF]

Photographs of corsets in possession of the Kyoto Costume Institute:
[Late 18th / Early 19th Stays/Corsets JPEG]
Left: Late 18th-century linen stays, with boning, but short and front-lacing.
Right: Early nineteenth century (ca. 1820?) cotton sateen stays which are long, but not necessarily all that constricting (in comparison with corsets from other periods); however, a busk inserted down the center front would ensure straight posture!

Here's a photograph of early 19th century short stays that resemble somewhat a 20th-century bra (but are constructed differently); in the top half of the image they're shown in their assembled form, as they would have been worn, while the bottom of the image shows the two pieces disassembled (Kyoto Costume Institute):
[Early 19th-century bra-like short stays JPEG]
Some experts apparently think these actually would have been worn in a reversed manner to what is shown here (i.e. once the two pieces were put on at the shoulders, they were wrapped starting towards the back instead of towards the front), and slightly higher; such a configuration would allow them to be worn under more décolleté gowns, but would seem to offer much less coverage in front (though perhaps these could have been a variant shortened version of those eighteenth-century stays which supported the breasts from below, but did not actually cover the nipples). Others speculate that these may have been an attempt (possibly unsuccessful) at a posture brace (to ensure the shoulders were held in the correct position) -- but however these were worn, it would not have been easy to fasten them very tightly (since the ties are only tied to each other, without any lacing), and they would not have been very comfortable if worn tightly (because the narrow shoulder-loops would bite into one's shoulder and armpit).

You can also see an 1881 French artist's conception of an early 19th-century "Empire" undergarment which even more closely resembles a 20th-century bra on my Victorian page.

For some reason, this illustration ("The Progress of the Toilette: The Stays", by Gillray, 1810) (image linked on Cathy's Regency Underwear Page) is often given a prominent place in books which deal with the subject, generally without much accompanying explanation, even though it is basically a caricaturist's exaggerated satirical parody of a type of stays that was worn by a minority of women who were trying to disguise their basic body type or appear younger than they were, and so cannot necessarily be taken as typical for the period.

The fashionable women's shoes of the end of the eighteenth century and the early nineteenth century were also less cumbersome than those of most of the 18th century, since they didn't generally have high heels (the contrast is visible in the 1742 vs. 1794 caricature below); see this page for a description of 1790's shoes, contrasting them with shoes of preceding decades. The most characteristic shoes of the Directoire/Empire/Regency period resembled modern ballet slippers or flats (and were sometimes fastened on in the same way, with ribbons wrapped around the ankles), and had leather soles appropriate for light-duty outdoors use, as discussed on Jessamyn's Regency shoes page.

One effect of clothing styles was revealed when the set of the 1940's Hollywood movie of Pride and Prejudice was furnished with many "little tables" (mentioned by Jane Austen in Chapter 5 of Persuasion as being fashionable in her day), but the women were dressed in the later clothing styles of the 1830's -- the women found they were constantly knocking things over with their big sleeves and big skirts.

Here's a sketch by Alfred Roller giving an overview of women's fashions 1794-1887 (the caption added by your humble web-page maintainer):
[1794-1887 Women's Clothing Styles Overview .GIF Image]
[Large image]

*A general discussion comparing Regency and Victorian styles is available on this page.
*See also a discussion on conspicuous consumption in dress by Thorstein Veblen
*Go to an abstract conceptual overview of the history of the Western fashion cycle
    *Including an account of the only known martyr for Directoire fashions?

General illustrations of women's clothing styles of Jane Austen's period

[1810 Ball dress, Ackermann's Repository]

Here are various images, available from this site, that show women's fashions (not all of them fashion plates); click on the thumbnails to see the full images (for a consolidated listing, without thumbnails, of most of the Regency images on this site, arranged roughly in chronological order, see the raw links page):

Dancing dress (1809): [New, larger scan]
[Dancing dress JPEG] (If this dress were trimmed slightly differently, then a woman could wear it out and about now, without attracting undue attention -- not something that could really be said of any fashionable clothes from most eras before the 1920's...)

This lady is in the "Fourth Position of Dancing" (from frontispiece to Wilson's Analysis of Country Dancing, 1811):
[1811 Wilson Lady 4th Position Dance JPEG] (Original smaller scan)
[1811 Wilson Lady 4th Position Dance JPEG] (Scan of differently-colored copy)

(There is another image with all five of the "Positions of Dancing" from the same book; for more illustrations of dancing, see the general Regency images page.)

Ball gown from Ackermann's Repository, 1810 (looks almost 1920s-ish):
[1810 Ball Dress .GIF]

1810 watercolor sketch of woman in "Schute" bonnet and blue-striped dress, by Johann Adam Klein:
[1810 Klein Watercolor JPEG]

Woman in a ball gown, taken from a painting by Rosina Sharples (1817):
[Ball dress JPEG]

Watercolor sketch for a fashion plate (to be published in Vienna?), showing a day dress with spencer, ca. 1798:
[Ca. 1798 Day Dress Spencer Watercolor Sketch JPEG] The original main purpose of women's short "spencer" jackets was to be worn over gowns that had short sleeves and/or low necklines, to prevent any skin below the neck from being directly exposed to cold air. However, it was not long before fashion spencers (which themselves had low necklines, so somewhat defeating the original intention) made their appearance...

Evening dresses of 1806 and 1807 redrawn by Cecil Everitt from La Belle Assemblée:
[1806, 1807 Evening Dresses .GIF]

"Walking Costume" from Ackermann's Repository, 1815:
[1815 Walking Dress] (This one is interesting because it's probably closer to the everyday wear of the average English country gentlewoman, during the years when Jane Austen was publishing her novels, than are the clothes depicted in many other fashion plates of the time.)

Morning dress from Ackermann's Repository, 1819:
[1819 Morning Dress .GIF] (medium-size scan)
[1819 Morning Dress PNG Large Scan] (large 250k scan in PNG graphics file format)

"Naomi entreating Ruth and Orpah to return to the land of Moab", illustration to the biblical book of Ruth by William Blake, 1795 (An idealized depiction of antiquity which nevertheless shows clothes similar to the actual fashions of the late 1790's):
[1795 Blake Book of Ruth JPEG]

Detail from "The Boulevard in 1819", a sometimes slightly satirical anonymous French picture in the Musée Carnavalet:
[1819 Boulevard Detail JPEG]

Another detail from "The Boulevard in 1819":
[1819 Boulevard Detail 2 JPEG]

Chemise dress worn with "Coiffure à la hollandaise", from Journal des Dames, 1799:
[1799 Chemise Dress GIF]

Photograph of French dress of red net with high waist, puff sleeves, and Kashmir-inspired motif at the hem, in the posession of the Musée Historique de Tissu de Lyon:
[French Red Net Dress Photograph JPEG]

Fashion plate showing short overdress over long underskirt, from Costume Parisien 1813:
[1813 Costume Parisien Bird Cage Prop Fashion Plate .GIF]

Here's a picture showing how classical Grecian attire was sometimes conflated with contemporary Regency dress; this U.S. "folk art" drawing ca. 1815 shows an allegorical figure holding a flagpole and a pole topped with a Phrygian cap (symbolizing liberty) in one hand, and a palm leaf (symbolizing victory) in the other hand. Her clothes are meant to suggest Classical styles, but some details are more reminiscent of the early 19th century, while the bonnet is pure 1815:
[1815 Regency Liberty US Flag Allegorical GIF] Caption: "Liberty, Independence, Ever Glorious Memory"

Similarly, this is an early 19th-century U.S. woodcut showing a Liberty (holding a flagpole topped with a Phrygian cap) with a naval theme (the anchor also traditionally indicates "hope"), whose attire is strongly influenced by the clothing styles of ca. 1800:
[Early 19th Century US Naval Liberty US Flag Allegorical GIF]

Another conflation of Classical with contemporary dress: Illustration by Stothard to "The Pleasures of Memory" by Rogers:
[Stothard Pleasures of Memory Engraving .GIF]

Directoire gown worn with red shawl with Greek key border, from Costume Parisien, 1799:
[1799 Shawl Gown JPEG]

The wearing of shawls in early 19th-century France, a lithograph plate redrawn from various early 19th-century sources by Durin for Albert Charles Auguste Racinet's Le Costume Historique (1888):
[French Shawls Plate 1888 Durin Racinet JPEG] [Large Image]

Photograph of gowns in possession of the Kyoto costume Institute:
[1810 Embroidered Muslin Silk Dresses Photograph JPEG] Left: English dress of embroidered Indian muslin, ca. 1810 (this photograph shows clearly the general Regency strategy of trying to make dresses look narrow when seen from the front, but gathering material behind so that the dresses would remain easy to walk in, despite being long and not having any slits).
Right: American formal or semi-formal girl's silk dress with sash, ca. 1810 (its hemline probably would have been several inches higher above floor-level when originally worn).

An 1819 evening dress from Ackermann's Repository, worn by a harp-playing young lady:
[1819 Evening Dress .GIF] (new larger scan)

A smaller color scan of this same plate is also available.

A drawing of another harp-playing lady (detail from Rowlandson illustration, ca. 1810):
[Musical Party .GIF]

Autumnal walking dress (with pelisse, 1815):
[Autumnal Walking Dress .GIF]

Fashionable Evening Dress for September 1818 (Sept. 1 1818):
[1818 Evening Dress .GIF] Though broad low necklines with tiny shoulder-puff sleeves were frequently worn during the Empire/Regency period, it would have been considered outlandish and unthinkable to go further and wear strapless, and straps which did not cover the shoulder-joints were only worn as part of the ephemeral Parisian High Greek look, such as by Madame Verninac in her portrait (a style which would not have been "street-ready" in London). This drawing of the 1818 evening dress shows shoulders pretty much as bare as they got among Regency Englishwomen...

"Parisian Home Costume", from La Belle Assemblée, January 1, 1817:
[1817 Morning Dress .GIF]

Exuberant young lady in a pelisse (Costume Parisien, 1811-1812):
[1811-1812 Pelisse .GIF]

"Chapeau de Paille. Robe à dix-huit Remplis." (Costume Parisien, 1815). A dress with 18 tucks worn by French royalists to show their loyalty to Louis XVIII (Partisans of Napoleon wore violets...):
[1815 18 Folds Pro-Bourbon Dress GIF]

Two "glamour" or "pin-up" type prints, which are apparently despised by the true artistic connoisseur, but are nevertheless somewhat interesting:

"Sophia Western", a March 20 1800 print depicting the heroine of Tom Jones (apparently), showing her in the clothing styles of 1800 rather than 1749, and jumping rope (something which she might have found difficult to do in the fashionable costume of 1749!). Engraved by J. C. Stadler and Piercy Roberts after a drawing by Adam Buck:
[1800 Sophia Western Adam Buck Jump Rope JPEG] Caption: ``Adorned with all the charms in which Nature can array her, bedecked with beauty, youth, sprightliness, innocence, modesty and tenderness, breathing sweetness from her rosy lips and darting brightness from her sparkling eyes, the lovely Sophia comes!''
The dishevelment of her clothes in the picture was not meant to contradict the word "modesty" in the caption, but was supposed to be understood as being the accidental and unintentional effect of her strenuous physical activity.

Engraving of Archers, after a drawing by Adam Buck, published April 1799 (with dedication to Prince Regent):
[1799 Archers Print JPEG] What might not be obvious now is that in 1799 the loosely-flowing unbound hair of the two ladies on the left would have been somewhat titillating in the eyes of the males of the day. (At the time, grown-up women did not leave their hair completely free-flowing and unadorned in public, but generally covered, ornamented, or confined their hair in some way, usually binding it up in back -- so unbound hair had a sexual charge because it was associated with the intimacy or privacy of the boudoir.)

Lady riding (sidesaddle, of course!) in a dress of lawn and a jockey cap, from Journal des Dames, 1799; she isn't wearing a riding habit, but only her white Directoire gown, which would only really be appropriate for riding in the summer, over grassy turf (not dusty dirt roads...):
[1799 Lawn Dress Sidesaddle .GIF]

Walking dress (1810, French):
[Walking dress JPEG]

Dress (probably ball dress), ca. 1810 (mediocre-quality scan):
[1810 Ball? Dress .GIF]

Walking Dress (from La Belle Assemblée, April 1817):
[1817 Walking dress JPEG] [New, larger scan]

Ball gown (from La Belle Assemblée, 1818):
[Ball Gown (1818)] (small scan)
[Ball Gown (1818)] (large scan)

Game of Blind Man's Buff, from Le Bon Genre (Paris), ca. 1803:
[1803 Blind Man's Buff .GIF]

Less detailed colored version of same illustration (attributed to Le Bon Genre, ca. 1802):
[1802 Blind Man's Buff Color JPEG]

Slightly satirical drawing of a "Merveilleuse" (young French fashionable) by H. Vernet, ca. 1812:
[1812 Merveilluse .GIF Image]

"Two Sisters Dancing" by Bovi:
[Sisters Dancing .GIF]

Dance Dress adorned with green satin leaves, from Wiener Zeitschrift Für Kunst Literatur und Mode, 1817
[1817 Vienna Ball Dress .GIF] (New larger scan.)

A jaunty couple (hand-colored plate from Almanach der neuesten Moden auf das Jahr 1816, Vienna):
[1816 couple JPEG Image]

Walking dress (half mourning, from Ackermann's Repository 1819):
[Walking Dress Half-Mourning 1819] (new larger scan)

This French costume plate might have seemed mildly incongruous at the time, since she is wearing a somewhat stylish gown according to Paris fashions, combined with an elaborate or exaggerated version of the traditional peasant-women's Sunday-best head-dress of the Caux region of northeastern Normandy ("Cauchoise, Evirons de Rouen", engraving by Benoit Pécheux, 1811-1812):
[1811 Empire Gown Caux Head Dress .GIF] For a color depiction of a quite similar Cauchoise outfit, shown from a different angle, click on the thumbnail "#10 Cauchoise" on the page devoted to Images from Costumes des Femmes du Pays de Caux (1827) etc. (Free-flowing high-waisted dresses like these, with few petticoats and non-bulky sleeves, were somewhat old-hat in Paris by 1827, but the women of Caux apparently saw no reason to immediately abandon their own local version of one of the few somewhat sensible and really aesthetic styles that has ever come out of Paris. ;-))

Promenade Dresses (1813):
[Promenade Dress .GIF]

"Paris Dress" from The Lady's Magazine, July 1801:
[1801 Lady Playing Guitar .GIF]

1815 Morning Dress from Ackermann's Repository:
[1815 Morning Dress .GIF]

Ball dress of Indian Muslin, from Costume Parisien, 1814:
[1814 Ball Dress .GIF] [Mediocre-quality image.]

Parisian fashion(?):
[Parisian Fashion .GIF]

Evening full dress, from Le Beau Monde, 1807:
[1807 Evening Full Dress .GIF Image]

Mourning dress (from Ackermann's Repository, 1809, with appropriately funereal urn):
[Mourning dress .GIF] (New better scan.)

A woman reading, taken from a woodcut which was not a fashion illustration (1810's; dressed to go out during the day, not very formal):
[Reading .GIF]

"Hyde Park Walking Dress" (an overdress or pelisse influenced by men's military uniforms), from The Ladies Magazine, 1812?:
[1812 Pseudo-Military Walking Dress JPEG] (for another scan of this, see

Painting of girl embroidering, by Georg Friedrich Kersting, ca. 1814:
[1814 Kersting Girl Embroidering JPEG] [Large Image.]

Portraits of specific individuals

An example of the strongly Classical-influenced continental European high fashion of the late 1790's and early 1800's (Jacques-Louis David, portrait of Madame de Verninac, 1799):
[David 1799 Verninac JPEG Image]

Portrait of Miss Harriet and Miss Elizabeth Birney, by J. Smart, 1806:
[J. Smart 1806 Birney Sisters Portrait JPEG]

Portrait of a lady by Henri François Mulard, ca. 1810:
[1810 Mulard Lady Portrait JPEG]

Portrait of a lady and her son by American artist John Vanderlyn, 1800:
[1800 Mother Son Vanderlyn Portrait JPEG]

Self-portrait of Rolinda Sharples with her mother, ca. 1820
[1820 Sharples Self Mother Portrait JPEG]

"Les soeurs Harvey" (Sketch portrait of the Harvey sisters) by Ingres, 1804:
[1804 Ingres Soeurs Harvey Portrait JPEG]

Portrait sketch of a lady with a fan, by Ingres:
[Ingres Portrait Sketch .GIF]

"Les Soeurs Kaunitz" (portrait sketch of the Kaunitz sisters), by Ingres, 1818:
[1818 Ingres Soeurs Kaunitz JPEG]

(For portraits of mixed family groups by Ingres, see the general Regency illustrations page.)

Detail of a painting of a woman looking through an artistic portfolio, by Constance Mayer, 1801 (possible self-portrait?):
[1801 Constance Myer Woman Painting JPEG]

Portrait engraving of Dolley Madison ca. 1810, partly based on Gilbert Stuart's 1804 painting (now hanging in the White House):
[Dolley Madison Portrait JPEG]

Watercolor of two women, by Eunice Pinney of Connecticut, ca. 1815:
[1815 Eunice Pinney Two Women (Folk Art) JPEG]

Detail of a portrait of Marcia Fox, by Sir William Beechey:
[Beechey Marcia Fox Portrait JPEG]

Portrait of the Frankland sisters by John Hoppner, 1795:
[1795 Frankland Sisters Hoppner Portrait JPEG]

Sketch of a daughter of Sir Edward Knatchbull (8th Baronet) by John Singleton Copely, 1800-1802 (done in preparation for painting a large portrait of the family):
[1801 Knatchbull Daughter Copely Portrait Sketch JPEG]

Portrait of Mrs. Richard Crowninshield Derby as St. Cecilia, by John Singleton Copely, 1803-1804:
[1803 Copely Mrs. Crowninshield Derby Portrait JPEG]

Portrait of Harriet Leavens by Ammi Phillips of western Massachusetts, ca. 1816:
[1816 Harriet Leavens Ammi Phillips Portrait (Folk Art) JPEG]

Portrait of Mrs. Lawrence Lewis (Nellie Custis), by Gilbert Stuart, 1804-1805:
[1804 Gilbert Stuart Nellie Custis Portrait JPEG] [Somewhat mediocre scan. Her clothes are rather modern-looking.]

Portrait of Gabrielle Josephine du Pont, ca. 1798 (possibly by Louis Léopold Boilly?):
[1798 du Pont Portrait JPEG]

Portrait of the Mlles. Mollien by Rouget, 1811:
[1811 Mlles. Mollien Portrait Rouget JPEG]

"Lady with a Harp: Eliza Ridgely", portrait by Thomas Sully, 1818:
[Thomas Sully 1818 Eliza Ridgely Harp Portrait JPEG]

Portrait of Mrs. Edward Hudson by Thomas Sully, 1814:
[1814 Sully Mrs. Hudson Portrait JPEG] [Semi-mediocre scan]

See also Jane Austen's sister Cassandra's portrait of their niece Fanny Knight:
[JPEG Image]

And Cassandra's back-view portrait of Jane Austen (two poor-quality JPEGs, one greyscale, the other color):
[Greyscale JPEG Image] [Color JPEG Image]

Satires and caricatures

(I call a caricature "semi-satirical" if it depicts a situation that was probably just a little more extreme than what would have been ordinarily encountered, but is still somewhat realistic; and "satirical" if it is over-exaggerated or grotesque.) For other Regency caricatures (not primarily on women's fashions), see the general Regency images page.

Some contemporary comparisons of Regency fashions with those of other periods:

"TOO MUCH and TOO LITTLE, or Summer Cloathing of 1556 & 1796", satirical print by Isaac Cruikshank after drawing by George M. Woodward, February 8th 1796:
[1556 vs. 1796 Clothing Style Comparison .GIF]
(See also a scan of a black-and-white reproduction of a hand-colored version of this same print):
[1556 vs. 1796 Clothing Style Comparison (tinted) .GIF]

"A section of The Petticoat, or The Venus of 1742 and 1794" (English engraving, presumably from 1794, comparing fashion silhouettes of the two years; the left half is taken from a detail in the Hogarth painting "Taste in High Life", engraved 1746):
[1742 vs. 1794 Styles Comparison GIF] Text on the left: "The Mode - 1742 - Hogarth pinxit - from a picture of Hogarth's in the Collection of J. B. Esquire"
Text on the right: "The Ton - 1794 - Lady CC...'l pinxit - from an Original (in the Collection) at the Opera"
(Notice the high heels that the 1742 lady is wearing.)

"The Fashions of the Day, or Time Past and Present", an 1807 caricature engraved by Charles Williams after a drawing by Woodward, which presents an (exaggerated) contrast between "The Year 1740: A Lady's full dress of Bombazeen" and "The year 1807: ..." (well, you can read the rest yourself):
[1807 1740 Contrast Williams Woodward Caricature JPEG] Note that "undress" didn't mean anything naughty -- you can read a definition of it at Cathy's Regency fashion pages. In pursuing his goal of satirizing certain features of contemporary 1807 fashions, the caricaturist did not really draw a fair comparison between the styles of 1740 and 1807, since a young Regency fashionable is juxtaposed here to a sedate middle-aged pre-Regency lady (perhaps in mourning), and such features of mid-18th century dress as tight stiff stays with extremely low necklines were not included (also, the "1740" costume actually seems to be somewhat of a pastiche with 17th century styles). Women's fashions of the Regency weren't always "sensible", but their excesses do seem to be more in accord overall with the spirit of the 20th century than the fashion excesses of most other periods between the 16th century and World War I (which tended to go in for such things as huge hoopskirts and tight corsets...)

A confrontation between a couple wearing formal French court dress of ca. 1778 and another couple wearing the advanced clothing styles of the young French fashionables of the Republic (costume plate ca. 1795?, by Vernet?); the couple on the left is saying "AH! QUELLE ANTIQUITÉ!!!" and the couple on the right "OH! QUELLE FOLIE QUE LA NOUVEAUTÉ.....":

A poor-quality scan of the whole plate:
[1778 vs. 1795 French Clothing Styles Comparison .GIF]
A larger better scan of the left (ca. 1795) couple only:
[1795 French Couple .GIF]
A larger better scan of the right (Court ca. 1778) couple only:
[French Court Dress Couple .GIF]

Other Caricatures:

A satirical drawing which makes fun of the perceived excesses of Classical-influenced fashions, when the style was new in England (1797 -- one can see the outlines of the legs, how shocking!):
[Fashions for 1797 .GIF]

Louis Boilly, "Point de Convention" -- Semi-satirical painting depicting extreme clothing styles worn by young French fashionables ("incroyables" and "merveilleuses"), ca. 1797:
[Boilly Point de Convention, JPEG]

Detail from "The Three Graces in A High Wind", semi-satirical engraving by Gillray (published 1810, perhaps originally drawn earlier):
[1810 Three Graces in High Wind Gillray .GIF] (Imagine a wind blowing from the right; its effects on the women's clothing would seem funny to a generation that had been accustomed to skirts stiffened with more layers of petticoats.)

A wider view of a differently-colored copy of "The Three Graces in a High Wind" (poor-quality scan):
[Gillray Three Graces JPEG]

A fashion prediction of 1796: "Ladies Dress, as it soon will be --", slightly naughty satirical engraving by James Gillray, published Jan 20th, 1796, after a drawing by "Henry C----e":
[1796 Gillray Fashion Prediction Sature .GIF]

"Lady Godina's Rout -- or -- Peeping-Tom spying out Pope-Joan. Vide Fashionable Modesty", a March 12th 1796 caricature by Gillray:
[1796 Lady Godina Peeping-Tom Pope-Joan Fashionable Modesty Gillray Caricature JPEG] [Very large image]
An exaggerated satire by Gillray on the extremes of classical-influenced styles which were very new and cutting edge in England at that time. The caricature is said to refer to Lady Georgiana Gordon; the title, as well as the servant lecherously peering down while trimming the candle, are allusions to the Lady Godiva legend. "Pope-Joan" is a cardgame -- see for information on the game; Lady "Godina" is holding the nine of diamonds which is called the "Pope" in the game.
(This scan courtesy Bob Whitworth of PrintsGeorge.Com.)

"Parisian Ladies in their Full Winter Dress for 1800" (exaggerated satirical print by Isaac Cruikshank, Nov. 24th 1799):
[1800 Isaac Cruikshank Parisian Fashion Satire JPEG]
A huge scan of the "Parisian Ladies in their Full Winter Dress for 1800" Cruikshank caricature (showing more detail) is also available.

French satire on the poke bonnet ("invisible"); No. 16 in the series of engravings, "Le Suprême Bon Ton" (from the second half of the 1810's):
[Early 19th Century Poke Bonnet Satire .GIF] Caption: "Les Invisibles en Tête-à-Tête"
[New better scan; thanks to "Sedat"]

Satire on the beaked bonnet by "Cham" (Amédée de Noé); probably drawn in the 1840's, but apparently depicting the fashions of the early 1820's:
[Cham Beaked Bonnet Satire .GIF] (The man is proceeding to desperate measures to try to get a glimpse of the lady's face as he is conversing with her.)

Can the caption supplied by James Laver to this 1814 satire be correct? Is it possible that the French could portray themselves as less stylish than the English??
[1814 Mystery English-French Satire] (What is clear is that the English couple is visiting France, after Napoleon's exile to Elba, and the French are pointing and laughing at them, and this caricature makes fun of the French.)

Detail of Portrait of Monsieur Oberkampf and children, by Louis-Léopold Boilly, 1803. (Not overtly satirical, but perhaps involving some maliciousness on the part of the artist):
This piece is somewhat strange (even considering that French styles were sometimes more extreme than English), in that it shows an extremely low cut gown (which would have been considered most appropriate as formal indoor eveningwear for women old enough to attend grown-up social events) as being worn by a 14 or 15-year old girl, in a situation which calls instead for slightly informal wear appropriate to daytime outdoors in the country (as is worn by two of the three males, and in fact by all three, when the age of the oldest is considered) -- not to mention the fact that the long formal train of her white gown is right in the dirt! The companion piece (showing Madame Oberkampf with other children) is even more peculiar (not to say pathetic), giving the impression that the Oberkampfs were vulgar pushing upstarts who didn't know where to draw the line when imitating the dashing new female fashions of the high-society circles to which they did not belong.
[Weird 1803 Boilly Oberkampf Portrait] (Mediocre-quality scan -- I include this pretty much as an oddity...)

Other images

(Relevant to Regency women's clothing styles, but not direct illustrations or caricatures of them.)

The end of the Directoire/Empire/Regency style (1822-1826)

Up until about 1823, women's styles as depicted in fashion-plates etc. still fairly strongly resembled Regency styles, with certain slight differences -- e.g. the high-fashion dresses of 1823 did not follow the earlier styles in being tight only at the bottom of the breasts (then falling free below), but instead were tight over an area from the bottom of the breasts to the lower ribcage, and incipient signs of recorseting were detectable. And early 1820's styles continued the trend of the second half of the 1810's in having a slightly conical silhouette, with several layers of petticoats being worn (as opposed to the more clinging and free-flowing earlier styles) -- and also in having decoration (sometimes large and ornate) applied at or near the hem of the dress. But up to 1823 or so, women's fashions still had no extravagantly disabling basic structural features, and seemed to be mainly following in the tradition of the preceding 25 years. However, by 1826, the high fashions visible in fashion plates had undergone a major change, and had definitively repudiated the legacy of late 1790's to early 1820's styles, preparing the way for the main fashion features of the next ten to fifteen years (large sleeves, somewhat strict corseting of the natural waist, full skirts, large-circumference hats, and visual emphasis on wide sloping shoulders).

Here's a typical example of 1823 fashion-plate style (taken from an 1823 engraving of a ball dress with a diaphanous overskirt that can be lifted for certain dance moves, such as the "pas d'été"):
[1823 Ball Gown Overskirt Fashion Plate JPEG]
And here's an example of the utterly non-Regency cutting-edge fashions of 1826 (Fashion plate from Wiener Moden):
[1826 Wiener Moden .GIF]

Here are other illustrations of women's styles at the beginning of the transition away from broadly "Regency" styles, ca. 1822-1823.

Depiction of an early 1820's young lady hurrying through a door:
[Early 1820's Woman Door .GIF]

A millinery shop in Paris, drawn by Chalon in 1822; the lady is giving directions on the making of her new bonnet, while her husband is ogling the shopgirls; the assistant isn't wearing so many layers of petticoats that she can't grip her bonnetmaker's dummy firmly between her knees:
[1822 Milliner's Shop Paris Chalon JPEG]

See the general Regency illustrations page for an 1823 depiction of an 1822 archery club meeting.
Here's an off-site link to an 1823 fashion plate which still looks rather Regency.

"Blind Man's Buff", caricature by Robert Cruikshank, ca. 1824 (showing festive jollities and frolics in an English household):
[1823-1825 Robert Cruikshank Blind Man's Buff Caricature JPEG]

"Monstrosities of 1822", George Cruikshank caricature satirizing the manners and modes of 1822:
[1822 Monstrosities Cruikshank Fashion Satire Caricature JPEG] Here Cruikshank wildly exaggerates recent high-fashion trends, including the then-beginning trend towards recorseting.

By 1826, the fashion cycle had returned to its normal range of variation during most of the 18th and 19th-centuries, and to the usual aesthetic of relatively unrestrained "conspicuous consumption", leaving behind the atypical episode of Directoire/Empire/Regency styles (see this page for a brief overview of the history of the Western fashion cycle). In some respects, styles of the late 1820's and the 1830's were quite consciously influenced by eighteenth century styles (for example, see this 1838 fashion plate which includes elements of 18th-century fashions), and during the 1830's many 18th-century gowns which had been stored in attics, because they were made of stiff heavy fabrics (such as brocades) that had been out of fashion during the Regency, were cut down and remade into 1830's dresses (such as the 1835 brocade satin dress which can be seen on the Victorian and pre-Regency page).

Links to other pages with illustrations of Directoire/Empire/Regency clothing

Pages on this site:

*See also the companion page of general Regency illustrations (includes some links to general Regency sites)
For some depictions of out-and-out lower-class women's clothing almost totally uninfluenced by contemporary Regency styles -- not even possessing the limited claims to fashion of a "smartly-dressed" village maiden, or a servant dressing slightly "above her station" (whose employer might take exception to her dressing in white, or wearing a hat ornamented with flowers or a feather) -- see the William Henry Pyne sketches on the Regency illustrations page.
*If you have the stomach for it, you can also visit my slightly silly Victorian and pre-Regency page (contains comparisons and contrasts between Regency and and Victorian styles).
*See also the account of the only known martyr for Directoire fashions? ("The Daughter of Bakri" vs. "Betsy Bonaparte")

External Links:

Some historical plates of early 19th-century clothing styles (general European, rather than specifically British) are available here (another relevant image from that site is here).

There are a number of (overlapping) pages of scans from the ca. 1795-1820 period at Tara Maginnis' site: Illustrations of 1789-1800, Illustrations of the "Neo Classical" era 1800-1825, Fashion plates 1790-1800, Costume plates of the French Revolution & Empire, and Fashion plates 1800-1838. There is also a page of black-and-white photographs of models wearing Regency clothes from the collection of the Victoria and Albert museum available at this site (scanned in from a 1908 book -- the overall look strikes me as somehow slightly Edwardianized and unappealing; note that in contrast to what we normally assume about dressing in historical costume, the Regency gowns in these photographs required less corseting than the Edwardian ladies were accustomed to wearing in everyday life...).
An overall Regency and Empire Fashion Costume Links index page has now been been added to the Costumes.Org site.

»» A number of Regency fashion plates are available here, as part of Cathy Decker's comprehensive Regency Fashion site. [Highly recommended]

Miscellaneous Regency and pseudo-Regency pictures at

Thumbnail links to C. E. Brock illustrations for Pride and Prejudice

Selecting the thumbnail images will bring up the full JPEG versions of the illustrations (these are each about 110k in size).

  • Chapter 3: [JPEG Image] -- Darcy on Elizabeth: `She is tolerable, but not handsome enough to tempt me.'
  • Chapter 6: [JPEG Image] -- Sir William Lucas: `Mr. Darcy, you must allow me to present this young lady to you as a very desirable partner.'
  • Chapter 13: [JPEG Image] -- Mrs. Bennet: `Why Jane -- you never dropt a word of this, you sly thing!'
  • Chapter 15: [JPEG Image] -- Mr. Denny entreated permission to introduce his friend [Wickham].
  • Chapter 18: [JPEG Image] -- [Mr. Collins] prefaced his speech with a solemn bow.
  • Chapter 19: [JPEG Image] -- Mr. Collins: `Almost as soon as I entered the house I singled you out as the companion of my future life.'
  • Chapter 28: [JPEG Image] -- Mr. Collins and Charlotte were both standing at the gate in conversation with the ladies [Anne de Bourgh and Mrs. Jenkinson].
  • Chapter 30: [JPEG Image] -- She [Lady Catherine] sallied forth to scold them into harmony and plenty.
  • Chapter 31: [JPEG Image] -- Elizabeth: `You mean to frighten me, Mr. Darcy?'
  • Chapter 37: [JPEG Image] -- Lady Catherine: `I assure you, I feel it exceedingly.'
  • Chapter 43: [JPEG Image] -- The introduction, however, was immediately made.
  • Chapter 47: [JPEG Image] -- Jane: `I never saw any one so shocked.'
  • Chapter 51: [JPEG Image] -- She [Lydia] went after dinner to shew her ring, and boast of being married, to Mrs. Hill and the two housemaids.
  • Chapter 55: [JPEG Image] -- She [Elizabeth] perceived her sister and Bingley standing together.
  • Chapter 56: [JPEG Image] -- Lady Catherine: `Miss Bennet, I insist on being satisfied.'
  • Chapter 60: [JPEG Image] -- He [Darcy] could even listen to Sir William Lucas.
  • Brock illustrations from a different source (some possibly touched up by his brother):
    • Chapter 20: [.GIF Image] -- Mrs. Bennet: "You must come and make Lizzy marry Mr. Collins"
    • A card of Brock etc. illustrations from this other source (some the same as above, but differently colored, others different) is available in raw form (Large 500k image in PNG graphics format, which won't load into pre-1996 browsers and image viewer programs).
  • Other illustrations, by Hugh Thomson (1894?):
    • Chapter 2: [GIF Image] -- The Bennets at home
    • Chapter 14: [GIF Image] "Mr. Collins... protested that he never read novels"

*See also C. E. Brock illustrations for other Jane Austen novels

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