Monday, March 10, 2008


In my last blog, I showed you some modern replica costumes from Jane Austen adaptations. This time, I thought you might like to see the real thing, from the Hereford Museum collection. They’re not displayed on mannequins, sadly, because Hereford can’t afford that kind of display, but the curator is very happy to show them to visitors (by appointment).

I said before that I thought Regency ladies would have become bored with white and pale colours. Have a look at this one, where the colours are still blazing, even after nearly 200 years. Not boring in the least!

The interesting thing about this gown, apart from the colour, is its sleeves. In this photo, you can see that it has plain long sleeves. However, they were only an optional extra which could be tacked in when the occasion required. The real gown has the most beautifully fashioned puff sleeves, seen in the picture below. In this close-up, you can also see the fineness of the material, and the vibrant colours it contains. Note also the acid yellow trimming. It might be a little too bright for modern tastes, but it was meant to be seen by candlelight, when it would have appeared more subdued.

My second gown for this blog is one of the saddest items in the collection. It would have been a fabulous ball gown, made of the finest white satin overlaid with a net decorated with silver.

The gown is in a very poor state, as you can see from this photo of part of the bodice, but you may be able to judge just how magnificent it once was. Now, most of it has rotted away.

The saddest part of all is the skirt and what would have been its sumptuous silver ornamentation. The fabric is completely gone. All that’s left is this little pile of silver. Heart-breaking, isn’t it?


Anonymous said...

Beautiful gowns, Joanna. The state of the silver ball gown conjures up all sorts of sad images.

Melinda Hammond

Jan Jones said...

Oh dear, the silver one really is sad, isn't it? I can only imagine what it might have looked like.

My goodness though - the red gown with that yellow trim! I think your point about being it seen by candlelight is a good one. I have this vision though, of some fashionable modiste instructing her client never to go out wearing it in the full light of day.

Anonymous said...

Actually, Jan, there are quite a few really vibrantly coloured gowns in the collection at Hereford. Beautiful, but not the sort of thing one might wear nowadays. There is one that was known to have been worn at the Duchess of Richmond's ball on the eve of Waterloo. It's a mix of strong colours, including that acid yellow. Sadly I don't have a full-length picture of it, but I may include the picture I do have in a future blog. It's certainly not what I expected when the curator told me it had been worn at that ball. I expected white or pastel. No way!

Others may correct me, but I fancy that chemical dyes were being developed at around this period and each new one became wildly fashionable as soon as it appeared. I have a vague feeling that the acid yellow was one of those. Anyone know if I'm right on this?


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