Dress in the Age of Jane Austen: Regency Fashion

Yale Univ. 2019. 336p. ISBN 9780300218725. $40. DEC ARTS
Dress and textile historian Davidson gives a thorough and detailed account of the development of Regency fashion in Great Britain, which she specifies as 1795–1825. Using the world of Jane Austen’s gentry as a departure point, Davidson organizes her narrative by the social spheres of “Self,” “Home,” “Village,” “Country,” “City,” “Nation,” and “World.” For each of these social contexts, relevant dress styles and clothing are discussed. Under “Self,” the only garment known to be owned by Jane Austen, a brown silk pelisse, is highlighted; under “Country,” riding and travel clothes are examined. The development of retail clothing shopping in towns and cities such as Bath and London, and patterns of clothing consumption are also described. Passages from Austen’s novels, excerpts from her letters, and other primary source writings of the time about dress support the narrative. A time line with images of the change of the construction of women’s gowns, an extensive glossary of fashion terms, Austen’s family tree, and a list of characters in her fiction greatly enhance this book.
VERDICT With beautiful images of clothing, fashion plates, prints, and paintings, this is recommended for readers interested in the fashion and material culture of this period.
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