7 Year Tea Party Winners: Susan Craft's winner of her trilogy novels - The Chamomile, Laurel, and Cassia is: Lucy Reynolds, The winner of a copy of The Backcountry Brides is: Tammy Cordery, the winner of a silver quill charm is: Kathy Maher, Choice of one of three books by Carrie Fancett Pagels in paperback: Joy Ellis, A Bouquet of Brides Collection by Pegg Thomas winner is: Becky Smith, Janet Grunst's Selah-Award winning novel, A Heart Set Free, is: Sherry Moe.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Georgian vs. Regency? A Novelist's Primer

King George III of England (Wiki)
Nothing yanks a historically discerning reader out of a story faster than to find inaccuracies about small things they're familiar with. The goofs are easier to forgive when it's an author you love, or when you know that author is writing outside her usual time period, but it still can make for a painful read.

Or when you know some simple research would have remedied the situation.

A recent read brought home to me some very significant differences between what we think of as the Georgian era and the Regency era, differences that are very easily overlooked if you spend more "time" in one era than the other. According to Wikipedia:

The Georgian era of British history is a period which takes its name from, and is normally defined as spanning the reigns of the first four Hanoverian kings of Great Britain who were all named George: George I, George II, George III and George IV. The era covers the period from 1714 to 1830, with the sub-period of the Regency defined by the Regency of George IV as Prince of Wales during the illness of his father George III.
Technically, then, because the Regency era lay within the Georgian, I should say the differences I'm seeing are between the early and the late Georgian.

The first and most basic differences were those of clothing. The fashionable silhouette for a woman went from a tightly-bound, conical torso with the artificially wide or padded hips and bum to a more natural, flowing look reminiscent of the Greeks and Romans. Most of the changes happened between 1785-90, so if you're most familiar with Regency wear but you're writing before that time, here are a few things to remember about women's clothing:
  • Foundational wear was referred to as shift and stays, not chemise and corset. Until just after the American Revolution, stays were highly supportive and kept a woman's torso in a roughly conical shape, pushing a woman's bosom upward and not emphasizing curves as we know them. It was considered accepted during dress occasions for a woman's upper bosom to remain exposed. Only later did stays/corsets take on the hourglass shape most people are familiar with.
  • "Dress" referred either to one's clothing in general, or to the act of getting dressed. It did not, to my knowledge, refer to an actual woman's garment until later. During the Colonial era, a woman's garment was a "gown."
  • Bodices pinned down the front, for the most part. They did NOT lace up the back. Fit was less of an issue then, if, say, a woman needed to borrow her best friend's gown.
  • Sleeves covered to just past the elbow, because, well, a woman of repute just did not show their elbows. (One can see how the later styles of small, puffy sleeves could be considered shocking.)
Men's clothing had a few things to remember as well:
  • A man's shirt had extra-long tails that tucked forward and back, doubling as underwear. So the popular "period" trope of men walking around shirtless, in just their breeches, did not happen. 
  • Men were considered "naked" in just a shirt, or a shirt and breeches, or for that matter anything not covering the torso properly with a waistcoat and neck stock.
  • Overall, menswear suffered fewer changes than womenswear between the early and late Georgian era. One notable difference was hairstyles, the shift from locks long enough to curl, powder, and pull back in a queue, to a shorter, distinctively "windblown" style. The stylish RevWar era gentleman on either side of the pond would not be running his hand through his curls. :)
Oh, and nobody wore "bloomers" until sometime in the 19th century.

Almack's in London ... obviously Regency era clothing :) (Wiki)
  • The "Season" in London. I've been trying to find a firm date on when this became a "thing" and the nearest I can tell is that it began to evolve sometime in the 17th century, but possibly not firmly entrenched into the grain of society until the advent of Almack's (a social club unique to its time in that it admitted both men and women) around 1765, or its rebuilding around 1800. What I have been able to find points to a shift from a debutante's being presented at court to securing vouchers from Almack's as a marker of one's social standing. So the whole "coming out" in London even during the time of the American Revolution may still hold water.
  • Dances:  Couples did not waltz until late 1700's, early 1800's. Former CQ contributor Dina Sleiman writes of the waltz, "It gained popularity on the European continent by around 1780, but was still scorned in respectable circles in England and the United States. It wasn’t until the Prince Regent introduced the waltz at a ball in 1816 that it was accepted in England."
 So these are just a few items, mostly off the top of my head, that I noticed while reading an otherwise very enjoyable author. No, I'm not going to say who. :) Maybe she was just under a serious deadline and didn't have time to stop for research?


  1. Shannon, thank you for a very informative and interesting post.

  2. Thanks for the pointers! Good stuff to remember.

  3. I was not aware of these differences. Good to know, thanks for sharing! Enjoy reading fiction set during these times, and now I'll be a bit more mindful. Enjoy the rest of the week! :)

    1. I'm so glad it was helpful!! Thank you for taking the time to stop by! :)


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