I am making a Regency suit for my significant other. We will be attending the Jane Austen weekend here in Toronto, and I am dizzy with excitement when I think of the costume possibilities. The components of this ensemble will be as follows:
- Tailed Coat: will be one of wool broadcloth in a very, very dark grey.
- Undershirt: White linen
- Waistcoat: will be made of a pale yellow striped silk.
- Breeches: will be made out of ivory wool.
I will be making the suit for a civilian gentleman.
I’m drafting my own pattern for my ballgown. At first, I was thinking of taffeta for myself, as there are few fabrics that scream “ballgown” more than taffeta. I am glad I thought twice about the silk taffeta before I purchased the 5 necessary yards at an exorbitant price. I’m planning on doing plenty of dancing at Fort York, and I know from experience that although one can dance in formal, stiff fabric, dancing in a lightweight silk/cotton blend would probably be way more pleasant.
Granted, I am a married woman. It would hardly be becoming if I were to frolic and bounce around a la Lydia Bennett. Taffeta would be a good choice for the evening wear of a woman with her husband in attendance. But, I think I will endeavor to add dignity to my ballgown without compromising the dance-ability of the gown. To this effect, I have in mind a silk-cotton base gown with a sheer silk ivory overlay possibly trimmed with some antique embroidered lace I have stashed away. I could make the base gown in either ivory or a color such as pale blue, lilac, or coral.
When I read the Austen letters way back in the day, I remember lilac was mentioned frequently as a fashionable color, particularly in 1805-1806. And to make a reference to Austen’s writing, in Northanger Abbey Isabella Thorpe once told Catherine that she wore a great deal of purple, though she felt she looked awful in it. I feel it would be a safe assumption to say that purple may have been fashionable in the mid decade to recognize all that empire building on the continent. There are few things that scream Napolean more than his golden bees on a rich purple satin background.
I digress towards the subject of purple once again! Honestly, I only brought the color up to reflect on the irony that lilac was indeed a very fashionable color during the Austen time though it is very seldom used in Jane Austen films. Those who rely on film to give them a sense of Jane Austen fashion may miss all the purple. Film makers prefer rather to use muted corals, roses, and sometimes pale blues, I believe to perhaps emphasize the myopic, interpersonal human relations that make the Jane Austen style. Purple, which traditionally suggests mystery, that which is not understood, as well as worldly and Imperial ambitions, would make trite the complaints of the heiress Emma or Elizabeth Bennett’s unyielding quest for the ideal husband. With that in mind, I will not wear lilac at Fort York in Toronto. And besides, it looks awful with my complexion, too.
Note: Ski season and a dreadful case of food poisoning severely interfered with the previous plaid bustle plan. Fabric for said project has been stored away, as I now have a deadline for something new.