What to wear at a Jane Austen Ball

Overview
Gentlemen
Ladies
Shoes
Making a costume
Buying a costume
Hiring a costume

About the Ball
Buy a ticket

Overview

Jane Austen was writing her novels at the time Australia was being colonised, so the clothes people wore and the dances they enjoyed were essentially the same.  Here are some ideas for selecting a costume for the ball.

The Regency style developed to give a degree of freedom, particularly for women – a distinct change from the very ornate Baroque style which preceded it.  The light Regency dresses allowed ladies’ feet and lower legs to be seen and encouraged ease of movement when dancing.  This was also reflected in the style of dance where the floor patterns became simpler and the movements more elegant and rounded.

This is an illustration from Thomas Wilson’s dance manual of 1811 shows the appropriate styles of dress, and the positions of the feet used when dancing in the elite ballroom.

The following offers suggestions, however, our ball is primarily about social dancing and does not claim to be an historical re-enactment.  We welcome guests to the dance, and although it’s desirable to be suitably attired, it is not essential.  Neat, modern evening dress is also acceptable.  Flat shoes are the best footwear for this style of dancing.

Gentlemen

Clothing for gentlemen became less ornate with a move away from opulent fabrics, elaborate embroidery and lace, into natural fabrics which could be readily laundered for a clean, crisp look.  This simple yet elegant attire is shown in a painting of John Macarthur, one of the elite of the early colonial Australia.

Portrait of John Macarthur. Courtesy Dixson Galleries collection, State Library of NSW.

Jane frequently included military gentlemen in her novels, and alluded to their splendid uniforms.  This famous painting of the Duchess of Richmond’s ball, held on the evening before the Battle of Waterloo, shows the officers and other gentlemen dressed for dancing.  Read more..

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:The_Duchess_of_Richmond%27s_Ball_by_Robert_Alexander_Hillingford.jpg

The Duchess of Richmond’s Ball, by Robert Hillingford.

In Australia, fine uniforms were also the order of the day, from the governor through to the officers of the British Marines and New South Wales Corps.    It is possible that Governor Phillip, shown in the following painting, may have been acquainted with Jane Austen in Bath.  Read more

Portrait of Captain Arthur Phillip, 1786 painted by Francis Wheatley (1747-1801) State Library of New South Wales. ML 124 http://trove.nla.gov.au/version/14288959

Captain (later Admiral) Arthur Phillip RN (11 October 1738 – 31 August 1814) was the first Governor of New South Wales. Courtesy State Library of New South Wales.

 

One of the officers who served with Governor Phillip was Lieutenant-Colonel George Johnston of the Marines, shown here in a dashing red coat.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:George_Johnston.jpg

Lt. Col. George Johnston, 1810 watercolour portrait by R. Dighton. Courtesy of the State Library of NSW.

For most gentlemen attending our ball, costumes range from the historically accurate, through to something that reflects the era, to smart modern clothing.  This photograph from our 2017 ball shows a handsome young man attired for the occasion with smart waistcoat and cravat, while the other gentlemen wears a specially made elaborate Regency coat.

2017 Jane Austen Ball. Sandgate Town Hall. Photo courtesy of Neda Lundie

Ladies

There are hundreds of examples Regency dress on the Internet.  Just type “Regency dress”, or “Jane Austen ball gown” and you’ll be amazed at how many appear!

This is a painting of Jane Austen herself in the typical Regency costume: white dress enhanced with a coloured ribbon.

The Rice portrait of Jane Austen (1788) Courtesy of http://www.janeaustenriceportrait.com/

This is an evening dress with gauze overlay from the website Jane Austen’s World.  https://janeaustensworld.wordpress.com/2012/03/15/regency-fashion-the-muslin-and-net-period/

A Regency ball gown. Photo courtesy of Jane Austen’s World.

In Australia, Anna Josepha King, wife of Governor King wore this beautiful gown at the balls in Government House, Sydney.

Anna Josepha King’s evening dress. Photo courtesy of Australian National Maritime Museum Blog http://anmm.wordpress.com/2013/05/22/muslin-dress/

Check these sites for further information:

UK Regency Dance https://www.regencydances.org/costume1.php

Jessamyn’s Regency Costume Companion http://www.songsmyth.com/costumerscompanion.html

Shoes

This was the era when the classic flat ballet shoe was developed (not the pointe shoe).  Men’s shoes had a similar cut, often complimented with a buckle.

https://cstcostumes.wordpress.com/2011/09/06/shoes-dancers-regency-era/

Here are some sites which feature Regency shoes:

http://www.songsmyth.com/shoes.html

https://recreating19cballroom.blogspot.com/2013/01/dancing-shoes-for-regency-period.html

https://www.american-duchess.com/

http://www.quartermaster-stores.com/Footwear

 

Make your own shoes:

https://darlinganddash.com/regencyslippers.html

https://thetailorsapprentice.blogspot.com/2014/01/making-my-own-regency-dance-slippers.html

https://oregonregency.blogspot.com/2010/08/miss-charlottes-shoe-tutorial.html

Making a costume

Here are some links on making a costume using easily acquired clothing:

https://janitesonthejames.blogspot.com/2007/10/how-to-make-regency-costume-from-thrift.html

For women https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5KKViqeaD9c

For men https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VLTQtgsM1CI

Check the UK Regency Dance site  https://www.regencydances.org/costume4.php

To make a costume from scratch, there are a range patterns available from Spotlight in Brisbane, or online.  Here are a few examples:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A range of detailed historically accurate costumes are available from Laughing Moon Mercantile.  Patterns for corsets and other undergarments are also available. http://www.lafnmoon.com/

 

 

 

 

 

 

Buying a costume

There does not seem to be anywhere in Australia to buy a costume.  You may be able to have one made by a local costumier.

There is a range of sites online.

Etsy  https://www.etsy.com/market/regency_dress

Recollections. https://recollections.biz/clothing/Regency.html

Sasavia  https://sasavia.com/

Roselory  https://roselory.com/

The Regency dance website in England has a page devoted to buying costumes

https://www.regencydances.org/costume3.php

This site in USA specialises in Regency costume for men

https://www.historicalemporium.com/mens-regency-era-clothing.php

https://www.historicalemporium.com/search/?q=regency&page=1

Wish has some beautiful and inexpensive coats for men, but no Regency dresses for ladies. https://www.wish.com

Men’s Frock Coat. $51 + postage

Men’s Velvet Jacket $30 + postage

Hiring a costume

In Brisbane

These two places advertise Regency costumes:

Disguises at 659 Stanley Street, Woolloongabba QLD 4102, on the corner of Stanley Street & Merton Road. https://www.disguises.com.au/

Heaven Costumes advertises some Regency costumes for men.  https://www.heavencostumes.com.au/catalogsearch/result/?q=regency

The Costume Company https://costumecompany.com.au/ nothing listed online, but they have some in stock.
Address: 19 Kitchener Road, Kedron Qld 4031.
PH:  07 3359 7000
Email:  kedron@costumeco.com.au

 

About the ball

Buy a ticket

This entry was posted in Dance. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *