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Fashion in the time of Jane Austen (Shire Library)

Fashion in the time of Jane Austen (Shire Library) [Kindle Edition]

Sarah Jane Downing
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)

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Product Description


"Downing's book is a slim volume, running to 63 pages and lavishly illustrated with a fine cross-section of illustrations from the period. She has chosen well, and her examples are apposite and appealing in the context of her writing. She ties the life of Austen into the events happening in Britain and abroad, and how they affected the fashions and social lives of Regency men and women.

This is definitely a book for Austen fans, and devotees of the Regency period. It is written with a light touch and an eye to the realities of dressing in fine and costly fabrics. The attention to menswear is particularly interesting. I was also taken with the reference to Rousseau's theories about childhood freedom and how it affected clothes for children.

Whilst clearly passionate about her subject, Downing is not above bringing in the voice of the satirists who mocked the fashionable. This is a valuable little volume for anyone interested in Regency costume, and very handy for anyone writing about the period: both distracting and informative." -"Georgian London / "(March 2010)

""Fashion in the Time of Jane Austen"'s 62 pages are jam-packed with information and images. Some of the material that author Sarah Jane Downing wrote about was familiar, but much of it was new. While I finished the book in two sittings, I know I will be using it frequently for future reference... I give this book three out of three regency fans and recommend it highly to all readers who are interested in Regency fashion and historical romance writers who are interested in precise details of dress." -"Jane Austen's World "(March 2010)

Product Description

The broader Regency period 1795 to 1820, stands alone as an incredible moment in fashion history, unlike anything that went before it. For the first time England became a fashion influence, especially for menswear, and became the toast of Paris, as court dress became secondary to the season-by-season flux of fashion as we know it today. Sarah Jane Downing explores the fashion revolution and the innovation that inspired a flood of fashions taking influence from far afield. It was an era of contradiction immortalised by Jane Austen, who adeptly used the new-found diversity of fashion to enliven her characters: Wickham’s military splendour; Mr Darcy’s understated elegance; and Miss Tilney’s romantic fixation with white muslin.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 2179 KB
  • Print Length: 56 pages
  • Publisher: Shire Publications (15 July 2011)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B005D7V85Q
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #255,115 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
30 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Lovely little book! 22 Jun 2010
By M. Rose
This book will be loved by anyone with an interest in Jane Austen or the society she depicted so beautifully in her writing.

Illustrations from the period are placed alongside very readable and interesting passages that connect the styles and trends to the political and social context of the day. Thus, it is part social anthropology, part 'Vogue' article!

In particular, the illustrations of outfits for a variety of occasions are a joy in themselves. For anyone with a love of fashion, it's fascinating to see how much English and European styles have changed since Austen's time, while some of our attitudes to clothes and to presenting ourselves through them remain the same.

It is in short, a really lovely little book that I would recommend to all.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book 3 Nov 2013
By Leta
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Contains paintings and a few fashion plates of the period. It is a quick read but the information is a little more brief than other sources
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars GREAT INTRODUCTION TO REGENCY FASHION 2 July 2013
This little book is a very nice introduction on Regency fashion. Although only about 60 pages, it is very concise and informative, as it documents all the developments in fashion both for men and women during Jane Austen's lifetime. It is fascinating to see to what extend the political and social changes of the time influenced the way people dressed and how the new philosophical ideas were reflected on the new trends. The well researched and easy to read text is accompanied by many wonderful illustrations from the period, and also by photographs of items of clothing that either belonged to Jane Austen herself, or were created by her.

I always liked the clothes of that period, but I never realized what radical changes occurred in fashion during Austen's time, and how fortunate my favorite authoress was to have lived in a time when women's fashion was so liberating and relaxed, as opposed to the restrictive clothes worn before her time and later during the Victorian era.

The book is lovely and I highly recommend it for anyone with an interest in Georgian and Regency fashion, as well as for all those Jane Austen fans, like me, who love to read about her world. However, it has to be said, that this is more an introduction on the period's fashion, rather than an extensive, in depth research on the subject. Also, if you are interested in recreating the clothes worn at that time, this book has no instructions or patterns.
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By Joan C.
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Okay but rather short on content and more illustrations would have been useful even in black and white sketch form. It's a sort of very small coffee table book. Lovely to look at and an easy read
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.3 out of 5 stars  12 reviews
62 of 62 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Definitely mixed 21 April 2010
By Ann Wass - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
One does not expect comprehensive detail in one of the Shire albums, but one does expect what is there to be accurate. This book has absolutely wonderful illustrations (some, unfortunately, uncredited), but the text is mixed. Seems to have been written in a hurry, and without adequate verification. For example, Ms. Downing writes of men's fashion, "it was the 'battle between broadcloth and silk' as Balzac had termed it in 1798." Since Balzac was born in 1799, he clearly was looking back when he wrote this, rather than writing it in 1798! And, however much the Austen family wishes that the Rice portrait (p. 11) is Jane herself, that is extremely unlikely. A teen-aged Jane, even a fashion forward one, would not have dressed like that in 1792-93. The portrait is almost certainly someone of the next generation.

The price of the volume is low, so it worth buying for the pictures alone, but please do further research before accepting what is in the text.
15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Useful Book for Janeites 28 April 2010
By Vic - Published on
Ever since I learned that this book would be coming out in the spring, I couldn't wait for its arrival. The title alone told me that it was tailor made to my interests. Slim and more a monograph than a book, Fashion in the Time of Jane Austen's 62 pages are jam-packed with information and images. Some of the material that author Sarah Jane Downing wrote about was familiar, but much of it was new. While I finished the book in two sittings, I know I will be using it frequently for future reference.

Until the Napoleonic Wars, France had influenced fashions in Britain and Europe. It was the custom of messengers known as les grandes couriers de la mode to deliver the latest French fashions to the great courts of Europe in person. Wearing designer creations, their costumes were analyzed from head to toe and then tried on and taken apart. Patterns were made from the resulting pieces. People who visited cities and returned home were plied with questions about the latest trends in fashions by those who stayed behind. Soon, fashion journals appeared showing images of fashions, home furnishings, and architectural plans, and new styles trickled down to even those who lived in the farthest reaches of England.

The French Revolution marked a radical shift from the elegant, wide-skirted brocade gowns so prevalent for most of the 18th century to the streamlined, body-hugging, empire-waisted silhouettes of the Directoire Period that were inspired by classical antiquity. Wide hooped skirts were still worn for appearances at court, but gowns became simpler, narrower, and more vertical. In fact, the change in dress silhouettes was so dramatic that such a radical shift in style would not occur again until the flapper era and the jazz age over a century later.

Jane Austen's books were written during the narrow time frame when empire dresses with their high waists, short sleeves and décolletté necklines reigned supreme in the fashion world. When long sleeves were introduced in evening dress, she wrote Cassandra:

"I wear my gauze gown today long sleeves & all; I shall see how they succeed, but as yet I have no reason to suppose long sleeves are allowable. Mrs. Tilson has long sleeves too, & she assured me that they are worn in the evening by many. I was glad to hear this. - Jane Austen, 1814"

Male attire also went through a dramatic change. Ruffles and ornate brocaded fabrics gave way to intricately folded neckcloths, simple shirts, stark jackets and leg-hugging breeches. The emphasis was on the neckcloths, but not the shirts, which were sewn by women, not tailors. Jane was known to be an excellent seamstress, and she wrote about completing a batch of shirts for her brother Charles: "[I] am to send his shirts by half dozens as they are finished; one set will go next week," and "In Mansfield Park Fanny price works diligently to ensure that her brother's linen is ready when he goes to sea." - p 13.

There are so many other interesting tidbits of information. Fashion in the Time of Jane Austen discusses accessories, underwear, half dress, full dress, court dress and more. I wish a timeline had been included of when hems were raised and when they became decorative; precisely how the Napoleonic Wars affected fashion in both England and France and who influenced who and when; and when waists when up, then down, then up and down again. Another quibble I had was with the book's cover, which John Pettie painted in 1887. With all the lush images and paintings available of regency misses and their chaperones and suitors, why choose a Victorian painting?
19 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A little glistening jewel of information on British fashion during the Georgian and Regency periods 19 May 2010
By Laurel Ann - Published on
"Revolution had changed the world and fashion had dressed it accordingly." Sarah Jane Downing

It is hard for me not to think of a Jane Austen movie adaptation and not remember how fashion influenced my enjoyment of the film. Some of my most vivid memories are of Elizabeth Bennet walking the verdant countryside in her russet colored spencer jacket in Pride and Prejudice 1995, Marianne Dashwood spraining her ankle and being carried to safety by Willoughby in her rain drenched white muslin frock in Sense & Sensibility 1995, or Mary Crawford ready to pounce like a black widow spider in her cobwebby evening dress in Mansfield Park 1999. Much of how we perceive Regency fashion today is from film costume designer's interpretations of the fashions during Jane Austen's time. I admit to admiring the fine cut of a gentleman's tailored redingote or the elegant flow of a ladies formal evening dress as much as the next Janeite, but am totally clueless about why and how fashion changed so drastically since the heavy brocades, embroidered silks and powdered wigs of pre-revolutionary France.

As an introduction to Georgian and Regency fashion, this slim 63 page volume answered many questions and gave me a better understanding of the evolution of fashion, its importance in society and how English style influenced the world. The chapters are neatly broken down into seven significant categories: The Age of Elegance, The Rise of English Fashion, A Fine Romance, Beau Brummell and the Great Renunciation, Rousseau and Fashion Au Natural, Reticule and Ridicule, and After the age of Elegance. Throughout are beautiful (but small) images from original sources such as the popular women's fashion magazines Ackermann's Repository and La Belle Assemblée, portraits by the leading painters of the day Sir Henry Raeburn, Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres and Sir Thomas Lawrence, and photographs of vintage clothing from the era. Interspersed throughout the text are references to Jane Austen, her family and characters in her novels to tie into a description of clothing or styles. A brief index at the back allows for quick reference by topic, person or place.

As part of the popular Shire Library series, FASHION IN THE TIME OF JANE AUSTEN is a little glistening jewel of information on British fashion during the Georgian and Regency periods. For the novice historian it will inform and whet your appetite. For the veteran it will be a great refresher. For each, you will appreciate Downing's straight forward presentation of material and her handling of the sense of the ridiculous that fashion can take by including Gillray caricatures and comical anecdotes. From the perspective of a Jane Austen enthusiast, Downing does state some eyebrow raising facts that to my knowledge have yet to be proven. As much as the Austen descendants would like the "Rice portrait" to be of Jane Austen, even my rudimentary knowledge of Regency fashion styles and math calculate the portrait to be much later than the 1792-93 range evaluated by experts, and the James Stanier Clarke portrait of a lady with a fur muff could be Jane Austen, but we shall never know for sure. (Best to say possibly Jane Austen to be safe and raise your credibility.) A small quibble in an overall splendid little treasure trove sure to please the Austenista in all of us.

Laurel Ann, Austenprose
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great costuming resource 20 Oct 2011
By Solitaire - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I picked up Fashion in the Time of Jane Austen for the sake of getting a free shipment. I participate in English Country Dancing in my county, and once a year my husband and I go to the big Jane Austen ball. I've taken my share of fashion courses in college, including History of Costume, so I wasn't expecting a lot of new information, but this little gem of a book is surprisingly informative with bits of info that I'd never heard previously. For instance the light colored, close fitting trousers that men wore were meant to allude to the nude legs of male antique Greco-Roman statues being unearthed at the time. A lot of good reference illustrations in contemporary cartoons as well as reproductions of paintings and engravings, some familiar, some not so much.

As I make our attire for the balls, the more information I have on what is authentic, including colors, fabrics, et al, the better our Austen inspired costumes come off at the events. I know I only gave this book four stars, but only because I wish that the book had been longer with more of the same good info. I read it cover to cover in about an hour. However I do believe it's worth the money for anyone with an appreciation of the Regency or an interest in researching authentic clothing of the period.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars size is not everything! 17 May 2010
By Patricia B. C. Rudge - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I bought the book for specific purposes. I needed material that could be related to Jane Austen's living time. My only concern was about the size of the book - so tiny, I thought! But it was a great surprise, in the best way! The book not only contains a LOT of information, but also a lot of really good pictures that makes possible not only understand the behave of that time but visualize it. So, I truly recommend it!
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