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Jane Austen Fashion [Hardcover]

Penelope Byrde

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Book Description

23 Sep 1999
A study of clothes and fashion in Jane Austen's novels and letters with many contemporary colour illustrations.

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Penelope Byrde discusses every aspect of female fashion in ... 'Women's Dress', including what it meant to be a well-dressed woman, ...and the chapter on 'Men's Dress' is no less revealing. But it is the chapter on 'The Making and Care of Clothes' that brings the period most vividly to life.....Fashion plates seen at the dressmaker or at friends gave ideas of how elegant one might look, and the book is lavishly illustrated with beautiful examples well chosen to complement the text. -- The Oldie, January 2000

Penelope Byrde makes use of the letters and novels to give a background to the making and care of dress, describing fashionable bonnets, parasols and reticules and providing an insight into the role of the dressmaker and the mantua-maker. Public mourning seems to have called for some ingenuity. On a visit to London in March 1814, Austen wrote ...'I have determined to trim my lilac sarsenet with black sattin ribbon just as my China crape is, 6d width at bottom, 3d or 4d at top...With this addition is will be a very successful gown. -- Times Literary Supplement, 9th February 2001

From the Author

Jane Austen was not only a brilliant social observer but also a skilled needlewoman, with a keen interest in fashion. In this book I have drawn together the fascinating insights into the dress and etiquette of her time that her letters and novels provide. I studied the History of Dress for a postgraduate degree at the Courtauld Institute of Art and have written several other books on the history of costume. I currently work as Curator of the Museum of Costume and Fashion Research Centre in Bath, and am a life member of the Jane Austen Society.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.0 out of 5 stars  3 reviews
27 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Charming introduction to fashion in Jane Austen's time 3 Jan 2007
By Elizabeth A. Root - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This is a lovely little book with numerous color pictures, mostly fashion plates, and decorative chapter headings. The title of the chapter is in red, there is an orange decoration, and then the first letter is enlarged and printed in blue, a very pretty effect. Further, the author, Penelope Byrde, is curator at the fabulous Bath Museum of Costume and an established expert in the field. If one is looking for a good introduction to the era's costumes, especially one that is visually pleasing as well as informative, this is a great choice. I would consider it as particularly suited as a gift to someone just learning about the era.

The discussions are tied into Jane Austen's life and works, with extensive quotations of her novels, letters, and family accounts. These are carefully annotated. The bibliiography deals with sources about Austen, rather than further costume references.

I suppose that this does offer a great deal for people who are truly knowledgeable about the subject, but for those of us who know a bit, but not a lot, it is still useful. It seems that I always learn a bit more than I knew. The pictures alone may make one want the book, even if one does have other sources, and one does have the assurance that Byrde is authoritative.

I am left with one question: is the very different silhouette shown in Niklaus von de Heideloff's plates (late 18th to very early 19th century) entirely due to changes in fashion (i.e., the narrowing of skirts, or did he just like to draw women with more abundant figures?
17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Loved this! 10 July 2009
By Karen L. Field - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Want to know the difference between and spencer and a pelisse? What is a reticule? What kind of needlework did Jane Austen do? What is kersymere? If you enjoy this period of history then you should have this book on your shelf. I will keep it as a reference book. I loved reading it. If you area textile afficianado then this is for you, too. Short and a lively read.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Hard to get, expensive to own, Excellent but comparable to others costing less 22 July 2012
By Dangerous when Cooking - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
First, this rating is NOT a reflection on the quality of the work by Byrde, which is admirable, but rather a warning to others about the cost/value of buying it. (I believe the book is only available in the resale market so this 2-star ding will not harm the author in any way.) The cheapest copy was more than $42+4 shipping when I bought it. Ouch!

For that, you'll get a well-researched but very brief overview of women's (and men's) fashion 1775 up to 1817, Austen's death. 128 pp cover to cover including all the obligatory copyright, table of contents etc. so closer to 112 pages of text on the subject. Illustrations are helpful but not plentiful. Noteworthy strengths are sections on the care of clothes (which I've always wondered about and now understand the need for a whole army of servants) and a section on men's clothing which explains proper gentleman's attire for typical occasions.

If you are an avid Jane Austen fan, there are other options. If you want to study the period perhaps it pays its way.

In sum, the research is wonderful but it's a costly summary. A less expensive option is "Fashion in the Times of Jane Austen" by Downing. Also sold used but must be easier to come by because it's priced so as not to draw blood.
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