Wednesday, July 30, 2014

A Regency fashion parade at Woodford Academy July 2014

On a sunny but very cold Saturday in July, I ran a fashion parade for the Woodford Academy in Woodford, the oldest building in the Blue Mountains, built in 1835. My models, all good friends and brilliant costumers, volunteered along with me to do this as a fund raiser for the Academy. To quote the Academy:
"Thank you to all who attended Lorna McKenzie’s Regency fashion parade. The Parade was both highly entertaining and very informative. We were absolutely thrilled to have a full house. The Woodford Academy Management Committee is very grateful for the ongoing support from our creative community which is critical in ensuring that this historic building remains open for all to experience and enjoy. Thanks again to Lorna McKenzie and her wonderful models."
Many couldn't attend, so I am giving you a taste of the event through my blog. Enjoy!
War, revolution, lost colonies of the Americas
We start in the early era of budding Sydney Town, the British claimed Australia as its own and in 1788 Sydney is the capital of the British colony of New South Wales. Britain was at war with France on and off throughout the Regency period, so uniforms play a big part in the clothing for men, but first, let’s look at a sporting costume from 1790s. …

1. Royal Society of British Bowman
Sir Foster founded the Society of British Bowmen in 1787. It was an ideal way to socialise with his social equals around Wrexham in England. The society was open to ladies and gentlemen. Initially the sport was the top priority. The Society quickly gained the patronage of George, Prince of Wales. He gave a prize each year to the gentlemen and the ladies. The Society also had its own poet who wrote suitable rhymes about the host and the guests.
At So and So's the other day
    The Clouds were in a passion
    His art no archer could display
    Since grape shot came in fashion
A poetic hint at the drinking.

The meetings were the place to be seen. It was a dating agency for the upper classes of Wrexham. Archery was not the only sport at these meetings. Ooooooh, la la!

Dinah's outfit is based on an extant Royal British Bowmen original jacket circa 1794 in the Manchester City Galleries. The original uniform is glazed wool trimmed with silk & linen, but as glazed wool is both hard to find and not suited to our climate, Dinah used polished cotton. Dinah’s guess of a white skirt has been confirmed in? an aquatint of the 1794 women's competition in Wales after her uniform was sewn. To be completely accurate it should have a pink van dyke trim piped with green on the hem. Dinah wears a style of hat called a Lunardi and is based on a fashion plates she researched via pinterest. She is carrying an original 19th century bow and arrow.

As already mentioned, The Royal British Bowmen was the first archery society to admit women members in 1787, and although women members had no fees, there were fines of 1 guinea for not wearing the uniform at meets. The best scoring lady at the first meeting of the year would be the Lady Paramount for the season, and in charge of all female members and had the power to fining any for lady for misbehaviour.
2. Baudin era French naval uniform
In 1800, Baudin set off from France with battle corvettes refitted for a peaceful expedition to the Great Southern Land during a lull in the Napoleonic wars. The ships were renamed Géographe and Naturaliste. Captain Baudin did not get along with the young free thinking gentlemen on board. He died on the return trip allowing François Péron to write the official journal of the voyage ruining Baudin's reputation. Péron also offered a proposal to the governor of Mauritius for how Sydney may be invaded. There is no evidence that anybody took this seriously.

Philip’s French naval uniform was worn from late 1793 to 1804 and is based on a portrait of Captain Jean-Jacques Magendie (painted in 1802). Philip made this uniform in classes with me.

The embroidery primarily indicated ranks until they were officially abolished in 1800. Many people continued to wear embroidery on their uniforms regardless. At the time of the Baudin expedition to Australia (1800-1803) a uniform like this without embroidery would indicates the naval rank of Lieutenant.

 3. Off with their heads!
Death, destruction, fear, excitement, opportunities, change, the world is in turmoil for all and extremely
dangerous for aristocrats. This is France in the late 18th century.  Robspierre's reign of terror is in full swing; the rules and laws change, and then change again.  The monarchy is gone, the French Revolution changes the world.

How to survive, how to cope? The answer? Be prepared for Madam Guillotine and party like its 1794! The Reign of Terror and the Directoire period in France is a time of fast and furious change in everything from who is important, who is dangerous to know, how you wear your clothes, what's important to survive, the fashion you wear, the music you listen to, the laws that rule your life, the way you live from day to day, all is in flux!

The silks and satins of the years before are replaced by simple but expensive cottons from India. Archeological discoveries of Roman and Greek statues referring to democracy and republicanism are the rage and influencing fashion, architecture and furniture. To look like a Roman senator or Grecian goddess is the height of fashion.

Your wig is old hat, but what do you do with the short hair under it? Turn it into a fashion statement my dear and wear your hair 'a la Titus', i.e. like a Roman, fashionable for both men and woman.
4. The Peninsula Wars, the Grasshoppers and their wives – Alex and Deanne
Alex is a member of the 95th Rifles re-enactment group. The 95th is a Napoleonic British Regiment raised in 1800. Deane is his wife and has been allowed to accompany him on his campaign. This means he has a better chance of survival, as he has a cook, nurse; help meet and, hopefully won’t get Syphilis! 

To match Alex's 95th uniform Deanne is wearing her camp followers out fit which is a dark  green woolen skirt, striped yellow and white vest. Tartan navy and green shawl and white plain bonnet.

The 95ths green uniform dress, tactics and training was dramatically different from the normal red-coated British line Infantry of the day. The green uniform aided in their ability to conceal themselves, and their rifled firearms increased the accuracy of their fire. Their training allowed them to work in pairs, use marksmanship principles and actively shoot at human targets.

The Rifle Corps was fundamental in the success of the British Army and was the basis of the modern Army. The 95th Rifles still exist in the British Army, now named the 'The Green Jackets'. The 95th Rifles were never deployed to Australia but many veterans of the Napoleonic War migrated to Australia.

5. A fashion plate from France
War and revolution influenced fashion in many ways; the new high- waisted gowns that represented freedom and ancient democratic cultures meant that the fashion magazines of the day went mad with many ideas for high fashion. Like high fashion today, one suspects that some were never developed past the Vogue photoshoot or a water colour drawing from Ackerrman’s Respository.

Dinah is prettily presenting a reproduction from a fashion plate from Year 11 of the Directoire period in France, 1803 in non-French counting. She wore this at the ball for the Jane Austen Festival in Canberra this year, and my dears, everyone was bowled over by her beauty and grace, as are we now!

6. French civilian (naturalist) outfit
 The gentleman of the Regency and Directoire period undertook the study of botany and different animals in their habitat. Naturalists abounded in Sydney town, clogging the narrow and muddy streets, exploring out to Parramatta, Botany Bay and Penrith to see the new world flora and fauna animals of kangaroos, emus, wattle and grevillias. They were hHoping to find something to claim as new, kill it, stuff it, present a paper back home on it and name it after themselves.

Phillip is representing a French civilian naturalist. His Empire style linen coat is typical for 1805-1820. It has a Republican cockade on a button, as many of the naturalists (especially Labillardière) were inspired by the egalitarian ideals promised by the Enlightenment. A Royalist would wear a white cockade and a Bonapartist might wear the Imperial red, white and blue as seen on the military uniforms.

7. Adventurous women
There is a lot of upheaval at this time, women’s husbands die in war and they need to support themselves and
their family - , widows pensions as we know them do not exist. Sydney Town, with its lure of wealth to be made through new land unencumbered by aristocracy, calls a siren song from afar. Adventurous widows of substance take the chance, book a place on a ship sailing to Sydney Town to try their luck and see what is possible.

Tracey has arrived to do just that, she can hire skilled convicts to till her land and make her profits for her while she hobnobs with the gentry of the town. She is dressed for a dinner with friends; dinner at this time is taken at 4 pm, sometimes earlier. The colony does not have endless wax candles to burn, the native bees do not provide the wax required. She is dressed in a Grecian style gown of fine white muslin, with a trained over gown in scarlet. White and pale colours are all the rage, the archeological statue finds are all white, so it is believed that they were always so. White is the height of fashion and it says ‘I’m rich and don’t have to worry about my laundry’, the red silk says what silk always says, ‘I’m rich’. I understand there is a gentleman of the party who is keen to make her acquaintance …

8. Furthering his interests in the colony
The country fashion of the English gentleman has changed men’s fashion forever. Where the women have
moved into soft and simple gowns, with minimal underpinnings, the men are keen to emulate the ‘huntin, shootin and fishin’ gentry of England. Gone are lace, bright colour and silk. An English gentleman wears russets, greens, yellow nankin, buck skin pants so tight that you can see everything and I mean ‘everything’. Beau Brummel will arrive soon and take colour from men’s wardrobe forever, well mostly, his is a style of basic black, white cravats and spotless linens. But the countryman still revels in his dull coloured sports wear and men of today can be grateful as this lead the way to jeans!

J-L is at the Rocks waiting for the mail packet to arrive with letters from home; it’s six months between communications with his wife and children in England. He sports the long coat of the period; this is an adaptation of an 18th century man’s ‘around the house’ coat known as a Banyan, the ‘onesie’ of the 18th c man. Well it’s left the house and is elevated to the dining rooms, saloons and ballrooms all over Europe and the Colonies. He wears a silk waistcoat, a linen shirt and silk cravat and is sporting the knee breech and white silk stockings with clocks. His shoes have buckles as the 18th c still has some influence over his wardrobe. Gloves and a top hat complete his attire.

9. A glittering ball at Government House
The foundation for Government House on Sydney Harbour was laid only three months after the First Fleet landed, but it took a year to build. Once built it became the place for social gatherings in the colony. It’s not the one we know today, that was built much latter. Still, for its time and place, it is a building of substance and grace.

Kathy, Miriam and Angela are off to a glittering ball in honour of the victory over Napoleon in 1813. Napolean kicks his heels in Elba trying to figure out how to escape and the British party at their success. Their husbands are ex Rum Corp officers transferred into the 73rd regiment after the Rum Rebellion in 1809. They have remained to serve the colony and their personal land interest.

As wives of officers whose pay often doesn’t make ends meet, they have refashioned the bold embroidered silk from their late 18th c. gowns, Miriam is the exception, she is in mourning for the death of her child 12 months ago.

All three wear the bib front gown style popular a few years earlier; their gowns have a smooth column front and lovely draping with a train at the back. They wear flats like ballet slippers; heels are very out of fashion and remain so for over 20 years! Hair is in ringlets, or still short as in Kathy’s case. The hairstyles reflect those as seen on the ancient statues of Greece and Rome. They wear gloves and carry fans to keep cool in the warmth of the Australian evening.
10. Trowsers by gad!
John is sporting fashionable trowsers (sic) of the mid Regency period. Trousers were first worn by sailors and working men before 1800, and were adopted by the fashionable set around 1810. Originally known as “slops”, trousers were loose-fitting and ended at the ankle. As trousers were adopted, long stockings with decorative clocks were replaced by half-hose, all but destroying the stocking industry, which had thrived since breeches had become fashionable.

They were fastened with a flap in front called a fall front, not surprisingly! This flap was held in place by two or three buttons at the top. No belts were worn. Instead, breeches, pantaloons and trousers were held up by tight-fitting waists, which were adjusted by gusset ties in back of the waist. Seats were baggy to allow a man to rise comfortably from a sitting position. As waists rose to the belly button after 1810, suspenders were used to hold the garment up.

Pantaloons were recommended for men whose legs were both slim and muscular. The idea was to show off a good leg. If men possessed deficiencies in musculature, a slight degree of stuffing was recommended, although padding, it was assumed, would be used with the greatest care and circumspection. Interestingly, stockings worn under pantaloons were kept in place by the tightness of the design and fabric.
11. Red coats! Trooper uniform of the 73rd Regiment of Foot 
Philip is representing a “lance jack” or lance corporal as shown by one rank stripe on the arm in the first battalion of the 73rd regiment of Foot served in Australia from 1809 to 1815. These were Governor Macquarie's troops who relieved the NSW (Rum) Corps and maintained civil order.

They supervised convict work parties, hunted bush rangers and defended the colony from invasion but their biggest challenge was boredom and lack of opportunity for military glory.

Australia did not have a dedicated artillery regiment at this time and one of the duties of the 73rd regiment was to man a gun battery at Dawes Point, which is now the site of the Sydney Harbour bridge.

12. Second sons and fortune hunters
The new colony is a magnet to second sons who want to leave the confines of England and find a fortune in a
new land. America isn’t as easy to them anymore and we’re the ‘new kid on the block’ and we all know its ‘first in, best dressed’ so out they flock to the great southern land of promising futures of squatocracy and living off the sheep’s back. Fine wool means wealth, everyone wears it, all uniforms are made from it, you can become as rich as a Nabob off the ‘sheep’s back’.

Alex is from Scotland, the second son, no money, but skilled in sheep rearing, he hopes to secure some land and learn from Elizabeth MacArthur about sheep breeding to develop a long staple wool that will change the weaving world! His Kilt and jacket are copies of an extant suit made in 1800. The fundamental differences from the modern kilt are the fastening buttons instead of buckles and lack of formal pleating requirements. The Regency jacket has little resemblance to the formal modern kilt jacket.

Deanne is wearing a brushed cotton , regency style dress for warmth in a checked purple. Over the top she's sporting a tartan Spencer and matching cap.

Their daughter is wearing a white cotton dress with blue flower with bib opening front.Over this she is wearing a full length apricot woolen Spencer and matching cap.

13. The gothic revival
As the Regency moves on, dress starts to lose the simple Grecian lines and move into a more structured format and by the teens the fashion style is influenced by the gothic styles of the Renaissance. Gowns start to take on aspects of style, such as split sleeves, many more trims and furbelows, Renaissance style head dresses, etc. Miss Austen makes fun of the Gothic revival in Northanger Abbey, while others, such as Mrs Radcliffe, write tales of gothic horror that curl the hair of her Regency readers.

Alex is wearing a stunning recreation of Mrs. Hurst’s gothic style full dress (ball gown), as seen in the BBC’s Pride and Prejudice adaptation in the mid-90s.

Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility were written in 1811 but published in 1813. According to a biography writer, Jane revised her books, and the fashion between their covers, accordingly before being published.

The original gown was made in green silk with green velvet contrast. Alex’s is brown with burgundy velvet contrast. Other than that, the gown is decorated as closely as possible to the original BBC costume.

Her jewellery and headpiece are also replicas of the film costume and were created by a good friend.
14. Australia, your standing in it!
‘Prinny’ The Prince Regent, ascends the throne of England as George IV on the 29 January 1820, the regency era is over.

The French Revolution is long over and with Napoleon safely removed from the scene, in distant St Helena, the Bourbon king Louis XVIII -  who is restored to the throne now for the second time - attempts to establish the constitutional monarchy which has been the condition of his dynasty's return.

In 1824, the British Admiralty officially adopts the name ‘Australia’; we have ‘arrived’ on the map of the European world.

It’s a decade where the native born children of first settlers and convicts alike assert themselves and their rights to what William Wentworth and others toast as ‘the land, boys, on which we live!’. Sydney has 1,084 buildings – mostly single-storey dwellings – and 12,079 people and 120,000 sheep! We really are ‘living off the sheep’s back’.

Clare and Phoebe are daughters of freed convict parents who received land grants
and are prospering. News of such prosperity upsets the English government; transportation should be seen as a terrifying prospect, a deterrent to crime. During the 1820s, the dreadful penal settlements of Moreton Bay, Macquarie Harbour, Port Macquarie and Norfolk Island were established and gained reputations for harsh punishments and severe cruelty.

Both young women wear gowns designed by me from extant originals from the early
1820s. They are dressed in the late Gothic revival style that still holds sway on fashion, their waistlines have dropped and will continue to the natural waist over the next few years. The classic and clean lines of revolution and change have departed and we move to over decorated gowns, rope petticoats appear to give an A-line shape, rather than a graceful drape. Both these gowns are dress patterns in my ‘Stitch Up History’ collection and will be published in the near future.

If you've read down this far, thank you, and I hope you've enjoyed a trip the early Sydney Town fashions.


I'm The Tailor's Apprentice, maker of The Miss Page 1940s reproduction patterns, gowns developed from pattern pieces found amongst the remnants of Miss Violet Florence Page’s life and work. Affordable, elegant, and unique garments from the 1940s war years. 

All my patterns are available on Etsy and my website where you'll find out more about me as well. This year I am publishing an 1820s gown wardrobe pattern and have already published the Australian Army Nurses Services WWI uniform pattern.

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