Georgian Costumes

Georgian and Regency Character Costume Ideas

The Georgian era started in 1714 with the death of Queen Anne (the last of the Stuarts). Costumes of the period were extremely elaborate amongst the aristocracy, with the court of Versaille dictating fashion of the period, until the collapse of the French monarchy, following the French Revolution.

Hoops were used under dresses and determined the look during the 1700’s. First they were flattened at the front and back, then oval and finally towards the end of the 18th century, bell-shaped. Powdered wigs and hairpieces were very popular with huge elaborate fashions for both males and females.  Exotic hats were also worn. Make-up and powder was worn by both males and females as were patches on the face such as hearts, beauty spots, etc..

The 1700s saw a number of famous painters including John Constable, J M W Turner, Thomas Gainsborough and William Hogarth. The latter two were most famous for their portraits which are a great source of reference if you are looking for costume inspiration for the period.

The early 1780s, saw the dawn of the ‘Romantic era’ and with it came a new style of dress.  Classical revival was centred on simple & clean-cut lines. Gone were the extravagances of the rest of the 1700s.  Think plain, high-waisted dresses such as worn by Jane Austen or the Empress Josephine.  The aristocracy and servants were for the first time dressing similarly, with the preference being for lightweight and sheer fabrics, such as muslin. Large Kashmir shawls which were warm and light, and had richly woven borders, proved popular. Heavy cumbersome wigs were dispensed with and loose, lightly curled hair done in the Ancient Greek style was much favoured, with simplicity of style one of the key elements. Bonnets also became popular.

Male fashion throughout the 1700s was based on the cutaway coat, long breeches, shirt, long waistcoat, cravat, wig and tricorne hat.  By the start of the 1800s the use of wool broadcloth and superior tailoring of the English meant Britain became fashion leaders in Men’s outfits. Coats and waistcoats became much plainer and were worn with long ‘made to measure’ trousers (instead of breeches) for the first time.

  • Beau Brummell (Real name George Bryan) – Fashion Guru of late 1700s/early 1800s and close confidante of Prince Regent, future George IV) until they quarreled in 1813.
  • Beau Nash Regency Dandy.
  • Bonnie Prince Charlie – Known as ‘The Young      Pretender’. Was brought up to believe the Scots and English wanted the      Stuarts back on the throne. His Jacobite troops were defeated at the      battle of Culloden in 1746. Fled disguised as a woman.
  • Lady Caroline Lamb – Lover of the poet Lord Byron, whom she said was “Mad, bad and dangerous to know”.
  • Charles & John Wesley founded the Methodist movement in 1729.
  • Dick Turpin – Infamous Highwayman who was executed in 1739.
  • Lady Emma Hamilton – Lover of Lord Horatio Nelson.
  • King George I  – Ascended the throne in 1714-1727.  Elector of Hanover and Grandson of James I. He ascended the throne following the death of Queen Anne.
  • King George II  – Ascended the throne in1727. Reigned with his wife Caroline until 1760.
  • King George III (1760-1820) – The film ‘The Madness of King George’ (1994) is a good source of reference for costumes of the period.
  • King George IV (1820-1830) – Prince Regent during the ‘Regency Years’ when his father King George III was suffering from Porphyria.
  • George Frederick Handel – Composer of the Water Music amongst others.
  • Lord Horatio Nelson – Killed in 1805 at the Battle of Trafalgar. Military style costume of the period.
  • Jane Austen – Romantic novelist whose works included Pride and Prejudice, Sense & Sensibility and Emma. 
  • Josephine – Wife of Napoleon and Empress. The Empire line (high-waisted) dress was attributed to her.
  • Les Miserables Characters – Set during the time of the French Revolution, this musical is a good source of reference for the look of the period.
  • Louis XVI – Last of the French Kings.  Guillotined in the French Revolution.
  • Ludwig Van Beethoven –  Judge style wig worn with plain clothes of the period.
  • Madame de Pompadour Extravagant Mistress of Louis XV.
  • Marie Antoinette – Ill fated queen of Louis XVI.  A very popular choice of      costume, with some even in the short, skimpy style. (Not correct for the period, but great for masked balls – a popular Georgian past-time).                         
  • Napoleon Bonaparte – He rose to prominence during the latter part of the French Revolution and became Emperor of the French from 1804-1814.  Military      costume in blue, white, red and gold, worn with bicorne hat.
  • Percy Bysshe Shelley –  He, along with John Keats, William Wordsworth, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, William Blake and Lord Byron were known as the Romantic Poets.
  • Robert Peel – Home Secretary who instigated the founding of the police force by Act of Parliament in 1829.
  • Scarlet Pimpernel – Fictitious character created by Baroness Orczy. A British aristocrat who ‘rescued’ some of the French aristocracy from Madame Guillotine.
  • William IV – Reigned from 1830-1837.  Queen Victoria succeeded him following his death.
  • (Johann Chrysostom) Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart – Composer whose life was portrayed in the 1984 film ‘Amadeus’.

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