Modesto Jane Con: Dressing the Regency Lady

So if you have been following me, you know I have been super excited about Modesto Jane Con. The past eight years I have seen pictures from different Jane Cons and festivals and wishing I could go-but they were not possible for me to attend as it always came down to a problem of time, money, work, etc. Instead I had to be content with seeing pictures on social media.

But then Modesto Jane Con was created!

From January 10th-12th there were all kinds of workshops, activities, movies, an opera, and even a fashion show!

Your $30 ticket allowed you to attend the workshops (BOTH DAYS) and see one showing of Mansfield Park Opera (your choice of Saturday or Sunday).

That was it, I was going! And I convinced my book club + my sister to join me. I scrounged around for a costume (I’ll post on that later) and made sure to bring a notebook to take copious notes on the workshop and opera to-of course post on them later (as I am now).

So the first workshop of the day was Gowns & GroansAfter that you had your choice of The Definitive Darcy or Start You Own Book Club. The third workshop was your choice of Dressing the Regency Lady or Are You a Long-Lost Austen? Searching Your Family Tree.

Our group decided against the genealogy as we knew we were not related to Jane Austen. My mom’s side of the family is Mexican with a little bit of Chilean and Chumash Native American. On my father’s side we are Danish and Sicilian Italian. Besides that, I was extremely interested in knowing everything that goes into the outfit of the Regency Lady, so for when I get a costume made I will know what I need. I had thrown something together (more on that later) for the event, but eventually I want to get an accurate costume made.

This workshop was led by Elizabeth Layton:

There’s a lot going on beneath those deceptively simple Regency gowns. Stays long and short, chemises, petticoats, and more. Costume College graduate and Costume Society member, Layton will walk us through the layers that make a lady.

Elizabeth Layton is a Costume Historian with nearly 20 years of historical garment research. She has a degree in history and is a costume College attendee.

By the elementary school age, women would be proficient in sewing. They learned it young, and unless they were very wealthy-continued to sew their whole life. The sewing machine was invented in 1790, but a widely used model was not patented until 1830. So Regency women had to do everything by hand. Can you imagine how long that would take?

So the first thing that comes in dressing is the chemise. A chemise was your underwear, basically, and would be washed often. Most women would have a minimum of seven chemises, one for each day of the week, to last them until washday. Chemises had a gathered neckline that come close to the chest and completed the stays. Chemises had to be worn under the stays as the stays were never washed.

Women made their own chemises, unless they were very wealthy and could pay someone else to do it. The women would also make the men’s shirts. Women of the Regemcy era were very thrifty, using every bit of material. Husband’s shirt gets messed up? Turned into a Chemise. Lose or gain weight? Reuse the material to create something else. Eventually as an item became too worn they were made into smaller and smaller things-until they went into the scrap container.

“And pray, sir, what do you think of Miss Morland’s gown?”

“It is very pretty, madam,” said he, gravely examining it; “but I do not think it will wash well; I am afraid it will fray.”

“How can you,” said Catherine, laughing, “be so—” She had almost said “strange.”

“I am quite of your opinion, sir,” replied Mrs. Allen; “and so I told Miss Morland when she bought it.”

But then you know, madam, muslin always turns to some account or other; Miss Morland will get enough out of it for a handkerchief, or a cap, or a cloak. Muslin can never be said to be wasted. I have heard my sister say so forty times, when she has been extravagant in buying more than she wanted, or careless in cutting it to pieces.” –Northanger Abbey

After the chemise, the stockings and boots would go next. It is easier to put the boots on first, as after the stays were put on, bending down would be extremely uncomfortable. Stockings would have embroidery, called clocking, over the ankle and seam to hide it.

The stays would go on next and had a busk that went down the middle, the breastbone area. It is called a divorce stay, as it lifts and separates the breast-showing two instead of creating one like the previous dresses did.

After the stays, went on a “petticoat”, which was essentially a slip. The top layer dress would be sheer, so this was on for modesty. The slip might be colored, fancy, simple and depending on the weather would be cotton or wool. The slip and dress would be buttoned up the back. The buttons would be handmade with thread and were called dorset buttons.

Layton mentioned that prostitutes wouldn’t have used a slip and girls who were on the wilder, wanting-to-show-off-their-bodies side would moisten the slip with water to show their legs. In the book, Victoria and the Rogue, Victoria gets engaged to Lord Hugo Rothschild, Earl of Malfrey and he throws a party for her. In the book, here we get a glance that maybe the Earl isn’t the best person for Victoria as we see that he throws the party not only on Victoria’s dime, but that the people aren’t the most moral and had very loose behavior. I remember Victoria commenting on one of the ladies having a wet skirt and finding it odd. I thought it was weird too, but now I really understand why that lady was making hr legs wet-trying to show off to the guys.

After the slip, essentially to bags were tied on, that would be the pockets. The gown that would go on over would have big slits in the side so every dress would have pockets. The pockets she should is were quite large and it made me wonder-how come we don’t have pockets like that today.

After the pockets came the dress. The dress was kind of like a bib overall, or apron,  with a fitted top that they would pin together. The dress would be patterned muslin, as mentioned in Gowns and Groans.

From Emma (1996)

Yes, that was how the dress stayed together-it was pinned, not sewed, but pinned in the front.

Huh?

I know!

Yes, my thought was that is weird that everything is sewn, except for the last part of the outfit we will just pin it. We will pin the part that covers the breasts. That seems so immodest and all I can think is what if it falls open?

That’s not good.

My second thought? OMG that’s why Mrs. Allen had the pin!!! I thought it was in the dress and she had forgotten to remove it or overlooked it, you know like back when you bought a new button up shirt and it had the pins in it and you had to remove it. No, she had the pins because that is how her dress was held together!

“They were interrupted by Mrs. Allen: “My dear Catherine,” said she, “do take this pin out of my sleeve; I am afraid it has torn a hole already; I shall be quite sorry if it has, for this is a favourite gown, though it cost but nine shillings a yard.”

“That is exactly what I should have guessed it, madam,” said Mr. Tilney, looking at the muslin.

“Do you understand muslins, sir?”

“Particularly well; I always buy my own cravats, and am allowed to be an excellent judge; and my sister has often trusted me in the choice of a gown. I bought one for her the other day, and it was pronounced to be a prodigious bargain by every lady who saw it. I gave but five shillings a yard for it, and a true Indian muslin.”   –Northanger Abbey

After the gown a ribbon would be put on to tie in the back.

During the day the chest was covered with a fichu or chemise that went up to the neck. Thinking back to Gowns and Groans, there were quite a few movies who don’t follow this, especially Mansfield Park (2007), that we had watched right before Modesto Jane Con. In the evening the chemise was changed to a lower one or the fichu removed.

Elinor Dashwood in Sense and Sensibility (1995)

After that would be a long wool coat:

Death Comes to Pemberley

Or a Spencer Jacket. The spencer jacket is a short jacket that the Earl of Spencer had named after him. Supposedly, he was too close to the fire when his tails burned up-creating the jacket.

After that a hat, or Chapeau, would go next and it would have big plumes.

Mansfield Park Opera

Then that they would put on gloves and grab their fan and a reticule.

Emma 1996 AKA the Gwyneth Paltrow version.

Austenland (2013)

Northanger Abbey (2007)

The reticule wouldn’t carry much, maybe a little pin money, but usually a letter of credit from the male relative or guardian that controls their money. Some families, guardians, or husbands wouldn’t give them anything and they would have nothing.

So we enjoyed the workshop and how Layton dressed her assistant as she discussed each layer, but this workshop wasn’t as enjoyable as the others. Layton often went off subject and spoke a lot about Victorian Era clothing and herself. At the beginning of the workshop she shared that she very nervous, and I’m sure that it was led to her going off topic. With the Victorian era I’m not sure if she kept talking about because that is her favorite time period, or if she wanted people to understand the difference between the time periods.

She mentioned that she is a substitute teacher, so I know she is used to speaking in front of a group, but maybe this was her first talk on Regency clothing. She probably just needs to practice and she will be fine. We still learned a lot and I have ideas for next year.

I like Catherine Morland’s outfits.

For more on Modesto Jane Con, go to Modesto Jane Con: Defining the Definitive Darcy and Lizzie

For more Mr. Tilney, go to Jane Austen Chinese Zodiac

For more on Northanger Abbey, go to Let That Catherine Morland Flag Fly Free

The Cambridge Companion to Jane Austen

cambridgecompanionjaneausten

The Cambridge Companion to Jane Austen compiled by editors Edward Copeland and Juliet McMaster. 2003 (originally printed in 1997).

So I read this book I think about five years ago. There is a brief biography of Austen’s life: her as a writer; a work on Northanger Abbey, Sense & Sensibility, and Pride & Prejudice; Mansfield Park, Emma, and Persuasion; her short stories; the Austen letters; class-consciousness; economy of the culture; religion and politics; style in the novels; the significance of her juvenile works; and Austen cults/cultures.

The Lovely Jane

The Lovely Jane

I thought this book was…okay.

Not always the best idea

Meh.

Some of the essays had some very interesting points

StarTrekFascinatingSpockinteresting

While others were boring or just rehashed old ideas that you already knew.

Bones David Bored I;m bored boring

Now in this book’s defense it was published almost twenty years ago, so the ideas in were most likely new at the time. However, some of those writers are just so dusty. You don’t have to write about the past and make it so stifling.

Really?

Come on now. You can be historical and interesting.

The essay that I recall the most, was the one about Northanger Abbey. It was written by Rachel M. Brownstein and I hated it.

Something is not right!

Something is not right!

In her essay she writes about how Northanger Abbey  is a parody of the romantic genre that was popular at the time. I was okay with that.

okay...

Alright…

Northanger Abbey in a way is a rewrite of The Female Quixote or The Adventures of Arabella by Charlotte Lennox. In fact I agreed with a lot of what she said. How Austen made fun of the romantic tropes, actually quite snarkly. In fact she would have fit in today, on Youtube right next to Nostalgia Critic or something.

Here's to another 200 years!

The part I didn’t like was when she started talking smack about Mr. Tilney.

Ryan-Gosling-Oh-No-You-Didnt-Half-Nelson

In her essay she discusses how Mr. Tilney is the most “feminine” of the Austen heroes and that he is dominated by his father; never really making a move or taking any action toward Catherine; everything being done by General Tilney.

princess-leia-i-dont-know-what-youre-talking-about

So as you can tell I had major issues with that.

I don't think so

So she concludes that he is “feminine” rather than “masculine” because he is interested in muslin (something only for a woman), is dominated by his father, and reads novels. I however, feel he is no less masculine than any other Austen man.

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1)Interest in Muslin

tilneyonmuslin

So Catherine has just met Mr. Henry Tilney who is unlike any man she has met or read in books. Instead of being tall, dark, and brooding; he is jovial, saracastic, witty, hilarious, etc. No reserve for him.

They begin on the subject of muslin by Mrs. Allen who is speaking on her muslin dress and how she would hate for it to be torn. It is a favorite of hers and cost but nine shillings a yard. Henry shares that he would have guessed that as he is a great judge of muslin. He buys his own cravats and sometimes his sister’s gowns.

Now there are many ways to look at this:

1. Henry is a Down to Earth Man

jjfeildhenrytilney

So Henry Tilney is a middle son. He knows that like most middle children, he will not inherit much but instead has to make his own fortune.

workhardforthemoney

Military is out as his older brother is in it already, (who wants to be compared to him?), and it doesn’t suit his temperament. He choose the church as a profession, and while he will live comfortably he won’t be a millionaire, unless he marries up. And until he finds this rich heiress to marry, he most likely won’t have servants doing the shopping for him, so he’ll  probably have to go out and do it himself.

He knows his fabric, most likely because he is getting used to living within a means.

2. Henry is a Good Brother

northangerabbeyeleanorhenrytilney

Eleanor Tilney is the youngest of the Tilney clan. She is very reserved and quiet; due to her father General Tilney’s tyrannical ways. We know that the father emotionally abused the mother with his attitude and temperament, being a vampire of spirit, and it is easily concluded that he did the same with his daughter. Because of this, Eleanor doesn’t have many friends, the only one being her brother Henry, and then later Catherine.

The eldest Tilney, Captain Fredrick Tilney, is a lot like his father. He is no friend of Eleanor; leaving Henry to shoulder the big brother responsibilities and to be the protector of his sister. Like Mr. Darcy, there are probably a ton of different things he does for his sister, buying her clothing the least of it.

pride&prejudicedarcygeorgianapiano

3. Henry is Being Sarcastic

mrtilneynorthangerabbeysass

We know that Mr. Tilney has a wicked sense of humor. He is sarcastic, funny, and likes going against society (not 100% but a mini rebellion).

Right before this exchange he and Catherine are discussing her time in Bath, with Mr. Tilney sassily and snarkily making fun of how society expects such bland converstion (much of how Elizabeth does when she and Darcy dance in Pride & Prejudice).

“[Mr. Tilney] I have hitherto been very remiss, madam, in the proper attentions of a partner here; I have not yet asked you how long you have been in Bath; whether you were ever here before; whether you have been at the Upper Rooms, the theatre, and the concert; and how you like the place altogether. I have been very negligent-but are you now at leisure to satisfy me in these particulars? If you are I will begin directly.’

[Catherine Moreland] ‘You need not give yourself that trouble sir.’

[Mr. Tilney] ‘No trouble I assure you, madam.’ Then forming his features in a set smile, and affectedly softening his voice, he added, with a simpering air, ‘Have you been long in Bath, madam?’

‘About a week, sir. ‘ replied Catherine, trying not to laugh.

Really!’ [said Mr. Tilney] with affected astonishment.

Why should you be surprised. sir?’ [asked Catherine]

Why, indeed!’ said he, in his natural tone. ‘But some emotion must appear to be raised by your reply, and surprise is more easily assumed…

This teasing continues for a while, with Catherine trying her best to withold her laughter.

tilney dating 888982326_n

So we know that Mr. Tilney is a kidder. He likes to joke around, and he likes to be sassy; it is easy to believe that his remarks on muslin are all just one big joke. That he knows nothing about muslin, but is just being sarcastic again.

SarcasmWayofLife

Maybe he decides to play along with what Mrs. Allen is saying as he is in a silly/sarcastic mood, trying to make Catherine laugh once again. We know he likes to tease, and make fun of other’s foibles (eccentricities) so it is easy to conclude that.

Well, whether he knows his muslin, is a good brother, or just making fun. Mrs. Allen believes he knows his stuff, and that is good enough for me.

tilney on muslin

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2) Dominated by His Father

How do I describe General Tilney?

Jerk

He pretended to be sweet, charming, and kind to win the heart of a wealthy woman, but later revealed his true colors. He was tyrannical and his way always the right one or else. He held all the power and expected his children to bow to his will or find themselves with nothing.

willy-wonka-you-get-nothingyoulose

How is this less than other Austen characters? Mr. Darcy isn’t dominated by a person, per say, but by society. He knows himself to be attracted to Elizabeth, but feels he cannot marry her as she isn’t in his class, nor does he want to be chained to her family. He does all he can to not want to be with her, but ultimately succumbs.

Mr.Darcy Pride&Prejudice

Edward Ferrars is just as dominated by the head of his family, although in this case it is his mother. Just like in the Tilney clan, you must do what she says or risk losing it all. Edward’s mother wants him to follow a more elite career, while Edward wants to be a minister. He almost gives into his mother’s wishes; but luckily stays true to who he is.

quietofPrivateLifeSense&Sensibility

And this was something that happened a lot back then. With inheritance being the key to living comfortably, and rich relatives holding the power, more often than not people always had to bend to their will.

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3) Reading Novels

Stupid Not to Read Jane Austen Quote

So in the 18th century there was what historians call the “reading revolution”. With the printing press improvements that occured then and in the early 19th century, books could be printed more easily and cheaply. Reading and owning books became a huge phenomenon as almost everyone had the ability to purchase them.

NeverCanHaveTooManyBooks

Everything from science, to books we now call classics, novels, romance, history, to cheap thrills, etc. Such romances like The Mysteries of Udolpho and The Monk were popular, but thought to be purposely explicit and exploiting, “women’s cheap novels” but read by all.

So while it would be unusual for Mr. Tilney to admit to reading them, it is not unusual for him to actually read them as most men do. But this admittance goes with his character as we have already seen that Tilney doesn’t feel the need to be reserved but is more open in his demeanor.

Besides as this is still a romance, whether parody or remake, and as Catherine is an avid book reader, her hero has to be as much a reader as her. After all, there is nothing sexier then meeting a man who loves to read.

guysread

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4) Never Makes a Move or Takes any Action Toward Catherine

Really?

Really?

Did you not read the end of the book? Yes, Mr. Tilney does not invite Catherine to his house, his dad does as he is trying to hook them up, but what about that final scene? You know the one where he goes after Catherine and asks her to marry him risking everything for her?

tilney

He is gone from the family home when Catherine was given the boot. When he returns and finds out what happened, he could have just let it go. Or he could have gone and apologized to Catherine, returning home and continuing the search for a wealthy bride. But does he do that? NO! He goes after her, having more balls than Mr. Darcy and Edward Ferrars.

Yes I went there.

Yes I went there.

He not only goes to her house and humbles himself in front of her and her family, but is willing to throw his entire fortune away for her, not even knowing if she feels the same way about him. She could tell him no and then he would end up with nothing, having turned on his father.

riskdish- tilney

Mr. Darcy never went to Elizabeth in such a way, begging her forgiveness. He worked on himself and helped the family, by saving Lydia, but never threw himself at Elizabeth’s feet. Edward comes to Elinor to share his feelings, but he never apologizes for leading her on while engaged or tried to apologize for his behavior, (except for that one time he was interrupted by Lucy before he could say anything). Only Mr. Tilney throws all caution to the wind, and gives up everything for the woman he loves.

-prince-charming mr. tilney

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Mr. Tilney…what else can I say about you?

find mr.tilney

You are definitely hero material

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For more on Mr. Tilney, go to God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen

For more on Northanger Abbey, go to Waiter, There’s Some Disney in My Jane Austen 

For more on Jane Austen, go to Jane, Jane, Jane: A Jane Austen Biography