As you probably know if you also follow me on Instagram or Facebook, I am dabbling in Regency for the first time. It’s an adventure, and very different from many of the time periods I am used to. For one, there is a lot of pop culture imaging associated with Regency fashion, thanks to the ever-popular Jane Austen movies/miniseries/Masterpiece Theatre/whatever. There are also a ton of people who make Regency dresses, to the point where I really felt like I needed to get a grasp on what people actually wore, not on what people tend to reproduce or wear in films.
So I started to look at extant dresses, and poke around online, just to see what I noticed and compare that to what other people have noticed. And I have hit upon a bit of common misinformation.
There are a great many websites who emphasize the slim, columnar shape of the Regency skirt. I’m not going to disagree with that– especially compared to earlier in the 18th and later in the 19th centuries, the silhouette is slim. But a lot of people tend to interpret that as the skirts are narrow, to the point where I have actually seen people saw there are absolutely no gathers or fullness at the front of Regency skirts, ever.
That statement, besides seeming needlessly restrictive (pre-mass produced clothing, was there ever a firm rule about construction and styling?) directly contradicted what I had seen in my own research. So in a fit of….contrariness….. I made a pinterest board entirely of extant Regency pieces from well-respected institutions that have volume in the front of the skirt.
This includes this dress from the Met, and this one, and this (V&A). Also this one, this lovely from the Fashion Museum in Bath, and an absolute ton of dresses from Colonial Williamsburg.
These examples span the entirety of the Regency period from 1800-1820, with no particular emphasis (as far as I can tell) on any given year or period. I will say that this fuller skirt does seem to be more common for evening gowns, which makes sense–if you are going to be extravagant with lots of fabric, you will do that for a fancy dress, not the one you use to scrub floors. They definitely exist, though, so go crazy with your tiny muslin pleats!