Jane Austen Festival

The Jane Austen Festival was really amazing, due to family circumstances i wasn’t able to finish my costumes but me and my partner had a lovely time. Besides visiting all the sites we ran around all over Bath just to follow the festival which has resulted in a video i have had to edit due to my constant swearing… which i’ve put down to my excitement.

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I wrote this Blog post a week ago thinking it wouldn’t take very long for me to upload the video i made of the promenade, turns out it took forever, but it’s finished now and here it is.

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17th Century Women’s Smock

I was looking at my collection of photos on my computer and on pinterest to determine the different shapes of smocks in this century (and all the others), you wouldn’t think there was many, i was surprised to find at least four.

At the beginning of the century the fashion was still for the large french farthingale’s and big collars usually associated with Queen Elizabeth, the neckline at the front was low and quiet high at the back, to support the large collar.

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The smock isn’t visible in any of these, indicating that it follows along the edge and fits very closely against the corset. I also noticed from the same few decades that young girls dress had a straighter bodice line, perhaps that was more modest for children and they eventually graduated to the more risky bust lines later on?

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During the same early decades of the century into the 1640’s and 1650’s there were some women who were far more concerned with being conservative, covering up almost every inch of flesh, you can almost see these these women rallying behind Cromwell in a few years to come.

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They would have been wearing something very similar to the smock below.

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As the swinging 60’s rolled in and everyone began to enjoy themselves and drink themselves into oblivion, bodice lines began to move down rapidly, slipping down over the shoulder and just holding the bust in.

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The smocks were also sometimes visible just over the edge of the dress as well as bulging out the carefully cut holes in the sleeves. The smock lightly resembled the chemises worn in the 1840’s by Victorian women, except their large, puffy sleeves that were heavily gathered and were always just visible below the sleeve. The corsets of  the era demonstrated the loose structure over the body yet were heavily boned so ironically didn’t leave much room for movement.

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Smocks during the end of the decade began to return to previous shape at the beginning of the century, yet they keep the large puffy sleeves underneath and returned to the hard, boned bodices of the beginning of the century.

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Women’s Redingote

A Redingote is a tight fitted coat that first appeared at the beginning of the 18th Century. Women were first wearing them as part of their riding habits, they were heavy, bulky garments that consisted of a large masculine style waistcoat underneath that stretched over the very large hooped petticoats of the first half of the 1700’s, while separating slightly at the centre. It was designed to mirror the male waistcoats and jackets of the time, with little pockets and buttons just visible underneath to add to the overall masculinity of the outfit.

The jacket mirrors every bit of the male counterpart, including the large, folded over cuffs and heavy embroidery; yet the sleeves are slightly further back, allowing for linen sleeves with lace to be shown, adding a feminine touch. The women even matched it down to the lace cravats the men wore from their unbuttoned waistcoats. 

In the 1780’s they really became popular, due to the French who now made it fashionable. At this time they were inspired by mens fashions of the day while also becoming perfectly tailored little coats. In some cases the coats were dark (as it was fashionable to wear them with a muslin dress underneath) that met at the chest and gradually descends down towards the back where they meet the top layer skirt that only goes half way round the whole petticoats. There is a embroidered waistcoat underneath that has a masculine touch with large buttons and small cuffs; there is also large, flat collars above on the jacket that continue this theme.

There were other varieties in this period, often inspired by military uniforms or their favorite political party, while other jackets were closed, supported by large frilly collars of muslin neatly around the neck. 

The Redingote continued until the late 19th century; in the regency period it followed the fashionable empire line of day, becoming a long pleated coat from underneath the bust, with a simple jacket and flat collar. They often had short detailed outer sleeves above a long sleeve, which went down to the wrist. The detail on the sleeves and coat was also military inspired, which is repeated all over the coat and dress. 

  The Redingote waned during the mid Victorian period, mainly being used again for riding habits, while resembling the early 1700’s shape.

Women’s shape began to change from the large crinolines of the 1850’s and as fashion changed, returning to a almost updated version of the regency empire line, the Redingote came back into fashion. The two piece bodice and skirt outfit that began to dominate the later part of the 19th century would also consist of a jacket, in most cases a simply design with more frills and patterns while the hem would float over the skirt.

In the 1880’s this became a tighter fit, with the same detail with fabric cascading down the back, reminiscent of the polonaise dress.

The 1890’s saw a return to short coats with frills and detail that was fashionable in the 1780’s, yet fashion choose a more feminine approach with lighter colours and a more natural body shape.