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Last Spring my boyfriend & I bought a home in Clinton Hill, Brooklyn. After looking at dozens of old brownstones which had been raped & pillaged over the years (i.e. modernized with cheap, synthetic materials & cheated of their original charm), we found a diamond in the rough: a modest brownstone circa 1877 with most of it’s original details intact, but desperately needing some love and tons of work. Over the months we have been reviving this old house of it’s strong points and step by step, day by day, making it more livable and improved.

Our bedroom is finally finished and so far it’s my favorite room (as I love to sleep), and we can lay in bed at night and watch films. The point of this post is that I have become completely obsessed with films which were set in the time our house was current, and Jane Austen’s novels behold the stuff of which I am fawning over: Victorian decor & Regency dress. (Though the Regency was from 1811-1820, the fashion aesthetic appears in these films more broadly via artistic license. It was the time of transition between the Georgian and Victorian eras).

Think empire waists with gathered, waterfall skirts. The dresses were modest, lacking the forced silhouette of extremely tight corsets with bursting cleavage, and underneath a simple chemisette (a side opening half-blouse) was worn, which made for a Classical look, inspired by Grecian draped gowns. Normally made from embroidered fine white lawn, muslin or batiste these dresses were primarily made in white (which can easily soil), which symbolized social status. Austen’s heroines always wear a small, cropped jacket over one of the empire waist dresses when outside, lace up leather boots and a pair of short leather gloves.

Above is a collage I’ve created of Regency dress and how to interpret that into a modern wardrobe. Our Francesca Dress offers a very similar silhouette. Enjoy!


  • Missing

    Jan 11, 2018, 07.05 AMby dhonibabu

  • Missing

    Jan 21, 2010, 05.56 AMby sweet-saboo

    i love this historical period, too…sometimes wish for simpler times, and those dreamlike regency dresses…

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    Jan 21, 2010, 05.13 AMby kree-ations

    www.sensibility.com has brilliant patterns that can either be posted in paper form or downloaded as a PDF (which you need to print out and tape together, but they are cheaper and a better option for persons not in the US). It’s not my website – just one I stumbled on looking for Regency patterns.

    2 Replies
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      Jan 25, 2010, 04.45 PMby alisondahl

      How exciting! I will definitely check this out. Thanks!

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      Jan 26, 2010, 02.25 AMby mlssfshn

      Thanks, for sharing very inspirational!

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    Jan 21, 2010, 12.29 AMby b-ella

    another source: the new film about keats. the character fanny brawne is a fashion designer and sports some amazing collared creations with high waists… one particularly fetching creation is a little tiny jacket on top of a cascading skirt. makes me wish i wasn’t so fond of short skirts…

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    Jan 20, 2010, 02.39 PMby damianadesigns

    I love this time period too…so many ways to use the design elements associated with it as well!

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    Jan 20, 2010, 01.48 PMby barbaraagatha

    I think Danielle would also make a perfect Jane-Austen dress!

    3 Replies
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      Jan 20, 2010, 02.08 PMby bttn

      You’re right, I thought of Danielle, too.

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      Jan 20, 2010, 04.59 PMby barbaraagatha

      And it’s free too.

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      Jan 21, 2010, 01.50 PMby ncn6

      Oh, you’re right! I’m downloading that right now!

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    Jan 20, 2010, 08.37 AMby ichigogirl

    Ha, funny (great collage btw), I live in a house built in 1932 and I obsess over clothes from the 1930’s and Art Deco… is the sense of style embedded in walls?

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    Jan 20, 2010, 08.06 AMby marmota-b

    Actually, Keira Knightley is not wearing a spencer (the cropped jacket) in that photo, it’s a dress with a waistband. I do not even remember her wearing a spencer anywhere in the film, if I think about it… I really love the clothing of the era as well, I’m planning to make some regency dresses for myself and my sister. And I must say I’m much more drawn to other features of it than just the empire waist. That was the first thing that attracted me to it, but now that I’ve looked so much into it, I’m much more fascinated by the different clothing constructions of the time – such as the back of this dress. Or the way it evolved with time, first the skirt being gathered in the front as well (at the end of 18th century), then only in the back, with the typical silhouette we think of as regency, and then becoming conical. And the waistline also moved with time.

    EDIT: Sorry, I can’t remember how to make the link work.http://www.metmuseum.org/Works_of_Art/collection_database/the_costume_institute/dress/objectview_altviewenlarge.aspx?page=1&sort=0&sortdir=asc&keyword=&fp=1&dd1=8&dd2=0&vw=1&collID=8&OID=80036023&vT=1&iID=1&iPage=1

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    Jan 20, 2010, 02.15 AMby madeleinefashion

    My “French Revolution Manipulation – Dress” was inspired by the pride and prejudice dresses =)

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    Jan 20, 2010, 01.14 AMby couturecutie

    I loved this era, but I gotta say, I loved the ones with the floor length full skirts with hoops in them, and boning and all that also.

    1 Reply
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      Jan 24, 2010, 08.38 AMby d3liriums4m4

      lucky: I LOVE the hoops and bustles, too. Empire waists aren’t very kind to me, but corsetry is. Google for Truly Victorian; they have some cool history and some freaking AMAZING patterns. I can safely say, too, that making a bustle isn’t that hard, though I don’t know if I’d tackle a hoop skirt anytime soon.

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    Jan 20, 2010, 12.04 AMby berginsjewelry

    I also love this era. I watch the movie over and over. Another couple of good movies to watch for that era clothing are Wives and Daughters book written by Elizabeth Gaskell and Sense and Sensibility not sure who wrote this one. They are both great period films.

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      Jan 20, 2010, 06.17 AMby ncn6

      Sense and Sensibility is also Jane Austen, and also awesome! I own that one, too

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    Jan 20, 2010, 12.02 AMby modernvintageworkshop

    oh, i’d love to know what designer / dress that one on the bottom in the middle is… blonde girl, the white dress with the light grey tights. looks so pure… and the one with the leatehr jacket and the button up shirt as well… (bottom far left).

    would you be so kind and share your source of inspiration?

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    Jan 19, 2010, 07.17 PMby sewella

    Well, Alison you really had me with this post. I am crazy over the period, Austin and company. And I must say that back in University (Pride and Prejudice was an obligatory read – we had an exam on it) all the girls were all in love with Mr.Darcy! (blush,blush) I even have a skirt named Mrs.Darcy! Compliments on the collage!

    3 Replies
    • Dahlnyc_1352392376_600_large

      Jan 19, 2010, 08.39 PMby alisondahl

      :) Can we see this skirt please??

    • Maya_kuzman_large

      Jan 19, 2010, 09.08 PMby sewella

      Sure! As soon as I take photos of it!

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      Jan 21, 2010, 05.15 AMby kree-ations

      Oh, I fancied myself as a Mrs. Darcy at one stage. Wasn’t the series brilliant? I fell in love with the gowns and had to go get the books!

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    Jan 19, 2010, 04.55 PMby ncn6

    I LOVE Pride and Prejudice! I’m actually working on a Mr Darcy costume for my boyfriend right now. I’ll check out the Francesca when I get around to making a matching dress for me!

    3 Replies
    • Dahlnyc_1352392376_600_large

      Jan 19, 2010, 06.10 PMby alisondahl

      How dreamy is Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy?! I was trembling just watching his reserved & severe demeanor…just enchanting.
      p.s. don’t tell my boyfriend.

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      Jan 19, 2010, 06.59 PMby ncn6

      Colin Firth is the one and only Mr Darcy, IMHO, and the only TV/movie character I ever truly had a crush on as a teenager. I think my boyfriend is going to be perfect as a Mr Darcy, since he already has a rather reserved and severe German demeanor to begin with!

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      Jan 21, 2010, 12.10 PMby cgm5498

      hahaha Ali !!!!

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    Jan 19, 2010, 03.32 PMby janul

    I love these dresses too. And I think it´s interesting to see how the body image changed in time. In the older Pride and prejudice (top left and middle picture) women are quite curvy… whereas the recent one with Kiera Knightley – so skinny!

    1 Reply
    • Dahlnyc_1352392376_600_large

      Jan 19, 2010, 06.14 PMby alisondahl

      I have yet to see the Knightly version of Pride & Prejudice, yet I needed a picture of the “cropped jackets” I mentioned and there she was… I really love the BBC’s period films, they are, as you say, quite more realistic, making the characters far more relatable.

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    Jan 19, 2010, 02.17 PMby lyndsayb

    I too, am “IN LOVE” with these eras! Pride and Prejudice is by far, my favorite of Jane Austen! I get lost in the translations of her books into movies and I just adore the choices in wardrobe design.

    • This is a question
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