Category Archives: 1700s

Annotated Progression of Ladies Fashion, 1785 – 1820

Having just read Persuasion by Jane Austen, I’m particularly interested in the details of that era. Today at the library I was able to check out several non-fiction books about her and early 19th century historical details.

However, this post features selections from my own copy of John Peacock’s broad treatise on fashion history.

These illustrations only roughly represent her years. She lived from 1775 to 1817; the pictures are for fashions from 1785 to 1820. Since Miss Austen completed the rough draft of Persuasion in 1817, her stylish characters would’ve worn dresses from the last sketch below.

(Clicking on a picture will enlarge it.)

Also, please note that they are intended to show the progression and details of fashion development. I think it helps to see how styles can sometimes ease from one to another. Other times they change radically.

1785 - 1798

1798 - 1800

1800 - 1811

Regency 1811 - 1820

Sketches are from John Peacock’s book: Costume 1066 – 1966, A Complete Guide to English Costume Design and History (copyrighted 1986). Mr. Peacock was the senior costume designer for BBC Television when the book was printed.

The calligraphy is by Rachel Yallop.

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Filed under 1700s, 1800s, Books, Clothing, Dresses (Including Formals), England, Ephemera, Fashion, Femininity, Hairstyles, Hats, History, Jane Austen, Shoes

Fashion Contrasts: 1770 and 1815

DK Costume Book by Rowland-Warne

Vintage Hats & Bonnets by Langley

Apparently it’s not a particularly modern practice for fashion designers to make yesterday’s clothing look dated and outmoded.

Even though the time gap (from the 1770s – 1815) shown here spans 45 years, the changes were huge. It’s doubtful that many women would be wearing the same apparel for all those years (despite the superior quality of fabric then as opposed to now), but it is possible that women who wore the 18th century styles when they were young may not have wanted to change with the times and would have looked extremely outdated even to a casual observer.

Albeit that we are discussing clothing, a comment about hair styles comes to mind. I read once that a hairdresser said he could tell within 5 years when a woman graduated from high school by her hair and makeup – no matter her age.

The difference in hair styles between 1770 and 1815 were at least as striking as the change in clothing: from massive powdered wigs to ringlets and close to the head buns.

Guild Hall, Windsor


The DK Costume book by L. Rowland-Warne was one that I bought in 1999 in Windsor. Every Sunday morning vendors were set up under the portico at the front of the Guild Hall – built around 1687 under the direction of Sir Thomas Fitz then Sir Christopher Wren. There were a couple of book sellers and I was able to get this costume book from one and a vintage Penguin Agatha Christie novel from another.

Vintage Hats & Bonnets by Susan Langley was bought on a trip to Massachusetts a few years ago. While Joe attended a class for his job, I drove over to Lowell and had an absolutely marvelous time at a hat exhibit at the American Textile Museum. Well worth the time if you’re ever in the area.

Fashion Museum, Bath


V & A


The V&A was the museum which Mr. Thackeray’s (Sidney Poitier) class went to for their field trip in To Sir, With Love. Remember the girls in their mini-skirts looking at the wide-skirted dresses?


At the Museum of Costume in Bath (in 2007 the name was changed to Fashion Museum) and then at the Fashion exhibit at the Victoria and Albert Museum, we saw the false hips that women wore under their dresses to make their hips so broad.

No, I can’t imagine it either.

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Filed under 1700s, 1800s, Antiques/Vintage, Clothing, Dresses (Including Formals), Ephemera, Events & Museums, Fashion, Femininity, Hairstyles, Hats, History, Jane Austen, Jane Austen, Shoes