The Regency was an age of elegance and excess. The titled and wealthy played hard in sporting and social events. Fortunes were won and lost in a single evening of gambling. Duels were fought over a slight to one’s honour. Society patronesses kept rigid control of social behaviour, for example prescribing the correct dress for Almack’s Assembly Rooms and even deciding who was allowed to attend and at what time the doors were to be closed.
Even the Duke of Wellington was refused admittance when he turned up twenty minutes late on one occasion.
To avoid drunkenness, tea and lemonade were the only drinks served at Almack's. Decorum was all important. Only country dances were allowed until about 1813, when the quadrille and then the waltz were permitted - but a young lady could not waltz until one of the patronesses had given her approval.
This new era was characterised by a classical style, giving elegant fashions that we still admire. In contrast to the heavy brocades and satins of the eighteenth century, women now wore deceptively simple dresses in delicate muslins and silks. The corset was made higher to give a more natural line to the figure. The line of the dress was straight from bosom to ankle.
White was the preferred colour for ladies. It was difficult to keep clean and therefore indicated wealth.
Gone were the huge wigs and elborate powdered hairstyles of the late 1700s. To harmonize with the smooth and simple lines of dress, hair was worn cut short and curled, tied back with a ribbon or a spray of flowers. Ringlets were also in fashion, falling from a knot at the back of the head.
Personal hygiene became important. The shift or chemise, worn next to the skin, was laundered frequently. A healthy glow was considered to add to a woman's beauty and so a daily walk or ride on horseback was encouraged.
Men abandoned the frock coat for a cutaway jacket with the distinctive high collar of the Regency era. Their linen was immaculate, their tailoring skilfully designed to show off every muscle. Their boots were polished to a high gloss.
Gentlemen devoted much time to keeping fit and enjoying sporting activities. For those with money, horse riding was a popular form of exercise. Boxing was popular, both as exercise and as a spectator sport. Fencing was widely practised [see 'The Cities' page ] although duels were more often fought with pistols in this new age.
A pair of Manton's duelling pistols
For a detailed description of Almacks, see
NOTE: This article is included by kind permission of Candice Hern from her website: http://candicehern.com/regency-world/
Dancing at Almack's Assembly Rooms