Regency Content

Regency Shopping


Although dresses and frocks are very important, the well dressed Regency woman needed more than
clothes. No real lady would ever been seen without her hat -only a trollop, and hardly even she would
disport herself so in public! A parasoll to keep away the sun's dangerous rays and twirl in a flirtatious
manner would not come amiss either. Shoes and hoses were also important although less often talked
about. Nor should we forget the beauty aids or any other small item a lady of good family needed.

Milliners, Modistes and Hatmakers

French milliners at work 1822 8

Hats were extremely important during the Regency era and no woman, whether servant or mistress, would dream of being seen outside the home without something on her head! Even indoors married women and old spinsters would wear soft caps. As most women wore bonnets or capotte hats during the Regency, daytime hair styles were rather simple.

Straw hats were pleated elsewhere and trimmed in the London shop. To the left we see two milliners busy at work trimming hats. Note the funny hat form! Straw hat making was a cottage industry and gave work to hundreds of women. The pay, as far too often for female workers, was low. Straw hats could be trimmed only with flowers and ribbons for summer use. At other times straw hats where covered with silk, taffeta or similar material, showing nothing of the foundation material at all. Bonnets differed from hats in having soft crowns but a stiff brim, sometimes made of straw. Caps were soft, made of fabric and often worn under hats. On the top image right the brim has been turned up to show the underside of the fully trimmed hat with the cap-like inner lining.

Hat, bonnet
and cap 1817 9

Many women would trim their hats themselves or spiff up last year's head gear with a new ribbon, artificial flowers, fruit or feathers. Perhaps they would make their purchases at W. H. Botibol, a plumassier advertising his inventory of "Ostrich and Fancy Feathers and Artificial Flowers." l

Below is shown the tools used to trim hats. 10 Particularly note the long needles and the long-shafted sissors.

Milliner: "Le Bon Genre Fashion Shop" caricature from 1817 showing the interior
of a hat shop with attendants. 11 Milliners were slightly better off than seamstresses

Some milliners and modistes of the era (Dates of fashion magazine ads in parenthesis): Madame Lanchester (1804),
Mack and Bennet (1805), Mrs. Shabner, Mrs. Thomas and Miss Walters (1812), Mrs. Bell (1814) m

Shoes, Boots and Slippers

"I do not know that I shall execute Martha's commission at all, for I am not fond of ordering shoes; and, at any rate, they shall all have flat heels."

Jane Austen wrote to her sister in 1799. n Whether the heels were high or low, shoes have always interested the well dressed woman and no less so in the Regency.

Interior of Wood at No 47 Cornhill, London ca. 1815 12

As clothes, shoes were hand made, often to order unless you were lucky enough to try on a pair that both fit and suited you. Most shoes seen in the stores were samples and the actual shoe purchased specially made for the customer. What an improvement over today when you may find a shoe with the perfect fit but not the right color and style, or the perfect shoe but leave frustrated because it's too narrow or wide or they don't have your size. This of course meant that unless you could purchase a pair on the spot, you would have to return to pick up the shoes when they were ready, try them on and perhaps have to come back a second time after adjustments were made. Shopping in the Regency era was time-consuming!

Left is the interior of the fashionable high end women's footwear store Wood, a 'Ladies Shoe Manufacturer' with royal patronage that advertised that they had a "Large Assortment of Ladies fashionable Shoes always on Sale." o

Not everyone could afford to shop at Wood or similar establisments. To the right we see a simpler store where the cobbler himself serves his customers. Note how the counter top is piled high with the leathers and fabrics of his trade.

Shoe and bootmakers were almost always male, the work exacting; '64 stitches to the inch' used as a reference of excellence, but the pay was by no means high. This exquisite work was done by hand and with an awl so fine the wound didn't bleed if you accidentally pricked yourself p and a bristle as needle.

I have not found pricing for women's footwear but an advertizement for B. Clarke, Cheap & Fasionable Boot & Shoe Warehouse q, priced men's dress shoes at 11s 6d a pair and 2s added if you wanted them custom made. The assumption can be made that women's slippers would start at the same price level and up.

Caricature: Boot & Shoe Shop, Ackermann 1813 13

The 4th Duke of Portland's family ledgers r lists "Bill for shoes for various members of the family, purchased between Mar. and Apr. 1811; total amount £ 10.19.6." In October 1814 the Dutchess, having her own budget, spent £ 18.3.0. on shoes and other goods. In fact, an astonishing amount of money was spent by the Dutchess on just shoes, making one reflect that shoe shopping women are nothing new!

Accessories and Smalltown Shopping

Hat & hosiery shop in Birmingham 14

Naturally there were many other exciting shops for the well dressed woman's of fashion to get her furs, reticules, fans and other necessary items. If she couldn't find the latest in parasols and umbrellas at Harding Howell & Co.s, perhaps A.M. Cohen s at No 26 Widegate Street had just what she needed. For (hush hush!) corsets she may have visited John Arpthorp's t establishment at No 278 High Holborn or, horrors, sneak into G. Richardson u at No 98 Leadenhall Street to be fitted with a pair of spectacles!

Not only the selection, but the number of specializing stores were much more extensive in London, and to some extent Bath and Brighton, than in smaller towns. Lillington's v in Birmingham, seen left, was not only a combined parasol & umbrella, hat, hosiery and glove shop, but a carpet warehouse and they conducted funerals as well! It's interesting to note the number of wares displayed in the store windows, where men's top hats and women's hoses are shown side by side with muffs and cravats, fans and reticules. Through the open door we even get a fascinating glimpse into the store with it's customers, shop assistants, oak counters, floor to ceiling shelves and merchandise displays.

Every small town had a number of these shops; in the fictional Highbury "Ford's was the principal woollen-draper, linen-draper, and haberdasher's shop united; the shop first in size and fashion in the place." w but we can be certain that the author had visited many such stores in her life.

Next: Stores and Shops

7. The Modiste (La marchande des modes, Le matin) by François Boucher (1703-1770) C. 1746 Oil on canvas, now in Wallace Collection, Hertford House, London.
8.Detail, French hat shop, 1822, by John James Chalon (1778-1854)
9. Costume Parisiene 1817
10. Diderot. Plumassier Panachier. [ Folio, Paris: De l'Imprimerie des Edie, 1771. 1 p., 5 plates.
11. "Le Bon Genre Fashion Shop" 1817
12. Detail, trading card, Wood. Ladies Shoe Manufacturer c.1815
13. Boot & Shoe Shop, Ackermann 1813
14. Lillington's of Birmingham, trading card, 1800-1820


Notes on the text:

l: Trade card, text reproduced in 'Regency London' by Stella Margetson, published 1971 Cassell.

m: Madame Lanchester, a famous London Modiste, published the shortlived fashion magazine 'La Miroir de la Mode' 1803-04.
Mack and Bennet, The Lady's Magazine, October 1805: "We are indebted for the above DRESSES to the favour of MACK and BENNET, milliners, and fancy-dress makers, New Bond--street."
Mrs. Shabner, advertised in La Belle Assemblee 1812
Mrs. Bell of 22 Upper King St., fashion plate, Magazine des Modes, 1814.

n: Jane Austen's letter to her sister Cassandra, send Sunday June 2, 1799 from 13, Queen's Square, London. From Jane Austen's Letters, Deidre Le Fay collection.

o:Trading card c. 1815 Text: 'Wood. Ladies Shoe Manufacturer, Retails & for Exportation; No 47 Cornhill London
NB Large Assortment of Ladies fashionable Shes always on Sale'

p: James Devlin: The Guide to the Trade, The Shoemaker (London, 1839)

q: Trade Card c. 1815 Text: 'Cheap & Fashionable Boot & Shoe Warehouse No 8, Lower Holborn, London
B. Clarke, has furnished the above Warehouse with a large & fashionable assortment of Boots & Shoes which he intends to sell for ready Money only at the following Prices,
Jockey Boots 1-0-0
Military Do 2£-4s-0d
Hessians Do 1£-18s-0d
Bacjstrap Do 1£-16s-0d
If made to measure 4s. extra
Dress Shoes 11s-6d
Light Do 10s-6d
Strong Do 11s-6d
If made to measure 2s. extra
Mercants, Captains & Country dealers supplied with every Article in the Trade, on the most Liberal Terms.'

r: Catalogue of the Papers of William Cavendish-Scott-Bentinck, 4th Duke of Portland.

s: Trading card, Text: 'A. M. Cohen. Umbrella & Parasol Maker, Whoelsale and Retail. No 26 Widegate Street, Bishopsgate, London. NB. Country Dealers supplied on the shortest Notice and on reasonable terms. Umbrellas &c. neatly repair'd.' Similar card with address No 25 Chancery Lane, Fleet Street, London and addred text 'Foreign orders executed on the shortest notice.' Neither card is dated. However, the engraver William Newman was in business 1802-23 so these two cards can be dated to that period as well.

t: Trading card, c 1802 Text: 'John Arpthorp, Stay & Corsett Maker, No 278, near great turnstile, High Holborn. NB Childrens Stays on a new Configuration, perfectly cal'y. light & genteel.'

u: Trading card, 1807 Text: 'G. Richardson OPTICAL & MATHEMATICAL Instriment Maker, No 98 Leadenhall Street, LONDON. (Late Foreman to Mr Cha.s Lincoln.) Real Manufaturer of the improved Telescope for Day or Night Sextants. Quadrants and Compasses of the latest improvements, also Spectacles & Reading Glasses curiously adapted to suit all sights, either on Glass or Brazil -Pebbles. Merchants and Captains supplied at the most moderate Terms.'

v: Trading card, 1800-1820, Text: 'LILLINGTON's Hosiery, Glovers & LONDON HAT WAREHOUSE, No 4. CARPET WAREHOUSE. Trunks, Umbrellas & Parasols. Funerals Furnished'

w: Emma by Jane Austen, published 1816, available as e-text


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