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.
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.
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
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
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.
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!
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.
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!
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.
Notes on the text: