Ah, fashion. How is it that something as simple as what we wear can cause such anguish when we wear it? It seems our lives are spent torn between dressing the way we want versus dressing the way we’re told. Is our career dress attire or business casual? Don’t even get me started on how much I hate pantyhose. Even schools have entered the fashion fight, outlawing individuality and expression by requiring children to wear khaki pants and navy polos in an attempt to keep clothes from distracting the learning process.
While researching the wardrobes of my characters in Lord Love a Duke, I discovered just how ideal the fashion dictates of the Regency were, at least when compared to fashion in the eras just prior to and after it. I must confess, for a girl who knocks around in jeans and t-shirts, I love the clothing of this period. The empire waist flatters for so many shapes and sizes: what’s not to love? And while there were a number of layers – chemise, stays, dress, pelisse, cloak – it was nothing compared to the poofy petticoats and huge panniers of the powdered and bewigged Georgians just prior, nor the tightly-laced, corseted, and completely smothered-in-clothing Victorians that followed.
So what makes women’s Regency fashion favorable? Quite simply, I love the empire waist. It emphasizes two things most important to women of any age: her waist and her chest. So what if the empire moved a lady’s waist several inches above her natural midsection? This new waist worked because it accented the smallest area of circumference on a woman’s body. By cinching garments in here, since it was higher and just under the bustline, it had the added benefit of boosting the bosom as well. Large or small, every lady was aided by the strategically higher waist of the empire fashion.
Scandalously, the empire waist enabled those of a more daring or doxy nature to have the tiniest of bodices, some merely three inches in width. This gives us authors much leeway to write about the wicked women who nearly tumble from their tops as they flirt lasciviously with everything in a cravat. It also gives the more demure heroine something to tug at furiously in an attempt to prevent said tumbling. The most virtuous of ladies would employ the fischu, a little wisp of lace or silk tucked into the bodice to prevent any 19th century wardrobe malfunctions.
The high waist of an empire cut also gave the illusion of height and length of leg. In a time when the only visible skin was one’s face and neck, the mere thought of what lay under that long, draping skirt surely flared many a man’s imagination. And women of the Regency no doubt rejoiced that their long, draping skirt fell so flatteringly around their figure, hiding a multitude of sins that today’s skinny jeans and yoga pants advertise all too clearly. Even those in a delicate condition could stay in Society longer as their oh-so becoming skirts hid their growing womb.
So what do you think? Would an empire waist receive a ‘yay’ or a ‘nay’ in your wardrobe? Renee is giving away a digital copy of LORD LOVE A DUKE to one (1) lucky commenter who answers her question. Giveaway ends @12am est 11-17-13. Good luck y’all!
Renée Reynolds is the author of the new Regency romance Lord Love a Duke, her first novel in The Lords of Oxford Series. Jonas Leighton, Duke of Dorset, hastily organizes a house party to find a suitor for his spirited sister, Lady Miranda. To thwart him she enlists her closest friend, Lady Juliet, and they unleash a series of pranks meant to confound his plans – If only he would cooperate and be the victim. Nothing goes according to plan for any of the scheming guests, yet the party will indeed end in a wedding.