Cold Weather and the Regency

Temperatures in Virginia dipped into the teens this past week necessitating winter clothes. I pulled out my warmest coat and thought about what a Regency lady would wear in winter.

The Regency occurred during the little ice age in Europe and winters were cold. In the early 1800s ladies succumbed to a flu epidemic in great numbers. It was called the “muslin disease,” because the fashions of the day were too flimsy for the cold weather, with their thin fabrics and minimal underclothes. Ladies were not protected from the cold. Fashion had to find some way for ladies to stay warm.

1799-red-shawlShawls

Shawls were one popular fashion solution. They were made of long oblong pieces of fabric or were square and folded into a triangle. They could be fringed and embroidered or made of cashmere or woven into a paisley pattern.

febb1813Spencers

The spencer was a close-fitting, waist-length jacket. With the empire waists of the Regency dress, the spencers could be quite short. In winter the spencer could be fur-lined, covered by a fur cape called a pelerine, or a fur tippet (a fur scarf).

Pelisse1811_feb_Ackermann_fur_pelisse

A pelisse was an even warmer choice for winter. It also could be fur-lined. A pelisse was a full length, fitted coat.

As you can see, winter wear also included hats and gloves as well.

What is your winter wear?

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About diane

Diane Gaston is the RITA award-winning author of Historical Romance for Harlequin Historical and Mills and Boon, with books that feature the darker side of the Regency. Formerly a mental health social worker, she is happiest now when deep in the psyches of soldiers, rakes and women who don’t always act like ladies.
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5 Responses to Cold Weather and the Regency

  1. HJ says:

    I have often wondered how Regency women kept warm; even now it’s usually chilly most months of the year in England, and positively cold during the winter. Even a pelisse leaves a lot to be desired, since its silhouette is too narrow – every step taken would let freezing draughts in! Spencers are pretty, but only go down to the waist. Brrr!

    Did they resort to warm leggings of any sort, under their flimsy dresses?

    • diane says:

      I think they must have had woolen underclothes. Whether those were in pantaloons, I would doubt, because of toiletting needs. Certainly there must have been woolen stockings. My guess is that these would have been country wear and not worn anywhere that women wished to look fashionable.

    • Elena Greene says:

      Good question, HJ. In addition to Diane’s ideas, maybe they had blankets or something over their legs while in a carriage. I tend not to get too cold when I’m actively walking, so maybe that worked for at least some of them. Indoors they’d probably stay close to a fire and/or wear shawls.

  2. I could use a nice, warm cashmere shawl myself tonight :)

  3. Hats and gloves would have helped. Maybe wool petticoats? Several pairs of wool stockings? But you’d still have the wind whistling up where the sun doesn’t shine, to mix my weather metaphors. Brrrrr.

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