The Regency Ball at The Guildhall 9/16/23
When Pahl asked on our third date if I would attend the Jane Austen Regency Ball with him, I basically knew Jane Austen as the author of Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility, the former of which I was assigned to read over summer break twenty years ago in high school. We'd already established by our third date that we were both very into alternative or historically based fashions, and both individually concluded that we intended to wear our pieces as frequently as possible. For me that meant mostly elegant lolita fashion and for him that meant anything that matched what I was wearing in color, era, or theme as much as possible. However, as I got to know him more, it turns out Regency Era England is one of his absolute favorites.
Not knowing much about Regency Era England, the fashion for men and women during that time period, or anything in particular about Jane Austen, naturally I said yes I will go with you! I'm more of an action research gal anyway...experience first, reflect later.
The Regency Era of British history is commonly described as the years between 1795 until the ascension of Queen Victoria in 1837, and is remembered as a time of refinement and culture characterized by distinct fashions, architecture, and style (at least for the wealthy). The Regency era overlapped with Romanticism and many of the famous artists, musicians, poets, and novelists of the Romantic period were also prominent Regency figures such as Jane Austen, William Blake, Lord Byron, John Constable, Mary Shelley, Percy Bysshe Shelley, William Wordsworth, etc. I think the main reason the Regency Era is on our minds nowadays is due to the ever popular Netflix period drama, Bridgerton, which is set in a highly stylized version of Regency Era London.
Bath, UK is about 90 minutes west from London using modern express rail. It's considered a ceremonial county of Somerset, England, known for and named after its Roman-built baths. It was founded by the Romans as a thermal spa, which became an important center of the wool industry in the Middle Ages. In the Georgian Era, it developed into an elegant town with neoclassical Palladian buildings, which blend harmoniously with the Roman baths. Bath really has so much to offer between the Bath Abbey, The Roman Baths (an UNESCO world heritage site), various tea rooms, and of course the Jane Austen Festival, the largest and longest running Jane Austen Festival in the world.
The Jane Austen Centre celebrates her as "Bath's most famous resident" and puts on the festival every year in September. The 10 day event draws over 3500 people worldwide. I mean, that's a lot for a niche interest group, if you think about it.
Entirely relying on Pahl's expertise and guidance for the fashion this time, we decided on "burgundy" and black as the main colors of our outfits. (I put burgundy in quotes because I always imagined burgundy differently but deeper bluer red works). Pahl basically already owned the correct blouse, slacks, boots, and suspenders, but specifically ordered the waist coat and tie for the ball. My gown was custom made by Robe d'Exception, through their Etsy platform. (A lot of people who attend the Jane Austen Festival make their own costumes. The best we could do was support a small business-which is equally good).
For my accessories, I pulled out some from my lolita fashion pursuits. I wore my BBB (big black bonnet), a velvet choker, a waist belt that goes with an entirely different dress, white short gloves (see ball picture), and something like a reticule that my friend made me for my birthday (that has exactly 38 stitches in it to represent my age). I am wearing flats that I bought years ago for work. They're really cool looking, but definitely not Regency Era. It's a good thing my gown is floor length and you can't see them anyway.
I tried putting my hair in a bun and it was successful enough to keep my hair up, but it probably looked a bit messy from the back. All I can say is that I frequently need someone to help fix my hair or head piece, but I've got the makeup part squared away.
We did a very fine job of looking the part. People in Bath did not know we were Americans. They just knew we were part of the Jane Austen Festival. However, we were not particularly well versed in the Regency dances of the era. And our outfits were kind of hot...we had anticipated it being a little cooler than it actually ended up being. So we fumbled our way through some of the earlier dances and spent a lot of time enjoying watching others dance. I came back from the event thinking that I would like to learn more about this style of dancing so that I can not only look the part, but actually act the part!
I love EGL and alternative fashion and modeling. I am taking two of my favorite hobbies and making them into a story for you to read about.