The broader Regency period 1795-1820 stands alone as an incredible moment in fashion history unlike anything that went before or after. It was the most naked period since Ancient Greece and before the 1960s, and for the first time England became a fashion influence, especially for menswear, and became the toast of Paris. With the ancient regime deposed, court dress became secondary and the season by season flux of fashion as we know it came into being, aided and abetted by the proliferation of new ladies' magazines.
Such an age of revolution and innovation inspired a flood of fashions taking influence from everything including the newly discovered treasures of the ancient world, to radical new ideas like democracy. It was an era of contradiction immortalized by Jane Austen, who adeptly used the newfound diversity of fashion to enliven her characters, Wickham's military splendor, Mr. Darcy's understated elegance, and Miss Tilney's romantic fixation with white muslin.
"Downing's book is a slim volume, running to 63 pages and lavishly illustrated with a fine cross-section of illustrations from the period. She has chosen well, and her examples are apposite and appealing in the context of her writing. She ties the life of Austen into the events happening in Britain and abroad, and how they affected the fashions and social lives of Regency men and women.
This is definitely a book for Austen fans, and devotees of the Regency period. It is written with a light touch and an eye to the realities of dressing in fine and costly fabrics. The attention to menswear is particularly interesting. I was also taken with the reference to Rousseau's theories about childhood freedom and how it affected clothes for children.
Whilst clearly passionate about her subject, Downing is not above bringing in the voice of the satirists who mocked the fashionable. This is a valuable little volume for anyone interested in Regency costume, and very handy for anyone writing about the period: both distracting and informative." -Georgian London / www.georgianlondon.com (March 2010)
"Fashion in the Time of Jane Austen’s 62 pages are jam-packed with information and images. Some of the material that author Sarah Jane Downing wrote about was familiar, but much of it was new. While I finished the book in two sittings, I know I will be using it frequently for future reference... I give this book three out of three regency fans and recommend it highly to all readers who are interested in Regency fashion and historical romance writers who are interested in precise details of dress." -Jane Austen's World (March 2010)
Fashion in the Time of Jane Austen by Sarah-Jane Downing