The Regency Undress Page

Copyright Cathy Decker
"Undress" meant simply casual, informal dress in the Regency period. It was also called "dishabille" or "deshabille," the French word for the same type of dress. Another clue is anything "negligently worn" or "à la négligé" is probably either undress or designed to resemble closely undress. Undress is the sort of dress to be worn from early morning to noon or perhaps as late as four or five, depending on the engagements one had. Compared to half dress and full dress, undress is usually more comfortable, more warm, more casual, and much cheaper in cost. Morning and walking dresses are almost interchangeable and often you get something labelled "Morning Walking dress." Walking dress is usually morning dress with some type of wrap and of course a more elaborate headdress, such as a bonnet, hat, or turban. When a morning dress is called "domestic dress" or "home dress," it is usually shown in a fashion plate as indoors with a cap or headdress of mainly hair. (Another favorite with morning dress is the capote or cap-bonnet, a sort of blend of a cap and a bonnet.) The distinction between morning and walking dress is often that between a hostess and a visitor paying calls; the hostess is in a domestic or morning dress while the visitor is in a walking or morning-visiting dress.

Promenade dress is distinguished from walking dress in that it is designed for the social ritual of promenading in the park, walking to see and be seen in London or at a fashionable resort. Promenade dress is thus sometimes considered half dress and is more elegant than walking dress. Carriage dress is like promenade dress, but one is to be seen in a carriage, not walking. Riding dress is sometimes depicted with other morning or walking dresses, but because of its distinctive design, I do not include it here. Promenade, carriage, and riding dress are mostly associated with the social rituals of fashionable parks. The fashion writer for The Lady's Magazine often complains there are no new fashion trends to report because the weather has kept fashionable women in from the parks. The implication is the writer is not privy to the highest circles of society and relies on public displays for information. Of course fashionable modistes or mantua-makers (the common names for regency dressmakers) are also good sources for the periodicals of new fashion trends.

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