Shopping For Cloth and Ordering a Dress
Harding, Howell, & Co.s, Drapers

From Ackermann's Repository of arts, literature, commerce, manufactures, fashions and politics (1809)
Sp Coll 2616
Harding, Howell, & Co.s grand Fashionable Magazine, No. 89, Pall Mall
(Plate 12: Vol. 1, No. 3, March 1809)

"The house is one hundred and fifty feet in length from front to back, and of proportionate width. It is fitted up with great taste, and is divided by glazed partitions into four departments, for the various branches of the extensive business, which is there carried on.
Immediately at the entrance is the first department, which is exclusively appropriated to the sale of furs (2nd plate from bottom of link page) and fans.
The second contains articles of haberdashery of every description, silks, muslins, lace, gloves, &etc
In the third shop, on the right, you meet with a rich assortment of jewelry, ornamental articles in ormolu, french clocks, &etc.; and on the left, with all the different kinds of perfumery necessary for the toilette.
The fourth is set apart for millinery and dresses; so that there is no article of female attire or decoration, but what may be here procured in the first style of elegance and fashion."


"I cannot determine what to do about my new gown; I wish such things were to be bought ready-made. ... I want to have something suggested which will give me no trouble of thought or direction." - Jane Austen in a letter to her sister Cassandra in 1798.

When a lady decided to have a dress made, she would first get an idea of the styles from fashion plates in magazines, and from her friends' clothes. The dressmaker might then call at her home, or the lady would go to the dressmaker's establishment, where she might be shown model dresses worn by the prettiest apprentice, and be assisted in making her choice. Colors that complimented various complexions and shaping gowns to hide figure flaws was well understood by the best dressmakers. However all this knowledge might be set at naught by the desire to be fashionable.

Dress Styles
Sheer India cotton muslin with cotton white work embroidery c.1810-1815 From 1795-1810, simple high-waisted white muslin dresses and helmet like bonnets inspired by ancient Greek motifs became fashionable.
In the period 1800-1820, women's evening dress aimed for a romantic and exotic appearance. Moorish turbans (bottom of page), Egyptian styles, and Grecian hairdos copied from Thomas Hope's Costume of the Ancients (pub.1809) were all the rage.
In 1810 the dress became less clinging and more constructed and stays began to creep back into feminine fashions. Trains had disappeared from day wear but remained in eveningwear. The neckline was low and square. Muslin was worn less for evening wear as satin and dresses of gauze over a satin slip came into fashion. (See gauze dress at left. A satin slip shimmering beneath would have made a lovely combination.)

Bonnets went through many style changes over the period 1810 to 1820, but in general they grew larger.
From 1813 flounces (See Fig. 6 on link page.) began to be added to the bottom of dresses.
From 1815 to 1820 the deep V bodice revealing the chemise in day wear was fashionable.
By 1816 the skirt had become wider at the hem and was worn at ankle height. Trim work at the hem was more profuse. Dresses were often embroidered with a profusion of white openwork. Princess Charlotte's wedding dress was a fine example of this type of embroidery.
By 1818 Dresses were of silk, still with highish waists but with bodice detailing such as pintucks and wide puff sleeves.
After 1825 the new fullness of the sleeve was lowered slightly as the off the shoulder neckline became fashionable.

During the 1830's the waist had descended to the body waistline and the dress skirt became larger and was balanced by huge puff sleeves.
Fashion-plate magazines like La Belle Assemblee, the Lady's Magazine, and Ackermann's Repository spread fashion ideas and served as a guide to dressmakers.

Fashion Terms

In the Georgian period, dresses moved from the gown a la Francaise with its stomacher and wide skirts supported by panniers to the body hugging Empire fashions and on to the wider skirts and sleeves that presaged Victorian fashions. These clothes had their own fashion terminology. For example: a fichu was an important accessory for women when low-necked Empire dresses were popular. It was a scarf-like piece of clothing used to cover the skin exposed by low-necked dresses, especially for day wear. The narrow skirts of Directorate and Empire dresses brought the reticule into fashion because pockets could no longer be placed beneath the skirts of gowns.

Shoes and Slippers

Shoes during the Regency period featured pointed toes, small curved heels, side seams, and natural materials (leather or silk upper, leather sole).

In 1810 cloaks and mantles, varying slightly in shape and bearing many different names were worn loosely folded about the figure.
The short spencer and longer pelisse provided a more fitted outer garment and are most characteristic of the period 1810-1830.
Before 1810 the spencer extended below the waist. After 1810 they were very short to match the high waisted dresses. The spencer remained fashionable until 1827.
The full-length companion to the spencer was the pelisse. The war years influenced women's dress. Frogs, epaulettes and braided and corded trimmings appeared on spencers and pelisses in the years preceding 1815.
After 1827 the large sleeves of dresses made form fitting outer garments impractical. Cloaks, mantles and shawls replaced the spencer and pelisse.

Muslin was an inexpensive light open weave bleached cotton cloth imported from India. Silk was expensive during the war years and wool was needed for uniforms. These factors, added to the Grecian influence in fashion made muslin the fabric of choice for women's dress.

Calico prints were extremely popular during the 18th century and were originally produced by the slow, labor-intensive application of dyes to wooden blocks, which were then pressed onto fabric.
Around 1750, copper printing plates and giant presses increased productivity by 300 percent.
In 1783, the Scotsman Thomas Bell, who had invented printing from plates, developed roller printing making print cloth much less expensive. Two years later, when it was put into service at the English printworks of Livesay, Hargreaves, Hall, and Company, near Preston, the six-color roller printer did the daily work of about forty hand-block printers. A similar machine installed in the Oberkampf mill at Jouy-en-Josas, for printing the original toile, in 1797 could print more than 5,000 yards of cloth a day, compared to the hand-blocked output of between 30 and 100 yards a day per printer.
In 1786, Bertholet developed a method for using chlorine water for commercial bleaching. The use of hydrogen peroxide followed shortly after.
The popular Sprig'd Muslins developed by three Frenchmen in 1794 is mentioned in a 1795 newspaper add (see add 522 on the link to the Windham Herald).
In 1797, Bancroft invented a process for steam fixation of prints.

More Clothing Stores
Geives and Hawkes founded 1817 on New Bond was a men's clothing store. The stock included furnishings, hats, walking sticks, and tailors services.

Messrs Flint & Palmer department store on London Bridge opened in the 1750's. Opening day advertisements hawked shirts ready made.
white work embroidery

A page with information on underclothing.

Buy a reference book containing numerous fashion plates from a variety of sources Regency Era Fashion Plates: 1800-1819 by Mandy Foster

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