By the Seaside with Sanditon: Guest Blog with Mandy N. on Regency-era Seaside Fashions

Please welcome Mandy N. today as a guest blogger during ‘By the Seaside with Sanditon’. Mandy is an avid collector of vintage fashion plates and has graciously offered to share some of her lovely images and chat about Regency-era fashion that I am quite certain Mr. Parker would think quite elegant enough for Sanditon.

During the Regency-era, seaside resorts were popular among fashionable society for both health cures and holidays. Jane Austen’s novels mention the resorts of Brighton, Scarborough, Cromer, Lyme and her fictional ‘Sandy ton’ or Sanditon. At resorts, fashionable visitors delighted in leisurely pleasures of promenading and seabathing amid sunshine and sea breezes. To partake of resort pleasures visitors required fashionable apparel to promenade, seabath, mingle and be seen by society. Seaside resorts also encouraged ladies to buy trinkets and shell ornaments at the circulating library similar to what Mr. Parker tries to establish at Sanditon. 

The basic seaside costume was a white muslin dress comfortable for a beach stroll and to ‘take a turn on the cliff’ (Ch.6), or dress up with accessories for a promenade. My impression is between the 1809 to 1815 seasons seaside fashion evolved. Accessories such as scarves, ribbons, shawls and reticules added blue, green or yellow colour to a white dress. Bonnets and parasols in matching colours added variety to seaside Regency costumes. ‘the most stylish girls in  the place.‘  (Ch. 11)

           

(Figure 1 left) Promenade Dress (Ackermann’s Repository 1809) shows a stylish frock for a stroll on the beach. A white muslin dress. Bonnet of plaited straw with ostrich feather, tied with ribbon. A Marine Scarf of purple silk and matching Chinese parasol of purple silk. Shoes and gloves of yellow kid. No doubt the perfect outfit to enjoy ‘the finest, purest seabreeze on the coast’ (Ch. 1) 

(Figure 2 right) Promenade or Sea Beach Costume (Ackerman’s Repository 1810). Take a turn around the cliff in natural surroundings near the resort in white muslin under an apple-green crape tunic coat with straw bonnet tied with ribbon. Chinese green silk parasol and green kid slippers. A versatile outfit to wear round the resort. 

(Figure 3) A sight to please Mr. Parker is the sight of a most fashionable young woman who knew to sit upon the seashore to enjoy sunshine and a breeze. Promenade Dress (Ackermann’s Repository 1815). A stripey pelisse with a full neck ruff and silk shawl over the shoulders. Fabric-covered bonnet with flowers. Her strapped slippers allow easier walking on a sandy shore. This Promenade Dress was fashionable in cool months. Regency society enjoyed visiting seaside resorts all year round. (Thanks Heather, for your elegant 1815 Promenade Dress)

 

(Figure 4)  Morning Dress (Ackermann’s Repository 1814). A lady sits on the beach looking out to sea.  Her robe is evening-primrose-coloured sarsanet with blonde lace. French hat of ribbons and flowers. A darker dress may not show dust or sand so much as a white dress. Fashion terms like evening primrose may’ve appealed to stylish ladies. This Morning Walking Dress has the addition of a telescope. Telescope gazing was a popular leisure with men and women at sea resorts. Like the Miss Beauforts, perhaps she- ‘looks at nothing through a telescope.‘ (Ch. 11)

         

(Figure 5 left) Walking Dress (Ackermann’s Repository 1811).  Muslin robe with a fuller sleeve and a square neckerchief in folds. Amber sarsenet coat. A mountain hat with flower, oranmented with white crape (her hair folds beneath the white crape). Half-boots of buff kid and a crimson reticule. This outfit for a seaside stroll appears more sophisticated than dresses of 1809-1810 seasons. Personally, I love the background and beach activity in this costume plate! 

(Figure 6 right) Walking Dress (Ackermann’s Repository 1815). Exemplifies a costume worn by the seashore at time of Sanditon. A high muslin dress of short waking length trimmed with treble flounces and full ruff of French style. Long sleeve with wristband over the hand. French bonnet of white satin edged with blue ribbon and a plume of feathers. Mantle of silk embroidered with silks. Silk stockings, gloves and slippers of blue kid. Blue shoes? Civilization indeed!  ‘Who would have expected such a sight at a shoemaker’s in old Sanditon!’ (Ch. 4)  But did she buy her large, large bonnet from Jebbs? 

         

(Figure 7 left) Promenade Half Full Dress (La Belle Assemblee 1810). An ensemble fit for an heiress to stroll upon the Terrace. A muslin dress with long sleeves and low neck. French scarf of yellow silk. Note the lace veil on the yellow silk bonnet to protect a lady’s complexion, or, if she is ill protection from unwanted public gaze upon the Terrace. Parasol of light yellow & white fringe. Gloves and shoes of yellow kid.  Likely, such fashion was seen at large, fashionable resorts. ‘the Terrace was the attraction to all; everybody who walked, must begin with the Terrace.’ (Ch. 7) 

(Figure 8 right) Promenade Costume (Ackermann’s Repository 1812). A muslin robe with long sleeves, simple collar and brooch. Amber sash, rosary and cross necklace. Gloves and shoes of yellow kid. Her hat is trimmed with white ribbons. I wonder if she reads a book of poetry? ‘Upon the Terrace with the Parkers and Denhams, sat Clara Brereton.’ She is known to wear white ribbons.

(Figure 9) ‘Two females in elegant white.’ (Ch. 4) Promenade or Sea Beach Costumes (Ackermann’s Repository 1810). First figure: White muslin gown, a tunic of pink sarsanet with cording up front. Straw hat tied with white ribbon. A founding lace cap with flowers. Muslin cloak and head-dress of square veil of French lace. Gloves and pink slippers. Second figure: A white muslin robe and cloak of fine muslin. Headdress with a square veil of lace accented with a brooch. Gloves and amber slippers. Lace veils probably protected a lady’s face from sun and wind on the beach. The outfits appear loose and comfortable for around the resort wear. ‘The sea air and sea bathing together were nearly infallible’ (Ch. 2)

(Figure 10) Sea Bathing Costume (La Belle Assemblee 1815). A pelisse of green-white silk with fringes. Leghorn hat with feathers. Green and white striped half boots. At seaside resorts, ladies could parade in style enjoying the purest seabreeze by the dancing sea. Yet, promenading was not the only leisure. Sea resorts were famed by society for the novelty of sea cures and seabathing. ‘Here began the descent to the beach, and to the bathing machines-and this was therefore the favourite spot for beauty and fashion.’ (Ch. 4) This fashion plate features a lady strolling in seabathing costume to the beach in to the seabathing machines to change and enter the water in privacy. Seabathing machines can be seen on the lower right side of the fashion plate. The advantage of this costume was a lady could quickly dress or undress. Does she carry a muslin slip in her bag? The most fastidious belle could not find a more becoming Bathing Costume. I wonder if this lady bathes for leisure or sea cure? In the novel, active hypochondriac Diana Parker appears a regular seabather, so presumably owns a Bathing Costume. She intends ‘to enourage Miss Lambe in taking her first dip…and go in the machine with her if he wishes it.‘ (Ch. 12)  

In the Regency-era seabathing was the motive to improve one’s health, but socializing and fashion appear as important as any sea cure. As we see in these fashion plates from the Ladies Journals of the era, it is apparent that they catered to the novelty of fashion by the sea. To realistically display Walking Dresses or a Sea Bathing Costumes, beach or cliff scenes were popular as background on fashion plates. To a fashionable lady, the picture may convey not only the infallible delights of finery but the delight of visiting a resort for ‘the sea, dancing and sparkling in sunshine and freshness.’ (Ch. 4)

For people not yet drowned by seaside images, you can check the wallpaper gallery at Solitary Elegance. The August wallpaper features two Regency seaside mother & child plates and a quote from Sanditon for your enjoyment.

Many thanks to Mandy N. for all her work scanning images and researching the text. Bravo!

Further reading

Upcoming event posts

Day 6 – March 20 Group Read Chapters 9-12
Day 6 – March 20 Review: Sanditon (Hesperus)
Day 7 – March 21 Sanditon Completions
Day 8 – March 22 Event Wrap-up

18 thoughts on “By the Seaside with Sanditon: Guest Blog with Mandy N. on Regency-era Seaside Fashions

    • It does look like the lady was coming “out” of the sea rather than going in. I had the same look when I waded into a kelp bed near San Diego.

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  1. Thank you for a front row seat to this Regency resort line! The lovely details of face veils and fringes… I’m so glad they eventually added colors. The swath of yellow and blue against the white muslin, sandy beaches, pristine promenades must have a created such a picturesque seaside scenery. Monet’s Terrace at the Seaside, Sainte-Adresse comes to mind. =)

    It’s also fascinating to know that women haven’t really changed much in 200 years… we still want to wear pretty things, wherever we are! I’m reminded of going to a beach resort once where I never saw any bathing suit getting wet. It was all about flaunting fashion, dah-ling! ;-)

    Are you taking any orders? I would love the the evening-primrose-coloured sarsanet (had to look this up!) with blonde lace. Together with the French hat and telescope, please…

    Look for my glowing review of your collection, Mandy N, in the special issue of SI Swimsuit-Regency Edition. =) The lovely Miss Brereton in the pelisse of green-white silk with fringes will grace the cover.

    Btw, I now know the origins of the aqua-socks.

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    • Thankyou all so much for your kind comments; II’ll never look at the kelp lady again, without thinking of dippy Diane. ;)
      If I were Madame Lanchester (Regency fashion modiste) if you could afford my bill, I’d be glad to run you up a little number in the evening-primrose sarsenet and a French hat to sit upon the beach :-)
      Actually, I wonder if the lady is a captain’s wife, looking out for her husband’s return.
      Simple, colourful accessories and fussy hats make these outfits stylish. I only wish you could all see background details of some of the plates; donkeys, fishermen, boats, horses & riders in the water, ships on the horizon; a virtual backdrop of Regency era life.
      Regency Romantic, most kindly of you to review my collection for a swimsuit Regency edition (good heavens, I keep wracking my brain to come up with some Jane name for my JA-Regency fashion plate collection- A Fine Diversion ? I am open to any ideas from everyone ! )
      I must confess, I’m not familiar with SI but please wise me up as I am wild to know :)

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      • She may well be a captain’s wife… she has that haunted, abandoned look about her, after anxiously perusing through the telescope…

        Now, I must shamefully confess that I was being facetious about the SI (Sports illustrated) Swimsuit-Regency Edition. I guess it didn’t come across as it is very hard to convey without the proper emoticons at my disposal. ;-) I am no Jane Austen, obviously! I deeply apologize… It was meant as a compliment to your beautiful and thoroughly researched post, Mandy N.

        As to a name for your JA-Regency fashion plate collection… hmmm… that needs some thought… World of Witty Wears/Wares? I’ll keep it percolating in the grey matter…

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        • LOL ! Oh, love the idea of (Sports-Illustrated) Swimsuit-Regency Edition, you mustn’t aopologize RR :) …but I am wracking my brain for a Jane name for my fashion plate collection- at the moment, it’s simply called Finery; as mentioned in Sanditon.

          Meant to say, Belle Assemblee text for the Kelp lady says the whole dress can be quickly removed for bathing; but there is no mention of a muslin slip in her bag.
          Well, I presume Miss Lambe and Diana Parker wore muslin slips for bathing.

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  2. I know nothing about the fashion of the era, so this was an eye-opening post. I’m glad we don’t have to wear stuff like that these days, but the outfit in Figure 7 caught my eye.

    Thanks, Mandy N.!

    –Anna

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  3. What a fun post! In Mandy’s part of the world they are heading towards autumn, but here we are seeing the first peeks of spring, and I’m looking forward to summer pool time! I can practically feel the sand between my toes and the sun on my parasol in those fashion plates.

    I like the idea of Miss Parker “helping” Miss Lambe to bathe. The bathing-machine attendants, or “dippers,” would duck their victims, er, customers under the water for the prescribed number of times as part of the service provided. Diana would probably be the dipper in this case, and poor chilly and tender Miss Lambe the dippee.

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    • I must imagine Miss Diana to be a most merciless dipper as she has no compunction recommending the most unpleasant medical treatments. Poor Miss Lambe indeed!

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  4. Fig. 7 is my favorite, but I agree, Fig. 10 looks like it’s trimmed with kelp.

    Many thanks for sharing these gowns and information — lovely work, Mandy!

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  5. Figures 4, 6 and 8 are simply lovely. I think it’s wonderful how they introduced color into their clothing with those pretty and bright accessories, not so very different from our day. And the striped green boots on the last lady are just so chic!
    Mandy, you did a wonderful job, so fun to learn from the experts!

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  6. As I sit here in my fleece pants and an AZ Diamondback tee shirt, I am loving all these stylish dresses. I know little of fashion, so this was a treasure trove of info for me. I do have a question. At one time, only royalty could wear purple. I gather that prohibition was no longer in place or is there an added meaning, i.e., would she have been a favorite of a royal prince? Just guessing here. Thanks again for the article and sketches.

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    • Hi, I think you may refer to Sumptutary Laws of the Elizabethan era ? My impression is such laws intended to curb extravagence and delineate social classes were never popular in England or rigoursly enforced by any fashion police. ;-)
      By the Regency era , I do not believe any sumptuary laws had any impact on costume…. Jane Austen mentions wearing of purple. In Northanger Abbey; Isabella says she wears purple for James.
      I quite agree with you no prohibiton existed regarding purple.
      Many Regency costume plates from ladies journals such as Ackermnann’s and Lady’s Museum Monthly show purple with walking or evening dresses; an Ackermann’s plate of 1812 shows a lady wearing a purple shrug- as it is a mother & child plate I doubt a purple accessory denotes the lady is a royal favourite; especially given that readers of Ackermann’s Journal were middle class rather than ‘haut ton’.
      However, costume plates did ‘bow’ to events connected with royalty. In late 1817, Princess Charlotte (a JA fan), died. The Belle Assemblee & Ackermann’s fashion plates for December 1817 show black Mourning day dress and black Evening Mourning dress for the public to wear for the royal mourning period.
      Hope that is of some interest. :)

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  7. My grandmother has some framed fashion plate prints on a bedroom wall and they’ve always intrigued me. I remember making up stories about the ladies when I was small but as much as I am fascinated by Regency clothing, I am happy as a little clam in my jeans. :-)

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  8. This was a very cool post! Sort of reminds me of modern “cruisewear” Light and bright with splashes of color, lots of “fluttery” parts that will pick up whe the wind blows.

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  9. Pingback: Austen's Sanditon: A New Period Drama • Willow and Thatch

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