This lively book reveals the clothing and fashion of the world depicted in Jane Austen’s beloved books, focusing on the long Regency between the years 1795 and 1825. During this period, accelerated change saw Britain’s turbulent entry into the modern age, and clothing reflected these transformations. Starting with the intimate perspective of clothing the self, Dress in the Age of Jane Austen moves outward through the social and cultural spheres of home, village, countryside, and cities, and into the wider national and global realms, exploring the varied ways people dressed to inhabit these environments. Jane Austen’s famously observant fictional writings, as well as her letters, provide the entry point for examining the Regency age’s rich complexity of fashion, dress, and textiles for men and women in their contemporary contexts.
Lavishly illustrated with paintings, drawings, historic garments, and fashion plates—including many previously unpublished images—this authoritative yet accessible book will help readers visualize the external selves of Austen’s immortal characters as clearly as she wrote of their internal ones. The result is an enhanced understanding of Austen’s work and time, and also of the history of one of Britain’s most distinctive fashion eras.
“Combining meticulous scholarship and intellectual heft with an engaging, approachable style is one of the most difficult writing tasks there is, but Davidson makes it seem effortless, using the life, the letters and the novels of Austen as an entry point into her exploration of clothing, its modes of production, its aesthetics, and its social meaning.”—Kerryn Goldsworthy, Sydney Morning Herald
“Davidson treats historical garments as material objects open to interpretation, helping scholars and fans alike add to the traditional Austen archive by turning textile to text”—Elyse Martin, Perspectives on History
“[The author] gives fascinating insights into Austen’s appearance and also her attitudes to fashion” —Matthew Westwood, The Australian
“In a remarkable new book, the textile historian Hilary Davidson uses Austen's writing as a lens through which to explore the evolving fashions of the Regency period at every level of society. Glorious full-colour illustrations of costumes ranging from linen bodices to silk pantaloons are stitched together with contextual observations to create a comprehensive portrait of late-18th-century life”—Town & Country UK
"Dress in the Age of Jane Austen gives us a detailed and comprehensive analysis of Regency fashion and is to be much welcomed as a single volume survey. . . . The book is beautifully illustrated with thoughtfully chosen, and often unusual or unfamiliar images. . . . For dress historians this book sets a scholarly and inspiring example, which is bound to remain a standard work of reference for this period.”—Penelope Byrd, Journal of Dress History
CHOICE Outstanding Academic Title, 2020