Regency shapes and Pinterest

The Mirror of the Graces was a mission but it did underline what I was becoming more aware of. The body shapes of the time must have been as diverse and individual as now.  The film and TV  impressions  are too narrow and reflect an idealised view.

John Opie 1805
The 'Lady of Distinction'  obviuosly favoured youth, graceful and slim, but placed a great emphasis on modest demeanour and health. How one moved, behaved was a part of  beauty.

David 1800 Mme Recamier
Perhaps the desired profile was not too different -
 not extreme, tall enough, slim enough, high bosom,  girlish rather than womanly, pretty face and smooth skin.
One of the greatest resources I have come across is pinterest. Not knowing where to start looking for individual websites it does give instant access to visual resources from almost everywhere.
For Mum - Pinterest is a site that allows you collect and group pictures on notice boards, add comments, and be nosey about what other people have found. The sheer number of images from this era was intimidating but after a while I spotted duplications, images from the same sources and began to spot the different styles.  The worst thing about Pinterest is that pictures become detatched from their original source very quickly. It has been a good way to find  other blogs and collections but I wanted to see things in context, to see what information was avialable. It is worth tracking back through the repins to try to locate the sources, Sometimes this has lead to great frustration but also to real treats -  Try,  or for  unexpected things like the Ingres drawings.


Best finds -  The portraits  and drawings give a sense of the clothing and the person they were made for. Okay, some flattery might have been involved but they would still have to be recognisable.  The width and comparative height of the sitter is not always apparent, seated portraits can disguise too much or too little height, the sideways twist can also hide a multitude of sins. The clothing styles do not seem to differ between the ages too much - Same waistline, shoulder line, sleeve length and frilly neck treatment.  The overall impression is of fabric following the shape of the body- there is a softness in the clothing that is such a contrast to the styles before and after.  (The lady  in the painting below is an exception - the bosom is positively painfully high! No wonder she was up for adoption.  It looks very atificial compared to the Constable portrait at the bottom. )  

   Tucks, gathers and darts give shape to the front. There is separation between the breasts - no cleavage as such. The high single bosom look of the film world is there - but more on fashion plates than in the portraits I've found so far.(I shall continue to search) A lot of ornamentation seems to be on the sleeve. The coat sleeve on most is gathered to the top of the shoulder, narrow on the forearm and the cuff is covering the hand, what happens inbetween seems to be open to interpretation! With the sleeve head being just off the point of the shoulder this gives an exaggerated width to the upper body and slope to the base of the neck. The band under the bust is at one of the narrowest parts of the torso, and the difference from shoulder to this line gives the triangular shape of the bodice. The high waist also gives greater length to the body and in none of these does the skirt fall straight from waistband ! These were not meant to be skinny women! he long fall of fabric must have given a grace to movement - pity those with poor posture. Some of these ladies seem bundled into their clothes - is this the real legacy of lycra - our own clothes fit too snugly, real cloth requires ease to permit movement. Being little and somewhat round I would fear looking as tall as wide - tied tight around the middle like a sack of spuds, and just as glamourous.
John Constable Mrs Pulham

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