Regency revisited: Fashion tips I learned from Jane Austen

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Scout Hardin

Confession time: I am obsessed with Jane Austen. “Pride and Prejudice,” “Mansfield Park,” “Northanger Abbey” — you name it, I have the book on my shelf and the movie on my TV stand. Like the hundreds of thousands of Jane-ites before me, I have envisioned myself in gown, gloves and bonnet. Austen has given me much to be thankful for, including understanding the importance of a keen sense of style. Listen to us, and you will soon be fighting off eligible suitors.

1 Keep it high and tight, ladies. Why are empire-waist dresses not a staple in today’s wardrobe? Some say they can give the illusion of pregnancy, but hey, if this was the 1830s, that effect could speed up your beau’s marriage proposal!

2 Bring the bonnet back. The perks of wearing a bonnet are endless. For one thing, they protect your skin from the sun and make you look incredibly classy when you strut down the street. And if your bonnet is caught by a breeze and blows away, it makes a great conversation starter! Reading Austen novels, you get the impression that most regency courtships began with a rogue bonnet. I’m sure it happened at least once.

3 Parasols are an excellent alternative to the bonnet, but don’t feel like you can’t pair the two. Runaway parasols, like runaway bonnets, are a delightful way to begin a romance.

4Gentlemen, break out the breeches! Living in Kentucky gives you a head start here; equestrian style is all the rage with Regency dandies. Polish your riding boots, dust off your tailcoats, and consider yourself a proper gentlemen. Note that if you want to emulate Mr. Darcy, haughtiness, pride and a brooding demeanor are essential. Do not attempt unless fully prepared for women to fall madly at your feet.

While it sounds effortless, embracing the regency lifestyle can be exhausting. Not only must you do your best to be the darling of society, but you must also deal with the drama of gentlemen in possession of large fortunes and with dancing at balls — almost certainly a step towards falling in love. All the while, you must keep up with bonnets, gowns and gloves. Now excuse me while I go rewatch “Pride and Prejudice.”