This year, for the first time, I attended the Jane Austen Festival in Bath, England. The festival, held every September, draws hundreds of Jane Austen fans (like me) to one of the biggest gatherings of Regency reenactors in the world.
On Saturday, my husband and I participated in the “Grand Regency Costumed Promenade.” As I mentioned in a previous post, the Bath Jane Austen Festival achieved the Guinness World Record for ‘The largest gathering of people dressed in Regency costumes’ in 2009 at 409. The number rose up to 550 in 2014. Since Bath already holds the record, they did not try to set a new one this year. Instead, we paraded through the streets of this historic city simply to enjoy ourselves, honor Jane Austen, and entertain the hundreds of onlookers who lined the parade route—locals as well as tourists from all over the world. This was fine with me, because I was not terribly interested in setting a world record, but I was determined to dress my husband as Mr. Darcy, and knew this would be my best chance.
Months ahead of time, we contacted an historical costume maker in England who has made similar gentleman’s attire. She sent us fabric swatches and I sent her Brian’s measurements. After some postal delays, we received the outfit. It did not fit Brian well at all at first—likely due to my poor measuring skills. But thankfully a friend-of-a-friend is a skilled seamstress, and she altered the pieces to fit Brian better. I also ordered Brian a top hat, gentlemen’s historically-accurate silk stockings (they made him feel very masculine <wink>), and pointy-toed shoes, which allowed him to dance at the ball better than he could in tall riding boots. You really can find almost anything online. He also wore his old Bell Ringer gloves. (Don’t tell the Bell Choir director. :)) I didn’t bring any “how to tie a cravat” instructions, but thankfully another participant helped Brian tie his.
Brian’s cutaway frockcoat is a bit more Georgian in style than true Regency, which worked better with his build, though he had to add suspenders to keep up those high-waisted breeches.
And I want you to notice his long sideburns or “side-whiskers” as they were called, which he grew out to please me and look more the part of an early 19th century gentleman. Poor guy. What his coworkers must have thought! The song, “The Things We Do For Love,” seems apropos. He can’t wait to shave them off, but I like them. But then, I would. 🙂 And Brian may look cross in these photos, but he really wasn’t. He was going for a “proud and haughty Mr. Darcy look.”
I wore my new bonnet and the spencer jacket I blogged about previously (made by Matti’s Millinery), over my gold gown (made by my niece), as well as gloves and reticule. I also brought a silk parasol. The style is not 100% historically accurate, but with rain in the forecast, I decided it was “better safe than sorry.”
The phrase, “Don’t rain on my parade” ran through my mind, but unfortunately it rained a LOT during the promenade, and I was very glad indeed to have the waterproof umbrella. The streets and paths we trod were wet and dirty and I saw several ladies with hems “six inches deep in mud,” to quote Pride and Prejudice. But rain or shine, it was an enjoyable time anyway.
Our British friend, Anne Rogers, publishing professional and talented photographer, kindly rode the train in to meet us in Bath and take photographs for us. Doesn’t she do beautiful work? We really appreciated her taking the time to join us for the event.
My husband and I attended for a few days, but the entire festival lasts 10 days, offering theatre performances, walking tours, dances, workshops, readings, and more. If you are a Jane Austen fan and fellow Anglophile, you may want to attend yourself one of these days. It’s truly a memorable experience.