Regardless of the wearer's social class, fashions of the Regency era were lighter and simpler than those of past decades. The stiff brocades and embroidered silks of the Georgian period were replaced by lightweight fabrics in plain, subdued colors. Inspired by Grecian statues, Regency designers raised the waistline to just below the wearer's bosom. The waistline was often defined by a wide sash tied in a bow at the back of a dress and accentuated by a crossover gauze bodice or muslin neckerchief above. Properly dressed ladies wore spencers (long-sleeved jackets cut beneath the bosom) or pelisses (long-sleeved jackets cut three-quarters down the length of a skirt) out of doors, along with a broad-brimmed hat tied under the chin with a ribbon.
Following the trend of women's fashions, men in the Regency era were dressed more soberly than their predecessors. The richly colored, brocaded suits were replaced by plain, dark cutaway coats which were especially practical for horsemanship. Knee breeches, stockings and buckled shoes gave way to pantaloons tucked into high riding boots. Finally, the powdered wigs of the Georgian era were forever relegated from fashion, as men of the period began wearing their hair short and natural.
Food and Cooking
During the Regency era, most middle and upper class families had their servants prepare and cook all meals. For example, Mrs. Bennet in Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice took great pride that her family was "too genteel for her daughters to be involved cooking." Modest households, such as those of the clergy, often were capable of cultivating most of their own produce. Accordingly, gardening became a valuable skill for women of the period. In Austen's England, fashionable cities such as Bath also offered a wide variety of foods but often lacked freshness in their produce and milk, due to the slow transportation and lack of refridgeration of the times.
In 1830, Colonel Robert Gibbon Johnson dispelled the common misconception at the time that tomatoes were poisonous. The Colonel ate tomatoes publicly on the courthouse steps in Salem, New Jersey, on September 26, 1830. Although the roots of this fruit go way back to pre-Inca times, when tomatoes grew wild, tomatoes were long believed to be poisonous like other fruits in the nightshade family. Spanish explorers took tomatoes to Europe, but northern countries grew them for decoration and disparaged them as food. After the Colonel's display, chefs began experimenting with tomatoes in sauces, pastes and more.
Sports, Games and Leisure
For those at the top of Regency society, entertainment in various forms was the main activity
during the season (and for much of the rest of the year as well). This entertainment, though, wasn't always
just frivolous amusement. Seemingly harmless entertainments could have serious consequences,
for better or worse. For instance, playing cards and betting in general became something of
a mania. Fortunes were won and lost both at fashionable card parties and in the
notorious gambling halls of London.
Gambling was rife in early nineteenth century England. Card games were a feature of many evening parties.
They provided people who didn't dance, such as chaperones, with a chance to entertain themselves.
Dancers who grew tired could also pause between waltzes to play cards for a while, making these games
quite popular. Playing for money was optional, but many people did so.
Although many card games were friendly rounds of whist played by responsible dowagers,
still others were high-stakes contests between wealthy, rakish gentlemen.
Indeed, gentlemen of the era were notorious for betting large sums. They not
only played cards for large stakes but also bet on virtually anything imaginable.
With the dawn of Victorian morality, betting on the huge scale seen during the Regency declined. Life in general settled down considerably after Queen Victoria ascended to the throne. By the 1840s, the gambling fever of Regency England had passed.
In addition the gambling, dancing was a popular pasttime for all classes.
Dances ranged from lavish balls at great country houses to impromptu dances attended by
family and friends after dinner. Dances provided an opportunity for young men and women to
meet suitable husbands and wives.
Most popular exposure to this era of dance comes in the works of Jane Austen, in both her novels and letters.
Dances of this era were lively and bouncy, and steps ranging from simple skipping to elaborate ballet-style movements were used.