Building a regency wardrobe can be tricky, but only if you over think it. There are several cardinal rules you should stick to when you are assembling your wardrobe.
|Slippy, shiny, froofy, mitchy-matchy and a tiny bit tacky.|
1) Use natural fabrics. I cannot stress this enough! Stay away from poly blends or synthetics. The colours are not natural, and they are not period correct. They often reflect camera flashes and give off a shine that is unbecoming. Stick to silks, cottons, wools, linens and natural fibers. It’s also an advantage because these fabrics breathe better, and when you are layered up with all your underpinnings, it can get warm.
Particularly in silk, stay away from dupioni unless it is really smooth and not too slubby. Your best bet is shantung or taffeta. They did not use slubby silk, because it was considered cheap. You can probably get away with dupioni for hats and other accessories.
2) Choose tasteful trim. It's hard to define what tasteful is, but all you need to do is look at extant garments and fashion plates to understand what would be acceptable vs what is easy. Stay away from roses, stick with delicate patterns if you can find them.
3) Choose colours suited to the period. There were bright colours, but they tended to have a muted value against some of the very bright, very pure colours of today. (See the bottom of this post for some colourway tools and ideas.
|Jewel tones; bright and vibrant but not loud.|
|More lovely jewel tones.|
|Pastels that have just a dash of grey. Muted and subtle.|
|Subtle, muted pastels.|
|More muted, yet still vibrant tones.|
|Dusky earth tones.|
Fabric was expensive. So to have matching items is perhaps a component of being rich, but even the rich were not compelled to make a hat that matched a particular dress. They might have coordinated a hat with a redingote, but not always. They mixed and matched their garments. The trick is to pick a colour and pattern story in your fabrics. To pick full neutrals for your hats and outwear, and even your accessories, and then be playful with your regular garments. Play with muted pastels (not modern pastels), earth tones, jewel tones, sparse and light patterns (roll and block prints), border prints, etc. Always in Regency, think DELICATE. Think SUBTLE.
5) Stay away from Victorian busy rose prints. These are not regency. Large patterns were not common either.
|1820 - Yes|
6) Stay away from Victorian lace with busy repeated patterns. If you want to make an overlay, use a sheer with a sparse embroidery design, or border whitework. There are even net sheers for windows you can find that will work fine, but they should not be solid pattern.
|Pretty, but still a no.|
|A nice subtle dot, yes!|
|This would work.|
7) Don't allow anyone persuade you NOT to use an 18th century style print for Regency. Again, fabric was expensive, and women very often reused the fabrics from their old gowns, their mother’s gowns and grandmother’s gowns. There are countless extant garments showing careful re-purposing of old-fashioned prints and fabrics by meticulous seamstresses.
8) Do not hesitate to piece either. What does that mean? If you don’t have enough fabric to cut all your pieces in one large piece, you can add in little bits and bobs from your scraps to fill in. Regency women did it all the time. Precious, high-quality fabric was much valued. garments were lined in pieced scraps oftentimes, and gowns were decorated to hide the countless repairs and stains that inevitably happened.
They were not the disposable world that we live in today. The rich often passed used garments down to servants and subordinates instead of throwing them away. Old, worn gowns were downgraded to morning gowns to be worn about the house when not visiting.
9) Patterns were used for day (on the most part). Some jacquard style fabrics, silk stripes and elegant patterns can be gotten away with in regency evening wear. Regency evening wear was embellished with lace and trim—with few fully patterned fabrics. You do need to take care, however, in what you choose. Tastefulness is understated elegance, not fancy schmancy, especially during this period.
In general, the patterned fabrics were used mostly for day gowns and morning gowns. See this Pinterest board for ideas of what kind of patterns and colours were used during that period.
10) Any period prior to the time of mass-produced garments, there really are no absolutes (there ;aren't really any absolutes after that period either). People are imaginative; they have individual tastes,individual skills and ideas. We are creative now, they were creative then. What makes it authentic is the cut, the style, the technique, the fabrics, the colour story and the silhouette.
Look at as many fashion plates as you can from the period, and decide your wardrobe from that.
There are also really great tools to help you create a colour story palette to work with so when you pick fabrics, no matter how different they are from one another, their colours will complement each other. Dyes were natural, fabrics were never quite as white as modern whites are. So the brightness of a value was knocked down a bit. Keep that in mind when picking your colours. Stay away from Barbie pinks, and baby blues. Think of it this way; most colours in nature complement the other. Stick to natural tones and you can never go wrong.
Some colour tools:
-Use a picture or a fashion plate to create a palette: http://www.pictaculous.com
-http://design-seeds.com/index.php/search. Pick one colour you like and then let the software find its best colour friends.