Jane Austen (1775-1817) hardly needs an introduction; she is one of the most beloved and admired authors in the English language. The watercolor above right is by her sister Cassandra, and is believed to be of Jane. The portrait of Jane on the left is a 19th century painting based on a sketch by Cassandra.
Talk Like Jane Austen Day is October 30, so you can get double duty out of your Halloween costume. To dress like Jane Austen, you just need a Regency gown. And some sort of headcovering—her niece said she always wore a cap (presumably under her bonnet when she went outdoors).
The pieces we suggest, from left to right:
1. Regency gown. If you’re in a hurry, you can get an “Empress Josephine” costume like the one we show and it will work fine. If you can wait a couple of weeks for your dress, you can order a proper Regency gown from a seamstress. One option is Littlehuggs Reenactment Costumes, which offers a custom-made Ladies Regency/Empire Gown for about $70. You give them your bust measurements and they sew up the dress in about a week. You can also check out Wendy’s Doll Closet on eBay. She offers a variety of custom Regency gowns for under a hundred bucks—made either from her fabric or from fabric you supply, with long sleeves or short, lined or unlined. As always with custom work, familiarize yourself with the seller’s rules and be aware that there are no returns.
2. Regency bonnet in cream and light blue. With feathers! This beautiful Regency bonnet is based on the costume worn by Lydia in the 1995 film version of Pride and Prejudice. Check out the seller’s other items too; she has a couple of different Austen-inspired bonnets.
3. Cap. You can wear this by itself or underneath the bonnet. This is a simple period cap in white, with a little frill to frame your face.
4. Single-strand 18-inch faux pearl necklace. Regency pearls were simple and classic-looking. If you don’t already have a basic pearl/faux pearl necklace, this one will do.
5. Isotoner ivory satin ballet slippers. Regency shoes were extremely similar to ballet slippers; they even had ribbons. Modern Isotoners are an excellent substitute.