The Regency girl's guide to fashion

Handbag mania is nothing new. It was all the rage back in the Regency era.

Handbags had been especially created for the Regency woman - and she couldn’t get enough of them. No fashionista would have been without the latest craze.

Because dresses with a slimmer silhouette were all the rage, carrying your possessions around in the traditional pocket - which hung underneath your dress from ribbons tied around the waist - would have spoiled the line.

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So designers had created the reticule - a bag to be carried in the hand, so called because it was deemed a ridiculous bit of frippery (how many times have men called it that since?)

And it wasn’t only bags that she was passionate about.

“The Regency woman was an accessories addict,” says Gillian. “Fashion at the time was, like its architecture, inspired by ancient Greece and Rome and was actually quite simple. So hats, shoes, bags, gloves and jewellry were the best way of adding individuality.”

Shoe-aholics clamoured for the very same style we can’t get enough of today - the ballerina-style flat pump. They preferred theirs complete with ribbons tied around the ankles.

And the military craze we all marched to a couple of years back? Again, the Georgian girls did it first. They wore cropped, uniform-inspired jackets over their dresses and their favourite hat was the Waterloo - a high, soldier style bearing a plume of feathers. Both were inspired by the Napoleonic wars raging at the time.

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The hottest colours for a Regency girl’s wardrobe were beige and brown for daytime, with bright cobalt or duck egg blue silks featuring in their low-cut eveningwear.

Bright shawls from India were the latest must-have fashion pieces. And you can forget the TV costume drama’s romanticised image of Jane Austen heroines.

There was barely a blush on a cheek as make-up was seen as tarty. And masses of creamy bosom were not constantly spilling from their Pride and Prejudice dresses - cleavages could only be flaunted “after the hour of dinner”.

Modern men who complain at the amount of time they have to wait around for their women to get ready - according to a recent survey by an internet shopping site, it steals 22 weeks out of their life - ought to shut up, put up and feel sorry for their ancestors.

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It took Georgian women at least an hour just to get dressed! On went the chemise, followed by stockings and garters. Only the ultra-fashionable wore knickers - so Britney and Paris should think again about their shock tactic.

Then there was a corset to be laced by a maid, followed by a fine muslin petticoat and finally the dress.

“Then there would be lots of little adjustments to make, the shoes to be chosen and the hair to be curled with the stems of old clay pipes - they worked like heated rollers.”