Posts Tagged ‘Regency romance’

Regency Underwear — What’s Love Got to Do With It?

Thursday, February 13th, 2014

For three days only, it’s the

Kate Dolan writes for the Traditional Regency line, Blush Cotillion

Welcome to the Cotillion Authors Blog Tour & Scavenger Hunt!


 February 14-17, 2014

 Janice Bennett • Kate Dolan • Susana Ellis • Saralee Etter • A.S. Fenichel • Aileen Fish • Barbara Miller • Hetty St. James • Elaine Violette

We’re not your typical Ellora’s Cave authors!

We write for Cotillion, an imprint of Ellora’s Cave’s Blush line, the mainstream “other side” of Ellora’s Cave that most people don’t know about.

Yes, Virginia, Ellora’s Cave does publish mainstream romance with non-embarrassing covers, in addition to the erotic romance it’s famous for.

Cotillion is the traditional Regency imprint of Ellora’s Cave’s Blush line. Cotillion stories feature romance and traditions common in the early 19th century. Their settings range from elegant London ballrooms to family estates in the country (or in my case, the poorhouse.) Heroines may be wealthy society belles or impoverished gentry such as the Bennet daughters in Pride and Prejudice. Heroes may be titled or untitled, but if they are rakes, they must be ready to reform, because the only sexual behavior you’re going to see here is kissing (Well, in one of my Cotillion books, the hero and heroine do actually “know” each other in the Biblical sense, but all the really intimate action takes place off camera, so-to- speak).

If you like Jane Austen and traditional Regencies such as were popularized by Georgette Heyer, why not give our books a try? We’d love to hear what you think!

Over the next few days, hop around to your heart’s content, feel free to comment on the posts, hunt for answers to the authors’ scavenger hunt questions, and perhaps you’ll be one of our 10 lucky prize winners (see contest details below)…although you’re already a winner if you find a new story to read, don’t you agree?

The theme for this tour is Love in the Regency Era, and for my post, I’ve chosen to talk about: underwear. And it’s ironic that I’ve chosen this topic because actually my theme is underwear in the Regency era doesn’t have much to do with love, at least not the way it does these days.Kate Dolan writes about embarrassing men's undergarments


Regency underwear is more than you think, less than you think, and never appears on the covers of romance novels.

What it was: underwear is what you wear under your other garments, and that concept hasn’t changed. But people used to wear more layers of clothing, both for modesty and warmth, so that bottom “under” layer has changed over time. During the Regency era and for centuries before that, a woman’s underwear was her shift, referred to in earlier times as a smock and by followers of French fashion as a chemise. It’s a loose-fitting shapeless white garment that resembles a granny nightgown and it’s usually made of linen or sometimes cotton. Not exactly Victoria’s Secret material, although if made of very fine linen it would have something of a see-through quality, and I have heard of reenactors holding “wet chemise” contests.

For men, the basic undergarment was a shirt, which would generally reach down to the knees. During living history laundry demonstrations, I like to have kids help me scrub a tub full of shirts and shifts and then tell them that they are holding someone’s dirty underwear. The look of horror on their faces is priceless.

What it was not:  despite the fact that Regency underwear covered a lot more body surface, in one sense it was much more risqué than modern underwear. It did not cover the crotch area the way that panties and briefs do today. Men wore breeches or pantaloons, so they were not in danger of exposing themselves but women had to be pretty careful. Even when they started wearing drawers, the garments were open in the crotch. So in one sense, Regency underwear was not as confining as modern underwear.

But the shift and shirt were just the beginning. While the fashion silhouette of the Regency period was much more natural than the heavily boned stays and panniers of the 18th Century or the extensive corsets and crinoline hoops of the Victorian era, only the most daring females appeared in public without stays and at least one petticoat.

Stays, for those unfamiliar with the term, are like a corset, a stiff garment often reinforced with baleen (whale cartilage) that is wrapped tightly around the rib cage and waist to give the wearer a fashionable shape. The high-waisted fashions of the Regency period did not require women to cinch their waists in tightly as in other eras, but to get the best show of cleavage, the stays would need to be laced tightly around the ribs to force breasts up and out. They (the stays, not the breasts) were usually laced in back and tied and knotted tightly. Petticoats would be tied on top of the stays, and then a gown worn over that. Getting dressed and undressed was more of an ordeal than you might imagine from the cover of some Regency romance novels.

While women didn’t need corsets that were tight around the waist, however, some gentlemen did. The Prince Regent and other men of the ton were satirized being laced into their stays. One contemporary said with disgust that “a man is to be pinched in and laced up until he resemble [sic] an earwig.”

If that isn’t a sexy image for Valentine’s Day, I don’t know what is!*

And I had no marketable reason for choosing this topic for the blog tour, since most of the characters in my Regency stories never give a thought to their underwear, at least not while I’m paying attention to them. (However, in A Certain Want of Reason my heroine Lucia does allow her friend Eugenie to talk her into wearing her gown without a petticoat and I do have a pirate wearing stays in one of my books set in the 18th Century)

The prize I am offering is two of my books (winner’s choice of title and format). To qualify for a chance to win, go to my Facebook page [] and post a comment on the post linking to this blog. One commenter will selected at random by my office rabbit, Eve (which is short for “Evil Bun Bun.”)(Meaning that I will write the names on pieces of paper and whichever name she chews up first will be the winner. But then I won’t be able to read the name, because it will be working its way through the rabbit’s digestive system. I may have to re-think my methodology on this one. The important thing is that in order to be eligible to win, you must post a comment on my Facebook page.)

Here’s my question for the scavenger hunt: What traditionally feminine undergarment was sometimes worn by the Prince Regent and other gentlemen of fashion?

Click on the Cotillion Authors Blog Tour & Scavenger Hunt page to fill in the answer, and you may continue on from there. Enjoy!


  1. Each author will offer a prize for a contest, the specifics of which is set up entirely by her. The contest will be open to all participants, regardless of geographic location. For logistical purposes, authors may substitute a digital prize (gift card, etc.) of equal value for another prize that might prove difficult to mail to a distant location.
  2. The Grand Prize for the Scavenger Hunt will be awarded to the participant with the most correct answers to the authors’ scavenger hunt questions.  In case of a tie, the winner will be chosen randomly.
  3. The name of the Grand Prize winner will be posted on the Cotillion Authors Blog Tour & Scavenger Hunt page the following week.


Kate Dolan is participating in the Cotillion Blog Tour Scavenger Hunt & Giveaway for 2014

Scavenger Hunt

  1. Click on the Cotillion Authors Blog Tour & Scavenger Hunt page.
  2. Read the blog post and the author’s short answer question at the end. Locate the answer to the question, then click on the link to the Cotillion Authors Blog Tour & Scavenger Hunt page and type in the answer next to the author’s name. Be sure to fill in the your name and email address!
  3. You may go back to same page and read more of the author’s post (excerpt, etc.) or you may click on another author’s name on the answer sheet and repeat the process.
  4. When you are finished, check to make sure the spaces for your name and email address are filled in correctly, and submit your answer sheet to the tour coordinator . If you submit an incomplete answer sheet, you may come back later and make another submission with the remaining answers when you have more time.

Thanks for joining us!


*For more fashion oddities, see:


Much of the material in this article came from The History of Underclothes by C. Willett and Phills Cunnington



Runaway Mind Train?

Thursday, February 16th, 2012

I love romantic historical tales and have no idea why. Why would a woman (me) living in an era that affords females more power and choice than any time in history (now) fantasize about living in Regency England or medieval Scotland? To be sure, these stories, whether written in the past or present, all involve heroes and heroines of the genteel class. They may not be rich, but they are hardly what we would call poor either. So part of the fantasy may involve commanding a household of servants or living in a castle. But even if the best of all possible circumstances, life back in the day had some serious drawbacks that should send modern women running in terror.Kate Dolan equates Regency romance to a roller coaster

For a control-freak like myself, I think one of the biggest problems with the life of a historical romance heroine would be the lack of choice and corresponding lack of control. (more…)

Almacks = All That

Tuesday, July 19th, 2011

I’m going to keep with a Regency theme for the next few weeks in honor of the release of Deceptive Behavior. I’ve discussed the politically incorrect sport of beagling on the Risky Regencies  and more tourist impressions of London on Moonlight, Lace and Mayhem.  link. This week on Living History I’ll say a quick word about a London institution that is legendary to readers of Regency romance and pretty much unknown to everyone else.

The place is Almack’s. When I did a little research, I found that there were actually two Almack’s, a gentleman’s club at No. 50 Pall Mall and Alamack’s Assembly Rooms on King Street, St. James. William Almack founded his club in 1762 and had so much success that he decided to open assembly rooms in 1765 to compete for the female crowd. But where men used their clubs as a retreat from the world, in the female world of Almack’s Assembly Rooms, everything was on display. In the Regency era, those of the fashionable world sought vouchers of admission to a weekly ball. The guest lists were strictly controlled by seven formidable ladies of rank and strict rules were enforced such as a dress code requiring men to wear knee breeches and white cravats.

However, in the earlier era when Almack opened his club to rival the assembly rooms of Mrs. Cornely’s Assembly Rooms at Carlisle House, he envisioned something a little more lively. It was essentially a casino, allowing women to gamble as well as men.

But business gradually declined over the years until Almack’s was remade as a place not to gamble not so much on short terms games of chance as on long term places in society, not to mention husbands and wives. Instead of gaming every night, there was only the Wednesday night ball, preceded by a Monday meeting during which the patronesses would decide who needed to have their membership vouchers rescinded and who might be then added to the list.

This would be Snobbery with a capital “S.”

And it didn’t sound like much fun, either. Dances were selected to avoid any hint of impropriety. No alcoholic beverages were served and food was limited to bread and butter and pound cake. It all seems designed to avoid the decadence of the previous generation.

Frankly, I think I prefer the decadence of the Georgians. I’m not quite sure why the Regency era is so popular with everyone, including myself!




Austen fans take heed

Thursday, January 20th, 2011

Anybody who is disappointed that Jane Austen did not write more books should read the stories of Frances Burney. I don’t think her writing is quite as skillful, but her books are every bit as entertaining and because she wrote in the late 18th and early 19th Centuries, they have an authenticity that cannot be approached by modern writers who aspire to write stories set in Georgian or Regency England (myself included).

I’m reading Camilla right now. After 500 pages, I don’t find the hero or heroine quite as sympathetic as I’d like, but the host of other characters continue to fascinate and amaze me. Now, in my opening paragraph, I said I didn’t find Burney as skilled at storytelling as Austen and that’s because her stories and plots are a little more exaggerated and so therefore not as realistic. But my judgment was not really fair. Perhaps what I really should have said is that, to a modern reader, Austen is a little easier to handle. For her time, Burney’s farcical style and dramatic plots were probably perfectly conceived to appeal to her readers.

Burney’s stories deal with the trials and tribulations of a slightly higher class of people than those who populate Austen’s books; she uses a mix of nobility and gentility. (more…)

A Romance by Any Other Name…

Monday, December 27th, 2010

Although many of my stories contain a romantic relationship, I don’t really consider myself a romance writer. My books never seem to contain enough romance to satisfy my critique partners, who are all successful romance writers. Presumably that means they don’t satisfy many romance readers, either, which explains why my critique partners have much better sales records than I do.

Maybe I have a less romantic view of the world. (more…)