The Regency era is one that holds fascinating social, cultural, and historical appeal throughout the years. It has been reappearing in popular culture more recently with shows like Bridgerton and Sandition highlighting this bygone era. In some intriguing forms of irony, it is very likely that the structured social codes and ways of maneuvering society appeals to the present day, because while our modern era affords many freedoms, the structured societal “rulebook” of the Regency era certainly does not exist today. Perhaps people are seeking or fantasizing about what that structure may look like in a world as complex as today.
In particular, there was a practice during the Regency Era of the “Marriage Season.” This was a time where many society balls enabled unmarried men and women to find their mates and marry. This repeated ritual was so common that it was entirely expected as a way of living for the British upper crust. This was intended to make alliances and generally “social climb.” It was truly fascinating. The season ran from November through June. This was a large part of the year. In particular, the “Marriage Season” ran from March until June. These activities were concentrated in the fashionable part of London. For example, a common tradition would be to attend the theater multiple times per week! The plays of William Shakespeare were very popular during this period. This was truly a way of living for the entirety of British social society who effectively governed all of Britain at the time.
The Regency era was from 1811 to 1820. It is is a sub-era of the Georgian era, which spanned from 1714-1837. Beyond the rules and regulations of participating in society, the Regency era was one of greatly appealing fashions, art, and literature. In literature, writers such as Jane Austen, William Blake, Lord Byron, John Keats, Mary Shelley, and William Wordsworth were all defining voices of the era. Personally, I could not have imagined being an English major without having read titles by each of these writers. There is so much to be learned by these incredible authors. You can truly have an entire career based studying just one of these writers. That is how profound their impact has been on literature.
In fashion, the shift to using fashion as a way of self expression began during this time. In the aftermath of the French Revolution, nobility did not want to be associated with a particular kind of costume that was incredibly uniform. Therefore, the Regency era began to see more differentiation in dress (albeit still very conceptually standard – just for the time, it was quite of the box!). Fashion during the Regency era embodied new social values. This is most likely another one of the more endearing aspects of the era – it was a time of structured rule following, but it allowed for more freedoms (such as fashion for individual expression) which was a big shift in the ways that formal society dictated living one’s life. Even the character costumes of the Disney film The Little Mermaid are set in the Georgian era! Specifically, Grimsby’s costume is a tell-tale sign of the era.
The aesthetic appeal of the Regency era is timeless. And beyond the aesthetic, exploring its literature and theater is equally entertaining. You can certainly find yourself caught in some form of its endearment.