I had two slang terms to choose from for this week’s topic, and I chose the nicer one, If I do so say myself. Or at least the one you can use and not have to explain again that the word “does not mean what you think it means.”
A rich commode, or woman’s head-dress.
That’s right. The other terms is commode, also meaning a woman’s head-dress. I can’t wait to see an author use commode with the correct context in a Regency romance!
Whether a lady purchased her hat ready-made from a milliner or bought a simple poke bonnet and trimmed it herself, every lady wore something on her head. So yes, no lady would be caught without her commode. Styles changed from year to year, but the frugal lady could simply change out her ribbons and other embellishments to refurbish last season’s chapeaux.
I’m not saying I wish bonnets were still mandatory head wear, but I am saying if I could somehow carry of wearing them, I would seriously own some bonnets. And be a great proficient at trimming them.
This is a busy writing/editing week for me, so I’m going to go short on written details but heavy on the visual aids. I also have terrific sites that did a much better job of explaining Regency headgear than I could hope to do. Those sites follow the eye candy.
Flowers are very much worn, and fruit is still more the thing. Elizabeth has a bunch of strawberries, and I have seen grapes, cherries, plums, and apricots. There are likewise almonds and raisins, French plums, and tamarinds at the grocers’, but I have never seen any of them in hats… Elizabeth has given me a hat, and it is not only a pretty hat, but a pretty style of hat too. It is something like Eliza’s, only, instead of being all straw, half of it is narrow purple ribbon. I flatter myself, however, that you can understand very little of it from this description. Heaven forbid that I should ever offer such encouragement to explanations as to give a clear one on any occasion myself! But I must write no more of this…
Letter from Jane Austen to her sister, Cassandra
Queen’s Square, Bath
June 2, 1799
From Costumes Parisien, 1810:
For hats from the 1812 Costume Parisien (they dropped the final ‘s’ on Costume that year), follow this Pinterest link:
- Slang term taken from the 1811 Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue.
- Author Sharon Lathan has been a busy bee Making Regency Bonnets, and she tells all about it at Austen Authors.
- Need to deck out your commode? Check out Trimming a Regency Bonnet – Ideas & Instructions. The Jane Austen Centre also has a how-to, with a couple of bonnets cutely named after Austen characters.
- Author Susana Ellis has a Facebook group dedicated to Regency Fashion 1800-1828. It is awesomesauce.
- Jessamyn’s Regency Costume Companion is a fantastic resource, with a section on Hats and Bonnets.
- You can never go wrong when you dig around Jane Austen’s World. I found Bonnets, Caps, Turbans, and Hats: Fashion Necessities For Regency Ladies.
PS: The Heir and Dear Husband were on an adventure with a group of other teens and parents this week, and some of their explorations took them to Kentucky. This past Saturday they were in the Louisville area, and the girls in their expedition stumbled upon The 10th Annual Jane Austen Festival (featuring Persuasion: 200 years of piercing souls!), proudly hosted by the Jane Austen Society of North America, Greater Louisville Region Chapter. They had no appointment to visit as it was just a spur-of-the-moment decision, but they were cordially welcomed and thoroughly enjoyed themselves. And I was as happy for them as I was green with envy.