Dress like a Georgian at Claremont Landscape Garden

Claremont Landscape Garden, Surrey

High fashion in the Regency period was short-lived, bright and often eccentric. This was the era of the dandy, with the Prince Regent and his frenemy Beau Brummell dictating the latest trends. Here's how you can recreate the Regency look for the evening picnic on 24 June.

Hire a costume

There are a number of costume hire shops in Surrey who carry Regency-style outfits, including Surrey Arts Wardrobe, who have kindly provided the costumes for our staff and volunteers.

Use what you've already got

If you would like to assemble a Regency costume from your own wardrobe, here are a few guidelines.


Try to find a dress with an empire silhouette. Fortunately, during the Regency period, fashion was heavily influenced by a classical look, which largely abandoned hooped and heavy dresses. Instead, the body’s natural form could be seen under the dress and move freely. Dresses with an empire silhouette are still quite popular today, and most smock or long-line dresses can be adapted by tying a ribbon or belt just below the bust and pulling most of the pleats to the back of the dress.

Claremont Landscape Garden, Surrey
Claremont Landscape Garden, Surrey

Capped sleeves were very popular, especially when worn with a shawl, pelisse, or short jacket called a ‘spencer’. These can be replaced with a bolero or cropped jacket.

Shoes were very thin and flat usually made from silk or leather.  Simple ballet flats or slipper style shoes can be quite effective.

Long, loose gloves were always worn when outdoors.

Claremont Landscape Garden, Surrey
Claremont Landscape Garden, Surrey

Depending on the weather, fans and parasols were used. As dresses of the period had no pockets, reticules were used to carry important items. A tiny handbag or delicate purse would do the trick.

A hat or hair accessory is the perfect way to bring your Regency look together. If you don’t have a bonnet lying around, a turban is a perfect way to achieve an authentic look.

Make a hat from a placemat

The regency headwear rule: the bigger the better. If you don’t have a bonnet tucked away in a wardrobe, an imitation Regency-style hat can easily be created by from a straw placemat. A mat with a fifteen-inch diameter works well.

For inspiration search for images of "poke hats" on the internet and pick the decoration you desire. To transform the placemat into a wearable item, edge the placemat with ribbon using thread or glue. Use pleated or curled ribbon to create an illusion of the hat’s crown. This decoration can be as elaborate or simple as you like, but it is preferable to create volume for an effective imitation crown.

Attach ribbon to the inside of the hat, preferably to either side of the inner circle or imitation crown. Then sew or glue the ribbon to the outer edge of the hat. To create the "poke hat" shape, at the back of the hat take hold of two points of the rim roughly a hand-width apart. Bring these two points together on the inside of the hat, then flatten the loop you've made with the rim of the hat until the rim is folded into two pleats. Fix the rim into this folded position. You may want to add some decoration on the folded back of the bonnet.

A straw mat hat
A straw mat hat


During the Regency period, breeches were still in fashion, gradually becoming longer and more tightly fitted. For the most part, breeches were made in natural colours, from beige to black. Slim-fitting trousers should have the same effect.

Claremont Landscape Garden, Surrey
Claremont Landscape Garden, Surrey

Gentlemen wore long coats, with a standing collar, mid-sized lapels and tails.

A loose linen shirt was the standard of the day, and the neck was protected with an elaborately wrapped cravat.

Waistcoats were high waisted and square but came in every pattern. If you are aiming for the dandy look, wear the flashiest waistcoat you can find.

Claremont Landscape Garden, Surrey
Claremont Landscape Garden, Surrey

After the Napoleonic wars, Wellington boots became very fashionable. Riding boots and high-heeled court shoes came into fashion. To complete your regency look, either dig out your long riding boots or opt for a smart dress shoe.

Hats were also important to a gentleman’s look. You could opt for a gentleman’s top hat, or a military-style tricorn.

Simple gloves will complete the regency outfit splendidly. For the finishing touches, bring a walking cane, pocket watch, handkerchief or monocle.

Luckily for both sexes, powdered wigs had fallen out of fashion and hair was worn naturally. Women still did not wear their hair down completely, but loosely arranged in buns or plaits. 

Don't forget you can have your portrait photographed outside Princess Charlotte's tea-house at the Regency Picnic, so you can remember how dashing you looked forever. See you then!