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I wrote a review of this short but fascinating book a few months ago- ( go here to read it) and I thought you might like to know that it is now available to purchase in Kindle e-book form.

I’ve done this because, though I love books I’m running out of physical space to store them, and  I do find I’m using my Kindle and my iPad for research far more often these days. Having it available wherever me and my Kindle go is fabulous and so convenient.

If you would like to download it for the very reasonable price of £4.64 then go here to do so.

Today I would like to give you advance notice of a conference to be organised by Serena Dyer and which is to be held at the University of York’s Centre for Eighteenth Century Studies at the historic Kings Manor in the very heart of the city.

It will take place on Saturday 23rd June from 9.30 until 5.00p.m.

Serena, as you know, is the owner of the Dressing History website, and makes wonderful recreations of historic costumes. On her blog she tells us a little of what we can expect of the conference:

This day conference brings together academic and curatorial work on the desire to dress fashionably in the eighteenth century. From faces to feet, the fashionable men and women of the eighteenth century strove to achieve aesthetic perfection. This series of papers explores the process of fashion dissemination, production and consumption which enabled the fulfilment of these desires, and how this related to the concepts of desire, gender and beauty. The papers to be presented cover subjects such as cosmetics and beauty, fashion plates, silk manufacture and the relationship between dressmaker and client. A small exhibition of fashion plates and accessories from the period will accompany the conference.

Serena, who is studying at York, will be giving a talk on  ‘A Beautiful Bargain: Lady Sabine Winn’s relationship with fashion’

The others speakers will include Professor Aileen Ribeiro of the Courtauld Institute, talking on Desiring Beauty: women and cosmetics in the eighteenth century, which will no doubt be based on her latest book,

Facing Beauty: Painted Women and Cosmetic Art, which I reviewed here. I am looking forward to hearing her speak very much indeed, as I last heard her speak at the Costume Society’s AGM in Bath a few years ago.

Another of the talks which will be of interest to Janeites is one being given by Hilary Davidson of the Museum of London – ‘Recreating Jane Austen’s Pelisse-Coat’

This is a garment that is in the care of the Hampshire Museum service, and here is a link to their webpage about it. Though it is known as Jane Austen’s pelisse, there is no absolute proof it was hers, as their website states:

Sadly there is no absolutely definite link between the pelisse and Jane Austen although the family association is quite strong. Jane died unmarried in 1817 and left the bulk of her estate to her sister, Cassandra, who took charge of her papers and other belongings and later distributed them amongst other members of the family…This particular pelisse was presumably given to Edward by Cassandra and it would no doubt have brought back vivid memories of Jane wearing it. It was handed down to his daughter, who also loved Jane and spent considerable time with her and could also have seen her aunt wearing it towards the end of her life. That she gave it to her friend, Miss Glubbe, who made sure that it was returned to the Austen/Knight family argues an acknowledged obligation on her part. The pelisse was then handed down through the family until 1993, when it was given to the Museums Service.

However, I will be very interested in the talk, so see what secrets this garment may be concealing.

The Conference webpage can be accessed here, and the registration details can also be accessed via this page. I will, D.V. be reporting back to you on this topic.

I thought you all would love to know that Serena Dyer has a new project : a blog. Serena is a dress historian, the owner of the Dressing History Website, author of the fabulously interesting (and affordable) book ,”Bergere Poke and Cottage: Understanding Early Nineteenth Century Headware

and is currently a member of York University’s Centre for Eighteenth Century Studies.This is a wonderful, well-respected institution, and is somewhere I have enjoyed  attending lectures and conferences on the long 18th century.

I am so pleased we can now follow her work on a blog. She has a Facebook page and is on Twitter, but I love the scope the blog platform will give her to tell us all her news. Her first post details her impressive CV and the work she has undertaken, including that at the recent Revolutionary Fashion exhibit at Fairfax House in York.

©SerenaDyer

Here she is , above, with some of the period clothes on show at Fairfax House.

I do hope you will join my example and follow her blog. I am so looking forward to reading future posts, for Serena’s work is wonderfully detailed, and I’m sure we are going to enjoy reading about her research, and looking at the clothing she works with and creates.

For Jane Austen hats were important items of clothing. She took great delight in wearing and purchasing them, as this arch extract from her letter to her sister, Cassandra dated 18th April 1811 clearly demonstrates:

Miss Burton has made me a very pretty title Bonnet- & now nothing can satisfy me but I must have a straw hat, of the riding hat shape, like Mrs Tilson’s; & a young woman in this Neighbourhood is actually making me one. I am really very shocking; but it will not be dear at a Guinea.

The admirable new Subject Index to the Fourth Edition of Jane Austen’s Letters has copious entries for mentions of bonnets, caps, hats and veils. Understanding the differences between the type of hat Jane Austen and her characters would have worn, how and where she would have bought such hats, for herself or on commission, has recently been addressed in a new book written by Serena Dyer of Dressing History.

This is a slim but well written-volume packed full of fascinating early 19th century hat facts and information. Do you know the difference between a Calash or a Capote? You will after reading this very informative book. The book is illustrated with black and white renditions of period fashion plates and very clear, helpful line drawing by Christine Dyer. Here is a Gypsy Hat such as may have been worn by the odious Mrs Elton on the day of the Strawberry Picking Party at Donwell Abbey:

I love Lunardi bonnets but was not aware that this style of hat was named after Vincenzi Lunardi after he made the first hydrogen balloon flight in England. Fascinating.

Serena also gives a short account of  Milliners and how their trade was carried out in the early 19th century. An interesting snippet she includes in their section is that many ladies paid to learn how to trim their own bonnets: a Miss Elizabeth Woodhouse ( no relation I’m sure)

who would become the wife of a Yorkshire vicar,paid her milliner, Miss Volans, ten pounds to instruct her in the art

This small book is very reasonably priced at £5.00 and is available direct from Serena herself, go here to buy it. Serena,who is now studying at the Centre for Eighteenth Century Studies at York University,  is an accomplished milliner herself and trims a mean bonnet. You can buy some of her examples from her shop, go here to see. This is one of her confections, a straw poke bonnet:

Hard to resist isn’t it?

I thought you might like to share a wonderful new resource I have found (and have just added to the “My Links Section” in the left hand column to this page), the Dressing History web-site owned and created by Serena Dyer.

Serena has been studying historical costume since 1999, developing her knowledge through reproduction and recreation of historical pieces. She has spent time in the Textiles department at Christie’s, as well as with the wonderful Snowshill Manor Costume collection.

(©SerenaDyer)

She is currently working towards studying for a BA in History, which she hopes to develop into an MA in Fashion History. Her voluntary work with the National Trust has led to the development of her historical interpretation skills, which she now does regularly at Wimpole Hall, near Cambridge,appearing as various characters from the Hall’s history.

(©SerenaDyer)

Serena makes and sells fabulously accurate reproductions of historic clothing for re-enactors, museums and the heritage industry.  She is able to supply thoroughly researched, highly accurate reproductions or recreations of historical garments from any era, and from a variety of social classes. Importantly she only uses natural fibres for the garments, and tries, wherever possible, to use authentically woven fabrics. Many of her pieces are based on original garments, portraits or fashion plates, and a research portfolio is available for each garment.

Here is her marvellous recreation of a 1797 open robe:

(All ©SerenaDyer)

For part of her dissertation on the dissemination of fashion in England c. 1770-1820 Serena made this dress-from beginning to end:

(©SerenaDyer)

She explains that:

I am using this dress to explore how closely the best sorts of dresses owned by the ladies of ‘polite society’ followed the plates of the period. Unlike simply looking at extant garments, this process allowed me to emulate aspects of the process through which a contemporary lady would make her decisions.

(©SerenaDyer)

Serena also gives talks, all vividly illustrated with her own reproduction garments. Her talks currently include Bonnets to Boots: A Regency Lady’s Wardrobe complete with garments reproduced from the 1810-1820 era which she recently performed at the 2010 Jane Austen Festival in Bath and, one for Henry Tilney, Knowing Your Muslin complete  with reproduction garments and fabrics from 1780-1820 which Serena performed at the 2009 Jane Austen Festival.

(©SerenaDyer)

She also performs a talk which is of special interest to us, Dressing Jane Austen with reproduction garments representing the period 1780-1820. In Serena’s own words:

This presentation examines both Jane’s personal attitude to fashion, and her use of it as a literary device, using the portraits, letters and novels as evidence. Reproductions of gowns described in the letters and novels are also used, as well as an examination of the Pelisse which is believed to have belonged to Jane, providing the audience with a talk that is both visually interesting and provides an insight into how Jane viewed herself and others

Serena also provides an historical interpretation service, in which she portrays  a wide range of characters, both in third and first person, and covers the 16th to 19th centuries.

Many of the characters portrayed are real historical people, and are presented as my interpretation, after thorough research, of what that person was truly like. I can also offer more general services, using a constructed character of my own, for any era, or alternatively I can give various demonstrations. Please contact for details and fees applicable.

The characters available are:

(©SerenaDyer)

Jane Austen (1790s, or 1800s),Charlotte Bronte (1830s), Jemima Yorke, Marchioness Grey (1740s), Lady Amabel Yorke (1770s), Marion Syratt (C16th),Molly Young, aMaid( C18th) and Mary Zouche (1540s)

I have to admit I am so very tempted to order one of Serena’s magnificently trimmed bonnets….

(©SerenaDyer)

But when to wear it?…would it look at all eccentric if I gardened in it? Of course not (!!) Details of Serena’s bonnet trimming service is available here and if  you like to trim your own bonnet ( or like Lydia Bennet, just like to pull something to pieces) you can buy plain straw bonnets and ribbons from Serena too, here, in her Haberdashery section.

If you want to contact Serena to buy some of her wonderful merchandise, book her for a talk or interpretation or view her fabulously interesting website, then go here and she can also be contacted (and “liked”!) via Facebook.

I do hope I get the opportunity to hear one of her talks soon and I hope you have enjoyed reading about her.

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