Clothing in 1809

Information on Drawers

Information on Shawls

Information on Shoes

Information on Turbans

    Every morning most people wake up and have to decide what to wear for the day. Some people might know what they're going to wear before they wake up but that it not the point. Clothing and deciding what to wear for the day are some of the things that separate humankind from the animal world (see Monkeys). Clothing in 1809 and 1812 was a part of everyday life as it is today. 

    Clothing of the characters in Arcadia tells the audience about their personalities if the audience looks closely enough. Before anyone speaks, the clothing of the character speaks for him/her. Tom Stoppard provides a sketchy costume plot that gives those who have only read his play, Arcadia, a better picture of what the characters wear throughout the play. Through the costume plot it is apparent that Thomasina is a young girl wearing knickerbockers blossoming into a young woman. Lady Croom's clothing tells the audience that she takes care to keep up with the fashion of the time, i.e, shawls and turbans. 

    This page will attempt to give those who have not seen the play a better idea of the dress in Arcadia. Since the clothing worn by the characters of present day is fairly well described in the costume plot and present fashion and dress are fairly well known, the focus of this page will be on the dress of 1809 and 1812.

    Below is an example of a painting done in 1809, by Jean Gros.

    L'Imperatrice Josephine (1809) byAntoine -Jean Gros (Musee Massena)


Fig.1--A round Cambric dress, for walking; green sarcenet tippet, ornamented with puffings of white lace; white beaver Spanish hat, and feathers; buff gloves. 

Fig. 2--White sarcenet under dress, with a pink crape robe over it; cap of crape, and white lace; white kid shoes and gloves.

Lady's Monthly Museum (1809)

From page 272

Courtesy of :The Costumer's 

Manifesto by Tara Maginnis, Ph.D.

A revolution in clothing happened in the 1790s, a sudden simplicity appeared in women's dress and men's clothing was greatly modified. Fashion remained fairly simplistic for 30 years. The picture above shows the new simplicity at work in women's dress. Men's fashion become more natural and less formal; it actually likened that of the clothing worn by ordinary men and the lower class. Instead of coming from the top of society, fashion came from the bottom. The clothing in Arcadia of 1809 would reflect the new style of simplicity of clothing. The ordinary and fashionable people became equal in the eyes of fashion as the poor and the rich alike followed the new fashion.
    The usual extravagant fashion of general wear for women now took to dresses lacking embellishment, almost chlidlike in their simple nature. The use of petticoats was minimal and corsets were sometimes even left out of the outfit. Muslin (worn by Thomasina) and cotton materials became very popular due to their inexpensiveness and were used to their full advantage as the fabrics suited the new style.

    Breeches were high-waisted pants that extended and narrowed down to the knee or just above the knee. To many, breeches (aka knee breeches) were considered the only socially correct version of pants. Breeches (worn by Jellaby, Captain Brice, Augustus/Gus (final scene) and Mr. Noakes) began to be replaced by trousers (worn by Septimus and Chater (and Hannah)) starting around 1803. Trousers were worn down to the ankle and were sometimes held on by foot straps. In the early part of the 19th century, trousers were not considered socially acceptable in some churches and universities and at many upper class social functions. After 1803 breeches were mainly worn for sporting occasions (mostly riding) and for some formal evening wear (Gus/Augustus final scene).

    "Yes, I have heard that drawers are being worn now. It is unnatural for women to be got up like jockeys. I cannot approve." -Lady Croom in reference to Lady Chater (Act II scene 6)

    Shawls were very fashionable in 1809 and 1812 and crossed all boundaries of class. In 1786 most shawls were laboriously hand-made of fine cashmere with intricate patterns in the East, i.e, India. Shawls made a perfect accompaniment to the lighter cotton and muslin dresses. The new lighter dresses called for another layer of warmth, and the shawl was ideal. Much more diverse than a coat and easily carried, the shawl was perfect for most occasions. In order to make them more available to the general public, production of shawls started in England. The shawl to the right is a paisley shawl of the early nineteenth century. The paisley pattern (the universal name for types of design based on the original versions imported from the East) shawl was very popular and Lady Croom may wear a form of the paisley shawl in Arcadia

    The April, 1794 Issue of The Gallery of Fashion features in Fig. 1 a "turban made of light-blue satin, fringed with gold."

    Silk turban with feather., 1826

    Turbans were popular as headgear for women during the first half of the nineteenth century. Turbans came in a variety of styles with elaborate ornamentation. Here are few description of turbans that Lady Croom may have been wearing throughout the play: 

    1802: Turban of white satin, with a band of muslin round the front, fastened on the left side with a gold loop; gold flower in front. Popular fashion described in the Port Folio 

    1806: A full-dress lace turban, ornamented with gold-spangled net, an aigrette in front, with a large bow of muslin confining the whole, and a row of gold, intermixed with spangled net, hanging tastefully on one side of the forehead. Two Centuries of Costume in America


    Common materials for the stockings worn by Septimus, Chater, Jellaby, Noakes, and Captain Brice, included cotton, lisle and silk for dressy affairs. Men usually wore Hessian boots, brogans, or ankle boots and, for the evening, thin shoes or pumps. Stoppard does not indicate what kind of shoes Septimus (scenes 1 and 3) Mr. Noakes or Jellaby wore. He specifies that Captain Brice wore boots and Ezra Chater wore brown leather shoes. 

    Gaiters (aka spats) were leather and cloth leggings worn from the knee and buttoned to the instep. Mr. Noakes wears gaiters in the play.

    Women's shoes consisted mainly of sandals with ribbon straps on the leg or flat slippers. The only evidence to be found of this in play is in Lady Croom's wearing of slippers in scene six. 

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    Back to 1809 Page

    To the Page on Drawers

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    Authors: Vicki Bomben, Hayane Dahmen, Lauren Heeringa

    Information from:

  • McCutcheon, Marc. The Writer's Guide to Everyday Life in the 1800s. Writer's Digest Books.
  • Ewing, Elizabeth. Everyday Dress: 1650-1900. B.T. Batsford, Ltd.
  • The Regency Fashion Page, by Cathy Decker.

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