Friday, February 10, 2006

An ex-historian gets cranky

I admit that I follow fashion, at least in the sense that I like to know what’s currently in style, and, when it fits my shape, to adopt the cooler pieces. And right now, I’m enjoying the trend that’s most commonly labeled “Victorian.” I like the styles a lot, and, frankly, many of them look good on me. There’s just one problem.

They aren’t “Victorian.” They’re Regency, with a strong nod to the Napoleonic armies.

Note the Empire waistline (so-called because it was popular across Europe during the reign of Napoleon — the First Empire). Note the adorable little jackets and cropped tops, commonly called shrugs. Around 1800 — which would be the Regency, not the Victorian era — they were known as spencers, and they did a great deal to make an unforgiving cut palatable to the fuller-figured women. (They’re doing the same job admirably today!) Look at the quasi-military jackets, with their horizontal rows of trim and loads of brass buttons. Anyone else think of Napoleon’s hussars, or Wellington’s staff? In fact, I just bought a cropped jacket with a stand collar, deep cuffs, and braided trim that — bar the color, too faded to be fashionable — could pass for a spencer cut a là militaire. I love the full-sleeved shirts with their high collars and lace trim; I like the velvets and the saturated colors and the deceptively prim lace trim.

Damn it, they’re just not Victorian!D


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