First, since the lovely ladies at Embracing Romance asked me to join them, and I was delighted to do so, I shall introduce myself. My name is Ella Quinn and I write Regency romance. I am published by Kensington, and am just finishing up my first series, The Marriage Game. The last book releases on November 10th. However, Lady Beresford’s Lover, released on July 21st.
Which dovetails into my topic for today. Lady Beresford’s Lover deals with body image, and how a perfectly lovely woman can believe she is undesirable. Naturally, that meant that I really needed to get my research right about what was considered beautiful during the Regency era. What I discovered may surprise you.
If you are a Regency reader, you have no doubt seen the fashion plates that depict tall slender women.
But was the idea of beauty really tall and slender. Not so much. In fact, not at all. Just a glance at the portraits of the day will show that none of the women considered Diamonds of the First Water were anything but what we would consider plump, or even a little on the plus side.
A little more research revealed that if a woman’s collar bones were showing, she was considered vulgar. And here is a quote from 1809, which shows one lady’s distress at the possibility that she might have lost weight. S. T. Coleridge Three Graves iv, in Friend 21 Sept. 94 Oft she said, ‘I’m not grown thin!’ And then her wrist she spann’d.
Why was it that being thin was so unfashionable? On one hand it meant that the person was too poor to afford sufficient food, or was suffering from ill health. Yet was that all? Upon reading some male literature, I discovered that gentlemen preferred women who were an “arm-full.”
As for being tall, well the cant term, ‘long meg’ says it all.