Since we can’t go back in time and live out our Jane Austen-esque dreams in Regency England, here are eight things that were popular in the Regency era that we’d love to see make a comeback.
1. Balls, Obviously
I have a love-hate relationship with going to bars. I like socializing and vodka sodas as much as the next gal, but let’s be real – bars are kind of gross. It’s why we need a couple of drinks to tolerate the environment and the creepy dudes who hit on you when you just want to have a fun night out with your friends.
Here’s a better alternative: let’s bring back balls. I’m talking about full-on Cinderella or Bridgerton-esque balls where we can get dressed up in beautiful gowns and dance the night away. Meeting a guy at a ball is so much more romantic than meeting him at a bar, and though vodka sodas are delicious, bottomless champagne is much better.
There are many reasons why shows like The Courtship and Bridgerton are popular, and one is that we long for courtship (or at least elements of courtship) to replace the hookup culture that’s making us miserable.
Unlike hookup culture, Regency-era courting was intentional and had the universally acknowledged end goal of marriage. If a man showed special attention to a lady (like, if he danced with her more than the other ladies, for example), the widely understood implication was that he was romantically interested in her. The next step would be spending more time with her in public and visiting her at home with her family present. Everyone was on the same page, and both parties knew the end goal was saying “I do” – none of this “talking phase” or “situationship” nonsense.
3. Writing Letters
Though a “how’s your day going?” text from your boyfriend or husband may be sweet, there’s nothing quite as romantic as an old-fashioned love letter. In the Regency period, letters were only exchanged when the engagement was official, but we can update that to being in a relationship.
They don’t even have to be long letters, sweet hand-written love notes will suffice. It’s hard to be romantic via text, so we should follow the example of famous historical couples and prioritize expressing our feelings by putting pen to paper. Plus then we can have a letterbox, which is a very romantic object when filled with personal notes from your beloved! (More romantic than a bunch of screenshots on your phone.)
4. The Gorgeous Dresses
Regency-era clothing always has been and always will be stunning, but the rise of popular shows set in or inspired by the Regency period has led to a resurgence of Regency-inspired fashion. While you can incorporate elements of Regency fashion into your wardrobe by embracing delicate details and maxi dresses, you can also embrace Regency style by simply putting more effort into your outfits. So much of our daily wardrobe consists of loungewear and athleisure, but there's something romantic about dressing up. Trade-in your loungewear set for a pretty dress a few times a week, and you’ll feel like a princess.
5. Tea Time
Though it’s always fun to grab coffee with friends, is there anything classier than tea time? Whether you have tea at a fancy hotel (like The Plaza in New York City or The Drake in Chicago) or host a Regency-themed tea party in your home, it’s important to take note of Regency tea etiquette. Some things that are important to remember are that tea is traditionally served at four in the afternoon and traditional snacks include small cakes, cookies, and finger sandwiches.
6. Calling Cards
Do you like guys you’ve never met before sliding into your DMs? No? Shocking.
Maybe another Regency-era custom – calling cards – could be the (wishful thinking) remedy here. Calling cards were an essential item for respectable ladies and gentlemen, as they were a standard social ritual. When you arrived in London or Bath for the social season, you would send your calling card, which usually just had your name on it, to all your friends to let them know you had arrived. If you were making a new acquaintance, then the first time you called at their house (i.e. stopped by for a visit) you would bring your calling cards. A card would be sent to the mistress of the house before you were admitted to her presence, or if she were not available or not at home, then the card would be left for her.
Calling cards initiated the relationship. If the person you visited wanted to form an acquaintance, then they would formally call on you in return, also presenting their calling card. If a calling card or visit was not reciprocated, then it was implied that the attempt to form an acquaintance was denied. Essentially, it was a socially acceptable form of ghosting, where both parties understood that the relationship attempt was permanently shot down. Pretty handy, huh?
7. Receiving Formal Invitations
Remember when you were a kid and felt so special when you received an invitation to a friend’s birthday party in the mail? It’s such a small gesture, but it always felt nice to receive a formal, paper invite because it showed that your friend (okay, their parents, let’s be real) valued you enough to mail you an invitation.
Other than weddings, baby showers, and bridal showers, you’re more likely to receive a text about an upcoming event than a paper invitation. Or maybe, if you’re lucky, you’ll get an evite. In the Regency-era, paper invitations were sent for things like balls, a dinner party, a long visit at a friend’s home, or even just to meet up and take a walk.
Let’s bring back paper invitations – they’re prettier, more sophisticated, and you can put them on your fridge as a reminder. It wouldn’t hurt to go out of our way to help our friends feel special when inviting them to socialize.
8. Taking Walks
If you’ve read or seen any adaptations of Pride and Prejudice, you know how much Elizabeth Bennet enjoys going on walks. Walking was a standard form of exercise for young ladies, and if you were going into the village or going shopping while in town, you usually went on foot. Of course, you were properly attired in a walking dress.
Taking long walks while courting was also popular in the Regency era. We see this in several episodes of Bridgerton, where men take the women they’re courting on chaperoned walks during parties in the park. It was a rare instance of socially acceptable “alone time” and physical contact. It may seem silly to some to long for the days when young couples took walks in the park together, but there’s something so intimate and romantic about it that it deserves to return to popularity.
From courtship to tea time, everything about the Regency era seems so romantic. Though we can’t travel back in time, we can reintroduce some of these things with a modern twist to live out our Jane Austen-esque dreams.
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