Guest post from Isabel Snowden!

Isabel Snowden is the director of An Evening at Home with the Austens, and as we get ready to go on tour, she’s written us a guest blog. Enjoy!

As well as running Ruffled Umbrella, I am privileged enough to work at Jane Austen’s House Museum in Chawton, Hampshire. One of my favourite tasks there is shutting down the cottage at the end of the day.  While it is always lovely closing the shutters and ‘tucking in’ the house for the night, I felt so much more poignant doing so last week as it was the anniversary of Jane Austen’s death. It struck me as slightly odd but, as I was closing each of the rooms it felt like I was saying goodbye to her, someone whom I had never met and had lived her life centuries before I even began mine. That is one of the beguiling things about Jane Austen, you feel as if you know her. Through the snippets of information left through her novels and correspondence and the recollections of family members, fans of Jane Austen are able to piece together a person they would like to know. People identify with different facets of her personality, the eternal romantic, the modernising feminist or the quick witted satirist but, there is always something for her fans to connect with.

As I was contemplating the mature Jane Austen at the end of her sadly too short life it got me thinking about our upcoming tour and the enjoyment of introducing our audience to a side of Jane Austen they may not know about. The concept of ‘An Evening at Home with the Austens’ is to explore the very early writings of this creative genius and to see her experiment with different styles and scenarios.   In her juvenilia Jane Austen parodies the popular writers of the time, pokes fun at various monarchs and puts her own satirical spin on society’s mores. You can glimpse certain parallels from her novels and see how she started to develop her own style. As well as enjoying stories they may not be familiar with, I hope the audience take pleasure in seeing a young Jane Austen full of energy and enthusiasm, and have a jolly good laugh along with her and her family.

Costume and body shapes

Quite a few blogs ago, I shared some pictures of the cast at Jane Austen’s House Museum, when we were performing scenes from Pride and Prejudice.

We had lovely, accurate costumes loaned to us – however that does not mean it was easy! I very soon realised that my body shape is not particularly suited to the empire lines of Georgian and Regenct dress. As you can see in this photo: https://rediscoveringausten.wordpress.com/2013/05/31/pride-and-prejudice-pictures-again/ the style of my dress(on the right) and Izzy’s dress(on the left) is quite different. Izzy’s is the kind of dress you would be used to – undo the buttons, put it on, and do up the buttons. Mine was rather more complicated! 

I would step into the skirt which was fairly simple. Then there was a flat – almost like you get on the top of dungarees – which would button on to the shoulders of the section with the sleeves. Similar to dungarees this then left a gap at either side. The section at the sides then needs to get held together to be tied, and then attach the flap – and I am slowly realizing this is very hard to describe as a blog post! Needless to say, I understand why people in Regency times would have needed help to get dressed! And I don’t think they were particular designed for women who are that little bit curvier! I will try and get a photo of the dress with all the different sections up at some point so you can see what I mean. I hope you’re able to make some sense of what I’ve written so far 🙂

Phoebe