Skip to main content

A Regency Guide to Modern Life, the Right Accessory and Personal Style

Carly Lane's new book offers all the Regency advice you need to navigate the 'ton' (and dress the part).
A Regency Guide to Modern Life

The following is an exclusive excerpt from Carly Lane's new book, "A Regency Guide to Modern Life," available for purchase here. Reprinted by permission of DK, a division of Penguin Random House LLC. Text Copyright © Dorling Kindersley Limited, 2023.

First impressions, careful reader, are crucial. They can mean the difference between an instantly charmed companion and someone whose good opinion is forever lost. It is key to put your best foot forward in every interaction – with said foot clad in the best slipper or boot available.

It is not merely the external that should serve in winning over others; manners are equally beneficial to master. From perfecting the aesthetic of your abode to knowing which items are a must-have in your reticule, let me be your guide in how to be proper, both inside and out.

The Importance of the Right Accessory

A Regency Guide to Modern Life Illustrations by Jo Podmore 2

Dear Lady A: I've bought a new outfit to wear to work, but I can't decide which accessory to pair it with. When it comes to that side of fashion, I get stuck!

My dearest friend the Viscountess of Waverly once took me aside at a summer soireé and, as politely as she could, said, "Darling, sometimes less is more." At first, I was distressed by her assessment, but then I came to realize that in this particular instance, she was absolutely right. In my desire to pair several different accessories to my new dress – including fan, reticule, several strands of pearls, matching earrings, and a rather large headdress – I looked more like an overstuffed peacock than the most fashionable lady of the ton. Quelle horreur!

So, if I can dispense any advice upon you now, it is this: learn from my tragic misstep, and do not fall prey to the temptation to wear every piece of jewellery in your possession, for you may be at risk of blinding your fellow partygoers instead of making a fabulous entrance into the room. When in doubt, subtract one, or perhaps even two, accessories if necessary. Minimalism is key.

Handbag Essentials

A Regency Guide to Modern Life Illustrations by Jo Podmore 3

Dear Lady A: What are the must-have items I should keep close at hand for every occasion?

Scroll to Continue

Recommended Articles

The most important thing that any lady can have on her person is a reticule – compact but capable of storing small items of worth. A fan, to not only stave off the heat of warm days but also to signal interest in a potential dance partner. Gloves, since to go without can be seen as rather gauche. A shawl or hat is also invaluable (sunburns are very unbecoming). There is also a new invention of tinted glasses, which can help you avoid the act of squinting.

Other modern inventions may be stowed in a satchel – such as a single reader on which hundreds of books can be stored at once! Shillings should also be tucked away in a pouch made for that express purpose. You might also carry a tube of cosmetic lip colour to revive your complexion. If you require items to freshen yourself up, you could carry a pack of chewable gum, or a small bottle containing a liquid that sanitizes the hands – two things every member of the ton could have made use of, in my day!

Discovering Your Personal Style

A Regency Guide to Modern Life Illustrations by Jo Podmore 1

Dear Lady A: My friends seem to know their own personal style inside out, but I'm not happy with most of what's in my closet. How do I find the best fashion version of myself?

I will let you in on a lesser-known secret, advice-seeker: there is nothing more stylish in this world than having the utmost confidence in whatever you are wearing.

The first step in reaching that, however, must be a willingness to experiment – maybe even outside of your initial comfort zone, especially if you feel less than inspired by your current trousseau.

In other words, you must be prepared to be bold and take chances, because in many instances this can result in a marvellous pay-off. However, you don't necessarily need to make every change at once. One way in which you can spruce up your existing look is by adjusting your coiffure, or even dyeing it a different shade altogether. Incorporate different accent pieces into your current wardrobe, like a new pelisse or wrap. Gradually and over time, you will discover the most fashionable version of yourself.

"A Regency Guide to Modern Life: 1800s Advice on 21st Century Love, Friends, Fun and More" by Carly Lane, $15, available here

Please note: Occasionally, we use affiliate links on our site. In no way do either affect our editorial decision-making.

Never miss the latest fashion industry news. Sign up for the Fashionista daily newsletter.