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>Living History: Reenacting Jane Austen

2 Jan

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We are all familiar with the books of Jane Austen, spend rainy Sunday afternoons swooning over Mr. Darcy and wish we could step into Elizabeth’s lucky footsteps. Now, you might not get to meet Mr. Darcy, but reenactment allows you to travel through time and enter a different life. Events are held all across the world where people indulge in this strange hobby. So, what’s the appeal? As an experienced regency re-enactor I will share some of my experiences and photographs with you.

                                                           at my first ball with my aunt

I first heard about the society through my aunt, who co-founded it after experiencing a lack of civilian re-enactment groups. Many people were interested in the period itself rather than the military element. From the desire to demonstrate middle-class regency life, the society was born and quickly, my whole family joined. Made up of period piece enthusiasts, it was no difficult task to convince them. I was only twelve years old when I attended my first event – a ball in a real castle!
I wasn’t even officially a member at that point but it opened my eyes to a new, exciting world where I not only inhabited a regency heroine and got to dance with dashing rogues (who were perhaps a cook or accountant in real life), but it also deepened my love for history. Being involved in living history requires some effort on your part and whoever would like to take up this marvellous hobby, should take the following issues into consideration:

                                                                           a peek at our wardrobe

  • ·         You are in charge of your own costumes. Although members might let you borrow a gown or two when you’re just getting started, there are patterns available from the period so get your sewing kit out! I can tell you in advance that recreating a historical costume takes a lot of work, patience and fitting. You wouldn’t be the first one to cut off the wrong part or sew something on backwards. Through experience, you will become more proficient in creating your own historically accurate outfits. Just do some research on fabric and colour. I’ve seen one too many ladies in dresses that reminded me of Barbie goes to Prom.

                                                           attending a Regency wedding in church

  • ·          Events can take place internationally so depending on your location and commitment, there will be some travel expenses. You will need to bring your costume and accessories, food, etc. You’ll need a car to get all your stuff safely (and in good condition!) to the event.

sipping tea on our country estate; I’m in white
  • ·         Read, research, refine. If you’re going to portray someone from another period, you will need to know how they talked, sat, acted and so on. Familiarise yourself with the etiquette and the history of the period so you know what was going on in the world. There’s another excuse to re-watch Pride and Prejudice or Persuasion.
dance and dinner at a ball; I’m wearing the red dress
  • ·        Dancing lessons. If you want to actually dance at a ball, you will have to take regency dancing lessons. It’s my favourite part of the experience. Mastering the dances takes a lot of time and energy. During every dance rehearsal we had several moments were we said: “Wrong way, Mr. Collins!” I know of several regency dancing troupes in the U.K. so that is something worth checking out. And just think, next time you’ll watch a period drama on the BBC, you’ll be able to pinpoint what dance they’re using and trace their footsteps to refresh your memory. 

                                                          fishing with my sister and uncle


If you have the time and money to invest in this hobby, I highly recommend it. Through my society, I attended balls, picnics, hunting parties, historical weddings and battles. We cultivated idleness and sipped tea for an audience while the men engaged themselves in sport (shooting, for instance). The ladies drew, read books, played old-fashioned games and wrote letters. I’ve also tried fishing at one of the events but there were no fish to be caught. I suppose it wasn’t the season.

                                                              f.l.t.r: my aunt, myself, my sister, my uncle


I’ve been photographed by a dozen people at once (which made me feel like a film star), called Anne Frank (wrong century!) and even once a servant (wrong class!). My favourite events had an international flavour. It enables you to meet like-minded people from all across the world. All those brooding Italians and Spanish soldiers. I even met my first boyfriend through this hobby. Alas, as it turned out he wasn’t my Mr. Darcy. But as I surveyed all those fine specimen of manliness in their military outfits, I perfectly understood Lydia. “Ooh, officers! A man is nothing without regimentals!”

This hobby also has a bit of a theatrical aspect. We sometimes staged scenes, including public arguments between different groups/classes of re-enactors. To make matters easier, we decided on a character to play for the duration of our membership. Because my mother, sister, both aunts and uncle were all members we created a regency family so we could still be related in our new fantasy world. Under this regency name, I wrote diary entries. It gave me my first taste of historical fiction and I enjoyed it immensely. Our society also had a magazine with useful tips and information, interviews, recipes, etc.

                                                                      my family in the beginning of our adventure

Links about living history:

Regency dancing groups:


If you have any questions, please let me know in the comment box and I will get back to you. 
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