Sunday, May 18, 2014

Do Boots Belong in Regency Ballrooms?

As a history buff, I often have difficulty suspending my disbelief when I watch movies or read books with historical settings. I have noticed a recent trend in regency-era historical romances to describe the hero as wearing Hessian boots to a ball.  This did not seem right to me, as the paintings I have seen of 19th ballroom scenes show the men wearing evening shoes, not boots. I assume the modern authors (and their readers) find Hessian boots to be far sexier (or at least more masculine) than heeled pumps for men. I do not share that prejudice, as I came of age in the 1980s, when rock stars like Prince really rocked Georgian-style heeled pumps.

But I wondered if I was wrong in my assumption that boots were not worn in ballrooms of the regency era, so I did a little research. The Jane Austen Society of North America provided this very helpful article on The Rules of the Assembly, which mentions: "The Rules almost always proscribed certain articles of dress:  notably, no boots or half-boots in the ballroom (though after 1800 officers on duty seem to have been exempt from this ruling)..."

So, I was correct in my assumption that civilian men would not have worn boots to a ball. There is some leeway if the hero is an officer on duty.  Even military officers tended to wear dancing shoes rather than boots to a ball, however, as this painting of the Duchess of Richmond's famous ball in Belgium on the eve of Waterloo shows one officer (the man in the light blue coat) in boots and the rest wearing evening shoes with their uniforms. Boots were for riding, not dancing.

No comments:

Post a Comment