Which era is which?

Which one is that again? The Jane Austen one?

People often say to me that they get their historical periods mixed up. So I thought I would offer a quick guide to the main 4 that I refer to when designing my dolls.

Georgian (18th – early 19th century)
The Georgian era of British history is broadly defined by the reign of four kings, all called George, between 1714 to 1830. It is sometimes extended to include the reign of William IV, which takes us up to the start of the Victorian period. As the word Georgian covers such a long span of time, it obviously takes in many social, cultural and political changes, and to try and sum it up in one style would be inaccurate. However some themes can be seen threading through the Georgian period. Greek and Roman culture and art were seen as the epitome of civilisation, and fashionable types aspired towards the classical in all areas of life. Architecture was inspired by the “grand tours” undertaken by upper class young men through Europe, who then wished their estates redesigned along the lines of ancient Greece and Rome. Clothing fashions for both men and women changed somewhat through the period, but up to the 1780s the basics remained broadly similar to at the start of the period – tail coats, long waistcoats, breeches and wigs for men; wide, full skirts, tight bodices with “conical” shaped corsets, and big elaborate hairstyles for women. From the 1790s onwards, women’s fashions changed quite drastically in silhouette and simplicity.

Regency (1811-1820)
Regency is a sub-category of Georgian, referring to the period when the Prince of Wales (later George IV) ruled as Regent during his father’s illness. These days it is  often associated with Jane Austen, thanks to the popularity of her novels and screen adaptations of them.  It has similarities to the earlier Georgian period, but is generally simpler and cleaner in style. Classical Greek and Roman was still all the rage, and ladies’ gowns were supposed to make them look like graceful marble statues. Thin, floaty fabrics and high waistlines were en vogue.

Victorian (1837 – 1901)
As the name suggests, this period is defined by the long reign of Queen Victoria. It is by far the most popular choice of period for dolls house settings. Although it was another long period with many changes in culture and society, there are some common features. By the mid-Victorian stage, people wanted their homes to feature rich, dark colours, with as much decoration as possible. Trends in architecture included the Gothic look, part of a generally increasing interest in Medieval history and mythology. Mens’ fashion was greatly influenced by Prince Albert during his lifetime. Women’s fashion saw the arrival of the hour-glass waistline, crinoline (to mimic the effect of many layers of underskirts), and later the bustle.

Edwardian (1901 – 1910/1914)
The Edwardian era is named after King Edward VII, although it is often used to include the years up to the First World War. This is the period in which my own dolls house is set. Technological developments were being made which influenced daily life, and automobiles, telecommunications and electricity were becoming commonplace. It is perhaps the earliest period which we would see as being recognisably like our own. As the pace of life changed, so did the styles of the times. Mens’ tail coats were relegated to formal occsions in favour of a lounge suit which survives to this day. Women’s fashion was tending towards a slimmer silhouette, still in very restrictive corsets but with a lot less volume around the skirts.

Now the definitions given above mainly relate to British history. Other countries divide their history into different eras connected with significant developments at the time, e.g. North Americal Colonial, French Revolutionary, Japanese Meiji period.

Look out for my future posts, where I will explore some other popular time periods for miniaturists.


Taboo – mini style

I’ve recently become quite obsessed with the BBC series Taboo (possibly due to the leading man). The costumes and sets are amazing, and I love how each character’s wardrobe has been designed to communicate something about that character. What better way to express my admiration than a series of miniature dolls?

The process I follow when designing a doll usually goes like this:

Visual research into the character – photographs, paintings, drawings, screen grabs of TV shows or films. I need a lot of visual information to get a feel of what they look like, preferably from several angles.

Background research – if they are a real person, looking for records of physical attributes. Most importantly, their height, so that I can reproduce it in 12th scale. It strikes me that lots of male actors are shorter than the average man, while actresses tend to be on the tall side.

Book research into costumes and props for their period. What styles, materials and colours will be accurate and work for this character? I have also built up a collection of photos of garments I have found in museums.

Having analysed the costume from the collected imagery, I need to work out how to reproduce it in miniature. Not every tiny detail is going to work out in 12th scale, so I need to simplify it while still conveying the general impression. This will involve drafting my own patterns for the clothes.

Last step before starting to make the doll, I need to work out how they will be posed, i.e, sitting or standing, where are they looking, what are they doing with their hands.

Once I have all these details planned out, I can start sculpting the doll! Yippee!