REVIEW: Bad Girls and Bonnets at the Georgian Theatre Royal

As part of Richmond’s GeorgeFest celebration, Lucy Adlington of The History Wardrobe treated us to a night of Bad Girls & Bonnets at the Georgian Theatre Royal, a bold, brash and beautiful celebration of Jane Austen’s wicked women.

Lucy Adlington, a Medieval historian with an English degree from Oxford rifled through Jane Austen’s wardrobe revealing spicy details and shocking scandals of women and fashion in the Georgian era. Who would have dreamt that Jane Austen’s aunt went to prison and even faced the gallows for the theft of a card of white lace?

The 18th century saw the start of conspicuous consumption and poor Aunt Jane Leigh Perrot had fallen victim of the temptations of this new enticing world.

This review continues after the adverts:

With new wide pavements and large pane shop windows shopping in town had become a pleasant pastime for Georgian ladies. They would peruse the fashion plates in their ladies magazines to copy the latest fashions from Paris before rushing to the milliner or haberdashers to buy a length of fabric.

These magazines also advertised desirable items such as Invisible Dresses and Drawers. Jane Austen was a real fashion lover; her letters were peppered with references to dresses and bargains and shopping trips to Bath.

In the first half Lucy was dressed in a beautiful burgundy pelice; a long dress coat made by her colleague, the historical costume maker Meredith Towne. After the interval she swapped her fancy hat for a bonnet and completing her outfit with an apron she started to relate stories of the harsh lives of the ordinary women in Georgian England. After infanticide, stealing clothes was the most common crime for which women were trialled.

The punishments were extremely harsh and the theft of a pair of silk stockings could see a woman deported to Australia for seven years. As the chances of ever returning to England would be very small this would mean a lifetime in exile in extremely trying conditions. All for a few scraps of precious fabric.

The History Wardrobe has 25 presentations to choose from covering over 200 years of social history. New shows for 2018 will include Woman in Gold, inspired by the works of Gustav Klimt, and We Love Laura, a celebration of Laura Ashley fabrics and fashions.

GeorgFest continues until Saturday 26th August.