We can only take a cursory look in a single blog post, but let us understand from the start that the term "Undress" did not signify being unclothed.
Likewise, "Half Dress" did not mean one was literally half-dressed. The terms are categorical, not literal, referring more to function than to how covered the body actually was.
In which case you may well ask, What does it all mean?
It means there had to be many gowns in a genteel Regency lady's wardrobe--regardless of the size of
her fortune. Indeed, to be active in society the necessity of owning a large wardrobe could hardly
be avoided. In a small town such as Longbourne (where Austen's Bennett's lived) the categories no doubt overlapped mightily. But for, say, a debutante in London (the focus of this article) a lady might well need to change from morning dress, to walking-out, to afternoon, to full dress--all in one day!
|1820 Morning Dress|
Why were so many categories necessary? Because there were different social purposes for each one.
Having said that, one could argue there are only two main categories of clothing for the Regency belle: Undress and Full Dress. In this model of categorization, Undress includes all of the gowns worn during the day, or, what is otherwise called Half Dress. (Which is to say, the majority of clothing, not only for daytime, but perhaps including even informal evening dress. But NOT formal.)
Day gowns include any gown worn for the morning, walking out, shopping, riding, or making calls. Full Dress, on the other hand, was for the evening Ball, very fancy Dinner, Opera or
appearance at Court. (The Royal Court, not a court of law. Court Dress was actually its own category.)
The chief difference between Undress and Full was a lower bodice for the evening and short sleeves rather than long, but in practice full dress implied a whole ensemble; A short-sleeved empire-waisted, low-necked gown, (generally of muslin but by no means restricted to such) and including evening gloves, a fancy headdress of some sort, a few jewels, a fan, perhaps a reticule, and satin slippers. Other accessories could also be worn or on hand: feathers, boas, shawls, scarves and fans, to name the most common.
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