Waterloo, Fashion and War


This June commemorates the two hundredth anniversary since the Battle of Waterloo, a turning point in European history which brought to an end 23 years of war.


During the early nineteenth century war was often a cause for social occasion - for many wives it was  their first taste of the continent and heralded lavish balls, frivolity and oppulance. The Duchess of Richmond's Ball, three days before the battle of Waterloo was described as 'the most famous ball in history'.

The years which followed the Battle of Waterloo were an interesting period for British fashion. The shortages of War meant that 'French silks were replaced by muslins from the Colonies and home grown touches like purl edge ribbon. Inspired by heroes like Wellington and Nelson, military styling transformed masculinity with the tightest of trousers and miles of braid to adorn manly chests'.

Author Sarah Jane Downing will explore this fascinating period in more depth in a talk 'Waterloo, Fashion and War' at Astley Castle in Warwickshire. Drawing upon her works Fashion in the Time of Jane Austen and Beauty and Cosmetics 1550-1950 she will examine the profound effect that the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars had upon fashion and women's lives.

The talk will take place on Sunday 7th June 2015 at 4pm and tickets are £10, available from Astley Book Farm on 02476 490 235 or from Kasia Howard:

Sarah Jane Downing has also written about the influence of Napoleonic Dress in our current issue 64: Ageless. You can read the article here:

From the 12th May - 2nd September 2015 the Fan Museum in Greenwich will host an exhibition: 'Fans of the Belle Époque'  which 'features a spellbinding assortment of exquisitely-crafted fans – the types favoured by wealthy American heiresses and the cream of European society at this time.'


There are many more events around the UK to celebrate the bicentenary of Waterloo. For more information visit:

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