Thanksgiving weekend marks the beginning of holiday shopping season for many. Jane Austen never got to shop online in her bed clothes, but she and her characters did go shopping just the same. So let us imagine you’ve won and all-expenses-paid shopping spree at a Regency Era store with one of her heroines. Where (and with whom) will you choose to shop?
1. Lackington Alley and Co.’s Temple of the Muses with Catherine Morland
This so-called “Cheapest bookstore in the world” was built in a large multi-story building in Finsbury Square in 1794. Catherine cannot wait to show you the gothic/horror section! After you have selected your treasures, enjoy a pleasant stroll through the gardens in the square and see where the first successful air balloon flight took off.
2. Local Haberdashery with the Dashwood Sisters
Elinor and Marianne have been practicing frugality and want to help you get all the supplies you need for all your projects so that you can make your own gifts this year. Haberdasheries were the place to get your fabric and sewing supplies as well as some ready made items such as gloves or other accessories. When you have found everything you want, return to the Dashwood cottage to spend some time starting your projects while Marianne sings and Elinor paints.
3. Mantua-maker and Millinery in Meryton with the Bennet Sisters
Walking distance from Longbourn is the town center where Lydia and Kitty enjoy gossiping and trying on hats at the millinery. The nearby mantua-maker will help turn your fabric into the most stylish dress of the day - but you have to decide which design choices to make. Jane Austen, herself, once complained of not knowing what she wanted in her dress but Lizzie will be there to help you choose. Dress making takes time so after getting your measurements, you will have plenty of time to walk to Netherfield to see if it is let at last!
4. Green Grocer with Fanny
In smaller villages, there might be only a single butcher and baker for all the inhabitants’ store bought food needs. Most villagers would either grow their own fruits and vegetables, or buy them directly from the farmers they personally know. However in larger cities, there would be grocers from which you can buy fresh foods. Fanny wants to help you make gooseberry tarts so once you have selected the finest ingredients, you’ll head back to Mansfield Park kitchens for an afternoon of baking and friend making.
5. London Shopping Malls with Emma
Did you know there were shopping malls in Regency England? You will have a few to choose from - unless you are very ambitious and want to try all four. The Western Exchange had booths that could be rented by independent vendors to find that unique gift you won’t find anywhere else. The Pantheon Bazaar boasted of luxury items from jewelry to furs during the Regency Era, as well as children’s toys and exotic pets. Harding Howell and Co. has many more stores specializing in fine clothing and jewelry for that elegant shopping excursion. Finally, there is the Burlington Arcade - which is still open today! Emma might talk you into buying a few things you don’t want or out of buying some things you do, but she does it because she loves you and want you to look your best!
6. Market in Bath with Anne
Anne is usually agitated by the bustling cacophony of the markets but she has agreed to go with you so that you can get the full Bath experience. Spend the morning browsing the shops but be sure to pick up ink and paper for letter writing. Then meet up for tea in the Pump room. For your evening entertainment, you must select either an Assembly Ball or use tickets to the Opera.
Which of these exciting opportunities will you choose?
To learn more about shopping in the Regency Era, check out Jane Austen the world of her novels by Deirdre Le Faye and http://hibiscus-sinensis.com/regency/stores.htm