British Columbia

Jane Austen festival in Port Alberni hopes to break Regency dress record

Organizers of the Port Alberni Jane Austen Festival hope they have the Sense and Sensibility to break the record for most people in one place in Regency dress this July.

Current record for most people in Regency dress is held by Bath, England, with 409 people

Vancouver Island costumers show off Regency dress. There are six of them here, but for the Port Alberni Jane Austen Festival to break Bath's record for “Largest Gathering of People Dressed in Regency Costume,” they will need at least 404 more. (Stirling Images Photography)

While some people visit Port Alberni to experience its landscape and parks, another group of visitors will be more interested in Mansfield Park.

That's because the Vancouver Island town is hosting a Jane Austen festival in July to celebrate the author of classic novels like Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility.

Organizers plan to hold a Regency ball and a reading of Austen, but have something bigger in mind: they are hoping to break a Guinness World Record for the "Largest Gathering of People Dressed in Regency Costume."

The record, 409 people, is currently held by Bath, England, home of the Jane Austen Centre.

"People that have not dragged their sewing machine out for 10 or 15 years are doing so," organizer Tricia Knight told All Points West's Jean Paetkau. "Grandmothers are bringing their grandchildren. And we have a lot of young people involved and they are learning to put the costume together."

A portrait purportedly of a teenage Jane Austen, by 18th-century British artist Ozias Humphry. Two hundred years on, Austen's works still have a devoted following." ((Christie's/Associated Press))
While the enthusiasm is there, the execution must be as well. Guinness doesn't hand out records to just anyone.

For example, if 10 percent of the gathering doesn't meet the guidelines for Regency costume, the attempt will be disqualified.

"The guidelines for the ladies is actually quite simple," Knight said. "It says full length dress with low neckline, high waistline sleeves and bonnet and accessories would be helpful."

"As far as the gentlemen go, they're a little more particular. Head to toe tails, floppy shirt, cravat, britches, knee high boots. The knee high boots has been a problem for us but we have been combating it. They are very hard to find, but we have been getting them."

Austen's works are uniquely revered and still have a dedicated fanbase after 200 years. Knight describes herself as "hopeful" that they will be able to break Bath's record.

The Port Alberni Jane Austen Festival takes place Jul. 8-9.

Vancouver Island costume enthusiasts display Regency dress. (Stirling Images Photography)