During the Regency period, etiquette was everything, especially for women, who did not inherit wealth or could not openly find their own means. Although teaching young women reading, writing, and arithmetic had become more acceptable by the 19th century, instruction in proper etiquette remained the most important part of their education. The most complex rules of etiquette had to do with courtship, and in polite society disregarding these rules could mean all the difference between finding a suitable husband and destitution.
Women’s clothing during the Regency period had been reduced to a classic simplicity that had not been seen for centuries, however, this was not the case for rules of etiquette in polite society. There was protocol for every social interaction from how women should remove their hats to the proper conduct between unmarried couples. When out socially a lady did not wear a shawl for warmth no matter how cold the weather. A person new to area waited for calls of ceremony to be made to them by those already established before they made a call of their own. A lady never forced herself upon a man’s notice. Men could give themeselves up to unrestrained mirth, provided they were in teh company of other men or among women of low repute. In a world that was experiencing a time of social upheaval and sweeping change, the strict adherance to etiquette throughout the Regency period provided a sense of stability. Despite the disintegration and reformation of the world around them, impeccable manners and spotless reputations were still held in high regard.