"I'LL BE driving to a ball and need to fill up, so I’ll go into Asda in my Empire-line frock.

Everyone’s looking, so I make a joke of it and say 'Good day, sir, this is a fine establishment. My carriage requires some adjustments.'"

Life for Claire-Violet Hanley is certainly not boring.

When she was growing up - like most little girls - she dreamed of becoming a princess and wearing long floaty dresses.

But it wasn't until Claire was much older that she found a hobby that would indulge her passion and help her to find herself - Jane Austen and all things Regency.

"I always loved historical costumes," says the 36-year-old, from Southampton.

"When I was four, I would draw pictures of ladies in big dresses, and I always wanted to be a princess and have a lovely feminine dress. It probably stems from wanting to wear beautiful Laura Ashley dresses, like all my friends did, but my mum just couldn't afford them.

"I was always asking my mum why we have to dress like this, and not like they did in the olden days, which I thought looked much prettier."

Daily Echo:

Claire is a Janeite, one of many Jane Austen fans around the world whose passion for the author rivals the fanbase of Star Trek, Harry Potter and Game of Thrones, and although she had coveted Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice whilst doing her GCSEs at school, it was the TV adaptation in 1995 which awakened her love of the Regency Period.

"I'd written essays on Pride and Prejudice, but the series completely hooked me," explains Claire.

"It really brought everything to life, and I wasn't the only one - at school there was a real buzz surrounding it. Everyone was looking forward to the next episode - it was real edge of your seat stuff.

"I always watched it with my granny, and I think that helped for me, we were generationally so far apart and yet both completely loved it. I don’t think that happens very often.

"I can’t imagine me now saying to Granny: 'do you wanna watch BBC3?' It just wouldn’t happen.

"In a way it was my chance to escape from life for a while too. I was escaping in the pictures I was drawing at the time, with the beautiful clothes, and it just tied in with what I was drawing in the pictures, so my escapism was prolonged.

"I remember thinking how beautiful the dancing was and wishing I could wear dresses like that. I’d never been effected by a period drama in that way before, or since."

A few years passed and Claire had put her dreams to the back of her mind when she spotted a new dance group that had been set up in WInchester, Hampshire Regency Dancers.

Unfortunately, Claire had some health problems and had gained quite a bit of weight , but rekindling her passion for the Regency Period gave her a new lease of life.

"I never really went clubbing or dancing as I just didn’t like that scene, and I wished there was another way of socialising.

"When I saw the way they did it in regency times I thought I could do that - that would be alright!

"Then I saw the publicity shots of girls in dresses and I was like, 'oh I would love to be able to do that but I’m never going to be able to because of my weight.' I was obese.

"But when I did start to crack the weight issue, that then became my goal. I thought if I could lose a significant amount of weight I could join the group."

Daily Echo:

Claire went on to lose eight stone and dropped from a size 24 to a size 10/12 from just eating healthily, so she could wear the period’s Empire-line dresses.

"Once I joined the group, I met Helen McArdle, who used to work for the Royal Shakespeare Company, and on my second lesson she said I was going to need an outfit.

"I was so excited, and really worried it would be expensive, which it can be if you want silks and extras, but Helen simply said she had an old duvet and she could knock something up out of that if I was on a budget. So she charged me just £30. I was very lucky as she is super talented."

Claire now owns 15 period dresses, which take almost three hours to get into, and has taken part in regency events all over the world, with many people thinking her hobby is 'delightful'.

She, and the friends she has met that share her passion, stay in touch despite being miles apart.

"We talk to each other and write letters in Regency-style language, bake traditional Regency food for our picnics by the river, though sometimes I do cheat and just stick something from M&S on a Regency plate and hide the bag.

"I’ve learnt fan language, which is how people secretly communicated with each other under the noses of chaperones.'"

But the reaction to the quirky hobby has not always been positive.

"We went to Brighton once and were called freaks," she says.

"By some Goths and a guy with a plastic thing on his head, rings everywhere and tattoos on his face. It was such a shock as you expect Brighton to be the pinnacle of acceptance and instead it was really aggressive.

"I think it was because we didn't match what they perceive as being different, and what they were rebelling against I guess. Some people think we are in fancy dress, but we're not, it’s very different to fancy dress.

Daily Echo:

"There are quite a lot of rules to follow if you want to be historically correct and museum quality, such as you cannot wear synthetic fibres, bonnets must be the right shape and your ankles cannot be exposed.

"One day I went to an event with a hem that was 6” too short. I was really tired and had not been very well. The event was on a rig and I had a new dress on that didn’t really fit very well, and at the time I thought it wouldn’t really matter.......but actually only prostitutes would have shown their bare ankles in those days and the crew were joking with me saying I was a bit of scrumpy and pretending to drag me to the galley and not let me go.

"And then someone laughed and said, ‘well you should check your hem before you leave shouldn’t you’ – it was mid calf and quite shocking. They were not being nasty though as I was amongst friends, but I may never live it down.

"It sounds a little obsessive to some people, but at the same time if you want to be taken seriously and do costume talks and that sort of thing then you do need to know your stuff.

"So everything does matter, even down to your corset, as it all helps to enhance and make sure the regency silhouette is correct. The idea is if you go back to 1815 you would completely merge in.

"It makes me feel so feminine when I am in costume, and that is something that is really hard in modern fashion, I think.

"I missed out on dressing up as a child, and this fulfils that for me. I just wish my granny could have seen me in the dresses - she would have loved it.

"I always wanted to create my own little fairy tale and I feel that I have managed to do that. I’ve met some incredible people, made some great friends and had some amazing experiences and I hope, health permitting, to have many more in the future."

Blob Jane Austen Regency Week 2015 – an eight day Festival of events celebrating Jane and the Regency period – will take place between June 20 and 28, in and around the market town of Alton in Hampshire and the nearby village of Chawton.

For more info, please visit: www.janeaustenregencyweek.co.uk.