This is shocking! This post was meant to be a follow-up to my Dressing a Regency Woman post and I completely forgot to post it – that was 2 years ago! SHOCKING.
Worse than that, I updated it (sorting out those pesky typos – I hope) and then something went wrong and I lost the new draft and posted the old one making me look very silly. Ah, well, it keeps me humble and all that, and thanks to WordPress’ wonders, I was able to salvage the draft and here it is.
Well, here you have it – enjoy:
This post has been put together in order to provide a basic overview of the items of clothing in a man’s wardrobe and the rough order they would don them in. It is assumed that the gentleman in question is perhaps a follower of that most exquisite fashion-setter, Beau Brummel.
A gentleman would wear a shirt, pretty self-explanatory. The only different between a Regency gent’s shirt and the modern day is that the collar would be separate and attached afterwards.
In some cases, a portly gentleman might also wear a corset beneath his shirt. I believe ol’ Prinny may have donned such an item.
A Regency gent following Beau Brummel’s fashion would general not wear underwear. Due to the tightness of buckskin breaches or silk evening breeches, the last thing a dandy would want is for the smooth line to be broken by rucked-up underwear.
Some gentlemen did tuck their shirt tails round their lower regions to act as a sort of underwear but this is the closest we really get. Draws didn’t make an appearance until a few decades later.
3. Breeches & Pantaloons
Depending upon the time of day and activity our gent would wear breeches or pantaloons. Breeches of course were the traditional garment for men’s upper legs. They were usually buff coloured wool or buckskin for day wear, or black or white silk for evening attire.
Pantaloons were the predessor of modern-day suit trousers and were usually a nude colour and had little stirrups that went under the man’s foot in order to keep the line of the material straight and smooth from waist to foot. If the man was wearing shoes, during the day he would wear the stirrup fabric outside of the shoe, but in the evening it would reside inside his footwear.
Another interesting point is that some men would put on their buckskin breeches and sit in a warm bath of water until they shrunk to fit them perfectly and then dry them off. Thank you to M.M. Bennetts for enlightening me as to that unique practice. And, I believe it is not far removed from the way my mum got her jeans to fit when she was a teenager a century and more later!
Stockings would be worn with breeches. They were usually knitted from silk and went over the foot and extended up to the breeches. Some valet’s stuffed their master’s breeches with sawdust in order to create a fuller looking calf!
5. Collar and Cravat
The starched collar would be attached to the shirt and in Brummel’s case would have reached over his entire head before being folded down into position. The cravat, a starched section of linen, would be wound around the neck, tied into any number of fashionable knots, and then the chin would have been slowly lowered several times in order to create the perfect folds and creases that framed the face.
Generally waistcoats were less garish than the previous century and would be worn beneath the jacket. They sometimes had laces at the back in order to pull the garment tighter around the body.
Ah, that most exquisite of garments. You hear of Weston and Shultz creating gentleman’s blue superfine jackets that were so well-tailored that they mirrored the man’s form precisely. They were usually rather hard to get on if this was the case and it could take up to a couple of servants to get their master into one. The end result, however, was always worth it.
Jackets had come away from the long-skirted frock coat of the 18th century and were fully cut away at the front, a precursor of ‘tails’ which would emerge later in the 19th century. If one were tremendously fashionable like Brummel, one would wear a blue coat with brass buttons reminiscent of military uniforms.
Gentleman would wear a hat while abroad and it resembled the modern-day top hat with a slightly more conical top. It was known as a beaver.
9. Shoes and Boots
For riding there were the classic top boots with the black leather upper and brown leather rim around the top, often caused by folding the boot wall down, but in our modern period merely a different colour leather top.
Hessians were regularly worn with breeches and pantaloons and were made fashionable by Brummel who claimed to polish his with champagne boot-black. These boots were generally black, tremendously shiny, rose higher at the front and had a jolly gold tassle dropping down from the front.
In terms of evening wear, pumps were usually the order of the day. They went along with the silk stockings and breeches and were probably easier to dance in than clunky boots.
Georgette Heyer’s description of many caped-greatcoats always did send a thrill through me. Just imagining a tall Regency gentleman striding through his hallway, the many capes of his great coat flaring about him, it’s all rather majestic.
These greatcoats were really just that, an ankle length coat designed for colder weather with capes in order that rain might run off them. The more capes, the more fashionable!
So, there you have it, a very fast, very basic description of a Regency gents wardrobe. Obviously, this hardly takes into account the nuances of the period’s fashion, nor the vast difference in types of each garment but I hope it helps those who read Regency romances to understand what each item of clothing was and in roughly what order they went on!
Of course, by this point the fashion industry really was moving towards the industrial revolution and nuances and changes in fashion were prolific so remember that when reading this post.
And just for fun: