This week and last, we’re looking at how people dressed in the Regency Era. This week we’re going to focus on Regency Era Men’s Fashion. These lists aren’t exhaustive by any means but intended to represent clothing of the upper classes rather than the working classes. They should give a good foundation in recognizing what an author is talking about and why they’re so focused on their characters being fashion conscious.
Last week in the post on Regency Era Women’s Fashions, we covered the terms “Undress”, “Half Dress” and “Full Dress”. These also applied for men as well. For men, “Undress” included having his jacket and cravat removed, something that was not done in polite or mixed company if the gentleman could avoid it. Dressing gowns and robes also fit this bill for gentlemen lounging at home. “Half Dress” for men would be less elaborate knots in their neck cloths, and much simpler and more casual styles of clothing. “Full Dress” and “Evening Dress” are the equivalent of today’s black tie affairs. Almack’s was a special case, where gentlemen of the ton were expected to wear breeches instead of trousers.
Regency Era Men’s Fashions
If you haven’t seen the movie, Beau Brummell – This Charming Man (affiliate link)with James Purefoy and Hugh Bonneville, let me whet your appetite with this clip of the opening. It tells the story of Beau Brummel and his influence on all matters sartorial.
Ahh, those visuals are something else, aren’t they?
I’ll wait if you want to replay it in full screen mode.
Ok, back now? Good. Did you notice the anachronism? There’s a big, glaring one, but it’s much more dramatic looking when the shirt opens all the way down the front instead of only partway down from the neck. So…good cinematic choice, bad historical detail.
The clip reminds me that author Kalen Hughes has a great post over at Word Wenches where she goes through the steps of dressing your Regency hero from the skin out. If you visit that post, you’ll get better idea of how long it took to dress and the order everything goes on or off in. Jessamyn’s Regency Costume Companion has a fabulous page that describes and details a number of men’s Regency Era fashions.
- Small Clothes/Smalls/Drawers
- short drawers (more like modern boxers) or long drawers (basically what we think of as long johns)
- Stockings and Garters
- Calf-high, usually cotton or silk.
- Typically made from white muslin, shirts pulled on and off over the head and did not buttoned all the way up the front like modern dress shirts. Collars would have been high enough to reach the chin when starched and standing up. The neck and sleeves might have ruffles or not.
- Waist Coat
- What we’d think of today as a vest, these had a high collar and could be double breasted but were usually single breasted. Properly pronounced as “wes-kit”.
- Likewise, they could be double or single breasted, with a distinctive “M” shape to the tails.
- Men enjoyed a variety of pants of different lengths and snugness. Rather than a modern zipper, Regency breeches opened with a flap called a “fall” that opened in the front and fastened with an elaborate series of buttons. The width of the front panel determined if one was wearing “broad fall” or “narrow fall” breeches. The Historical Hussies have a great post on Regency Men’s Pants that includes a great illustration of this construction.
- Knee length pants worn with stockings during this period. Considered old-fashioned, breeches were de rigueur at Almack’s.
- Trousers/braces (suspenders)
- Originally worn by the working class, trousers became an option for the upper classes around 1807. Regency men did not wear belts due to the construction of their pants and the cut of their coats. Instead, suspenders or braces kept their pants in place.
- Cut on the bias to achieve a much closer fit and typically worn with highly polished tall boots, pantaloons extended to mid calf or below.
- Scandalously tight leggings that left little to the imagination.
- Made from deerskin and considered the equivalent of denim jeans in their day, comfortable and practical.
Gentlemen, like ladies, possessed a variety of outfits considered appropriate to a specific activity. So for example, one required specific jackets more suited to riding, but overall the emphasis and time spent on dressing for the next activity was not as time-consuming for men as it was for women. Isn’t that always the case?
- Great Coat
- Think of a great coat as the flamboyant and dashing trenchcoat of its day, not all were as fancy as to have capes attached, but many were simple coats to keep one warm.
- Worn for informal occasions and evening events, usually made of leather.
- Typically Hessians were acceptable during the day but not at night. Top boots were another choice.
- Elevated by George “Beau” Brummel, this long rectangular piece of cloth became quite the showpiece. Depending on the man’s rank and skill of his valet, the cravat was starched and folded, and then tied in one of numerous ways, ranging from simple to complicated knots. Get more information at Regency Reproductions and also a free pattern to make a cravat.
- Gloves, Canes, Pocket Watches, Watch Fobs, Quizzing Glasses
- All indicators of wealth and status as well as functional and practical.
- Wallets or Purses
- made of leather or fabric to hold notes and coins
- Several styles to choose from: topper (what we call a top hat), beaver hat
In the Bedchamber
- Basically a loose, ankle-length nightgown with a floppy open collar — all those heroes must be freezing in their birthday suits!
- A knitted silk hat with a tassel on the end
- Banyan/Dressing Gown
- A dressing gown was a loose, wraparound, floor-length bathrobe sort of garment. Banyans reached knee-length and fitted more closely to the body. Most preferred rich-colored, luxurious fabrics, such as satin, velvet, or silk damask.