header('Cache-Control: max-age=259200'); A Primer on Regency Era Men's Fashion - Kristen Koster
Nov 082011
 

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.

A couple showing off typical Regency Era Fashions.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)Amazon tracking pixelwith 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.

Underclothes

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.

Basic Garments

Regency Era Men's Fashion: tailcoat with squared cut away in front, circa 1812

Tailcoat with squared cut away in front, circa 1812.

Shirts
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”.
Tailcoat/jacket/coat
Likewise, they could be double or single breasted, with a distinctive “M” shape to the tails.
Pants
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.
Breeches
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.
Pantaloons
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.
Inexpressibles
Scandalously tight leggings that left little to the imagination.
Buckskins
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?

Regency Era Men's Fashion: Great coat with capes, circa 1811

Great coat with capes, circa 1811.

Outerwear

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.

Footwear

Shoes
Worn for informal occasions and evening events, usually made of leather.
Boots
Typically Hessians were acceptable during the day but not at night. Top boots were another choice.

Accessories

Regency Era Men's Fashion: a simpler overcoat

A simpler overcoat for a stroll in the park or night at Vauxhall Gardens.

Cravat/stock
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
Hats
Several styles to choose from: topper (what we call a top hat), beaver hat

In the Bedchamber

Nightclothes/Nightshirt
Basically a loose, ankle-length nightgown with a floppy open collar — all those heroes must be freezing in their birthday suits!
Nightcap
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.

Another source of entertainment are these digital Regency Paper Dolls for your Hero and Heroine. You may want to check out my post on The Art of the Cravat as well for examples of the different knots that were fashionable. Visit my post on Women’s Regency Fashions or my Regency Resource page for more information regarding a variety of other Regency-themed topics. If you’d like more information on a specific place or topic, please let me know in the comments section below.

  20 Responses to “A Primer on Regency Era Men’s Fashion”

Comments (16) Pingbacks (4)
  1. Fascinating! I must watch that movie. 🙂

    • I really enjoyed it. It was definitely eye-candy, but also a good overview of his story and the politics of the time. I can’t remember who it was, but one of the Romance Divas recommended it a couple years ago. Hope you like it too!

  2. Excellent post. I bookmarked it for future reference. Loved Beau Brummel This Charming Man. Such a fun movie and who can resist dishy James Purefoy?

    • Thanks, Georgie! I need to see what else Purefoy’s done. I also love Hugh Bonneville. Can’t wait until Downton Abbey starts up again here.

  3. Woukd they really have called him “Mr Beau Brummel”? Surely Mr Brummel or Mr George Brummel would have been more correct.

    And what about top boots. Hessians with pantaloons, top boots with breeches is what I always understood. If you look at the shape of the top of Hessian boots the cutaway style would have been graceless with the line of the bottom of the breeches.

    • Thanks for stopping in and watching the clip, Doreen!

      It took me a minute to figure out where I’d mistyped Brummel’s name. Phew! I forgot that they say it over and over and over in the opening scene. I think perhaps they were trying to show how close their friendship was and also how very informal this meeting between Brummel and the Prince Regent was, as he ends up being shown in to Prinny’s dressing room where the clip cuts off. And I suspect a bit of Hollywood flare, drama and poetic license was also in place.

      As far as boots, I’ll admit I didn’t delve as deeply as I could have. You’re correct. Would you mind if I updated the entry for boots above to reflect your comment’s information?

      This morning, I did find a thorough “History of Boots” post that focuses on Regency boot styles and their influences that has wonderful sources listed, but is also an ugly wall-o-text: http://historyofboots.blogspot.com/2009/06/regency-period-boots.html

  4. Great post. I don’t write regency, but I enjoy reading it. BTW, what are quizzing glasses?

    • Thanks, Maggie! I really enjoy reading them too.

      Candice Hern has some great info over here. http://www.candicehern.com/collections/04/eyeglass.htm
      As she says, it’s basically a single magnifying lens with a handle. Or a monocle.

      I’ve most often seen it used to illustrate a haughty manner by a high ranking peer looking down on someone else. But they were popular items of jewelry for both men and women by the end of the late 18th century when the term “quizzing glass” came into use.

  5. Another mistake in the footage of Beau Brummel getting dressed was his fob. It would have been attatched to his watch and slipped into his pocket for that purpose on his breeches waistband. Not clipped onto the waistband as shown. What was the point of that? Nice to watch though!!!

  6. I believe gloves for gentlemen in the 18th century were sometimes soft yellow leather. What do you know about this, please? Thank you from Kathmandu. M. Davis

  7. Very interesting post. Thanks for it. I have bookmarked it

  8. Would men have worn a floor length velvet cape with a black satin collar or would a women wear this?

    • Hi Norma, thanks for stopping by and posing an interesting question!

      I spent a chunk of yesterday looking into this and from what I could find, men’s fashions in the Regency were much more form fitting than a floor-length cape like that would be. Now, great coats tend to break that, but they still have more “shape” to them and often had several capelets for flair. So I’d guess that a floor length velvet cape would be late 18th Century or later than the Regency in the 19th Century for men. So for Regency, I’d expect a cape like that to be worn by a woman or if worn by a man, perhaps as part of a masquerade costume. Also, I’d expect a woman’s cape to be more colorful than a stark black.

      If anyone else has any insights or information, I’d love to hear it!

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.