Fashion for the Regency Gentleman ~ Cover that manly chest!
Let’s start with a brief background–
Gentlemen’s fashions of the Regency Era – broadly 1795-1825 – arise from the equestrian clothing of English “country gentlemen” of the late 18th century, and a melding with the radical new designs which came out of the French Revolution. To us, the clothing of the era appears to be conservative and very formal, but in actuality, it was an abrupt departure from the prior century and a half during the Baroque and Georgian periods.
For example, breeches, the standard for some two centuries, were gradually abandoned in favor of pantaloons and trousers. Bright colors, matching suits, and gaudy accouterments gave way to the new concept that a gentleman of taste ought to be subtle and subdued. We can thank dandy Beau Brummell, in large part, for ushering in this ideal, thus leaving brilliancy in color and accessories to the ladies, an idea generally held to this day. The images below reveal what I mean:
Lace, embroidery, and other embellishments disappeared during the Regency. Cut and clean tailoring was the sign of quality and value. The “dandy” arose in the 1790s as the term for a clothes-conscious gentleman who preferred refined, elegant, sober attire over the “fop” or “macaroni” who went for extravagant ostentation.
The misconception that a dandy was a powdered, effeminate caricature is untrue. Being flamboyant or attracting attention was not the goal. Being understated with immaculate cleanliness of person and clothing was a hallmark of the dandy, hence the abandonment of the wig in favor of cropped hair. It was a move toward a classical silhouette, just as seen with women’s fashion. To the right is a drawing of Beau Brummell.
Like everything in history, especially fashion, it was constantly in flux and varied from place to place and person to person. Design “fashion plates” and the magazines of the day give us ideas, as I am sure they did to the Society folk who wanted to look as trendy as possible. Those gowns and garments that have survived aid in painting the image of a Regency Era lady and gentleman. Personally, I have always wondered if people 200 years in our future will grab hold of a collection of vintage year-2014 Vogues and think that is how everyone dressed!
The tailcoat was the standard article of clothing for any man of at least middle class standards. It was high in the back of the neck, fitted in the back, chest and abdomen, had tails reaching the knee, and the wide “M notch” lapels so distinctive of the period. Either single or double-breasted, it could be worn open or closed, but always so that the waistcoat could be seen beneath.
The tailcoat was usually made of wool though sometimes of linen for warm climates and seasons, and sewn with few seams. There were many color options for daywear but for evenings conservative darker ones such as black and navy were most fashionable. Buttons could be self-fabric covered or of brass or pewter. For some reason, blue coats were always outfitted with gold buttons, while all other colors had self-fabric buttons. Go figure.
Never called a “vest” – let’s get that straight right away! The waistcoat was made from wool, linen or silk and could be a solid but was often a brocade, stripe or pattern. It had a high, stand-up collar and sometimes wide turn-back lapels, especially earlier in the period. The waistcoat extended below the front of the tailcoat and covered the top of the trousers or breeches. It was most often single breasted but could be double breasted as well, with a small pocket to hold the man’s accoutrements.
The shirt was usually of linen or cotton, loose fitting with off the shoulder sleeves and a high standing collar that extended up sometimes even above the jawline. The shirt had a slit in the front and pulled on over the head. It fell to mid-thigh or even knee length, tucked into the trousers and serving as the undergarment. Ruffles at the sleeves were unpopular during this period but ruffles at the chest were still an option.
For many more examples, visit my Pinterest Board:
Links to all four posts on the topic of Regency gentleman’s fashion are here:
Cover that Manly Chest!
Loving the Cravat!
This was excellent! Very well done and informative! I’m not a big regency fan or reader of regency era books, however, one does end up reading books of that era because there are so many. Captain Lacey and Sebastian St Cyr being my two favs at the moment. I’m not a Mr Darcy fan. Heresy, I know. Anyway, I have trouble envisioning men’s dress from this period. The ultimate in manliness for me is the waistcoat! The whole cravat thing is just too fussy and effeminate for me. Just a quick question though in one of the images… isn’t it chapeau bra? But by all means, if one wants to wear a house upon one’s head, go for it.
Again, awesome, awesome!!
“Chapeau-bras”, actually, from the French “bras” = “arm.” I don’t know whether that’s because you carried it under your arm indoors, or because it was as long as your arm! 🙂
Love the men’s clothes Sharon! The tail coats are favs. Looking forward to talk of pants 😉 the shirts I find a bit fussy, how on earth do you get through all that material!
I love all the pics too!
Speaking of men and clothing, family recently got into a discussion about scarves. My son is vehemently opposed to wearing a scarf, he thinks it demeans his manliness! So he insists he will not let his sons wear scarves either. The ladies of the house all declared we think scarves look wonderful on men! He looked at me and said ‘But I suppose you would prefer we wear that thing that looks like a scarf’. I said ‘oh you mean a cravat?’ Haha !!
Ps I ok forward to checking out ‘The Charming Man’
Hi Vee! I am always a bit baffled by the shirts too. I can’t imagine all that volume of material stuffed underneath the waistcoat and jacket, and tucking into tight breeches. Just never seems like it would work, but that is how they were designed so I can’t argue.
Scarves on a man definitely depend on the man and the overall look. A scarf with a polo and jeans would be silly! But a finely tailored suit with a scarf? Oh yeah! It can work 🙂
Of course you’re right about who a scarf would look good on 🙂 I guess I was picturing those male models that make it look sexy hehe
Sharon, I wish men still dressed this way! So much more attractive than sweatpants and a tshirt, don’t you think?
I agree, for the most part. I mean, a nice butt-hugging pair of jeans can work nicely too 😉
Agreed on the jeans! LOL
Love the pictures. Waistcoat not a vest, got it.
And don’t you forget it, Sagan! 😉
Very interesting. I never knew that there was a difference between Dandy and Fop! I stand corrected! Can’t wait to find out about the *gasp* pants!!
Yes, the distinction was a revelation to me as well. Interesting, isn’t it?
You have a whole week to prepare yourself, Wendy, for discussion a man’s unmentionables. 😉
I love this informative post and pictures that you have put together, Sharon. I am eager to learn about the type of pants worn by Regency men. See you next Monday.