Thursday, April 1, 2010

Outfitting the Regency Man

In creating a Regency wardrobe for a gentleman, the first thing you need to consider is what walk of life does your Regency persona represent? The Regency gentleman, as you know from the many books and adaptations, wears a broad range of costume; if he’s in the military—does he wear a uniform? If so, which one? Army, Navy, British, French, New World…? War of 1812 or Napoleon?

If he is a Gentleman, what is his rank in life? Is he a gentleman farmer? Is he an aristocrat? There are details that will create the difference; from choice of materials to accessories… your ‘persona’ will be affected by what you choose to wear. I recommend you look at various examples of Regency costume, and decide which suits you best, then take a moment to study the examples that are available to take in the details that make your choice different from others.

However, I am going to describe the basic items that compose the costume of a regular regency gentleman given the time of day and his choice of activity—and detail the details that make a costume correct for the Regency period.

The regency male silhouette was meant to showcase the male shape; the broadness of shoulder, the breadth of chest, the narrowness of waist and the shape of the calf muscles. They sometimes wore calf-padding to enhance their legs. Seriously. So their clothing reflects this; tight trousers, slightly gathered sleeve tops for a little volume, huge, stiff collars, cravats that puff out the chest; swaggery tails and frocks; it’s all very roostery.

You’re a regency gentleman about to hop on your baroque horse and take a ride from London to visit your family in the north. You’re in for a long ride; but as with the regency style, you would not get on your horse looking inelegant.

The greatcoat or ‘garrick’ ~ an elegant yet practical garment, the stacked shoulder capes give the wearer a broad presence. There is a vent that splits the back for riding. These are made usually of wool, sometimes linen and even leather. Regency gentlemen also wore basic cloak/capes, sometimes with a shoulder cape or two attached.

Some pattern suggestions:
-For riding/hunting/outdoorsy things: A broad-brimmed hat to shield him from the sun. Sometimes straw, sometimes black felt with a broad brim.

Website suggestion to start:

  • A slouch hat (this is the closest thing I could find for a wide-brimmed style hat, but the top isn't quite correct)
-For larking about in town: You need a topper. The regency topper (depending on what part of the regency) either had a slight curve to the ‘pipe’ portion, and the brim curled upwards on the sides or they had a straight, straightened 'pipe' with the brim curled up at the sides. They were in a variety of black, brown and other deep earthy tones. The early regency hat was slightly tapered straight hat with a wider brim with less curl on it like the one pictured below.
Some website suggestions:
-For arriving at a ball, or if you are in uniform: Tricorns (early regency), bicorns (or cocked hat).
A website suggestion to start:

-Brown top or riding boots (daywear, riding)~ never cheap but always worth it, a good pair of tall English riding boots, especially with a brown top, are always elegant and very useful for daywear of any kind; worn with breeches or long trousers alike. Also, Hussar boots with a tassel, knee length, mid-calf-length… there is a wide range of acceptable boots for daywear and riding. A low heel is crucial. Regency men did not wear heels like their fathers and grandfathers did.

Website suggestions:
-Slippers: Flats, soft and refined, the Regency man wore a pair of slipper shoes over stockings when dressed more formally. There were mule slippers that were worn in the home during casual times when at home in his banyan by the fire. But he wore fine slippers for evenings and special events. Believe it or not, regular soft leather black classic dance slippers are perfect for this application.
Some suggested sites:

A traditional 'court shoe' which can be patent or even velvet.

The Wardrobe Basics:
-The cutaway frock coat ~ Depending on when in the Regency period, the shape of the cutaway will vary. From a subtle, more 18th century curve in the front panels to the later-regency straight cutaway style with defined tails, a frock coat is a mark of manly elegance. A variety of materials were appropriate; from cottons, linen to light wools and even silk, the daywear frock coat was often in earthy tones of green, browns and the coveted blue. A gentleman wore this all day; it was considered a state of ‘undress’ to not wear one’s frock coat and have one’s shirt sleeves exposed. One somewhat important point for historic accuracy in frock coats, the Regency frock coat does *not* have a seam circling the waist. The pieces are long and whole from neck to tails… only during the early Victorian period do the waist seams appear. Frock coats had very high, often boned or stiffened collars, wide lapels and a short front so the coloured waistcoat could be revealed underneath. The armseyes are set far in from where they are today and the sleeves are supposed to be tailored to fit the arm quite snugly. There should be a split in the tails for riding and a pleat on each side of the split. Some frock coats sport pockets on each side of the rear tail. There are NO POINTS on the front of the regency frock coat. The bottom of the front should either be a straight line, a curved line, or a gothic arch when the front is closed. Evening frock coats were usually black.

Some suggested patterns:
-Breeches: The fall-front/broadfall breech or trouser ~ Regency men wore their pants tight. If it was the calf-length breech or the full length trouser, most breeches were cut on the bias so there was some stretch, and they hugged the legs very tightly. There should be a drop-front panel fastener on the front, although there were some variations to the closures. The back had a rather pouffy gather on the derriere, with a drawstring tightening at the back (the behind should never be seen since it’s always covered by tails). If your breeches are loose and creasing on the leg, they’re too loose. Evening wear required primarily black or white and sometimes a soft tan breeches of natural fabrics. Do not pick anything too shiny. Daywear includes fawn or tan, brown or a variety of other deep tones. A pair of suspenders might be required to hold those pants up… but they will be hidden beneath the waistcoat.
Pattern suggestions:
-The Waistcoat: Sometimes worn in double layers to display more of an eye-pop of colour, it was here where the Regency man was allowed to play with pattern and colour the most. Jaquard, damask, silk, the waistcoat, though most of it was hidden beneath the frock coat, the colour popped along the edges of the front lapel and collar and from beneath the bottom front panels of the frock coat. If they had a print, it was usually tone on tone, or very small prints and designs, elegant roll prints, or a small stripe. For balls and formal events, the waistcoat was often white. Regency period is all about elegant simplicity, no huge flowery prints please or anything super-shiny! And remember, a regency waistcoat is short, it reaches the waist, it is not long like the 18th century ones that hang to the hips. There are not points, it's a straight line across the front with a sparse, sort of crew collar.

Pattern Suggestions:
-The Cravat: A long, crisp, and fairly wide rectangle of simple cotton or silk fabric, it was ruched/crunched down to fit the collar, and tied ‘round the neck and then into a variety of knot-styles in the front. This cravat, generally white, but also seen in various colours in paintings, etc, with the standing shirt collar is the essence of the regency man. We recommend you make a cravat from at least two and a half yards of 9-10" wide white crisp cotton or silk.

  • Reconstructing History's "Complete Regency Gentleman's Pattern Package" *Note about Reconstructing History patterns; general consensus of RH pattern reviews is that they are not for beginners--and the instructions are sometimes confusing, please keep that in mind if you've never sewn tailored items before, and we also recommend that you create a muslin mockup of each tailored item first before cutting into the expensive wools, etc.

-The Shirt: Any standard ‘pirate shirt’ would do, as long as it’s not too 18th century froofy and frilly. A simple stand-up collar, lace closure in front, which will be hidden by the cravat, either simple flared or wide cuffed sleeves that peek out from underneath the frockcoat cuffs.
Pattern suggestions to start:
-Stockings: These stockings are long, and go to the knee or over. They were of a variety of colours for day use, and normally white or ivory for evening.

A good source for stockings:

-Corset: Some men wore corsets, yes, to promote the narrowness of waist and width of shoulders.

  • A simple watch and ribbon fob to hang from the waist of your breeches.
  • A cane
  • White gloves for dancing.
  • Some nice muttony sideburns.
  • Elegant manners.
What of the hair? Comb it forward towards your face. It’s rakish and handsome.

There are lots of shortcuts and alternatives that are not so noticeable. Stretchy pirate pants... modify an existing tailcoat... a vest with a standing collar. They can still be used and look quite authentic. :) Go to the Oregon Regency Society's website and check out their resources page for more ideas and patterns.
Do you know of great patterns? Do you have resources or information to share? Then please feel free to add your links and suggestions in the comments section. :) Thank you.
For military equipment and inspiration (Napoleonic wars, 1812, etc..) see some of these links below:


Unknown said...

This is some great information! Thanks for putting it together!

Sus said...

Love this! Thanks for putting information, links and smart tips together.