Thursday, July 26, 2012

Dressing Mr. Darcy - JA Festival 2012

At the Jane Austen Festival at Historic Locust Grove in Louisville, KY one of the intriguing events that I attended during the day was a talk entitled Dressing Mr. Darcy given by Brian Cushing. 
Mr. Cushing expounded on the various articles on clothing in Gentleman's Regency dress. 

Here are a few tidbits I enjoyed from that talk:

  • The Regency Dandy look was born when men started wearing their higher waist-ed pants and riding jackets as daytime and evening wear. The older folks of the Georgian period thought the young men of the Regency period were a bit disrespectful dressing in what seemed to them such a sloppy way (much like a teenage boy wearing baggy jeans and a sideways ball cap to a wedding or funeral).
  • A Regency Gentleman would rarely be seen without a jacket and never without a waistcoat or cravat because his white undershirt was fairly thin and was quite literally part of his undergarments.  
  • Around his house a gentleman might wear a long jacket (like Mr. Bennet's above) but it was still considered quite dressed down and if company came he would usually change for his other jacket.

  • There were "a thousand ways to Sunday" to tie a cravat. Each of the gentlemen's clubs in London had their own style of tying a cravat. Today one of those club's method of tying is what is most commonly used. 
  • Black and colored or printed cravats would be worn during the day while white cravats were a necessity for evening dinners, balls and parties. Colored cravats were also more practical for everyday wear because they were easier to keep launder than white ones.
  • The pants and breeches worn often had such high waists that suspenders worn under the waistcoat were quite imperative to keep them up. The sleeves on the jackets were also the longest they had been during this period, often coming as far down as the knuckles on the hand.
Frank Churchill suffers from the heat - Emma 2009
  • With all the layers of clothing gentlemen (and ladies) had to wear I was beginning to feel sorry for them, especially having to wear the layers during the summer heat! The question was posed during the Q&A portion of the talk and it was explained that since the Kolumbo volcano had erupted in Greece in 1650 it had lowered the climate so much that England and most of Europe reported having snow in July! Temperatures had warmed a bit by the late 1700's and early 1800's but the temperatures were still much cooler than they are today so that extra layers were often needed even during the summer months.

And while we're on the subject of Regency Gentleman's clothing I have to mention my favorite article of clothing from the Regency period. 

The Greatcoat!!! 
(or as my sister and I say: "What a great coat!")
That attractive overcoat with the charming flounces on the sleeves! It's so swoon-worthy and any gentleman wearing a greatcoat instantly becomes ten times handsomer than any modern day gentleman! 

But you don't have to take my word for it:

"And then his hat sat so well, and the innumerable capes of his greatcoat looked so becomingly important!
- Catherine Morland thinking about Mr. Tilney, Northanger Abbey Chapter 20

"I hope Mr. Allen will put on his greatcoat when he goes, but I dare say he will not, for he had rather do anything in the world than walk out in a greatcoat; I wonder he should dislike it, it must be so comfortable.” 
- Mrs. Allen, Northanger Abbey Chapter 11

Several of the facts mentioned in the talk surprised me. Where there any that surprised you?

What piece of Gentleman's Regency attire is your favorite? (i.e. cravat, waistcoat, top hat, greatcoat)


Analiese said...

Yeah, it was kind of hard to believe that Mr. Darcy would jump into the pond in just that shirt. :) I am a new follower on your blog and love it!

Arielle Melody Bailey said...

I really enjoyed reading this Miss Laurie! Thank you for sharing it with us!

The caped greatcoat is my favorite too!!

Is picture #3 (top right) from Mansfield Park 1983?

Anonymous said...

My favourite Mr Darcy clothing would have to be the tailcoat. Something about it speaks the gentleman!

AJ said...

Very interesting post! : )

I was surprised to read about the climate. Living in south Texas, I couldn't imagine the men (or women) wearing that many layers. Whew!

My favorite piece would be the greatcoat. Yes, a man may certainly look more handsome wearing one. Similar to a lady wearing a cape, IMO. ; )

Anonymous said...

Wow! I'd have to say the information about the volcano surprised me - someone must REALLY enjoy their research to find that bit of history.

And it's a toss-up between the waistcoat and cravat as my favorite Gentleman's Regency attire.

Looks like you had a great day at the fair!

Matilda Mi said...

Thank you so much for this very interesting read! I've recently become greatly interested in 1800s clothing. As for my favourite piece of gentlemen's clothing, that would without a doubt be the top hat! There's something inexplicably classy and handsome about top hats, I wish I could see them on the street daily... I'm on a mission to find one for myself, even though I'm a woman :)

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