It seemed a travesty to do a hit-and-run on Regency era cravats last week, so this week I wanted to look at them more in depth. To do that, I needed a somewhat relevant slang term. The one I chose is about as old and obscure a Cant term that can be found.
A man’s neck. CANT.
So, let’s get our supplies. According to MY Mr. Knightley, there are two ways to make a Regency cravat:
- Cut a long strip of cotton or linen material about 4 to 8 inches wide and at least 60 to 80 inches long, depending on the types of ties you will make. If you want your cravat to go twice around the neck then 80 inches is best.
- Cut a triangular piece of material, with the base of the triangle 60 to 80 inches long and against the selvedge. The height or point of the triangle should be centred in the middle and measure 10 inches high.
Next, there’s a handy pamphlet entitled Neckclothitania or, Tietania : an essay on starchers and collars / by One of the cloth, published in 1820 and illustrated by George Cruikshank, that details the popular styles of men’s neck attire of the era. After reading the complicated and constricting instructions for each design, it’s no wonder we authors have heroines’ hearts flutter at the sight of a bared skin, and take delight in unwrapping inch after delicious inch of linen from our heroes’ confined necks.
Reproduction of Neckclothania’s illustration of Cravats of 1820, from Jennifer Forest, Jane Austen’s Sewing Box: Craft Projects and Stores from Jane Austen’s World, Murdoch Press, 2009.
“…is made with a very stiff and rigid cloth… Care should be taken, that not a single indenture or crease should be visible in this tie; it must present a round, smooth, and even surface…”. The cloth is laid without crease on the front of the neck and wrapped around so the ends come to the front again for tying in a knot.
Sir Robert Peel (1788-1850) by Sir Thomas Lawrence (1769-1830), Tamworth Boroug.h Council
“is far less severe than The Oriental – there are three creases in it.” Whereas the Oriental is smooth on the neck, the Mathematical is deliberately creased along the neck. It doesn’t look terribly less stiff to me, however.
Sir Thomas Stamford Bingley Raffles by George Francis Joseph, 1817, National Portrait Gallery.
“This neck-cloth is first laid on the back of the neck, the ends brought forward, and tied in a large knot, the breadth of which must be at least four inches, and two inches deep. This tie is very well adapted for summer; because instead of going round the neck twice, it confines itself to once.”
I could not find any contemporaneous examples that I was sure of being an Osbaldeston. So I present this anonymous gentleman whose presence in a picture puts him in the Victorian era, but who is wearing an Osbaldeston cravat.
“It is first laid … on the back of the neck, the ends being brought forwards and crossed, without tying, and then fastened to the braces, or carried under the arms and tied on the back. It has a very pretty appearance, giving the wearer a languishingly amorous look.”
Anonymous “languishingly amorous” gent.
“differs little from the Mathematical, except that the collateral indentures do not extend so near to the ear [the diagonal crease between the ear and the knot are not as long], and that there is no horizontal or middle crease in it.”
Robert Stewart (1769-1822), Viscount Castlereagh, later second Marquess of Londonderry, by Sir Thomas Lawrence, Royal Collection Trust, Waterloo Chamber, Windsor Castle.
“is made by tying it with a single knot, and then bringing one of the ends over, so as completely to hide the knot, and spreading it out, and turning it down in the waistcoat. The neck-cloth ought to be very large to make this Tie properly”…. “A Kushmeer shawl is the best, I may even say, the only thing with which it can be made.”
Portrait of a Gentleman by Francois Mulard, 1805, York Museums Trust.
Let me just pause the historical portrait examples right here and give a shout-out to the dresser of Rupert Penry-Jones in 2007’s Persuasion adaptation for having the most perfect Mailcoach/Waterfall I’ve ever seen.
Rupert Penry-Jones as Captain Wentworth, Persuasion, 2007.
The Trone d’Amour
“is the most austere after the Oriental Tie – It must be extremely well stiffened with starch.” Its only ornament is “one single horizontal dent in the middle.”
Portrait of Frederick H. Hemming by Sir Thomas Lawrence, 1824-25, Kimball Art Museum, Fort Worth, Texas.
“This one resembles in some degree the Mathematical, with, however, this difference, that the horizontal indenture is placed below the point of junction formed by the collateral creases instead of being above.” If you squint you can see that the diagonal creases meet at the point under the middle dent, just above the knot.
Thomas Campbell by Sir Thomas Lawrence, before 1830, National Portrait Gallery. I never thought I’d find an Irish cravat where you could actually see the two diagonal creases framing the center horizontal crease.
“it unites the qualities of the Mathematical and Irish, having two collateral dents and two horizontal ones… It has no knot, but is fastened as the Napoleon.” In other words, just keep wrapping, just keep wrapping.
Joshua Tevis by Jacob Eichholtz, 1827, Smithsonian American Art Museum.
The Horse Collar
“It is certainly the worst and most vulgar… It has the appearance of a great half-moon, or horse-collar.” But you can tuck a double-chin behind it!
Portrait of the Artist John Vanderlyn, 1800, Metropolitan Museum of Art.
“is formed by two collateral dents on each side, and meeting in the middle, without any horizontal ones.”
Other Archer, Earl of Plymouth by Sir Thomas Lawrence, 1817, California Palace of the Legion of Honor, Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco. Those horizontal creases are everywhere!
“is very cool, as it is always made with fine muslin neck-cloths – It is first placed on the back of the neck, the ends are then brought forward, and joined as a chain-link, the remainder is then turned back, and fastened behind.”
Portrait of Sir Edward Pellew by Sir Thomas Lawrence, 1797, National Maritme Museum.
Want to see some neck cloths in action? Head over to Townsends, and 18th century reproduction clothing and accessories house. It’s American, but it’s a nice place to lose some time. They have a nice little video on neckwear, too.