WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Dandy Grey Russet

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Dandy Grey Russet

Spring has sprung here in Texas, and the colors are phenomenal this year. We’ve had enough early season rain to make everything go supernova on the color spectrum.

Colors during the Regency period were no less fantastic, and had the names to match. From the pale watercolors of the young misses to the vibrant primaries of waistcoats and married ladies gowns, there was no shortage of shades and hues to drape the beau monde (although this term was likely not use in Regency England, but it sounds pretty and fits the context, so I’m going for it).

1807 Le Beau Monde plate

Dandy Grey Russet (noun)

A dirty brown. His coat’s dandy grey russet, the colour of the Devil’s nutting bag.

A few years ago, author Collette Cameron penned A Regency Palette – Colors of the Regency Era, a definitive list of fabric tints and pigments of the Regency, at Embracing Romance. Names like Jonquil and Cameleopard are far more evocative than mere yellow and beige. Even the dirty brown of the Word of the Week sounds spiffy when given the thieves’ slang treatment.

Behold the colors of the Regency.

Jonquil: yellow (daffodil)
Primrose and Evening Primrose: shades of yellow
Puce: a purplish pink (for some reason I always think puce is green)
Pomona Green: a cheery apple green

1816 Gothic-influence, via Ackermann’s Repository.

Coquelicot: sort of a poppy red
Emerald Green: a bluish-green, almost aqua
Cerulean Blue: a muted, almost grayish blue – but not popular during the Regency era (ack!)
Blossom: a light pink
Bottle Green: just like it sounds
Mazurine Blue: a mixture of indigo and violet
Slate: a mix between gray and lavender

London, June 1799 fashions, plate no. 16, printed for R. Phillips

Other Popular Regency Colors

Apollo: bright gold (1823)
Aurora: chili-colored (1809)

1805-6 Pelisses, via Ackermann’s Repository.

Aetherial: sky blue (1820)
Azure: sky blue (1820)
Barbel: sky blue (1820)
Cameleopard: French beige (1825)
Clarence: sky blue (1820)

1804 Walking Dress with Pelisse, via Ackermann’s Repository.

Devonshire Brown: mastic (1812)
Dust of Ruins: squirrel (1822)
Egyptian Brown: mace (1809)
Esterhazy: silver grey (1822)
Isabella: cream (1822)
Lavender: between heliotrope and parma (1824)
Marie Louise: calamine blue (1812)

1812 Pelisse and Carriage/Walking Coat, via Ackermann’s Repository.

Mexican: steel blue (1817)
Morone: peony red (1811)
Princess Elizabeth Lilac: Alice blue (1812)
Russia Flame: pale mastic (1811)
Spring: Cossack green (1810)
Terre D’Egypte: brick red (1824)
Parma Violet: violet (1811)

1809, Half-dress, via Ackermann’s Repository.

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WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Frigate

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Frigate

Fashion is amazing.

I admit to being a blue jeans and t-shirt connoiseur myself, but I do pay attention to Fashion Week each  year, and gawk at what celebrities are wearing on award show red carpets. I understand nothing of the inspiration, vision, or sheer artistry behind the creativity of the designers of each new trend. I cannot fathom how an artist goes from making a-line skirts and coats one season, to sheer bandeaus and capris the next.

So while it makes no sense to me, it’s however no surprise that the gravity-defying pompadours and wider-than-doorway panniers of the late 18th Century gave rise to simple and straight empire gowns and natural hair – fashion evolves in mysterious and myriad ways. Since the styles of mothers from the era of George III dressed vastly different from their Regency-reared daughters, I thought it might be interesting to compare and contrast two styles. And since caricatures and fashion plates are vastly more entertaining than mere portraits ….

Frigate (noun)

A well-dressed wench; a well rigged-frigate.

Fashion Plate #43 in Galerie des Modes for 1778. Caption reads "Jeune Dame de Qualité en grande Robe coëffée avec un Bonnet ou Pouf élégant dit la Victoire Dessiné par Desrai." Translated means Young Lady in high quality cofeée dress with a hat or stylish pouf designed by Desrai.

Fashion Plate #43 in Galerie des Modes for 1778. Caption reads “Jeune Dame de Qualité en grande Robe coëffée avec un Bonnet ou Pouf élégant dit la Victoire Dessiné par Desrai.” Translated means Young Lady in high quality cofeée dress with a hat or stylish pouf designed by Desrai.

Mlle Des Victoire coiffure à la Grenade, 1779 (Miss Victory Hair Style à la Grenada). French propaganda print satirizing the big hair.

Mlle Des Victoire coiffure à la Grenade, 1779 (Miss Victory Hair Style à la Grenada). French propaganda print satirizing the big hair.

Launching a Frigate, 1790s, James Gillray

Launching a Frigate, 1790s, James Gillray

The Finishing Touch, James Gillray

The Finishing Touch, James Gillray

Tight Lacing, or Fashion before Ease, by Bowles and Carver after John Collet, London, ca. 1770–1775. From the collections of the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation.

Tight Lacing, or Fashion before Ease, by Bowles and Carver after John Collet, London, ca. 1770–1775. From the collections of the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation.

The Fashions of the Day -or- Time Past and Present. Respectfully dedicated to the Fashionable Editors of La Belle Assemblé Le Beau Monde &c., &c. 1807, Charles Williams.

The Fashions of the Day -or- Time Past and Present. Respectfully dedicated to the Fashionable Editors of La Belle Assemblé Le Beau Monde &c., &c. 1807, Charles Williams.

Parisian Ladies in their Winter Dress for 1800, Isaac Cruikshank, 1799

Parisian Ladies in their Winter Dress for 1800, Isaac Cruikshank, 1799

The Rage or Shepherds I have lost My Waist, 1790s, Isaac Cruikshank

The Rage or Shepherds I have lost My Waist, 1790s, Isaac Cruikshank

High-change in Bond Street -ou- la Politesse du Grande Monde, James Gillray, 1796

High-change in Bond Street -ou- la Politesse du Grande Monde, James Gillray, 1796

Fashion Plate: A Lady of Hindoostan, 1809, Los Angeles County Museum of Art

Fashion Plate: A Lady of Hindoostan, 1809, Los Angeles County Museum of Art

 

(Un)Dressing the Regency Swell

(Un)Dressing the Regency Swell

When searching for the epitome of the (s)well-dressed Regency gentleman, of course one name comes immediately to mind:

James Purefoy.

Some might say George Bryan “Beau” Brummel, but I propose, for your consideration, that Mr. Purefoy portraying Brummel is undoubtedly arguably more swoon-worthy than the Beau himself. Let’s take a moment just to consider the lovely evidence.

Author’s Note: Yes, I know Mr. Purefoy’s shirt should have been pulled overhead rather than being completely open, but I’ll give this anachronism a pass because: James. Purefoy.

Now that we’ve seen a Regency swell dress, I’d like to peel each layer back off, purely for educational purposes. Our gentleman will be sporting Full Dress, as he has been out making calls. At home, he might be in a state of Undress, meaning he removed his jacket and cravat to perhaps relax with a brandy and read a book. When he goes riding, he prefers to be in Half Dress, with casual breeches and simple neckcloth. When he goes out of an evening, he sports Evening Dress, pulling out all the proverbial stops to impress.

And now, to the unveiling.

Fits Like a Glove. And a Hat. And Walking Stick. Plus a Great Coat.

regency great coat top hat gloves cane

The well-dressed gentleman first sheds his gloves, hat, walking stick, and great coat at the door. He wore gloves of buff or brown in casual settings, and white for more formal occasions. The style of the hat at this time was called a Beaver or Top Hat. Most gentlemen carried a walking stick, or cane, that could be simply a fashionable accessory or a functional necessity. Few outside the military sported swords, but most swells opted to carry swordsticks or cane-swords, with sharp blades cleverly hidden inside the hollow stick. The great coat could be the simple straight style seen at left, or a coat with stacked shoulder capes to give the gentleman a more elaborate appearance.

These Boots Were Made For Walking.

Digital Capture

Regency Top Boots

Now, we remove my favorite footwear for Regency gentlemen: the Top Boot. I’m quite partial to this style, also known as the Tall Boot, Riding Boot, Brown Top, or John Bull. They are sturdy, leathery, and all-around masculine. Gentlemen could also wear Hess Boots, (also called Hessians or Hussars, so named for their origin in Hesse, Austria); these boots could be calf- or knee-high, but had a “v” front cut and tassels. Not a fan. Not even going to show a picture.

For formal occasions, gentlemen wore dancing slippers, a slip-on loafer that could be dressed with a jeweled buckle, or even sport a heel (called “pumps”) for those needing a “lift.” While we’re here, we can go ahead and peel off his stockings, too. Our first glimpse of bare skin!

Take Your Frock Coat Off and Stay Awhile.

regencybritishmenswear

It’s a shame that more men in this day and age don’t have occasion to wear a cutaway frock coat. With wide lapels and short fronts, the swell could show off his tailored waistcoat underneath. Frock coats could be straight cutaway style at the waist, or have a more gentle curve from the button front to the tails in the rear, but all were fitted like a second skin. They could be casual cotton, or more sumptuous wool and silk. Picture the rich navy silk of Mr. Darcy’s coat at the Netherfield ball, or the gorgeous green wool coat he sported while searching for Elizabeth Bennet in the wilderness at Rosings. The very essence of functional, manly elegance.

Holy Waistcoat, Regency Man!

From SharonLathanAuthor.com

From SharonLathanAuthor.com

It’s now time to remove the waistcoat (pronounced “weskit”), the main piece of costume that afforded the Regency swell a canvas to express his sartorial personality. Cravat knots could be dashingly complex and frock coats a garish color, but the only limit on waistcoats seemed to be imagination and purse.  They could be single or double-breasted, have high collars or wide lapels, and be made from simple cotton to the finest silk. The material could be patterned in stripes, florals, or jacquard, then embellished with beautiful embroidery. For some swells, the more garish the design, decoration, and color, the better.

Does This Cravat Make Me Look Fat?

neckclothitania 1818

Next, let’s unwind our gentleman’s tightly wrapped, exquisitely tied cravat. Over two yards of 9-inch wide crisp white cloth (or sometimes another color) could be fussily knotted or simply wrapped and tied to shield a swell’s neck from exposure. The complexity of the knot was determined by the valet’s talent and the gentleman’s patience to sit and have himself trussed. It is likely the closest thing a gentleman felt to compare to the confining squeeze of ladies stays and corsets. I love to look at the intricacies of the folds in a starched and immaculate cravat, and to picture unwrapping the long length of linen with all the anticipation of a much-desired Christmas gift.

Taking the Shirt Off His Back.

Regency Mens Linen Shirts

We have to pull our gentleman’s shirt off over his head, since it only opens from neck to mid-chest. It has a few buttons at the throat, or sometimes laces, which are hidden by his cravat. It’s soft, made of the finest white or sometimes cream-colored linen or muslin. It’s also billowy with full cut sleeves and body. The only other buttons are found at the cuffs, which are two to three inches wide.

We have now struck chest.

Nothing Comes Between Me and My Pantaloons.

regency pantaloons closeup

God bless Regency fashion. Swells left their breeches (pronounced “britches”) in the country and began to wear pantaloons. No more baggy pants; pantaloons were longer, slimmer, and tighter. The waist featured a one button fastening covered by a “fall,” a flap of fabric that pulled up like a bib to fasten at each hip bone. They featured a special interior pocket of extra material to allow for – er – extra storage room for equipment at the juncture of the thighs. Pantaloons drew the eye everywhere, to both flaw and asset. No wonder they were termed “inexpressibles.”

Breeches aren’t forever gone, by the by: they lost their grandfatherly caché when they began to be cut on the bias, debuted in buckskin and leather, and lost their baggy-bottom seat. Morning calls and country living could be pursued in breeches. They were required attire at Almack’s. Gentlemen also began to wear trousers, which were similar to the tight pantaloon but went all the way to the ankle.

Don’t Mention the Unmentionables.

Patterns for drawers from The Workman's Guide.

Patterns for drawers from The Workman’s Guide.

 

This little scrap of cloth prevents our gentleman from being altogether in the altogether, after having removed the rest of his costume. Also called small clothes or drawers, they were cut like breeches of cotton or linen, could be long or short, and tied at the waist by a drawstring. Many gentlemen chose to forgo them, as it ruined the line of those oh-so-tight pantaloons. Shirts of the day were still long enough to allow the tails to be wrapped and tucked as makeshift under clothing, if desired.

Gilding That Lily

banyan

 

 

Although our gentleman is in fine form au naturel, he wraps himself in his banyan, or dressing gown. After all, it’s his turn to undress his lady wife.

 

 

 

 

Want to learn more? Just click on a costume item below to read a fabulous and informative post:

Gloves
Top Hats
Walking Sticks
Swordsticks
Own Your Own Greatcoat!
Boots
Dance Slippers and Pumps
Frock Coats
Waistcoats
Cravats
Shirts
Pantaloons/Inexpressibles
Drawers
Banyans