WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Colquarron

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Colquarron

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.

Let’s explore.

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.

The Oriental

“…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

The Mathematical

“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.

The Osbaldeston

“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.

The Napoleon

“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.

The American

“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.

The Mailcoach/Waterfall

“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.

The Irish

“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.

The Ballroom

“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.

The Hunting

“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!

The Maharatta/Nabob

“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.


WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Steenkirk

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Steenkirk

Readers of Regency Romance may think only heroines can be found in dishabille. Au contraire!


A muslin neckcloth carelessly put on, from the manner in which the French officers wore their cravats when they returned from the battle of Steenkirk [sic].

19th century wood engraving of a gentleman wearing a Steinkirk cravat, Probert Encyclopedia.

Apparently, those Frenchies were in such a rush to get to the fight, they had no time to properly tie their cravats. The Battle of Steenkerque was a fight from 1692, during the Nine Years’ War, where the French forces took on a joint English-Scot-Dutch-German army commanded by William of Orange. The French won, messy cravats and all.

Map and Overview of the Battle of Steenkerke, 3 August 1692.

Voltaire explained the Steinkirk neckcloth phenomenon in his 1751 tome, Age of Louis XIV:

The men at that time wore lace-cravats, which took up some time and pains to adjust. The princes having dressed themsevles in a hurry, threw these cravats negligently about their necks. The ladies wore handkerchiefs made in this fashion, which they called Steinkirks. Every new toy was a Steinkirk.

Steinkirk cravats consisted of a long, narrow, plainly trimmed neckcloth wrapped once about the neck in a loose knot. The ends were then twisted together and tucked out of the way into a button-hole, either of the coat or the waistcoat. This tyle was popular with men and women until the 1720s.

I personally think the Mailcoach and Waterfall styles of the Regency have their origins in the Steinkirk.

Portrait of J.B. Belley, Deputy for Saint-Domingue by Anne-Louis Girodet de Roussy-Trioson, 1797, Palace of Versailles.

Mr. Tilney seems to sport a bit of a Steenkirk.

JJ Feild as Henry Tilney, 2007, Northanger Abbey.

As well as Mr. Darcy himself, of a fashion.

Colin Firth as Fitzwilliam Darcy, 1995, Pride and Prejudice.

Go ahead. Just yank that annoying, slap-dash cloth off.

Colin Firth as Fitzwilliam Darcy, shedding that silly old Steenkirk.

Cravats are delicious things.

The only question I’m left with is exactly how many different ways are there to spell Steinkirk? I discovered Steenkirk, Steenkerque, and Steenkerke.


Slang term taken from the 1811 Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue.

(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.


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!



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




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:

Top Hats
Walking Sticks
Own Your Own Greatcoat!
Dance Slippers and Pumps
Frock Coats