Cravats and Stocks: Regency Neckwear

If you are dealing with eighteenth or nineteenth century gentlemen´s fashions you will sooner or later come across discussions about a certain detail: the neckcloth, also known as the cravat or possibly the stock. What exactly did gentlemen wear around their necks?

Any chap during the Regency era would feel terribly undressed without the tall collars and the neckcloth.  The contrast between starched white linen and a dark coat is striking. It frames the face in a flattering way. At the time one sought to create the illusion of one´s head resting nobly on a Grecian column. The greatest dandy of them all, Beau Brummel, is often given credit for the look. His doings have been described so often, so I will leave him at that.

Cravats are basically a length of fabric tied around the neck in a knot. But are the cravats triangular or rectangular? Exactly how stiff is it supposed to be? If I was planning to make a new cravat – should I look for bleached linen of finest possible quality or readily available cotton batiste? Or silk? What is historically accurate?  There seems to be different opinions on that matter.

Perhaps I am a fool, but I decided to make an attempt to sort out the intricasies of the cravat, mainly through portraits and some extant examples, and I wrap it up with showing you a couple of basic knots.

Let us begin with taking a look at some portraits:

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Richard Cosway: Portrait miniature of a gentleman, “wearing blue coat with gold buttons, tied stock and frilled cravat”, 1790. The softer look of the Georgians is transforming into the high collar and stiff cravat of the Regency. Is he actually wearing a stock AND a cravat? I thought the frill came with the shirt…

Directorie dandy

A-L Girodet de Roucy-Trioson: Portrait of J. B. Belley (detail), deputy for Saint-Domingue, 1797. Musée National du Château, Versailles. A nonchalant cravat paired with a frilled shirt. The amount of fabric and the ends suggest that this is a square folded into a triangle.

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Francisco de Goya: Portrait of Marques de San Adrian, 1804. Museo de Navarra. Large knot with the short ends pointing in different directions.

autoportrait 1805, Jean-Francois Sablet

Jean-Francois Sablet: Self portrait, 1805. Collar, cravat (or stock), and frill. The knot is so small it nearly blends with the frill, so is Monsieur Sablet actually wearing a stock?

xavier fabre 1809

Francois Xavier-Fabre: A Young man, 1809. Scottish National Gallery. Similar style, but the overall effect is well-starched crispness.

ortrait-of-pierre-jean-george-cabanis

M-J Blondel: Portrait of Pierre-Jean-George Cabanis, c. 1810. Frill is gone but the collar is higher than ever. Is this a stock, with the ends tied in front? It seems very stiff, yet loose fitting. Does the shape of the ends suggest a triangle shaped cravat?  And the stiffness leads us to… starch.

Starch? Seems to have been essential, since it is so often mentioned. I wonder how stiff the cravats actually were though. They do not always look all that starched to me. (Just look at the Marques above.) Would it be possible to tie a neat bow if the fabric was stiff as paper? Or was it enough to starch only lightly just to keep the white crispness? (As opposed to labourers in soft neckcloths in different colours.) Or was it different depending on whether it was half dress or full dress? Anyway, rice starch would apparently do the trick – although I have not tried it yet. All that washing, starching, and ironing sure kept the maids busy. Especially if you discarded a neckcloth that didn´t turn out well. You only had the one chance.

Adventures with starch, an interesting discussion over on the Regency Society of America page. (Image borrowed there,)

Adventures with starch, an interesting discussion over on the Regency Society of America . (Image borrowed from there.) Note that the collar is made in two pieces: the upper piece is slightly gathered to a lower band. The frill is detachable. This image gives a good view of the equally starched cuffs.

Darcyclothing

Good example of collar and frill, on another shirt. (I am not sure this is an extant garment.) The collar was either left standing or was folded down over or under the tie. Borrowed this image from excellent Darcy clothing.

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It is very similar to this shirt from Nordiska museet, Stockholm, that I had the opportunity to examine some time ago. It was obviously not starched at all, but of very fine quality. One difference is the closure with ties instead of buttons.

The neckcloth could be worn under or over the shirt collar. This is crucial for the result. During the eighteenth century before collars increased in height, they could be folded down before or after tying on the cravat. The collar would then be either completely hidden or visible like a modern shirt and tie combination. The overall narrower silhouette towards the end of the century saw the new fashion of keeping the collar upright with the cravat clearly visible.

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Baron Gros: Baron Gerard. Ca 1790. The Metropolitan museum. A folded down collar. (The collar is actually very tall, since it is folded down and still touches the jaw!)

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Thomas Lawrence: Portrait of Humphry Davy. Ca 1821. National Portrait Gallery, London. Only the very top of the collar is folded down over the cravat.

The often cited pamphlet Neckclothitania was published in 1818 as a satire that made fun of popular cravat styles of the time. The descriptions are written in a style that was entertaining but were probably not meant to be taken too seriously. They look like the same knots with very small variations.

neckclothitania-1818

 

The actual neckcloth was cut either as a rectangle or square. Sources differ, but there were basically three options when choosing the material: finest linen, cotton lawn, or silk, always white. Coloured neckcloths were introduced in the 1820´s, but the white neckcloth continued to be used on formal occasions, a custom that survives to this day. Shirts could be of a lesser quality since little of them actually showed, saving the finer material for collar and cuffs. I have always preferred the rectangular cravat, which in my opinion is easier to handle. Mine is about one foot (30 cm) wide and sixty inches (150 cm) long, hemmed and folded lengthwise along the middle. The ends are cut straight along the grain of the fabric and are consealed by the waistcoat. Another option is to cut them diagonally, which gives a nice finish when tying a knot with exposed ends. When the neckcloth is a square, about one yard on each side, it is first folded diagonally, then folded again and again until a suitable width.

An alternative to the cravat was the neck-stock. This might come as a surprise to you. At least I have never given it much thought before. The stock is essentially a pre-tied cravat. This was the most formal neckwear, a collar or band of white material of a fine quality, carefully pleated horizontally to fit over a shirt collar and tightly around the neck. They could be without folds too, and were then stiffened with paper and sometimes even boned like stays. Military officers often wore black stocks, made of fabric or leather. The stock had tabs in the back that tied, buttoned or buckled together with a metal buckle. Buckles were commonly used because they were easier to adjust and they kept the stock firmly in place. During the eighteenth century the stock often had a decorative ruffle,  jabot, gathered at the front. This is the cause of some confusion, I think. Another version (that still exists today) is the stock with hanging linen bands, known as short bands. These stocks represented the learned professions, clergymen, barristers, and academics. This looks very much like a cravat with the decorative ends hanging down, covering the shirt breast. Sometimes when a gentleman desired a nice knot or bow, a cravat was tied on top of the stock. I think they simply led a parallell existence. The stock was in use in civilian fashion through the 184os-1850s (and came in different colours), before shrinking into the narrow clip-on bow tie of the late Victorians.

Jean-Baptiste-Jules_Bernadotte,_Prince_de_Ponte-Corvo,_roi_de_Suède,_Maréchal_de_France_(1763-1844)

Impressive black stock on Marshal Bernadotte of France, later king Karl Johan of Sweden. Ca 1805. Painting by Joseph Nicolas Jouy, after François-Joseph Kinson. (detail)

Neck stock 1

“This stock is beautifully constructed from a lavish amount of material–62 inches of fine semisheer cotton gathered into the three-inch wide linen tabs that fastened at the back of the neck.” Colonial Williamsburg, Acc. No. 2008-114

 

Neck stock 2

White linen neck stock consisting of fabric gathered at each end to linen tabs with fine cartridge pleating. One tab has a single buttonhole for receiving a removable stock buckle with a T-shaped chape. Colonial Williamsburg, Acc. No. 2011-2

halsbinde_nadelmaid.de

Stock and a fancy buckle. Image from Nadelmaid.

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Elegant silk stock with the ends tied in a elaborate knot. Nordiska museet, Stockholm. 1820´s.

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Neckcloth, in unstarched and badly tied condition. Nordiska museet, Stockholm. I photographed it, but failed to examine it more closely, so I cannot say if it is a stock or a neckcloth. At the time I thought a stock but now I think the latter. The image on the table shows an interesting detail: top collar sewn to a neckband. This would sit under the neckcloth with the ends showing under the chin. Is this the beginning of detachable collars?

No scroll back to the portraits, and do tell if the gentlemen are wearing a cravat or a stock!

I thought I would share my two favourite knots that even the beginner can master, considering that valets or personal servants are scarce in our day and age: The Mail Coach and The Barrel. They have been described many times. I borrow the following from Kristen Koster:

The Mail Coach or Waterfall Knot
This knot is simple enough to require no assistance in type, yet quite distinguished looking. The Mail Coach or Waterfall is made by tying the cravat with a single knot, and then bringing one of the ends over, so as to completely hide the knot, and spreading it out, and turning it down in the waistcoat.

1. Hold one end of the cloth in your right hand and the other in your left so the cloth is stretched out.

2. Find the midpoint of the cloth and place it at the front of your neck. Wrap the right side of the cloth behind your neck so the right end of the cloth comes out on the left side of your neck.

3. Wrap the left side of the cloth around the back side of your neck so that the end comes out on the front right side. Repeat if your cloth is long enough, layering the cravat so that it covers your entire neck. Leave at least a foot of slack on the ends of the cloth for tying.

4. Bring the ends of the cloth to the front. Place the left piece of cloth over the right piece of cloth to create an “X”. Pull the end of the top layer of cloth through the hole made at the top of the “X”.

5. Tighten the knot at the top of your neck. Arrange the top layer of cloth so that it covers the bottom layer and hides the knot. Spread the top layer of cloth so that it lies flat against your chest.

Photo by Regencygentleman aka mr Tigercrona

The Coachman or Waterfall Knot.

The Barrel Knot:

1. Repeat step 1-4 above. Make sure the ends are long enough.

2. Tighten the knot, and position it in the centre against the lower part of the cravat and collar. Now use the ends and tie another knot, and pull as tightly as desired. Arrange the ends down both sides of the shirt buttons.

Photo by Regencegentleman aka mr Tigercrona

My cravat tied in a basic knot, known as the “barrel knot”. I remember I was quite happy with the result.

 

Photo by Regencygentleman

A closeup of my basic knot. This one is not so tidy. The cravat is unstarched.

 

Conclusion: when looking at cravats and collars from the 1790´s to the 1810´s it is evident that they came in different shapes and used different techniques. Factors such as social status and place of geography propably made an impact, but I like to think that ones personal taste had a say in this,

So do not be afraid to experiment! I welcome comments if you have experienced the triangular cravat or tried the stock. Or starch!

 

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A Coat, a Stock, a Shirt, and a Waistcoat: Extant garments

Nordiska museet (“The Swedish Victoria & Albert museum”) has a fairly new permanent costume gallery, but space is limited and the costume collection is extensive, so obviously there is much more in storage. So imagine the thrill when they arranged a handling session last week with garments from the empire era. Needless to say I was there early, but there was already an exited crowd outside the door. It was nice to find several friends among them so we chatted while waiting for our turn.

Nordiskamuseet-e1405678871911

Nordiska museet, Stockholm

The chosen garments were laid out on tables and anybody who wanted to take a closer look was provided with cotton gloves. (Yes we were actually allowed to touch them, supervised by the helpful conservators.)

The first thing that caught my attention was this elegant stock:

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Stock, ca 1820. This pre-tied cravat is in a remarkable condition. The silk taffeta is practically undamaged. Follow this link to the Swedish museum database for more information.

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Inside view of the stock. It is thin and weighs almost nothing. It is stiffened with paper.

It was great to see this dark blue tailcoat (1820-40). A tailor-made masterpiece like this should be seen on a person or at least a mannequin,  laid out on a table did not quite do it justice. Anyway, the coat had many details that are characteristic for the era: m-notch lapels, double-breasted closure, slightly gathered sleeves, bell-shaped cuffs with one button – understated elegance. Again the condition was so good it could have been brand new. Here is the link to the database (where I borrowed the image below, because it was difficult to take any decent photographs).

Nordiska museet coat 1

Nordiska museet coat

Neat buttonholes and prick-stitch. The lining is a wool and linen blend.

nordiska museet coat

Interesting to see the angle where front meets tail. Notice the short v-shaped seam? I suppose it is there to prevent the coat from loosing its shape and to protect from wear and tear.

A not so well preserved garment was this striped silk and linen waistcoat:

Nordiska museet waistcoat

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Nice details on collar (above) and pockets (below).

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I also noticed that the back, made of linen, was unlined. A showy piece of garment, rather than something to keep you warm!

One highlight was this shirt, or THE shirt. It was of a very fine quality, both in material and the way it was made, most likely by a skilled (professional?) seamstress/tailor. Every stitch was incredibly fine and most seams were flat-felled.

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The shirt has a ruffle along both sides of the opening.

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The gathering was microscopic.

nordiska museet shirt 2

The shoulder seam and view of the neck.

nordiska museet shirt

Closure: the shirt was never buttoned, but rather tied with this narrow ribbon. Notice the neat finish of the inside of the collar.

Something for the ladies: an evening gown, ca 1815-20. A fresh light blue silk, with cream-coloured trim.

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In this weird photograph I wanted a look at the inside of the bodice. Here the bodice is folded forward over the skirt.

There were three or four other gowns, chemises, a couple of frilled caps, and a pair of slippers.

Insights and conclusions? Well, as always I have the deepest respect for the amount of work that went into making clothes before industrialisation. You could not just walk in to a shop and buy clothes off the rack. It took some time and consideration to invest in new clothes. People in general had to make do and mend.

I am always impressed by the fine materials that were used and the microscopic yet perfect stitches they were able to make. And it is interesting to see the unfinished seams and surprisingly crude stitches on the inside. (We do like shortcuts, don´t we?)

Books, the internet, reproductions, and film costumes are good sources, but seeing the primary source – the real thing – with your own eyes is invaluable. (As long as you are aware of the limitations in terms of styling, proper underpinnings, posture, hairstyles, social status, etc.) But if you, like me, do not own a costume collection, do visit a museum now and then!

Audience While the Wig is Being Powdered…

An Audience While the Wig is Being Powdered. 1799. Gouache, painted by Pehr Nordquist (1771-1805). Nationalmuseum, Sweden. (Inv n:0 NMB 1408)

This wonderful little painting is tucked away somewhere in the Swedish National museum. It is a small gouache, painted in 1799. A gentleman, (penniless aristocrat?), deshabillé in robe and slippers, is receiving visitors while having his elegant wig powdered. It is not a social call. The stern looking visitors are creditors. They have delivered bills. Who on earth let them in?! The gentleman is most likely taken by surprise but appears to be calm, almost nonchalant – with those red slippers and all – and in control of the situation. We can´t know for sure, but let us hope they managed to avoid an embarrassing outcome…

The manservant (holding a comb between his teeth) is more fashion-forward, compared to his master. He has stuck a comb in his fashionably coiffed curls, and curling tongs in the pocket on his practical tailcoat. As a personal touch he has chosen to match his otherwise grey outfit and top boots with clear blue stockings.

The bedchamber (rented rooms above an inn?) looks very spartan, but there is a elegant card table holding a teacup, candlestick, and nick nacks. Behind it a glimpse of the bed in the Gustavian style with a sheer canopy in blue.

The powder must have been everywhere. It is understandable that those who could afford it installed a powder room while others had to make do on a landing in the stairway. And I need not point out that this is before vacuum cleaners. By 1799 wigs were definitely going out of fashion. Only gentlemen of the old school (and where it was part of ones profession such as the clergy, medicine, and the law) would hang on to them into the first decades of the new century.

pudring-av-peruk

A charicature, ca 1770-1790, where the gentleman and his valet actually transferred on to the landing.

On a side note, there was another, more skilled, Swedish genre-painter also named Pehr, Pehr Hilleström. His paintings give us a unique glimpse of domestic life among the urban middling classes around 1800. I think that is another blog post, but here is one painting, to give you an idea:

Hillestrom_Per_I-ZZZ-Mothers_Advice

A Mother´s Advice. Pehr Hilleström, ca 1800. The State Hermitage Museum. Notice how the daughter is wearing a fashionably high waisted gown while the mother – although we can´t see for sure – is dressed in more conservative dark silks.

A point of interest: to me it looks like gentlemen in formal dress, as depicted in fashion plates 1800-1810-ish, still used powder on their curls. Or what do you think?

1810 v3 Ackermann's Fashion Plate 26 - Gentleman Full Dress

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Regency Winter Assembly

On a Sunday afternoon in January members of The Regency Society (Empirsällskapet) met up at Tyresö Castle for lunch and dancing. Winter decided to arrive with full force this day, so traffic was slow, but the park was breathtakingly beautiful. It was a challenge (I imagine) for the ladies in their sheer Regency frocks. The state rooms are closed to visitors off season. The wing is open though, and there is a restaurant, and above it a smaller (well, compared to the state rooms) drawing room that was kindly put at our disposal. The entire wing is used for wedding receptions and that type of events.

We were nearly twenty-five enthusiasts, all of us looking forward to some dancing.

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The grounds of Tyresö Castle covered in snow. Photo by Eva Hillgren.

 

Photo Regencygentleman aka Mr Tigercrona

I wore my new top hat, boots, gloves and a warm scarf. Also première for new waistcoat.

 

We danced many of the familiar dances. Here I think it is Upon a Summer´s day. Photo by Eva Hillgren.

We danced many of the familiar dances. Here I think it is Upon a Summer´s day. Photo by Eva Hillgren.

Or it could be Grimstock.

Or was it Grimstock?

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Impressive fireplace! The castle dates back to the 1630s, and was restored and brought back to a (improved) baroque-glory by its last private owner, Marquis Lagergren, around 1900. The Marquis was a character with international connections – he collected Marie-Antoinette memorabilia, had an American wife and was Chamberlain to the Pope.

Dancing with newcomer Marie. I suppose we can call her a "debutante". She did very well! Also the back of Sarah´s burgundy dress.

Dancing with newcomer Marie. I suppose we can call her a “debutante”. She did very well! Also the back of Sarah´s burgundy dress. Photo by Alexandra Ringblom.

Photo by Alexandra Ringblom

We also danced Shrewsbury lasses, Gathering Peascods, New Bo Peep, “The Queen´s Anglaise”, and topped it off with Mr Beveridge´s Maggot. Photo by Alexandra Ringblom

Photo by Alexandra Ringblom

The art is not even remotely historical. Apparently the room is used as a gallery for local artists. Photo by Alexandra Ringblom

Photo by Regencygentleman aka Mr Tigercrona

Selfie-session in the ante-chamber. It was the first time I wore the waistcoat, a lucky find at the Royal Opera in August. Here is a glimpse of it. Breeches, boots and tailcoat.

We had a wonderful afternoon with lots of dancing, food and laughter. Warm regards to Anders for inviting us, and to our patient tutors Ylva and Jacob!

Do you have a favourite Regency dance? Do tell!

This post ends with Grimstock, a funny clip from Pride and Prejudice, 1995. You have probably seen it countless times, but it is always very entertaining. Have a nice day!

 

The top hat

We all know hats come in different shapes and sizes throughout history, depending on era and one´s social status. Todays post takes a closer look at the headgear that is so essential for the dapper gentleman during the Regency period. The top hat is sometimes called “stovepipe” or “Beaver”- different words for the same type of hat. Or? On a side note: the Austens ordered their hats in London. Can not resist including this quotation:

They (the Austen family) bought them where “anybody who was Anybody” bought his hats: from James Lock, “Hatter to the Nobility and Gentry,” in London, at No. 6, St. James’s Street. This is made clear by entries in ledgers surviving at that address from as far back as 1783. (Mr. Lock: Hatter to Jane Austen’s Family by Kenneth S. Cliff and Frank Whitbourn.)

First, let us take a look at some portraits and fashion plates.

1795

1795. Again, Monsieur Seriziat by J.L. David. A new era! The tricorne was so l´ancien regime. For day wear, the “round-hat”, a striking felt hat with relatively high crown and brim down. Here with a powdered wig, but it was soon gone, and the hat got smaller in proportions.

Portrait of a Young Man Wearing a Red Cape and Large Hat, ca. 1795-1800, by Francois-Xavier Fabre

1795-1800. Portrait of a young man by Francois-Wavier Fabre. Still full curly hair and a round-hat with wide brim but somewhat lower crown. Note that the crown is flat at the top. The only decoration is a narrow ribbon and buckle.

1802

1802. The same type of hat in a fashion plate. The fashionable young gentleman has cropped hair with curls framing his face.

1803

1803. The bicorne, basically a wide brimmed hat with the front and the rear halves turned up, was still the correct hat for half- and full-dress (formal wear) and certain military and naval uniforms, and (my assumption) more popular with conservative gentlemen.

1804

1804. The top hat. It seems the two hats above co-existed with this new type of hat that would – more or less – dominate for a century. Note that the crown is taller and widens at the top. The brim is now narrower and shaped to turn up slightly at the sides.

1804 b

1804. Another version from the same year, here with a “semi-bell” crown, the type of top hat you would see today.

1807

1807: A good example on variation in full-dress (evening) and half-dress (day wear) – buckled shoes, stockings and bicorne or boots and top hat.

1809

1809. Even taller crown, again bell-shaped.

1809

1809. The crown tapers in towards the top, known as the “Chimney” style. The brim is narrow.

1813

1813. Now we are talking “stove-pipe” – the sides are completely straight and the crown is taller than 6 1/2″. They seem to grow in popularity well into the 1860s.

1816

1816

1817

1817. Rather small looking, but nevertheless the “stove pipe” or top hat.

Conclusion: the shape is slightly different every year, but once the round-hat is abandoned the changes are not very dramatic. Gentlemen most likely chose the most flattering hat depending on one´s appearance and social status/size of purse. It is also interesting that a hat that was once considered avant garde and very informal would end up as the most formal type of headwear in our time (and seen only on rarest of occasions). It is difficult to see in these plates what material the hats are made of. What we have here is the famous beaver hat. This does not mean that these hats were made from beaver skin, as many sources say. That seems to be a misconception. It was the fur of the beaver that was used to make felt of the best quality. (This actually lead to near-extinction of the the North American Beaver.) The hat-making process in these pre-industrial days involved many skilled workers and craftsmen on both sides of the “pond” – from trappers (and native Americans?) to the actual hatmaker. The fur/wool was carded and pressed into felt, then stamped and steamed into the desired shape. For many hats a cheaper fur was used, such as rabbit, or lamb´s wool. The taller hats had a base of buckram or cardboard. Most of the hats seem to be executed in black but they probably came in dark browns, greys and greens. The felt was treated in different ways to be smooth and have a shine. This idea was developed by the Victorians who replaced the costly beaver-felt with silk plush that was relatively easier to obtain. If you wish to read more visit the Gentleman´s guide to buying  a Top Hat here. Now some extant hats:

Hatt C.A Broling 1800

Extant hat, dated to around 1800. Very tall bell-shaped. I would date this a bit later. 1815-20?

Hattmakare J.R Ström Stockholm

Bell-shaped hat, 1800-1815.

Nordiska museet 1830s

Dated to 1830-40, but similar to the examples above from 1809-1813. The brown (Original colour? Or was it black?) felt is worn and reveals the cheaper felt beneath. The Nordiska museet collection. (Inv. no: NM.0100984)

 

Nordiska museet 1840

Well-worn stove-pipe. Around 1840, but came into fashion 1810-20. Nordiska museet, Stockholm. (Inv. no. NM.0093715)

And to wrap up this unusually lengthy post some pictures of yours truly in three different hats:

Regency gentleman aka Mr Tigercrona

I was seen in this straw hat last summer. Protects from the sun. Ideal for picknicks or just hanging around the estate.

Photo: Regencygentleman aka Mr Tigercrona

A classic top hat. Made in London around 1900 or thereabouts. This “Topper” is a bit too small, so I felt the need to look for a replacement.

Photo: Regency gentleman aka Mr Tigercrona

Photo not best quality, but neither is the hat. It is passable, though, and I can wear it on a rainy day without fear of ruining a family heirloom. Take a deep breath: Found it last week at a party store. It is Smiffy´s “Tales of Old England Stovepipe Hat”. You must think I am a complete vulgarian. Pressed “felt” and awful plastic ribbon around crown and as binding, but the shape is perfect and ribbons can be replaced. I might even cover the entire thing with real wool or velvet. If I do, I´ll post about it. Give my word.