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.

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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.

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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.

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The shoulder seam and view of the neck.

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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!

Equestrian Excercises or just Horsing around…

Dogs may be man´s best friend, but only two or three generations ago another four-legged friend was absolutely essential on so many levels: the horse. Different breeds of horses were everywhere, not only in the country, but in the city as well. Horsepower was needed for transporting people and goods, in farming, the army, the industry, and so on.

Photo by Maria del Carmen

“Good morning my dear Lady X!”

Society expected gentlemen to be good horsemen. (And – to a certain degree – ladies too, for that matter.) One was practically brought up in the saddle. By 1800 people enjoyed watching races, were involved in the prestigeous Jockey Club, and of course the fox hunt. Riding in the city was a fashionable pastime, as a way to see and to be seen. I admit the subject is not my forte, so please read more about horses and riding during the Regency here and here. (I have never given it a thought before, but have now realised that you find many, well, half dressed ladies and gentlemen when googling “regency riding”…)

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The Heathcote Hunting Group, painted in 1790 by Daniel Gardner (1750-1805). It shows the Rev. William Heathcote (1772–1802), on horseback (son of the 3rd Baronet) with company.


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Mr Darcy and Mr Bingley. (Pride and Prejudice 2005)

Now, with all this in mind, I accepted an invitation some time ago to join a photo session out in the country – with a very nice horse named Diva. I packed my Regency attire and joined my friend and fellow-model Helena, dressed for genteel riding mid 18th century style in black and red silk. We met up at the stables outside the city with Maria, our photographer, and her friend Caroline, owner of Diva. Maria also brought an additional 1750s-ish men´s outfit for me to wear, but it was made for a gent of a somewhat sturdier build, so those photos did not make it to this blog…

Following photos courtesy of Maria del Carmen.

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Photo by Maria del Carmen

Photo by Maria del Carmen

Amiring the estate. Yours truly was practically brought up in the saddle. Not. Please overlook any historical inacurracies regarding the horse tack.


Photo by Maria del Carmen

This could be the cover of a cheesy (but classy!) romantic novel…


Fooling around with a crow. I started the session wearing a rather loose-fitting 1750´s outfit.

It was an interesting experience to mount a horse dressed in full Regency attire. However comfortable they are the clothes restrict one´s movements. It is practically  impossibe to sit like haysack in them. It was also fun to observe the group of horses in the adjoining paddock. They followed every step we took and listened to our attacks of giggles, in full astonishment. Apparently we were an unsusual sight!

I had a wonderful day with Helena, Maria, Caroline, and Diva.

Photo by Regencygentleman

Quel horreur. In the afternoon my breeches looked like this. But I prefer a ripped seam rather than torn fabric. It is so much easier to mend…

A First Empire Tailcoat

When we visited the Rosendal Palace back in August, they had on display this mouth-watering tailcoat. Having seen it in various publications over the years it was interesting to see it in real life. It is a tailcoat in the formal court style as seen in many countries from the late 18th century and well into the 20th century. Variations of it is worn even today both here and there. This particular coat once belonged to the Marshal Bernadotte of the First French Empire, later King Karl XIV Johan of Sweden, and founder of the Bernadotte dynasty.

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A dark blue single breasted tailcoat, with embroidery in gold depicting oak leaves and acorns. The buttons have marshal´s batons in the shape of a cross surrounded by laurel and oak leaves. France, 1804-1810. The Royal Armory, Sweden.

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The coat (or a version of it) on its original owner, the dashing Marshal Bernadotte, Prince of Ponte-Corvo, and sometimes referred to as “Belle-Jambe” (“Pretty legs”). Painting by Joseph Nicolas Jouy, after François-Joseph Kinson. Notice the impressive black neck-stock, the feathered bicorne, and insignia – such as the Legion of Honour – and the marshal´s baton, a blue cylinder with stars and eagles (introduced during the First French Empire). It has the Latin inscription: Terror belli, decus pacis, which means “terror in war, ornament in peace”.

Jean Bernadotte (1763-1844), born in the town of Pau, France, into a modest bourgeois family, was a self-made man and had one of the most extraordinary careers ever. He rose to the rank of general in the turmoils of the French Revolution. In 1798 he married Désirée Clary, the daughter of a successful merchant in Marseille, and whose sister was married to Joseph, Napoleon’s elder brother. Mademoiselle Clary herself was Napoleon´s former fiancée.

On the introduction of the French Empire in 1804, Bernadotte became one of the eighteen Marshals of the Empire. He served as governor of the recently occupied Hanover, and as a reward for his services at Austerlitz in 1805 he became the Sovereign Prince of Ponte Corvo the following year. Napoleon could not fail to respect Bernadotte´s talents, both as a general and as an administrator, but he found his independence extremely vexing. Perhaps in an attempt to get rid of him, Napoleon offered Bernadotte the position of governor of Louisiana. It never happened.

In 1810, as Marshal Bernadotte was about to travel to Rome to take up the role of Governor General, he learned that he had been elected Crown Prince of Sweden (as the Swedish King was childless). The Swedes chose to overlook Bernadotte´s humble origins thanks to his qualifications, his personal fortune, and his position as one of the most loyal allies of the French Emperor.

The Bonaparte saga was short, but the Bernadotte dynasty is still standing in Sweden, and its descendants are to be found in the Royal families of Denmark, Norway, and Belgium.

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A closeup showing the guilt buttons and the embroidery.

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In this older photograph the coat looks rather worn. The report says the sleaves were altered or restored. Interesting to see a glimpse of the embroidery on the tails.

The coat was obviously never worn in Sweden, but ended up in the collection of the Royal Armory. Click here for a link to info on the database for Swedish museum collections.

This is a myth but but I cannot resist including it: During his reign, Karl XIV Johan allegedly would not allow his doctors to examine his naked torso. The explanation was discovered as his body was prepared for the funeral: the former Republican solder had a tattoo on his chest (some sources report it was the left arm) and among other Jacobin symbols with the words, Death to Kings!

A New Tailcoat! Part 4.

I swear, the clock ticks faster when there is a tailcoat to be done. It was a hectic week with this tailcoat project, work, dance practice – and then switch gears from frantic last minute sewing in a home scattered with ironing boards, scissors, pins, scraps of wool, and what have you – to graceful manners in genteel society. You know exactly what I mean, don´t you?

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Need I say I made it? Here I am arriving at the ball. But first things first. (Photo by Matilda Furness.)

 

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In my last post I left you with this, and was about to sew on sleeves. That was fairly uncomplicated, due to already having a toile (mock-up) so there was no need to adjust the fit over the back and shoulders.

 

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Cuffs in making: I drafted the pattern and cut three layers for each cuff: wool + linen + wool. With right sides together they were sewn on three sides (bottom and both ends). Corners were trimmed, then right side turned out.

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Cuffs done. Pressed, and mounted onto the sleeve. (Raw edge of sleeve sandwiched between the layers.) I did not bother with buttonholes. A few stitches keep the cuff closed, and the button is there for show. (For some mysterious reason both sleeves ended up with a crease just above the button. Have to partially unpick the seam and move end of cuff higher by 1/2 inch.)

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Pocket flaps (non-working pockets): top, in progress and below, the finished flaps. These were cut in one layer of wool and one layer of linen. Similar construction as cuffs. Top edges left open, raw edges folded in, pressed and basted on to the coat.

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Closeup of the finished back: Pocket flaps, and one button above each side vent. These heavy brass buttons caught my eye, even if I was looking for something thinner in filigree. Centre back seam ends in a horisontal seam that keeps vent in place. Everything looks terribly uneven here, but that is because the coat was photographed on a hanger…

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Collar: I needed to focus, so I completely forgot to take pictures of the pieces laid out flat. The undercollar was pad-stitched to embroidery canvas, pressed and steamed, and pinned to the coat. When position looked good I whip-stitched along the same line.

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Collar meets lapel (on right side of coat). I had to stand in front of a mirror and check angles, then remove coat, trim with scissors, pin, and back on. (I really need a tailor´s dummy!) The lapel is still unfinished here because it was difficult to decide exact angle before having the collar. The wool is folded and held in place with a quick running stitch through the canvas. (Pins would make everything uneven.)

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Upper collar was then sewn to cover the canvas. I folded the edges and whip-stitched the layers together. Here is a closeup of the collar (or is it a lapel?) on left side.

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There! And buttons! In order to avoid overheating, the back and sleeves were left unlined.

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And seen from the back. The unsightly creases are caused by the hanger.

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Did you ever see such refined elegance 😉

 

Friday afternoon was really warm and I was running out of time. When the last thread end was cut off it was high time to get dressed. And then off to the ball!

 

A New Tailcoat! Part 3.

So, I worked on the tailcoat this past week. This is when I was lining the tails:

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Right side of tails.

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Inside view of tail. Whip stitching lining to outer fabric. (The lining is very dark indigo irl.)

Then I was about to start on the collar and lapels – when I changed my plans. It was really going very well, padstitching done, but on Sunday afternoon I realised this wasn´t what I wanted… August and all, and here I was making this warm and cumbersome garment.

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After some quick research I made a big change to the design. I cut off half of the front and one inch off the tails (front edges). No photos of the process, but you understand what I mean with these following images. At a quick glance there is nothing new to see, but actually this type of coat has a more restrained design. It doesn´t close, in the same fashion as modern tailcoats. No flapping fabric.

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Le Beau Monde, 1807

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1807

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1803

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1805

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Le Beau Monde, 1808

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And a painting: Louis-Léopold Boilly – The Downpour c.1805 – detail

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Instead of this (as seen on Colonel Fitzwilliam in 1995 P&P)…

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… we have this. (As seen on Darcy in 1995 P&P.)

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Or this, if you prefer: Mr Bingley. (1995 P&P)

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The coat in its demolished state.

 

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But now with neatly stitched edges.

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Shoulder seams done.

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Some awkward angles in front of the mirror.

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New cut is promising.

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Weird without waistcoat and breeches, but you get the idea.

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Sleeves! Appears blue here but it is still same green wool. Two pieces. Slightly gathered to ease in.

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Sleeves pinned in place, right sides together, then basted with a running stitch. (White thread.)

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White thread is removed when the proper stitch is done.

Next time I hope to present a finished coat. (Complete with collar, cuffs, buttons, and pocket flaps.)

 

A New Tailcoat! Part 2

Weekend? What is a weekend? I know what I will be up to anyway. Sewing. 

Here follows a quick update on the tailcoat-status. Last week I made a new toile and cut all main pieces in wool, linen and (where required) canvas. Luckily my 2,5 metres was more than enough so it will be easy to cut pocket flaps, cuffs, and collar.

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Then it was high time to return to work after a long, glorius vacation. Perhaps not the best idea to start a new sewing project the same week. 

Below I was about to start padstitching the linen canvas to the front. When that was done I added some padding to the shoulder/chest area.

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I continued with stitching cotton tape to reinforce the bottom edge and tail.

Photo by Regencygentleman

Photo by Regencygentleman

Shoulders and side seams are quickly basted together to check fit. The tail lining is only pinned in place. I need to think a little bit more about the lapels, so I cut them very generously. (It is easier to trim excess fabric rather than adding, right?)

Photo by Regencygentleman

The back looks like a mess, but do not get upset. Only the middle back seam is done properly at this stage. I see now that the neck opening needs to be trimmed quite a lot. The padding is seen through the armscye.

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Oh, and I have stitched the sleeves (under sleeve to front). No photo documentation of that, though. Hopefully there is more to come after two days of work, so please stay tuned!

A New Tailcoat! Part 1.

One of the most anticipated events of the year is soon here. In fact, the date is coming closer at an alarming speed. I am talking about The Season. It is THE event for any person with the slightest interest in the Regency/Empire-period. Three days of music, dancing, and picnics in beautiful Stockholm. The highlight is a ball with live music and delicious dining in a lovely setting. Now, gentlemen are always scarce, so it is only my duty to make an effort, despite being an old married man and all. So, with only a fortnight to go, I have decided to brush off my tailoring skills and make a new tailcoat.

Photo by Regencygentleman

There is nothing wrong with the coat I made last year – the swallow tail, with a curved front, remember? However, the typical Regency style coat – with double-breasted front, cut straight off, and large lapels – would be a welcome addition to any Regency-wardrobe, wouldn´t it? Mine in particular… I am usually not a great admirer of double-breasted jackets (lot of material that creates bulk, and the buttons accentuate a horizontal proportion that can make the wearer – ever so lean – look short and stout). I will have to experiment with the placement of the buttons (self-covered, I think), to achieve more elegant proportions.

Over to my main source of inspiration: fashion plates and portraits from about 1805-1815. There are so many to choose from, but here is a small selection, showing outfits for daytime and evening. You have to admit the coats look darn good!

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This smart gent and the two below are dressed for morning or daytime. Replacing the boots with stockings and shoes makes the outfit more formal.

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Full dress, something you´d wear for a dinner party or ball. Bicorne instead of top hat.

Costume Parisien

Notice that they all have a fairly narrow space between the buttons. It could be possible to wear these coats unbuttoned without being hindered by unflattering amounts of fabric, weighed down by the buttons. The tails are short, they don´t reach the knee. The long, fitted sleeves are gathered at the shoulders (which makes fitting them easier). The shoulders are narrow. (Too broad shoulders cut like a modern suit loses some of the Regency look.)

A couple of portraits and an extant garment:

1815 William Owen Portrait of a Man and his Dog wikipaintings.org

Country stroll 1. Impeccably dressed. Portrait of a Man and his Dog, William Owen, 1815

 

Portrait-of-Count-Andrey-Bezborodko, Robert Lefevre,

Country stroll 2: Portrait of Count Andrey Bezborodko, Robert Lefevre, 1804.

Extant 1815 Kerry Auctions

And the real thing: a rare, extant garment, ca 1815. Sold at Kerry Auctions.

Material: This terrific moss-green wool is perfect. The day I found it I was a bit reluctant to spend any money, so I purchased only 2,5 metres (three yards). That means I will have to take great care when cutting the pieces. In our stash I found a bolt of dark linen that is perfect for lining, and odd pieces of heavier linen for interlining. Guterman’s silk thread in colour 02776.

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Pattern: I will use my toile from last year, with some additional drafting on the front and lapels. The two patterns below will be useful: Norah Waugh´s The Cut of Men’s Clothes and the one from the Danish Tidens Toj. They are found online.

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More sewing…

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The back is done. The side pieces should actually have been cut from the pink linen, but there wasn’t enough.

A quick post today. Have not sewn that much due to some fever and me being out gallavanting. (It means one or two new posts!) Anyway, the back is done. Turned right side out and ironed. I will be back when I have managed to assemble front and back at shoulders and sides.

 

Death Comes to Pemberley

P.D. James wrote the novel and it was adapted for television earlier this year. The main plot is, as the title reveals, a murder. Who did it? And why? Who is that mysterious lady in Lambton? There are many comments and reviews out there, both regarding the book and the adaptation. They are very mixed. Some of you like the plot, some of you don´t. Some of you enjoyed meeting Darcy and Lizzie again, some of you, well, did not. I have not read the book but watched the two part series recently. It is undoubtedly a lavish production with magnificent Chatsworth House with its gardens as the exterior of Pemberley. The interiors were filmed at Castle Howard (also known as “Brideshead”), another stunning palace up North in Yorkshire. This post takes a look at the costumes worn by the gentlemen in the adaptation. I do not intend to comment on the actors and their performances, or the anachronisms seen here and there. The costumes were designed by Marianne Agertoft (Poldark). Many of them were created especially for DCTP, while others were recycled from earlier productions. The story is set in 1803, so we see mainly early Regency fashions and some late Georgian costumes on the older characters. (Penelope Keith as Lady Catherine de Bourgh comes to my mind. We have seen that in other Austen-adaptations.) The costumes are in muted colours and have that “lived in” look. I like that. However I feel they aren´t always grand or varied enough for people living in a place like Pemberley. They are supposed to be members of the landed aristocracy! Mrs. Darcy probably owns several gowns (very nice too) but they all look similar. Some of you out there might even think that the shades of Pemberley are polluted by shabby looking impersonators. But I think we can all agree that there is a lot more publicity shots nowadays, which is good for costume-bloggers like us.

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Fitzwilliam and Elizabeth Darcy, played by Matthew Rhys and Anna Maxwell Martin.

 

Death Comes to Pemberley

The mistress of Pemberley greets her dear papa and mama, the Bennets. Darcy is standing to the right, showing the back of his tailcoat. The footmen are decked out in liveries in what would be the Darcy-colours. It was important to separate family and guests from servants, so the butler and footmen of the Regency era would be dressed in ornate coats, waistcoats, and breeches but in a style that was fashionable several decades earlier. Hence the powdered wigs. Observe Mrs. B:s fancy trunk up on the carriage top.

 

Death Comes to Pemberley

Stunning publicity still. Georgiana Darcy (Eleanor Tomlinson) out walking with young Henry Alveston (James Norton). Sombre colours. Nice top hat and overcoat. Also nice to see some colour on a Regency lady.

 

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Mr. Darcy, master of Pemberley. A good example of Regency day-wear, in a “non-costumey” sort of way. Blue single-breasted tailcoat cut in a soft curve at the front. Wide lapels and tall collars. Fall front trousers and riding boots. Large overcoat and top hat. But no gloves or fob watch…

 

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Matthew Rhys as Mr. Darcy, in same tailcoat, trousers and boots, but different waistcoat and without the coat. Hat and gloves. Nice tailcoat. Looks very comfortable. I can see myself in it. Unpadded shoulders, wide lapels (the bubbles along the edge indicates hand stitches), narrow sleeves, selfcovered buttons. I am sure Mr. Darcy would be in possession of more than the one coat, though.

 

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Lydia (Jenna Coleman) and Mr. Wickham (Matthew Goode). Handsome but extremely annoying people. (Weren´t they always?) Wickham fashionable in a nice double-breasted tailcoat. Notice how the narrow sleeves are slightly gathered at the shoulders. Fall front trousers. Boots, top hat. Shouldn´t a dandy like him also carry a watch? Or perhaps it was left in a pawn shop…

Death Comes to Pemberley

Yes, there is a death. Is it murder? I like the wigs on the doctor and the other older gents.

 

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Members of the cast during filming. A good picture for compairing details on coats and waistcoats. The gentlemen have a lot of hair and many layers of clothes. Must have been warm – notice crew in the background wearing t-shirts.

 

Mr Darcy

And finally, three versions of Mr. Darcy, all in similar outfits. Colin Firth 1995, Matthew Macfadyen 2005 and Matthew Rhys 2014. Do you have a favourite?

 

A Regency Picnic

There was a picnic too! The day after the ball we met up for some al fresco dancing,  eating, and social intercourse… We are fortunate to have a royal park (or I should say parks, for there are several) in Stockholm. King Gustaf III (the one who was shot at the masked ball) created the Haga park in the 1780´s in the English style with soft rolling hills, neoclassical temples and pavillions. Today the park is open to the public and a popular place for outings. The circa 1805 palace is the official residence of the Crown Princess of Sweden and her family.

Photo by Regencygentleman

The Royal Pavillion at Haga.

 

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We all contributed to the feast. Our brave hosts Ylva and Jacob brought their vintage blue and white china and linen table cloths.

 

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Photo: Regencygentleman

Yours Truly in Tailcoat and breeches with makeshift boots and straw hat. I have used the boots on many occasions, but they are not all that period. The hat was a lucky find from the local charity shop near our summer house. An old souvenir from Spain I think, but is totally acceptable with some vintage grosgrain ribbon around the crown. Note to self: remember to strenghten the middle seam on the breeches. It is put under considerable  strain when sitting on the ground (or mounting a horse).

Photo: Regencygentleman

Ladies in their picnic gowns. The Navy was present.

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Of course we danced. Here we are getting ready for Rufty Tufty.

Photo:Regencygentleman

More dancing in the lovely Temple of the Echo. It was built in 1790 as an outdoor summer dining hall for the royals.