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?

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

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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

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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!

 

A Regency Dinner or Posing on the Stairs

Two of my costuming-friends, Ylva and Jacob, recently moved to a new house, and a couple of weeks ago they invited Regency friends for dancing and a bring-and-share dinner. It was a nice change, considering that we normally assemble in various public spaces. I did not take any photographs, but we had a spur of the moment session in the grand stairs before dinner, and Matilda and Johanna generously shared some pictures afterwards. I wore my standard attire: green tailcoat, shirt, cravat, pink linen waistcoat, breeches, stockings, and slippers. (Wearing full gear on the metro in rush hour was not so fun.) It looks like I was there on my own, but there was quite a crowd. Needless to say it was a terrific evening!

Regencygentleman

Apparently posing comes naturally – one is damaged by years of researching portraits by Reynolds, Gainsborough et al. Photo courtesy of Matilda Furness

Regencygentleman

Photo courtesy of Matilda Furness

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I could live in a house with stairs like these. Photo courtesy of Johanna Paulsen

Regencygentleman

Photo courtesy of Johanna Paulsen

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Alba made this very appropriate chocolate cake.

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.

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.

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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!

Another Waistcoat, part 3

Ladies and gentlemen, the waistcoat is finished! I have yet to wear it, but here is some picture proof to show you the result. Last time I was nearly there, but since then I made the collar, pockets, buttonholes, and general tidying up. About 95% is hand sewn. To speed the process I resorted to using the machine on one or two seams.

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Cutting the collar: striped cotton x 2 with linen interlining. It is about three inches/eight cm high and is not folded down. The linen is cut without seam allowance since it should only be sandwiched between the outer layers. I opted for vertical stripes rather than horisontal – as opposed to the actual waistcoat. Right or wrong? I thought it looked better.

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And here it is, sewn onto the waistcoat, meeting the lapel. The right end of the collar looks terribly uneven here, but it is acceptable inrl.

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The finished waistcoat: not a masterpiece but it will do. The lapels are a bit intimidating with their size and all that stripey-ness.

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The back in two layers of gauzy cotton/linen. Tabs in self-fabric ensures a better fit. I may have to sew an additional button on the inside to prevent the front from sagging as you can see here.

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Lapel and buttons.

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Another closeup. Hand-worked buttonholes! Functional pockets! (Although a closeup reveals the welt has the weave running in wrong direction – apparently the only difference between the right and wrong sides on the fabric – but who can tell…)

 

The finished waistcoat is not a masterpiece and I am not sure if it will ever be a favourite, but it will do for a picnic or two, and other events this summer. And it is nice to have a new addition to the wardrobe that wasn´t thrown together minutes before an event (says the master of procrastination). Are you on schedule with your current costume projects? Or are you one of those fellows who is occasionally sewn or stapled into a frock or other garment?

A Gustavian Masquerade in Van Dyck Costume

Photo by Regencygentleman

If judging by number of posts on this blog lately it may look like Yours Truly has had his attention elsewhere. However, that is not the case. Wigs have been styled and balls have been attended! I have much to tell so today´s post will be a long one.

This past month turned out to be unusually hectic. While toiling away at work I was invited to go with friends to S:t Petersburg (!) and attend the Nicolaevsky ball. The ball was organised by Russian reenactors, and was of course to be held in a gem of a palace. Dresscode was strictly Empire. Apparently several of the dancers were extras in the new BBC adaptation of Tolstoy’s War and Peace. Almost to good to be true, no? Sadly it was practically impossible to take days off from work, and I could not justify the expence at the moment.

I decided not to go, but fortunately I was able to dive into another costume event – an event that required very little travelling and no sewing: The Gustavian Masquerade Ball of 2016.

This ball is arranged every year to commemorate the great eighteenth century king Gustaf III of Sweden (1746-1792). Same generation as Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette, he was a great patron of the fine arts, and he was fond of theatre in particular. He was assassinated (for political reasons) at the now infamous masquerade ball at the Royal Opera, on March 16, 1792. (Of course Verdi turned this in to his famous opera Un ballo in maschera.)

There was no time to sew a new costume. I would have to make do with something I already had. Lacking decent eighteenth century attire, and spending some time googling for masked ball-pictures, I realised I could use my old 1630´s costume and dress “á la Van Dyck”. I made the costume over a decade ago, and it consists of a doublet and breeches in blue silk, a short cloak in black velvet, and the characteristic cuffs and lace collar.

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Inspiration: Van Dyck costume. John Hussey Delaval, first Baron Delaval (1728-1808), by W. Bell, 1774. National Trust/John Hammond.

It was popular among the Aristocracy to be portrayed wearing fashions in the style of the cavaliers during the reign of Charles I, as seeen in so many paintings by the artist Anthony van Dyck. I suppose it was part of the newborn romantic interest in history. (Particularily in Britain. A better known phenomenon is of course the 18th century Gothic revival architecture.)

So, I already had a costume and I also happened to have a white papier-mache mask. It only needed some tweaking. I trimmed off the chin and part of the forehead, and added on a more pronounced nose. Then I covered it with white cotton for a smooth finish and replaced the elastic band with som white silk ribbon. (It certainly did the trick, several friends didn´t recognize me until I spoke!)

Notice that Baron Delaval is wearing fashionably old-fashioned clothes, but his hair is very 1774? Most portraits in this genre show that these gentlemen held on to their usual powdered wigs. And so would I. My plan was to do a 1780´s hedgehog hairstyle. Something like William Pitt the Younger:

William Pitt the Younger ?c.1783 George Romney 1734-1802 Bequeathed by Admiral John E. Pringle 1908 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/N02280

Inspiration: William Pitt the Younger c.1783, by George Romney. Tate Gallery.

 

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I bought a reasonably priced wig of no particular quality. The package tells all.

Photo by Regencygentleman aka Mr Tigercrona

Unpacking the wig and channelling my inner rock star. Please don´t judge me. I had to start somewhere…

Photo by Regencygentleman aka Mr Tigercrona

Travelling back in time: a matter of moments, and it already looked more appropriate. Here I divided the hair in four sections: front, back, and one section on each side. I wanted more frizz, and intended to do tight rag curls, but changed my mind, saving time and thinking the hair had enough body, and only needed pins and pomade (hairspray).

Photo by Regencygentleman aka Mr Tigercrona

Nearly finished! Powder makes all the difference. Generous amounts of hairspray, and equally generous sprinkling of powder to get rid of the shine. I used a cheap body talcum powder from the chemist.

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Looks like a dead poodle here but I was happy with the result.

Regencygentleman aka Mr Tigercrona

So happy…

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The costume is a sky-blue watered silk, with gold trimmings. Here is a closeup of the wide breeches.

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I spruced up my opera pumps with some ribbon. I opted for dark blue stockings and blue silk garters.

Photo by Regencygentleman

A quick snap in the lobby while waiting for the taxi. The costume came with a lace collar and a short velvet cloak. (Partly hidden by the plant.)

The ball was magical and I really enjoyed every minute of it. It was well planned in every detail, from the music and dances to refreshments and decorations.

I often get questions about the dances in our repertoire, so below is the programme. You probably recognize the country dances but there were many quadrilles aswell. (All of the dances with Swedish names. I always confuse them so I made myself indisposed during one of them, and made sure to find able-bodied ladies for the others.)

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Needless to say, but the costumes came in a wide range of period-appropriate spectacular to understated elegance.

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There were two intervals when we could rest our tired feet while being treated to lovely musical entertainment.

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What better way to end this glorious evening than going upstairs and enjoying a late supper lovingly prepared by the wonderful folks at the manor?

Regencygentleman aka Mr Tigercrona

 

This turned out to be a long post! Next time I should report on the waistcoat…

Another Waistcoat Part 2

Last time I presented this new project. A striped waistcoat with two rows of self covered buttons. It is not a major undertaking but do you think I managed to finish it? No. But I have at least sewn a little.

I am using a version of the flatlining technique (there seem to be different methods out there!) that is rarely seen today (except perhaps in haute couture). Before assembling the garment, main fabric and lining are joined together and are treated as one layer. The separate pieces of the main fabric are sewn together with corresponding piece of lining, right sides together. The right side is then turned out. This gives more weight to my rather thin main fabric and it makes neat edges on at least three sides. To assemble the waistcoat the pieces are whip-stitched or seamed together. This is the same method I used when making the pink linen waistcoat.

Waistcoat Williamsburg

Inspiration: Waistcoat, striped pink silk 1780-1800. Origin: Europe or England. Pink and cream silk satin with horizontal stripe, linen lining. Double breasted style with lapels and standing collar. Horizontal pocket welts. Waistcoat is cut straight across at waist. Back of plain linen with fitting ties. Colonial Williamsburg.

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The two front pieces are nearly done. I am saving the bottom edge and top of lapel for later.

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The inside: facing and lining.

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A peek between the layers: (from top) lining/facing, interlining and outer fabric.

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The back is cut from a thin cotton-linen blend. It looks hand-woven (althouhg it is not) and reminds me of cheese cloth. I certainly don´t need another warm garment and this fabric lets the heat out.

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The back is treated in the same way as the front pieces (with the exception of interlining), two layers are stitched together, then turned right side out.

I have very little time at present, but my plan is to present the finished waistcoat in the next post…

Another Waistcoat

I made the bold decision to start the new year with a waistcoat. It is not a project of gigantic proportions, but something to keep my hands busy these dark nights. Striped fabrics were fashionable for several decades during the neoclassical period from the late eighteenth century until at least the 1810´s, or so. Gentlemen who wished to be a la mode could invest in a waistcoat with the stripes running either vertically or horisontally. With this in mind it is obvious that my Regency wardrobe is in desperate need of a horisontally striped AND double-breasted waistcoat. I found this fiercly elegant waistcoat online through Colonial Williamsburg. Who can resist it? I like that the buttons are relatively small and self-covered and placed in two neat rows, not too far apart. I also like the simple collar and the elegant lapels that are just there, without making a statement. If you want more details visit the Williamsburg website here.

Waistcoat Williamsburg

Waistcoat, striped pink silk 1780-1800 Origin: Europe or England. Pink and cream silk satin with horizontal stripe, linen lining. Double breasted style with lapels and standing collar. Horizontal pocket welts. Waistcoat is cut straight across at waist. Back of plain linen with fitting ties. Colonial Williamsburg.

A different waistcoat. (From where? Had this image for ages.) It shows the adjustable tabs even though it is unnessecarily bulky.

Costume Parisien 1811.

Come January and all, I am reluctant to spending a lot of money. Now, modern gentlemen´s shirts are often striped, aren´t they? After a look in my closet I found this rarely used Italian shirt. Heard of Alessandro Fellini, anyone? I guess it was rather expensive at some point, but I was not emotionally attached to it and decided to repurpose it.

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Many fine details on this shirt. Figured I would not likely wear it again, but the striped cotton is nice and the colours match my coats and breeches.

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Carefully cutting the pieces. The back had just enough material for the waistcoat fronts.

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The cotton is rather thin, so I decided to interline it with mustard linen, to give it some weight. Seen here with a strip of heavier linen to give support to the buttons.

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Inside of right front sewn here with the facing. It needed some piecing, so there are two seams following the stripes and one vertical seam.

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Again the right part, folded along the seam with the linen interlining sandwiched between the striped layers.

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There is a lot of work left to do, but couldn´t resist starting on the buttons. The cotton is woven in diagonal stripes, so I decided to use this effect here.

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I think these metal buttons work fine. Fortunately they are not too expensive. I need at least a dozen.

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Lapel and button.

 

Now for some more linen to cut the back!

Just An Ordinary Sunday

The world is in turmoil, but I have been blessed with a beautiful autumn and even one or two lazy Sundays.

One Sunday I joined some of my fellow Regency friends for a dance-social at the Tyreso Castle. We took time for luncheon between dances and finished the day with a brisk walk in the park before going back to Town.

The ball room was available so we had plenty of space. We were about eight or nine couples. We danced the usual ones from Playford´s repertoire: Hole in the Wall, Mr Beveridge, Upon a Summer´s day, Shrewsbury lasses (must be one of my favourites!) and I learned a new one: Sir Roger de Coverley. Click here for the best youtube clip I was able to find. (It looks very different from what I remember, and I now realise that we must have danced a different version…)

Photo by Regencygentleman

 

For this outing I chose to wear my new tailcoat, the opera-waistcoat, breeches, boots, and top hat. Sorry for all the links, but the only photo I managed to take is the one above.

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My friends photographed off guard, without any warning. We had lunch in one of the small dining rooms.

Photo by Regencygentleman

My appologies for sneaking up on you! Conversation was lively, and we discussed Bath, the recent events in Paris, Colonial Williamsburg, uniforms…

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Leaving the ball room for a walk through the park. Everybody is putting on their shawls, bonnets, hats, and spencers.

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What does it say? Luckily one of the gentleman carried a – ehum – torch.

Photo by Regencygentleman

Ylva and Jacob in their Regency finery.

 

It was probably the last chance to meet before the holidays. There are one or two balls coming up, although they are eighteenth century, so mostly a different set of people. How about your autumn? Any opportunities to meet friends and dress upp in Regency, or other eras? Any dancing?

Every Savage Can Dance

The Holiday season is upon us. Hopefully you meet friends and family and get to eat lots of wonderful food. Two hundred years ago these festivities would have offered many opportunities to dance.

This autumn Mrs E and I decided to sign up for a dance class. One needs a project, right? We are nowadays on different levels, so we chose historical dances for beginners and moderately experienced dancers. Many of the popular country dances – as described by John Playford – I could perform in my sleep, but I have never quite mastered the menuet.

How did they learn to dance back in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries? Well, many dances are easy enough to learn by following suit, but many more have complicated formations that don´t come to you without some effort. And the dances often come in different versions, depending on time and place. We know that dancing, or in Jane Austen´s words “the felicities of rapid motion”, was an important social activity. One of her novels wouldn´t be complete without a ball or the occasional dancing. And of course the dance scenes are important in the film adaptations.

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Sense and Sensibility, 2008.

A grand ball was the highlight of the Season and there was plenty of impromptu, spur of the moment dancing in parlours and drawing rooms. Public or semi-private dance tutoring was offered to the middling classes. Professional dance masters (both male and female) could receive paying customers in their homes. Another method, although more difficult, I imagine, was to purchase a book with written instructions – again Playford´s country dances, first published in 1651. The gentry would hire tutors on a regular basis. It was expected of young masters and ladies to be in control their limbs, to have correct posture. Lord Chesterfield wrote to his son: “Now to acquire a graceful air, you must attend to your dancing; no one can either sit, stand or walk well, unless he dances well.”

If you dance – how did you learn? A last minute workshop before a ball? Long time practice? Are there dance courses available in your town?

On a side note: I find it much easier to dance wearing period attire. The fitted garments come with posture and dignified manners. And it´s much more fun!

One of the best parts with this dance project is to visit the old town every week. Stockholm is built on islands (“Venice of the North”), and the historical old town with the Royal Palace is surrounded by water. Facing the big market square, opposite the elegant stock exchange building, is the cultural centre, housed in a labyrinth of historical buildings. All sorts of activities seem to go on there such as yoga classes, Russian folk dancing, art classes, baby-meetings… Our teacher Ivar is great and it is nice to catch up with old friends and meet new fellow dancers.

Photo by Regencygentleman

Photo by Regencygentleman

One of the dances we have learned is a Swedish quadrille: Gustaf´s Skål, recorded by Baron Åkerhielm in 1785. I found this uncommented clip, showing the quadrille performed by members of the eighteenth century association in Sweden. Nice costumes! (Gustaf III was king 1772-1792.)

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…