Thursday, September 16, 2010

Gorgeous Men in Tight Breeches and Ruffled Shirts II

What's Wrong With This Picture/Excerpt?

In Part I, we discussed Regency men's clothes. Although the era saw the birth of modern menswear, Regency clothing is not exactly the same. Errors abound in many romances. In this post we'll discuss three common errors in the portrayal of the Regency gentleman’s wardrobe.

What's wrong with Gorgeous Gentleman #1's clothes? The problem is his shirt. Men's shirts didn't button all the way down the front until the end of the nineteenth century. The front was open to about halfway down the chest, much like a present-day man's polo shirt. There may or may not have been one or two buttons to keep the collar closed. And a gentleman always wore a cravat to keep his shirt top closed.

The only way GG#1 could show off that great set of washboard abs in a historically correct shirt was to pull the shirt over his head. Or, the heroine could tear it off him in a fit of passion--the modern version of the bodice ripper.

The shirt GG #2 is wearing is correct. But what's wrong here? His shirt is correct, and our hero even has ruffles at his cuffs (oh, I do like ruffles on a man!). The answer--GG #2 is wearing a belt. Regency men held up their breeches (generic term for what they wore on their lower bodies) with braces, also called suspenders.

My third example is a passage from Miss Lockharte's Letters by Barbara Metzger:

"And I saw you trying to corner her in the choir loft. If you ever managed to keep your pants buttoned, we wouldn't be in half this mess."

The error here? The word "pants" is an Americanism, first found in the works of Edgar Allan Poe, around 1840, according to An Englishman would refer to the garment as "trousers". And if he were in the presence of a lady, he would call them his "unmentionables", if he referred to them at all.

I found lots of pictures of gorgeous gentlemen as I searched for images for this post. But I hit the jackpot with GG#2. Unlike some writers, I don't use a picture of an actor or model as inspiration for my hero. But when I saw GG#2, I knew I had found Richard, the hero of Lady of the Stars, my Regency time travel and 2010 EPIC EBook Competition Finalist.

GG#2's hair is a little too long, he's wearing that belt, and he would never appear before a lady without a cravat, waistcoat and coat (jacket). I like to think he's in his bedchamber, early the morning after he met Caroline, the heroine. He's thinking about her, and already falling in love.

And here's our Happily Ever After.

Thank you all,
Enter My World of Historical Hilarity


Beth Trissel said...

I loved this post, Linda. I'm a research nut and revel in this kind of thing. In my colonial historicals I refer to the breeches men wore as they were in fashion then, evolving in style until they became trousers. I haven't written an historical set any farther ahead than 1789, just before the fashion explosion that came as a result of the French Revolution. Up until then, the term is still breeches and seems to change around 1800. Can you tell me for certain? Also, I'm wondering at the use of the term pantaloons?

Maggie Dove said...

I loved this post, too, Linda! Thanks for the valuable information and the humorous comments that went along with the info! You made me smile.


Linda Banche said...

Thanks, Beth. To explain, "breeches" is the generic term for what men wore on their lower bodies. Men had three lengths of breeches: knee breeches, which fastened just below the knee, pantaloons, which came to about mid-calf, and trousers, which came down to the instep.

What the gentleman wore depended mainly on his footware. For top boots, which come up to the knee and hug the leg, he wore breeches. Can't get anything under those tight top boots except stockings.

Hessian boots came up to about mid calf and were worn with pantaloons. Pantaloons came into fashion expressly for Hessians. If the man wore knee breeches and Hessians, the man's leg above the boots was exposed-not a good look.

Trousers were the very latest in fashion in 1800, and only the most daring men wore them. By about 1815, trousers were more the norm and knee breeches were falling out of favor. Pantaloons remained as long as Hessians were in fashion, which was about until the end of the Regency, about 1820.

I have to write a post about breeches, which can explain this in more detail.

Keena Kincaid said...

Great post, Linda. I had to laugh, though, that Regency era men would call their trousers "unmentionables" even though they were in plain sight. :-)

Linda Banche said...

You're welcome, Maggie. We can all use a smile or two every day.

Thanks, Keena. They called breeches "unmentionables" because a gentleman was not supposed to say anything that even hinted of sex to a lady. After all, on what part of his body does he wear those breeches? *G* In the same vein, women didn't have "legs" they had "limbs", as if they were trees. Of course, when no one is talking about sex, sex is the only thing they're thinking about!

Margaret Tanner said...

Hi Linda,
Loved the post, and the man, even if he shouldn't have been wearing a belt. Very interesting and informative.



Linda Banche said...

Thanks, Margaret. I like the man, too. *G* Caroline is one lucky woman.

Maggi Andersen said...

Publishers love to show a man's chest and I can quite see why.
I suppose there's many readers who wouldn't care about historical accuracy, but it is annoying for those of us who do.

Margaret West said...

How facinating. you have a great eye for detail.

Stephanie Burkhart said...

Great post about explaining a men's wardrobe. Very informative and fun and GG #2 is a real hottie.


Linda Banche said...

I agree, Maggi. A gorgeous, bare-chested man will catch a reader's eye. I give a second look, too, even though I know the shirt is wrong. *g*

Thanks, Margaret. Glad you enjoyed the post.

LOL, Steph, I agree with you about GG#2. I suppose I can be Caroline in my dreams.