As all my heroes tend to do in my stories, at some point in my new novella, Giles Devereux, Earl of Halcrow, removes his clothes. I thought I’d add a little more to what has already been discussed about Regency men, clothed, and well…undressing.
In the early 19th Century, Englishmen’s neo-classical fashion lent much to ancient Greek and Roman statuary. England had been isolated from French fashion by the long war, and adopted a more austere style, which replaced the draped silk and glitter, curtsey of Beau Brummel. Fine British tailoring came to the fore, inspired by the military. Pure clean lines, but also signifying wealth, status and style.
Beau Brummel adopted his form of dress after seeing the statue, Apollo Belvedere exhibited in London. He devised a restrained, muscular unfoppish style, with an eye to “unity, simplicity and a continuously flowing movement from one part of the body to the next, which is at the core of Regency menswear”. Colors were restricted to white, skin tones, blue, grey and black.
Wishing to look as good beneath their clothes, gentlemen took a serious interest in all forms of exercise available to them. They drove carriages and rode to build strong backs and strong shoulders, thighs and calves, and attended fencing schools and pugilistic saloons such as Gentleman Jackson’s. Unlike the previous centuries, gentlemen bathed daily. They did not use perfume, preferring soap and the smell of fresh linens.
Now to the undressing.
Boots would be left at the door of the bedchamber. Our gentleman might employ the backside of a servant to remove his highly polished Hessians which had spurs for riding. In the evening, he’d wear black pumps.
A gentleman’s coat made of superfine or Bath cloth fitted so tightly it was difficult to remove. He might ask the help of his lady, who could slip her hands inside the shoulders and assist to peel it off him. She might steal a kiss, in fact there would be a lot of kissing. Regency gentlemen were proud of their prowess in the bedroom. They endeavored to satisfy their lovers, believing that a fulfilled woman was more likely to conceive. The Victorians later threw cold water on the idea, sadly.
Once the coat was tossed to the floor, his fitted waistcoat would follow, often of a skin-toned fabric. In Brummel’s day, classical nudity could be suggested in cloth.
A gentleman would then slip the knot in his Irish muslin cravat, yank it and discard it, most likely to join the coat on the floor where his valet would later rescue it.
He would slip off his braces.
A gentleman’s trousers fit like a second skin to the form of his body, especially if he’d dampened his doeskin or chamois leather breeches or pantaloons then worn them until they dried.
He seldom wore underwear, for it would spoil the exquisite line of his breeches.
And last, his white linen shirt, which was buttoned at collar and cuff. The long cuffs were to show this man did not get his hands dirty.
With references from Beau Brummell: The Ultimate Man of Style
Inspired by an article by M.M. Bennett’s, author of May, 1812 and Of Honest Fame, sadly no longer with us.
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