Today’s metrosexual’s (dandies, beaus, or gallants in the 1800s) are no more meticulous about their grooming and appearance than the gentlemen of the Regency era, with one major exception: bathing.
Who hasn’t heard of Beau Brummel or Lord Byron, two men wholly devoted to presenting a flawless appearance?
Though the Corinthians, peers, and top sawyers of the period might have doted excessively on their carefully contrived messy hairstyle, say the unruly Brutus for instance, and a clean-shaven face was the norm (except for long sideburns) washing one’s hair and bathing on a regular basis wasn’t the typical for many.
Heck, why bathe when you could douse yourself in cologne?
I’m wrinkling my nose at the thought.
The heroes in my books aren’t quite that obsessed with their appearance and they bathe regularly. I insist upon it!
I’ll not have them stinking up the pages of my books!
But I digress.
The well put together Regency gent’s attire generally included ten must-haves:
Beaver hat – What we call a top-hat today. Made from felted beaver fir, the hat was tall with a flat top and narrow, turn-up brim. (Poor beavers. The beaver populations in the Pacific Northwest were nearly decimated because of this fashion.)
Cutaway or tailcoat – A fitted coat, either double or single-breasted, often made of wool, high in back of the neck with M-shaped tails. Made of many colors, dark color was preferred for evening attire. (Kind of a pain to flip them out of the way each time you wanted to sit down, I would imagine.)
Waistcoat – Often of solid color, though patterns were popular as well, a waistcoat covered the front of the trousers, was usually single-breasted, and had a stand-up collar. Paisley as we know it today did not come into fashion until 1888. (Found that out when I tried to put a paisley waistcoat on one of my heroes and a sharp critique partner caught it.)
Cravat or neckcloth – The predecessor of today’s tie, the cravat was a long strip of linen that wrapped around a gentleman’s neck several times and was elaborately tied. It was often starched so stiff, a gentleman had trouble turning his head. Almost always white, on rare occasions they might be black. (I did that in one of my books. Also, used one for a make-shift bandage in VIRTUE AND VALOR)
Shirt – A simple linen or cotton garment with a high collar and slit at the front. Often, it was the only undergarment worn, though long drawers, sort of like today’s long-johns were worn by some men, too. (Explains why there were no panty-lines with those tight pantaloons!)
Gloves – No gentleman would consider leaving home without a donning his gloves. Remember, touching of skin was taboo. (Gotta wonder how almost half of Regency brides ended up expecting before their wedding day.)
Breeches, trousers or pantaloons – The popularity of breeches had begun to fade during the Regency Era except for evening wear. Trousers had become popular and form-fitting pantaloons were worn with boots. For more outdoorsy activities such as riding, stalking (hunting) or fishing, buckskins were preferred.
A quick aside here. Inexpressible were leggings worn so tight, not a whole lot was left to the imagination. (Picture me with a shocked expression!)
Stockings – Worn calf-high, stockings were most often made of silk or cotton.
Footwear: Wellingtons or Hessians for daytime use and black shoes for formal wear: High boots, custom made of course, were permissible for nearly everything except formal events. Shoes no longer bore heels and slip on shoes, rather like ballet slippers, actually, became all the rage.
Extras: Cane, pocket watch, watch fob, quizzing glasses, stick pin, rings, wallet.
I gave one of my heroes a cane with a hidden short sword. It came in handy when two miscreants tried to rob him!
It strikes me as funny that men could wear pantaloons so tight a flea couldn’t scurry up a hairy leg, but it was absolutely unthinkable for a woman to see a man in his shirtsleeves. Rather like a guy trotting around shirtless today.
There you have it—the well-dressed Regency gentleman, top to toe!
Do you find well-groomed men attractive, or can they go over the top sometimes?
Here’s a scene from VIRTUE AND VALOR where the hero, Lord Ramsbury, finds himself less than presentable.
Isobel peeked over the earl’s shoulder, which now vibrated suspiciously. She jabbed him harder with her fingers.
He quaked more.
Was he ticklish? Turning her hands into half-claws, she scraped at his sides unmercifully.
A rich-timbred chuckle whispered against her neck, and the sensation was beyond wonderful. This wouldn’t do at all. She needed Lord Ramsbury to withdraw before she flung her arms around his neck, hugged him to her breast, and planted kisses on his jaw.
“Get. Off. Me.” She clenched her teeth as his bothersome watch poked her again.
All at once, she froze.
She knew exactly what prodded her nether regions. She had been raised around animals, for pity’s sake. How could she have been so stupid to think his timepiece had slipped free?
No, his thing twitched against her.
“I do hope you have a damned good reason to be sprawled atop my sister, Ramsbury.”
The steely edge to her brother’s voice caused the hairs at Isobel’s nape to rise.
Jocky and Ewan reached the earl in the same instant.
His lordship made a miraculous recovery, and in one agile movement, leaped to his feet.
Isobel sucked in a deep gulp of air, holding the breath suspended in her lungs. She bit her lip against the fit of giggles seizing her at the countenances of the three men peering at her.
Ewan’s face bore a ferocious scowl, his eyebrows drawn into a severe vee and his lips pressed into a disapproving line. He shot daggers at Lord Ramsbury with his wintry glare.
She levered into a sitting position, scooting her attention to his lordship last.
His lovely mouth curved into a lopsided smile, and undisguised amusement danced in his jungle eyes. His gaze leisurely traveled the length of her, a visual caress that caused her skin to tingle and a flush to heat the angles of her cheeks.
Something flickered deep within his eyes, and his pupils dilated. His infuriating grin widened.
She could not tear her gaze away.
Did he know how he affected her?
Of course, he did. God help her, she was as vulnerable as a mouse before a snake.
What a ninny.
Her dratted eyes refused to obey. Instead, they feasted upon the glorious male specimen before her.
Ewan shoved his way in front of Lord Ramsbury. After lifting Isobel to her feet, he stepped back. Holding her shoulders, he assessed her from head to toe. “Are you unharmed?”
She managed a nod.
He brushed her tousled hair from her cheek and picked a strand of straw from the tresses. “What happened? How did you come to be—?”
“I . . .” She sliced Lord Ramsbury a peek from the corner of her eye.
He regarded her, his head cocked to the side and that enigmatic smile on his too-perfect mouth.
“Lord Ramsbury startled me—quite by accident, I assure you. I became unbalanced and panicked, so I clutched his lordship’s coat, which, unfortunately, resulted in us both taking a tumble.”
Isobel refused to look into Lord Ramsbury’s beautiful eyes. They turned her to warm pudding. Months ago she had resolved to no longer let him affect her.
Hiding her reaction, she cast her gaze downward. “Please accept my apologies, your lordship. I hope you weren’t injured.”
“No apology necessary.” Why couldn’t he have a high-pitched nasally twang instead of a deep, pleasant rumble for a voice? “I regret I could not save you the fall.”
He brushed at his claret-colored coat sleeves, knocking bits of oat, hay, and dust from the tight-fitting fabric. The movement stretched the coat taut across the breadth of his shoulders. His had been no soft, pampered body atop hers. No, sinewy, sculpted muscles had melded against her softness.
A scintillating current jolted down her spine.
Stop it, Isobel Janette Moreen Ferguson.
He. Is. Not. For. You.
Quashing her reaction, Isobel angled her head, offering Ewan a contrite turn of her lips. A curl flopped onto her shoulder. She could already hear Maura’s tsks of censure. Her old nurse still fussed as if Isobel were in leading strings.
“You may let loose of me now, Ewan. I assure you, I am not at risk of toppling over again.”
In fact, her clumsiness was out of character, and such ineptness in front of Lord Ramsbury, wholly humiliating. Fresh warmth heated her cheeks. If only she could flee to her chamber and escape mortification’s sting. What possessed her to latch onto his lordship, yanking him down atop her?
A brooding expression on his face, Ewan released her and took in her rumpled appearance.
Poor Ewan. Always such a serious brother.
She gave him another stiff smile and made an attempt to straighten her drooping hair.
He turned his regard to Lord Ramsbury. “And, why, pray tell, did it take you so long to remove your person from my sister?”
Isobel wanted to know that too.
She arched a brow, silently applauding her brother’s question while surreptitiously inspecting the earl.
Disheveled umber hair gave him a rather dashing appearance. A gold, cerulean, and burgundy patterned waistcoat complimented the deep hue of his jacket.
Her gaze inched lower, taking in his buckskin breeches, and—
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Virtue and Valor
Highland Heather Romancing a Scot Series, Book 2
Bartholomew Yancy never expected to inherit an English earldom and had no intention of marrying. Now, the Earl of Ramsbury and last in his line, he’s obligated to resign his position as England’s War Secretary, find a wife, and produce an heir. Only one woman holds the least appeal: Isobel Ferguson, an exquisite Scotswoman. Brought to Scotland to mediate between feuding clans, he doggedly woos her.
Disillusioned with men pursuing her for her attractiveness, rather than her unusual intellect, Isobel has all but abandoned any hope of finding a husband in the Highlands. Not only does she believe Yancy no different than her other suitors, he’s a notorious rake. She’s been told he’s practically betrothed. Therefore, his interest in her cannot possibly be honorable, and so she shuns his attentions.
When Isobel is mistakenly abducted by a band of rogue Scots, Yancy risks his life to rescues her. To salvage her compromised reputation, her brother and father insist she marry him. Yancy readily agrees, but Isobel—knowing full well she’s fated for spinsterhood by refusing his offer— won’t be coerced into marriage.
Can love unite a reluctant earl and a disenchanted beauty?
All images are courtesy of Wikimedia Commons