Bridgerton: Undressing Regency style

Bridgerton: Undressing Regency style

The year is 1813 and the beau monde of 'the ton' are assembling in London's finest environs (not to mention a few salubrious ones too) in anticipation of the Season's newest delicate entrants, all vying, one complicated way or another, for desirous matrimony, and with it the financial stability of their all-important family name. One such family that we have become overly familiar with in recent weeks are the fictional Bridgertons from the eponymously named Netflix series by the excellent Shonda Rhimes. For all the scandal and intrigue, here at Favourbrook we've been enamoured by the equally outstanding Regency wardrobe, designed by legendary costume designer Ellen Mirojnick.

So we thought it prudent to put Regency style under the microscope, for much of it still influences aspects of menswear today, not least formalwear and especially morning dress. The standout character in the series is of course the Duke of Hastings, played by Regé-Jean Page. While the Duke may wear the scars of an emotionally tormented childhood, his wardrobe appears unscathed, being as it is full of dashing flamboyance. 

Knots landing: The Cravat

First to note is the widespread wearing of the cravat in both 'half dress' and 'full dress'. (Note: in Regency Britain, there were generally three states of dress: undress, half dress and full dress. Undress was not caught with your pants down, but rather one's jacket and cravat removed, which was never something done in public. It also extended to dressing gowns or robes, so strictly at home without company. Half dress included the more casual end of clothing (for example, jackets more suited to riding) and cravats tied simply. Full dress typically involved the most elaborate form of cravat knots and exquisite formal costume, more often than not featuring a white or off-white waistcoat.) It was the dandy Beau Brummell who largely steered the beau monde towards the wearing of cravats. Today, it has been somewhat sidelined by the bow tie in the most formal of occasions, but we fancy that the Bridgerton effect might just garner a resurgence. Certainly, neckerchiefs made a significant entrance into menswear trends a few seasons ago so we see no reason why the cravat can't be adopted in more sartorial circles. Worn simply, as per The Duke of Hastings, it adds an interesting focal point at the base of an open collar and is a nice way to incorporate pattern and colour to the canvas of a white shirt.​

Interestingly, in Regency times, the cravat was regarded as the showpiece to the man's ensemble but perhaps for not what you might think. While the style and design of the silk rectangle obviously caught the eye, it was the knot which was most important, for the more elaborate and complicated the tying method implied that the gentleman had the money for the most superior and knowledgeable valet. Appearances were everything! 

IVORY PAISLEY SILK CRAVATIVORY PAISLEY 
SILK CRAVAT

NAVY BOURGAINVILLE SILK CRAVAT

NAVY BOURGAINVILLE
SILK CRAVAT

BURGUNDY PICKWICK
SILK CRAVAT

 

Looking ruffled: the Regency shirt

Unlike today's button-down shirts, Regency styles were cut in a smock silhouette that had to be pulled on and off over the wearer's head. The placket might consist of three to five buttons, the quality of which would hint at one's wealth. Typically woven from white muslin, the most notable differences from contemporary shirts was the extremely high collar, that would have reached to the jawline when starched stiff, and the often-times extraordinarily puffy sleeves (which only the gentleman's nearest and dearest would ever have seen).

WHITE CAMO COTTON PINNED TUCK DRESS SHIRT

WHITE CAMO
COTTON PINNED
TUCK DRESS SHIRT

IVORY POPLIN COTTON PLEATED PINTUCK DRESS SHIRT

IVORY POPLIN COTTON
PLEATED PINTUCK
DRESS SHIRT

WHITE HERRINGBONE COTTON IVY SHIRT

WHITE HERRINGBONE
COTTON IVY
SHIRT


Elegantly waisted

If you had been a member of the ton, your waistcoat (pronounced “wes-kit” back in the day), would have been a good indication of your wealth, character and personality. Cut from silk and with elaborate embroidery or jacquard patterns, the main difference from today's waistcoats was the finish at the neck. Whereas the modern waistcoat is cut in quite a low V, the Regency style actually had a high collar, which was perhaps a functional design to stay more protected when riding. While double-breasted styles were available, the more common style was the single-breasted version. For more formal occasions, these were largely cut in a white cloth.

NAVY BEES SILK SINGLE BREASTED 6 BUTTON WAISTCOAT

NAVY BEES SILK
SINGLE BREASTED
6 BUTTON WAISTCOAT

IVORY ALBERT SILK SINGLE-BREASTED 6-BUTTON WAISTCOAT

IVORY ALBERT
SILK SINGLE-BREASTED
WAISTCOAT

OLIVE CHATSWORTH SILK BLEND DOUBLE-BREASTED 8-BUTTON SHAWL LAPEL WAISTCOAT

OLIVE CHATSWORTH
SILK BLEND SHAWL
LAPEL WAISTCOAT

 


Tails it is

The tailcoat or jacket is perhaps the one piece of Regency attire that hasn't changed all that much over time. What we would today regard as the morning coat, the Regency styles were slightly more creative in their designs. As referenced throughout Bridgerton, tailcoats for riding were fit for purpose, with a distinctive 'M' shape to the tails. Where there was difference was in the waist of the jacket, which could come neatly squared off, at an angle (as per today's styles) or cut in a broad arch (which was an early Regency fashion). Whichever front was sported, it was generally finished quite high above the waistline, presumably to display more of the waistcoat and to ensure that the tails were kept well clear of the legs while riding. Both double-breasted and single-breasted styles were common.

CHARCOAL WELLINGTON MERINO WOOL MORNING COAT

CHARCOAL WELLINGTON
MERINO WOOL
MORNING COAT

CHARCOAL SHAFTESBURY CASHMERE WOOL MORNING COAT

CHARCOAL SHAFTESBURY
CASHMERE WOOL
MORNING COAT

BLACK SEATON CASHMERE WOOL MORNING COAT

BLACK SEATON
CASHMERE WOOL
MORNING COAT


Getting a leg on: trousers and breeches

Up until around 1807, breeches were de rigeur for any man of standing. One would not have been admitted into any gentleman's club worthy of the moniker with anything but the knee-length pants, which were worn with stockings. They typically opened with a buttoned flap called a 'fall', rather than today's style of opening. Pantaloons, which were cut on the bias to achieve a close fit, were another option available to gentlemen. Trousers were only worn by the lower classes up until 1807, and so the designs seen in Bridgerton would have been considered very modern. They would always be kept in place by suspenders.

BLACK HAMPTON BARATHEA WOOL FLAT FRONT DRESS TROUSER

BLACK HAMPTON BARATHEA
WOOL FLAT FRONT
DRESS TROUSER

GREY WESTMINSTER STRIPE WOOL CAVALRY TROUSERS

GREY WESTMINSTER
STRIPE WOOL
CAVALRY TROUSERS

NAVY BLACKWATCH TARTAN WOOL HIGH WAISTED FLAT FRONT TROUSER

NAVY BLACKWATCH TARTAN
WOOL HIGH WAISTED
FLAT FRONT TROUSER

 

The Gentleman's accessories

Much like today, the accessories chosen by a gentleman of the Regency period performed dual functions, being both practical and status-oriented. Displays of wealth were displays of power and so an extravagantly jewelled cravat pin or set of pearl buttons could make all the difference in one's social standing, even if it was just smoke and mirrors. The right choices conveyed a superior knowledge of good taste and upbringing, all the more important for a young man searching for a wife. Watches were perhaps the height of exclusivity, much as they are now. They were eye-wateringly expensive, but also prone to breaking down. Since a gentleman's sleeves were already full to the brim with fabric, the watch served little purpose on his wrist, hence why he would were it on a fob, just to ensure everyone else knew that his time was money.

 

We hope you enjoyed our Regency style breakdown. Subscribe to our journal to receive posts like this in your inbox weekly!

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