The Tricorne or “Cocked Hat”

French Tricorne
French Tricorne of 18th Century, Courtesy of Metropolitan Museum of Art

The tricorne hat, which was initially called a “cocked hat,” became popular in the 1700s but was falling out of fashion by the 1800s and eventually evolved into the bicorne. The tricorne was actually an evolution of a broad-brim round hat worn by Spanish soldiers in Flanders in the 1600s. When its brim was pledged (bound), it formed a triangular shape. The triangular shape was the shape favored by Spanish soldiers. Thus, when war broke out in 1667 between France and Spain in the Spanish Netherlands, the triangular hat found its way to France. Continue reading

Victorian Fad of False or Artificial Calves

Victorian fad
Sample of the Roman Fall, Author’s Collection

Victorians embraced many unusual fads. For instance, besides adopting the famous stooping fashion of the Grecian Bend, some Victorian women adopted Alexandra of Denmark’s limp and were even willing to wear mismatched shoes to achieve it. Men likewise adopted a strange fashion. It was an S-shaped posture known as the Roman Fall. But there was also another unusual fashion that Victorians embraced. It was wearing false or artificial calves, a fad that actually started in Georgian times.

So what were false or artificial calves? One person wrote they were “nothing more nor less than the sculpture of cords, wires, and cotton.” Another person maintained they were usually “composed of lamb’s and other wool woven into the material of merino leggins [sic], just like a pair of masculine drawers; sometimes brain [was] used, and in all cases the imitation [was claimed to be] very artistic and perfect.” Continue reading

The Roman Fall

Sample of the Roman Fall, Author's Collection
Illustration of the Roman Fall, Author’s Collection

There were all sorts of strange fashions that eighteen and nineteenth century people adopted. For instance, patches or mouchets were at one time applied to the face to cover pimples, smallpox scars, or other facial imperfections. Another strange fashion was adopted after Alexandra of Denmark married the Prince of Wales and developed a limp. Fashionable women decided they wanted a limp and soon streets everywhere were covered with limping women. However, it was not just women who adopted strange fashions. Apparently, Victorian men decided to adopt a style of walking that became known as the Roman Fall. Continue reading

Cravat Tying Tips for the Georgian or Regency Gentleman

Cravat Tying Styles, Author's Collection
Cravat Styles, Author’s Collection

Cravats came into fashion during the Georgian Era and remained popular throughout the Regency Era. One gentlemen of that era noted the cravat “is not just a mere ornament … [but] is decidedly one of the greatest preservative of health — it is criterion by which the rank of the wearer may be at once distinguished, and is of itself  a letter of introduction.'” Therefore, to make sure a gentleman made a good impression with his cravat, there were numerous ways devised to wear them. This also resulted in various cravat wearing, cravat caring, and cravat tying tips.

Here are some cravat typing tips suggested for the fashionable Georgian or Regency gentleman: Continue reading

Hats to Fit a Man’s Personality in the Georgian and Regency Era

Hats were Named for Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington, Courtesy of Wikipedia
Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington, Courtesy of Wikipedia

In the late Georgian and Regency Era, hats were more than an element of fashion. There were so many hat styles, any man of any shape or size could find a hat to fit his physical features. But hats were not just designed to fit a man’s physical characteristics; they were also designed to fit a man’s personality. In fact, it was noted that “a man may be readily summed up … approved of or condemned by his immediate fellows [by what hat is put upon his head.]” For this reason men wanted to wear the right hat to give the right impression.

Some hats were unique just like their wearers. Others were elegant, and some “exceedingly comfortable” or “admired for the ease and simplicity of style [more] than for any peculiar character[istic].” Certain hats offered nothing more than nice proportions, whereas some hats were noted as being gentlemanly or displaying “character.” Among the hats designed to fit the eighteenth and nineteenth century man’s unique personality were the Clericus, the Eccentric, John Bull, the Regent, and the Wellington. Continue reading

The Jolliffe Hat

The Jolliffee , Public Domain
The Jolliffe , Public Domain

The Jolliffe (also sometimes spelled Jolliffee or Jollife) was not your common hat. It got its name from Hylton Jolliffe (1773-1843) who an English politician renown for wearing oversized head gear. In fact, Jolliffe’s hats were so large, the Sporting Magazine humorously observed that “he will punt three or four of us over…his hat.” The magazine also noted how Jolliffe regularly wore large hats stating, “Who has not seen him walk up St. James’s-street with his venerable white head covered with a huge punt hat…he looks like what he is, a country Gentleman and a fox hunter.” Continue reading

Men’s Shooting and Hunting Costumes 1866-1882

Typical Hunting Costume of the 1860s, Public Domain
Typical Hunting Costume of the 1860s, Public Domain

Shooting and hunting were popular pastimes for nineteenth century men, and these activities required not only “the kind or form of garments worn by gentlemen who go in search of pleasure to the stubble fields or moorlands” but outfits that were functional. In fact, the main rule when purchasing shooting or hunting wear was that it be “adaptable for the various movements of the figure…[rather than fit] the taste or whims of the wearers.”

That was also the reason why shooting costumes tended to change little from year to year, because if they did change, the changes were not always improvements. The Habits of Good Society, noted this claiming there was “a scale of honor among clothes” and reported there was “more honor in an old hunting-coat than in a new one.” Further, the author noted that “a man who wears a red coat to hunt in, should be able to hunt, and not sneak through gates or dodge over gaps.”

No one wanted to pity the hunter who was ill-dressed or who attempted to hunt in a frock coat or dress coat. Hunters believed the perfect outfit was “‘cords’…light in color…a red coat…scarf of cashmere…cap of dark green…[and] Hessians.” Although the outfit to the right does not necessarily reflect the “perfect hunting outfit,” it does show the typical style worn in the mid 1860s. Other typical hunting and shooting outfits are shown below and cover the years 1866 through 1882. Continue reading

Gloves of the 1800s

Pair of gloves, 1603-1625, Courtesy of Wikipedia
Pair of gloves, 1603-1625, Courtesy of Wikipedia

Gloves have been around since the time of antiquity and were once called “the clothing of the hands.” One writer described gloves of the 1800s as “an object of luxury, elegance, and refinement,” but gloves were worn for many other reasons than fashion. Besides being used for fashion, they were also worn for comfort or protection from the elements and for recreational reasons, such as when driving, skating, or playing croquet. One source noted that new styles of gloves were appearing every year with elastic wristbands being one of the latest fashions of the early 1850s. Gloves also came in variety of colors and were produced from a variety of materials that ranged from beaver, calf, or lambskin to cotton, worsted, or silk. Continue reading

Stories of the Trousers Known as Inexpressibles

Inexpressibles: A Young George Bryan "Beau" Brummell, Author's Collection
A Young George Bryan “Beau” Brummell, Author’s Collection

“That part of the dress which it is now unlawful to name, seems of old to have had the singular virtue of discomfiting witches and demons. Every one may have heard how the bare vision of St. Francis’ inexpressibles put the devil to flight,”[1] was one nineteenth century description of men’s trousers, known as inexpressibles. They likely acquired their name because they were extremely erotic and fit so tightly they showed every nook and cranny of a man’s sexual organs, posterior, and muscular legs. In fact, they would have accentuated a man’s sexual organs even more if extra room had not been allowed in one thigh, which created a pocket where a man could position them.

Even with the pocket, inexpressibles left nothing to the imagination. Wearers created the image of a naked Greek God, as inexpressibles were usually pale in color. At least one person noted inexpressibles were a natural evolution:

“[They emanated from] small clothes to tights, from tights to inexpressibles, from inexpressibles to unspeakables, and from unspeakables to unmentionables, from unmentionables to shorts, from shorts to etceteras, from etceteras to continuations, and so on through antifeminines, remainders, masculines, and nether integuments down to the Quaker periphrase lower garments!”[2]

But whether or not that was true, one fact was true, eighteenth and nineteenth century inexpressible wearers had a variety of opinions about them. Continue reading

Tying Cravats or Ties

Tying Cravats and Ties: A Young George Bryan "Beau" Brummell, Author's Collection
A Young George Bryan “Beau” Brummell, Author’s Collection

Cravats were the forerunner to the modern necktie and originated in seventeenth century Croatia, with “Cro-at … easily corrupted into cravat.” The first cravats were thought to have originated either to hide unclean shirts or to provide psychological protection by covering a man’s exposed neck during spear battles, and, later, in at least one case, a cravat saved a General’s life when it stopped an enemy’s bullet. Charles II in the 1660s used the word cravatte, which he described as “being nothing else but a long towel put around the Collar, and so tyed before with a Bow knot.”

By the late 1600s the bow knot cravat morphed into the Steinkirk, a long, narrow, neckcloth worn initially by military men. The Steinkirk became by the 1770s the flowing cravat worn by the Macaroni, and although “many varieties were introduced; … a fine starched linen cloth acquired … ascendancy over all other[s].” But it was the fancy, well-tied cravat that captured men’s heart and became the item worn by fashionable dressed nineteenth-century men.

This cravat originated with the English wit and arbiter of fashion, George Bryan “Beau” Brummell. He was the first man to tie it around his neck and also the first man to dress in such a fashionable way. His style became known as dandyism. Continue reading