Thursday, January 28, 2010

Hunks in History

Standards of "hotness" and fashion change over time for both men and women. In the Regency era (the time period for my upcoming release, STROKE OF GENIUS) men's fashions had calmed considerably since the Georgian period when all the London popinjays sported horsehair wigs, lace cuffs and knee britches. It wasn't unusual for men to wear high heels, cosmetics and beauty spots just like the women prior to @ 1790.


Then George Bryan "Beau" Brummell (the son of a tailor who rose to become the Prince of Wales' intimate friend) revolutionized the way men dressed. Male fashion became understated. Knee britches were abandoned in favor of full-length trousers in masculine shades. The silhouette was long and lean, the cravats crisp and ingeniously tied. (Note how well the costumer and Colin Firth borrowed from this engraving of Brummell for Mr. Darcy! With their dark curls and soulful expressions, they could be brothers.) If men weren't fortunate to possess the coveted head of Byronic curls, they cropped their hair short, Caesar-style. With wigs falling out of fashion, both sexes washed their hair more often. (Always a fashion plus, IMO!)

But there was one place during the Regency where a man had to abandon his trousers and revert to the knee britches and tight stockings of the previous century--Almack's Assembly Room. This requirement might have been an impediment to gentlemen who were "spindle-shanked", but if their legs were not up to snuff, the clever Regency gent wasn't above padding his stockings with wooden falsies to give the appearance of "a beautiful leg." The dress code was strenuously inforced and the patronesses who ruled Almack's with absolute power even turned away the Duke of Wellington once for being seven minutes late . . . and for wearing trousers.

And who's to say the she-dragons guarding the gate weren't right? After all, when a man wears tight knee-britches, a woman can always make a good guess at what he's thinking!

If you have any questions or comments on Regency fashions, I have pretty good chance at being able to find the answer for you, even if I don't know it off the top of my head. I just joined the online Beaumonde RWA chapter. These gals know their history! The chapter loop is a treasure trove.

If you could dress your hero in the fashion of any era, what would it be and why?
Oh, and be sure to come back tomorrow for a trip inside Almack's!

26 comments:

Glynis said...

I am a Mr Darcy era kinda girl. :) I am going to start describing clothing for my Victorian male soon, it is the hard part for me.
Thanks for an interesting post.

EmilyBryan said...

I love the Victorian era too. All buttoned down and suppressed. Wearing a corset and hoops does make a girl feel like a girl.

But now that I think about it, male attire from that era wasn't as memorable. Let me know when you post your bit on the Victorian male.

Barbara Monajem said...

Those cravats look awfully bulky and itchy to me. Anything looks good on Colin Firth, but he's also wearing the slightest pout. I think the dang thing is actually driving him nuts.

Have a look at "The Cravat in Period Drama Film" on You Tube -- lots of neckwear and gorgeous men. Mwaaa!

EmilyBryan said...

I think they were, Barbara. Highly starched and stiff. And tying them properly was nearly an artform. There were several distinct ways to wear them some of them very ornate! For the truly obsessed, I may have to do a post just on cravats sometime!

Stacey Joy Netzel said...

Give me any era and I'll stick with work boots (be they cowboy or otherwise), worn jeans and a snug t-shirt. Or...combat boots, camo pants and a tan t-shirt. (Yep, I married a military man.)

sarah tormey said...

Great blog! I'd love to learn more about the difference in the front flaps between the trousers and the knee britches (something I have been thing about for a scene:)

Barbara Monajem said...

Heh. I've always wanted to know what some of the cravats Georgette Heyer mentions look like -- the Mathematical, for example.

Mons said...

It's nice to know there are people out there who have this information. I've search libraries, the web, bookstores - and always come up empty handed. Particularly for the 1850's. Any book advice on Victorian dress, Emily? Definitely will watch for future posts!

Stacey Joy Netzel said...

I should clarify that I meant no disrespect with my answer. And it doesn't mean I don't like Victorian 'dress' on a man, but you did ask what era I prefered. :) Speaking strictly historical, thank God the wigs went out of style! LOL

SarannaDeWylde said...

@Stacey Joy Netzel I'm with you!

I am all about the boots. Hessians. Oh, I think I'm getting "a touch of the vapors" right now.

I will find any reason to dress my characters up in boots. Whether it's my Crown Prince of Hell playing Highwayman Dress Up to impress the heroine or a costumed ball for my warlock...

Or my very own knight in shining armor who wears his badass tactical boots with shorts for me in the summer... Just wait until I get him a kilt.

*laughs* It's all fun. :)

SarannaDeWylde said...

Oh, or maybe it's the breeches. I just realized the theme with the exposed legs. Hmm...

Tasty food for thought, Emily.

EmilyBryan said...

Stacey Joy--Military men are always stirring! I think we respond to guys who are willing to give it all to protect those they love and the the country they love.

EmilyBryan said...

Sarah--I don't believe there was much difference in the front flaps of trousers vs knee britches. The zipper wasn't invented until 1913, so drop front with a button over each hipbone was pretty much the standard. But I'll ask the Beaumonde loop to make sure.

EmilyBryan said...

Mons--A book I've found invaluable is INSIDE THE VICTORIAN HOME by Judith Flanders. She covers every aspect of Victorian life from the perspective of how ordinary people actually lived.

For clothing, I rely on The Costumers Manifesto. Some of the links are dead, but some are real jewels.

EmilyBryan said...

Stacey--Wigs probably helped them deal with headlice because men usually shaved their heads so the wigs would fit properly.

Oh, the stark truths we romance writers gloss over!

EmilyBryan said...

Saranna--I'm with you! Give me a pair of spit-shined Hessians at the end of a fine pair of legs and I'm jello!

Stacey Joy Netzel said...

Good, God, Emily. And I thought the wigs themselves were unattractive. *shudder*

Bless the romance novelists who gloss over the unromantic truths or I'd have to give up reading forever! (and then there's the ones who find a way to make the stark truths funny--that works too!)

EmilyBryan said...

Stacey, Every now and then in an author interview someone asks me what time period I'd like to live in if I had a time machine that would take me there. They expect me to pick one from the past, but I know too much. I'm very attached to indoor plumbing, modern medicine and the internet. Thank you, no. I'll stay right here!

However, I'm very happy to "travel" into the past of a romance novel any time! And I have added bonus of being able to sleep in my own bed!

Janet Kay Gallagher said...

Will read the other comments when done with mine.
The picture is real nice. Will be looking forward to the other clothing information of your time period.In my (time) have always liked seeing men wearing a suit. But I want them to look masculine and elegant in the clothes. Always love books with pirate covers showing a Bucaneer Shirt.

EmilyBryan said...

Janet--I agree. I love to see a guy all dressed up. Part of the appeal of James Bond, for example, isn't just that he's a man of action. It's that he looks so yummy in a tux!

jbrayweber said...

No matter the era, I like a man wearing weapons. Whether he's in breeches, trousers or nothing at all, that's what I want. The type, size and how well he uses it can say a lot about him, too.

I guess that says something about me, too. LOL

Carol L. said...

Hi Emily,
Have you seen Candace Hern's web site where she has so much info and pics of the clothing in many time periods with fashion plates etc ? Very helpful and informative. I love the thought of the old time cowboys in boots and those long dusters and hats. :) My favorite is a Highlander(with or without) lol lol I also loved pictures of broad shouldereed men wearing suspenders.
But I thank God I didn't live during the time when men wore heels, wigs and make-up. I definitely would have been a spinster. lol

EmilyBryan said...

Jbray--I like to see a man carry a big stick too! Wait a minute . . . that didn't sound right.

EmilyBryan said...

Carol--Thanks for directing me to Candice Hern's website. What a treasure trove of info!

librarypat said...

Went to Candace Hern's site. What a wealth of information. Another detour in my attempt to get to bed early.
Thanks for another interesting post.

EmilyBryan said...

Gaelen Foley also has a content rich site.