Regency Wear for Modern Gentlemen
When attending a function requiring period dress the first question is, of course, "What should I wear? Followed by, "What did the men of Jane Austen's period wear?"
In most cases, the answer to the first question is easy - whatever you are comfortable wearing. The second is a bit more difficult - we have to look at the years represented and your position in society.
For men with a basic wardrobe at their disposal (business attire and weekend variations), I would recommend keeping it simple. Perhaps a dark suit or dark slacks and a dark sport coat, a white or lightly colored shirt and a tie. If you have one, a bow tie is a nice addition. To men who own a more varied collection, I would recommend a tuxedo or "white tie and tails."
There are a few easy changes men with a more adventurous spirit might make. Perhaps the lady in your life is willing to put in some extra effort. First, you could add a vest. It could be dark, light or even brightly colored. The "higher" the vest is cut or the more buttons it has the better. Next replace the tie with a cravat. A cravat is a piece of cloth 2-4 inches wide and about three feet long. It can be made of almost any fabric and color. It could even be made of lace for an extra bit of flair.
Tying a cravat is fairly simple, but a little hard to describe. Start by folding it lengthwise so that it is only about two inches wide. Then, holding the fabric in front of your neck wrap it once around so the ends are again in front. Now, tie it like a bow tie or with a half knot. If the ends are long they can be tucked into the vest. If tied with a half knot, a stick pin or tie pin at the knot is a nice touch.
For men more adventurous still, pants could be replaced by knee breeches with knee socks/stockings. Dark pants with white socks or stockings are preferred. "Stretch" pants with under-foot loops (they look just like woman's stirrup pants) are also an option. Baseball socks work very well for the knee socks/stockings. A good period look is pants (normal, stretch, knickers), a white shirt (collared, wingtip, or collarless), a vest (black or colored), a black tail coat, and cravat.
Before you start to worry, I would like to tell you a story. A number of years ago I was attending a formal 1860's ball. Shortly after the ball began I noticed a man standing at the door. He was looking in and looking quite concerned. I should point out that he was wearing khaki pants and an Hawaiian shirt. He stood there for quite a few minutes.
I went over and asked if I could be of assistance. He told me that he had bought a ticket for the ball; however, when he asked someone about attire they responded with - Oh! Don't worry, anything festive. He told me that he felt a little foolish walking in to a room filled with men in white tie and tails and ladies in ball gowns, dressed as he was. I told him that he did not need to worry; he was welcome however he was attired. After a few minutes of chatting he decided to come in. He had a great time and made many friends that evening. The moral? It is more important to come to the party than to spend all evening worrying about what to wear.
Marc Casslar is the founder and director of the Vintage Dance Society. Mr. Casslar is involved in the development of theatrical performances (for both stage and film) and the recreation of period social events. He has been involved in a variety of historic dance forms since 1977 and has performed throughout the United States and Japan. He is currently helping to coordinate JASNA-CT's first "assembly". You can visit his website at www.vintagedancing.com.
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