Sunday, January 9, 2011

Gorgeous Men in Tight Breeches and Ruffled Shirts II

What's Wrong With This Picture/Excerpt?

In Part I, we discussed Regency men's clothes. Although the era saw the birth of modern menswear, Regency clothing is not exactly the same. Errors abound in many romances. In this post we'll discuss three common errors in the portrayal of the Regency gentleman’s wardrobe.

What's wrong with Gorgeous Gentleman #1's clothes? The problem is his shirt. Men's shirts didn't button all the way down the front until the end of the nineteenth century. The front was open to about halfway down the chest, much like a present-day man's polo shirt. There may or may not have been one or two buttons to keep the collar closed. And a gentleman always wore a cravat to keep his shirt top closed.

The only way GG#1 could show off that great set of washboard abs in a historically correct shirt was to pull the shirt off over his head. Or, the heroine could tear it off him in a fit of passion--the modern version of the bodice ripper.

The shirt GG #2 is wearing is correct. But what's wrong here? His shirt is correct, and our hero even has ruffles at his cuffs (oh, I do like ruffles on a man!). The answer--GG #2 is wearing a belt. Regency men held up their breeches (generic term for what they wore on their lower bodies) with braces, also called suspenders.

My third example is a passage from Miss Lockharte's Letters by Barbara Metzger:

"And I saw you trying to corner her in the choir loft. If you ever managed to keep your pants buttoned, we wouldn't be in half this mess."

The error here? The word "pants" is an Americanism, first found in the works of Edgar Allan Poe, around 1840, according to An Englishman would refer to the garment as "trousers". And if he were in the presence of a lady, he would call them his "unmentionables", if he referred to them at all.

I found lots of pictures of gorgeous gentlemen as I searched for images for this post. But I hit the jackpot with GG#2. Unlike some writers, I don't use a picture of an actor or model as inspiration for my hero. But when I saw GG#2, I knew I had found Richard, the hero of Lady of the Stars, my Regency time travel and 2010 EPIC EBook Competition Finalist.

GG#2's hair is a little too long, he's wearing that belt, and he would never appear before a lady without a cravat, waistcoat and coat (jacket). I like to think he's in his bedchamber, early the morning after he met Caroline, the heroine. He's thinking about her, and already falling in love.

And here's our Happily Ever After.

Thank you all,


Nancy Kelley said...

Excellent info in both parts one and two. Some things I knew--that belt really sticks out. I wasn't aware of the different shirt styles however.

Thanks, Linda.

catslady said...

I'm thrilled that I knew those things which means I've been learning along the way thanks to blogs like yours :)

Linda Banche said...

You're welcome, Nancy. Some things we take for granted weren't always so.

Good for you, catslady. Glad you're having a good time.

Lady Síle Eversley said...

As a British Lady I must admit that such anachonisms, both descriptively and linguistically, are rather off-putting. Georgian gentlemen during the 'long century' 1688-1830 had certain codes of behaviour and dress. In Regency times (especially post Waterloo), mens' dress was less ornamented, few or no frills to the shirts. Pantaloons (trousers) replaced breeches, unless attendance at ultra-formal occasions/Court functions/Almacks was required.

Linda Banche said...

I agree with you, Lady Sile. If the period details aren't right, you have a costume drama--a modern story where the characters wear different clothes. Unfortunately, a lot readers neither know nor care, which is sad. Other readers don't like the period details, which destroys the effect of an historical. So, I do what I want, which is to make my books as historically accurate as I can.