Artifact Corner: Episode 23 – Men’s Regency Fashion

Hi Everyone, and welcome to our second video of 2021! We hope you all had a wonderful holiday season. Today we are going to be looking at some of the portraits of the Webb Family we have in our collections. We thought it might be interesting to explore men’s high fashion in the Regency Era. This is such an fascinating time for men’s formal attire. Let’s explore the changes to men’s clothes from late 18th Century to the Regency period.

Fashion in the late 1700’s was very colorful and flamboyant. Men’s jackets were made of sumptuous fabrics and were intricately decorated with embroidery. They wore vests, called waistcoats or wescots, which were all generously decorated and colorful. Wearing wigs at the beginning of the 1700’s was a must before leaving the house, but by the end of the 18th Century was typically saved for special occasions. Men wore knee length breeches and stocking of silk or fine wool. Their shoes were leather, with a stacked heel and a decorative buckle.

Following the French Revolution, the elaborate styles that were so popular during the 18th Century, began to be viewed as garish, and fashion started to shift toward more functional and simple garments. The Regency Era (or Empire Era as it was known in France) began in 1795 and ran through about 1825. Mens fashions changed dramatically. Gone were the elaborately decorated colorful garments. The fashion was now muted colors, browns, blues and black for more formal occasions. Cut and construction was far more important than embroidery embellishment. Coats were cut away in the front with long tails, breeches became longer, and tall leather riding boots were very fashionable. Gone were the wigs of the past, and in their place were hats. Just think of Mr. Darcy or any other male character from a Jane Austen novel. And yes, I threw this line in just so we could insert a picture of Collin Firth in Regency clothing.

The Regency period was the era of the Dandy. A Dandy was a man who placed particular importance on his clothing and his appearance. It was basically a cult of self, bordering on narcissism. Beau Brummell is a perfect example of a Dandy. From the mid-1790s, Beau Brummell was the early incarnation of “the celebrity”, a man chiefly famous for being famous. He was never unpowdered or unperfumed, he was immaculately bathed and shaved, and dressed in a plain dark blue coat. He was always perfectly brushed, perfectly fitted, showing much perfectly starched linen, all freshly laundered, and composed with an elaborately knotted cravat. The average person could never be a Dandy. The shear cost of this lifestyle was astronomic. And to illustrate that point, Beau Brummell spent his entire fortune, and ended up dying penniless in an insane asylum.

We are so lucky to have a number of beautiful portraits of Regency and Romantic era men’s formal attire. Each one shows the meticulous detail of high fashion in this time period. The Webb family was well to do enough to have formal clothing, and to have their portraits painted. Thanks to that we have a glimpse of the beautifully crafted garments that men wore more than 200 years ago. We hope you enjoyed this look back at men’s fashion. Thanks so much for stopping by.

Music: Acoustic Breeze by Benjamin Tissot,