Sunday, April 21, 2013

A Word on Fashion from the Unfashionable

Welcome back and thank you for joining us here at Gentlemanly Pursuits.
Today's post is from the desk of Captain Schmidt.  Cheers!

In the modern world I’m one of the most unfashionable people I know. So it is with a great sense of irony that I watch this article appear out of my brain.

18th and 19th century fashion is something that will drive a 21st century man to strong drink. For my day to day existence Heaven forbid I wear anything other than a good pair of blue jeans and a t-shirt, or a polo shirt if I’m at work.

However for my hobby I’m of much different habits. By choosing to recreate the 18th and 19th century my choice in dress is subject to the conventions of the times.

There are things that you must do, if (IMO) you’re going to do the time period right. First, if you’re out in public you wear at least a weskit/waistcoat/vest. You never appear in public in your “shirt sleeves” or without at least a vest on. This is because your shirt is considered part of your underclothing. It’s preferable to also be wearing a coat to be considered completely dressed.

Now to really make your day, the fashion of the time dictated that you must wear a neck cloth of some sort. A cravat or a stock is usual. Now I hated wearing ties to work, I still do. But reenacting I just don’t feel dressed unless I have my cravat on.

When out in the field hunting or shooting I wear my caped hunting frock, instead of my everyday frock coat to protect my clothing. Even in the field the vest and cravat is worn.

Also a piece of clothing that the gentleman would not be without in public is a hat. This is fine with me as I’m definitely a hat geek. But some guys aren't. But for recreation purposes the hat is necessary.
In my camp I don’t stay in shirt sleeves in the mornings. As soon as I emerge from my tent the vest comes on. The cravat probably doesn't get put on until I leave my camp. But when I leave my camp I’m fully dressed.

One thing that will also require an adjustment is how your trousers are worn. Both trousers and breeches come to the natural waist. That’s along the navel line gentlemen. This will be uncomfortable at first, but you’ll get used to it. This gives that uninterrupted line from the vest to the trousers. Another feature which 18th and early 19th century impressions have which is “uncomfortable” for the reenactor is the fit of the seat of the trousers. The seat is quite roomy to allow for flexibility. So when standing the seat is quite droopy. But you’ll be glad of this when bending over, or in a crouched position.

The author at a shoot. Note the cravat, and weskit under the hunting frock.
Now this might seem like a lot of trouble to go to. But we’re recreating a time in history. It is important to get these small details right as it really adds to the impression. One of the best complements I've gotten was at a trade show when another re-enactor commented that I was wearing a cravat, and he didn't see nearly enough proper neckwear.

When creating your impression consult artwork of the time period. For later impressions there are early photographs. There are also descriptions of clothing in some first person accounts, newspapers of the time. See my previous article on research for other hints for making your impression.

This hobby is great in that your impression will evolve with the more you learn and find out about your impression. Good luck!