Through the Ages: The Well-Dressed Man
Fun facts on men’s fashion over time from Jacki Delecki, author of the Code Breakers series: A Code of Love, A Christmas Code (now available) and Cantata of Love (Spring 2015).
Delecki: Fashion and clothing styles have changed over the centuries, due in equal measures to societal customs, functional needs and cultural values. As a historical romantic suspense author, I often discover fascinating tidbits while doing research. Here are a few gems I’ve gathered about men’s fashion over the ages.
During the Renaissance period (14th to 17th centuries), it was required that hats were worn in public and violators were fined up to a week’s worth of wages! Poorer classes typically wore flat hats, while nobility wore taller hats.
During the early 18th century Enlightenment period, French influence on fashion led to the Rococo style, which is easily recognizable from its tendency toward lavish, excessive adornment. Men typically wore a coat, waistcoat, breeches, stockings and heeled shoes. Waistcoats were elaborately embroidered or comprised of patterned fabric and coats were worn open to show off waistcoats. Tricorne hats decorated with braid and feathers were also popular during this period.
Beau Brummell was the arbiter of men’s Regency fashion, abandoning overly ornate garments for understated tailored coats, trousers, and knotted cravats. Many credit him with introducing the men’s suit, a big jump from knee breeches and stockings.
Belts were not a common fashion accessory in the 19th century. Instead, pants had fitted, adjustable waists and fall fronts (with an option of narrow or broad). These flaps were secured by buttons.
For hundreds of years, men wore high heels out of necessity, not vanity…for a while. In Persia and other countries of that region, men wore heels to secure his stance in riding stirrups so he could more accurately aim his bow and arrow. In the 17th century, aristocracy wore heels because of their inherent impracticality—such shoes were a sign of privilege and luxury.
I have to admit, as outlandish as some of the men’s fashion customs were, there’s nothing like a well-dressed Regency gentleman! What is your favorite historical fashion statement?
Heart-pounding adventure filled with danger, intrigue and romance from Jacki Delecki, award-winning author of the Regency suspense series “The Code Breakers” and the contemporary mystery series “Grayce Walters.” Enjoy her latest release “A Christmas Code.”
Hot and breathless from performing the newly imported French dance steps of the Quadrille, Gwyneth paused during the break in the music. She fanned her heated cheeks repeatedly attempting to cool herself. Lord Henley glanced down at her. His lips were tight; his eyes beaded with need. She had seen the same look on the faces of many men, but never on the face of the only man who mattered.
She wanted to see the same burning desire and possessiveness in the eyes of her childhood infatuation like she knew blazed in her eyes when she looked at the impossible but dazzling Viscount Ashworth.
The gentleman, newly arrived, had barely glanced at her despite the new gown made especially to entice the hard-headed rake. Her friend and dress designer, Amelia, obsessed with the simplicity of Greek togas, had crisscrossed sky blue silk across Gwyneth’s ample chest with a revealing décolletage. The back of the gown was draped in the same manner with a revealing “V”. It was simple design, but sensual in the way the fabric clung to her body.
She felt enticing and hopeful that tonight Ash would finally throw off all the restraints. She had felt his eyes on her back, knowing he watched her as she gaily danced the intricate pattern she had just learned from her French dance master.
Lord Henley offered his arm as the quadrille ended. “May I take you to the refreshment table for a glass of punch? This new French dance is very demanding.”
“Thank you. I’m not thirsty. Can you please take me to my dear friend, Miss Bonnington?”
Lord Henley’s eyes clouded with emotion. Gwyneth couldn’t refuse the dance, but she needed to escape the gentleman before he embarrassed himself. She wanted to spare the gentleman the pain of rejection. After her five marriage proposals this season, she had become somewhat of an expert in recognizing the signs of imminent declaration.
Lord Henley escorted Gwyneth to Amelia, who also had finished dancing and now stood alone.
“Thank you, sir for the dance.” Gwyneth did a brief curtsy.
Lord Henley bowed. “It was my pleasure.” He hesitated, then sharply nodded his head. She didn’t want to be unkind, but there was no reason to pretend interest and encourage hope when there was none.
They watched Lord Henley circle to the other side of the room.
Amelia hid her face behind her fan. Her bright eyes dancing in merriment. “Another stricken gentleman.”
“I believe he was about to ask if he could call on my brother tomorrow. I think I did an excellent job of extricating myself before the gentleman declared his feelings.”
“Lord Henley is quite a catch. He’s heir to a vast fortune. His interest can’t be limited only to your dowry.”
“Thank you. I’m glad it isn’t only money that makes me attractive.” Gwyneth liked to believe it was her wit, her sparkling eyes, but she knew her position as sister to an earl and heiress to a hefty inheritance gave her a definite cache with the gentleman. And it was just like Amelia to joke about her wealth.
“Your following of swains has nothing to do with your luscious figure, your dramatic looks, or your amiable personality. My unique skill as designer has brought all these gentleman to swoon at your feet.” Amelia snickered, which set off Gwyneth to laugh.
Tears were running down Gwyneth’s cheeks. “You do know how to level a woman’s confidence.”
The comment drove both to louder laughter.
Ash had turned to gaze at Gwyneth when she was laughing. He smiled.
Lost in the merriment, she smiled back before she realized she had resolved not to appear as a puppy, waiting at his feet for a pat on the head. She could hide her feelings as well as he did. Forbidden by some unwritten gentleman’s code, Ash, considered her off limits. She wasn’t sure if it was the age difference of eight years, his rakish past, or her position as his best friend’s younger sister.
He still kept her at a distance, maintaining she was a mere youngster, and they were simply childhood friends. She had spent the entire season trying to convince him otherwise, but she was tiring of the game.