Regency Content

Regency Shopping

It's a Man's World

Not only women shopped in the Regency; men where equally spendthrift.
Where the ladies spent their sovereigns on gowns, pelisses, shoes and parasols,
the gentlemen laid out even more money on their coats, waistcoats, hats, gloves,
boots and other necessities. Beau Brummell decreed what the well dressed man should
wear and who could cavil at long trousers, well fitting coats, clean fine linen and
elegant waistcoats, topped off with the wonder of wonders – the cravat!

While New (and Old) Bond Street was a fashionable shopping area for both sexes - who haven't heard of Bond Street Beaux a - the exclusive all male precinct stretched mostly eastward, roughly from Conduit Street and south to Burlington Arcade then east to Savile Row, which is to this day a Mecca for menswear of the refined variety. In fact, while the eminet Weston in his shop in the Featherstone-buildings b were a product of the Regency, several others of the purveyors of luxury goods for men are still around, some even on the same premises, doing business pretty much as they did two centuries ago. c

Crowded fashionable New Bond Street 1

Clothes Makes the Man - The Almighty Tailor

Tailors would often visit clients at their home 2

While women delighted in flimsy fabrics such as muslin and silks, the men had retreated into more somber fabrics of wool and linen. Unless you were a soldier in dress uniform, not an unusual sight during the Napoleonic Wars, gone were the bright, some would say flashy colors of an earlier era. d Coats were preferably made of dark blue, grey, brown or black wool fabric. Merino wool seems to have been especially popular. Bath cloth, or more correctly Bath coating, was a light fabric with a decided nap similar to duffel (as in duffel coat). e Embroidery and silk fabrics only lived on in the waistcoat, which could be a wonder indeed! Out of all this soberness rose the cut as the new god of perfection and wool lent itself to it with vigor and ease.

Men's wear was indeed tailor made, as were most clothes of the era, with the fit rather than the quality of the fabric the distinguishing mark between the top of the trees dandy and the middle class man on the street. Each tailor had his distinct style of cutting and fitting, hence men's clothes of the Regency screamed the name of their maker as much as a designer label today.

Some of the famous tailors of the era we know from letters, memoirs and diary notes, while a few are still in business today. "He [Brummell] was remarkable for his dress, which was generally conceived by himself; the execution of his sublime imagination being carried out by that superior genius, Mr. Weston, tailor, of Old Bond Street." wrote Captain Gronow in his popular Reminiscences f and thus cementing Weston's claim to fame.

John Weston, however, was not the only tailor enjoying Brummell's patronage, as The Beau, at one time or another, bespoke clothes from most of the best tailors of his day. George Stultz, from 1809 established at No 10 Clifford Street, did so well on his fame that when he died in 1833 he had not only been created a peer but worth half a million pounds! g The estimable Schweitzer & Davison of Cork Street, h particularly renowned for the cut of their coats, were also patronized by the Prince of Wales (the future George IV) as was Jonathan Meyer of Conduit Street. i

To Meyer, who had made his uniforms during his brief military stint, Brummell went with his livelier ideas and it is still debated whether it was Brummell or Meyer whom invented the fitted trousers that had an opening at the ankle, which closed with buttons. For certain Meyer sewed them and Brummell popularized them. The further improvement of a small strap under the instep contributed to their wrinkle-free appearance. j

Men's fashion from a periodical of the time 3
Interior of a tailor shop 4

It is interesting to note that engaging a tailor was not an exclusive male prerogative, as the best also made clothes for women, in particular such clothes as the riding habit, a form fitting garment usually made of wool. Thus Sarah Hutchinson (stuck in the country) wrote her good friend Edward Quillinan in London to commission her a new habit from the celebrated Stultz, sending her old one along to be used as a pattern. This was in 1829 and the tailor charged 10 guineas, excluding fabric, for making a riding habit. k

We keep talking about Weston and Schultz or Nugee as if only the one man was responsible for the creation of these garments but in reality each represented a whole tailor shop that included, besides the owner and his assistant, at least 200-300 journeyman as well as apprentices. l

Clean Linen and Plenty of It

m While coats were always made by professional tailors, shirts could be sewn at home. A shirt in Regency times was a simple garment made of square pieces and could be made up by anyone with a rudimentary knowledge of sewing. Note that shirts were not buttoned all the way, that's a 20th century invention, but only had a short placket held together not by buttons but by shirt studs. Shirt studs in the Regency were plain as they were not on show but hidden under the cravat and waistcoat. (See picture below)

For a true gentleman, however, shirts were bought, custom-made, from dedicated shirt-makers alongside their smallclothes, socks and hoses.

For custom-made shirts, measures would be taken for length of sleeve, width of chest and neck circumference, pretty much as today. Shirts were considered underwear; hence a man in his shirtsleeves, that is, without his coat on, was not considered properly dressed.

A gentleman's shirt was almost exclusively made of linen, as linen 'takes' starching much better than cotton. Linen, made from flax, was, unlike cotton, a domestic product, although Irish linen was considered the best. All linen is not created equal as it comes in different grades; the thinner the thread and more tightly woven the fabric, the more expensive and delicate it was.

Shirts would be made of linen of a finer grade than bed sheets but less delicate than handkerchiefs. In 1800 a well made gentleman's shirt would cost about a guinea and a half. n An ordinary shirt, if the wearer was of average size, would take about two and a half yards of fabric to a cost of at least 6 shillings. o

1807 men's linen shirt 5

Other male underwear would be the smallclothes, an early version of boxer shorts as well as hose, which look like long johns with a foot, and of course socks. Socks were made either of cotton, wool or silk, depending on their usage and status of the owner. Knitting socks was still a cottage industry with simple machines assisting in the output. Knitted in design on the ankle, called clocks were popular on evening silk socks. A pair of everyday gentleman's socks would set him back at least 4s. 6 d. p In the Regency the elastic had yet to be invented so socks were held in place by sock suspenders or garters; whichever would show the least under the skintight breeches and pantaloons (trousers) of the time.

The Cravat Coxcombical

Here we must also mention the cravat, which were made of muslin, a fine cotton fabric, and, after Brummell's rise to fame, lightly starched. The size of the neck cloth varied and so did the cost but 3-7 shillings each seems to have been the norm during the Regency. q A gentleman's cravat was usually plain white although other colors and even patterns were sometimes worn.

While male dress overall became more somber in color and execution as the century progressed, the cravat stayed a fruitful topic for satire through the whole Regency era and beyond. It seems like the huge heights popular by some fashionable gentlemen were achieved not only by stiffening the collar through starching but by inserting into the collar a sort of framework made of wires or bone as is indeed indicated by their very looks. Thus The Literary Speculum r jokingly wrote:

The all important cravat! 6

In cash – Six yards of book muslin, three hanks of steel wire, a length of split rattan, the jawbone of an infant whale, delivered by the Cesarean operation; tight to suffocation and essenced at the expense of two civet cats. s

No Laundromat

Although the cost of these items of clothing does not seem prohibitively high in themselves, we might give a thought to the average size of a gentleman's wardrobe during these times. For example, Captain Fremantle, a naval officer and a gentleman, had 1810 in his closet 56 shirts, 9 pairs of drawers and 32 neck-cloths. t This was by no means considered an excessive amount and a man trying to make his mark in London society would probably possess even more.

Adding to the expense of an extensive wardrobe was the cost of laundering; a work handled exclusively by professional laundresses. The cost in London for this service seemed to have been at least 5-6 shillings for a shirt and about 2 shillings per cravat. u Any man even pretending to be a gentleman would require at least two clean shirts a day and the dandy, going through half a dozen cravats each morning, would have faced a staggering £ 18 yearly laundry bill just for his stranglers!

Next: Shopping Malls

1. High-change in Bond Street, - ou- la Politesse du Grande Monde by James Gillray. Published by H. Humphrey of London, March 27th 1796.
2. Jerry in training for a 'Swell'. Published as illustration in Pierce Egan's 'Life in London; or, The day and night scenes of Jerry Hawthorn, esq., and his elegant friend Corinthian Tom, accompanied by Bob Logic, the Oxonian, in their rambles and sprees through the metropolis... , illustrated by George and Robert Cruikshank. Published in London by Sherwood, Neely, and Jones, 1821.
3. Fashion plate, possibly from Le Petit Courrier des Dames, combining two prints previously published in Costume Parisien. Left: 'Redingot de Matin, pantalon a la Russe,' first published as Plate 1619, 1817. Right: 'Costume de Bal,' first published as Plate 1627, 1817.
4. Highland Folk Museum, Newtonmore, Scotland. Photo reproduced by kind permission by Laura Edwards.
5. 1807 men's linen shirt, now in The National Maritime Museum
6. Detail caricature "The Dandies Coat of Arms" by G. Cruikshank. Published by Thomas. Tegg March 28, 1819

Notes on the text:
Unless otherwise stated, the source of most of this page is 'Savile Row' by Richard Walker (Kennedy), first published 1988 by Multimedia Books Limited, London; this edition published 1989 by Rizzoli.
a: Advertisement The Times, of Saturday 27 January 1800
b: The Eo-Nauts, of the Spirit of Delusion: A Serio, Comico, Logical, Eulogical, Lyrical, Satirical Poem, with Notes, Geographical and Critical, of Various Commentators, Lemuel Gulliver editor. Published by Chapple, 1813 p. 29
c: For example, today's Gieves & Hawkes have their roots in the Georgian era as Thomas Hawkes opened his tailor shop in 1771 and went on to dress both George III and his son George VI (The Prince Regent), getting his royal warrant in 1809. From 1793 onward the premises were at No.17 (later renumbered No.14) Piccadilly. James Gieve, however, starts his career under Meredith in Portsmoth, who is the one tailoring Admiral Nelson's uniform.
d: As an example of Regency male fashion see illustration #3 on this page.
e: "5547. Bath coating and duffel are light cloths, with a long nap like a double-raised baize used as winter's dress, for great coats, &c. It is of various colours; also white for women's petticats. Widths 4/4, 7/4, 8/4." - An Encyclopædia of Domestic Economy By Thomas Webster & Mrs. William Parkes. Published by Harper & Brothers, 1855 p 945.
f: Gronow Reminiscences
g: "The great Mr. Stultz, tailor, in Clifford street, who retired to France a few years ago, and was created Baron Stultz, died on the 17th of November, at his estate called Aires, in the South of France, after an illness of nine days. This estate cost him upwards of 100,000£. (we believe 103,000£.) He had another large estate near Baden on the Rhine.— About a year ago the Baron sent the Emperor of| Austria a present of 40,000£. to do with what he pleased, for which present he receive in return the Order of Maria Theresa, and the patent as Count Gothemburg. The Baron had great wealth in the bank at Vienna (Rothehild's.) His property, besides htse estates, exceeded 400,000£." —[Globe.] Quoted in American Railroad Journal and Advocate of Internal Improvements, February 2, 1833, p. 77.
h: List of London master tailors, 1799
i: "Brummell, though not possessing the patronage of a secretary of state, had the power of making men’s fortunes. His principal tailors were Schweitzer and Davidson of Cork street, Weston, and Meyer of Conduit street. Those names have since disappeared, but their memory is dear to dandyism; and many a superannuated man of elegance will give 'the passing tribute of a sigh' to the incomparable neatness of their 'fit,' and the unrivaled taste of their scissors. Schweitzer and Meyer worked for the Prince, and the latter was in some degree a royal favourite, and one of the household. He was a man of genius at his needle; an inventor, who even occasionally disputed the palm of originality with Brummell himself. The point is not yet settled to whom was due the happy conception of the trouser opening at the ankle and closed by buttons. Brummell laid his claim openly, at least to its improvement; while Meyer, admitting the elegance given to it by the tact of Brummell, persisted in asserting his right to the invention. Yet if, as was said of gunpowder and printing, the true inventor is the man who first brings the discovery into renown, the honour is here Brummell’s, for he was the first who established the trouser in the Bond street world." - Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine, Volume 55, No. 344, June, 1844.
j: See under heading 'Jonathan Meyer, Beau Brummel and revolutionising the trouser' on the Meyer and Mortimer website
k: Letter of April 20, 1829, reprinted in Shops and shopping 1800-1914, p. 53.
l: A Journeyman Tailor. Poland Street, Oxford Street. – Notes to the People, by Ernest Jones, 1851, p 991-2
m: Unless otherwise stated information regarding underwear taken from The History of Underclothes by C. Willett and Phillis Cunninngton, the Dover 1992 slightly corrected version, first printed 1951 by Michael Joseph Ltd. London.
n: Old Bailey t18000709-52
o: Old Bailey t18000528-31
p: Old Bailey t18030914-66
q: See for example Old Bailey case t18010520-12, t18030914-66, t18130602-126, t18261026-149
r: Journal published by Richardson, 1821-1823.
s: Neckcloths, p 333, The Literary Speculum – Original essays, criticism, poetry No 5, March 1822.
   Civet is a common source for musk perfume.
t: Data from The Wynne Diaries III, citation in The History of Underclothes, p. 102
u: More mornings at Bow Street: 1827, LIST of Necessarier to be provided by Stoppage 1799, Treatise on military finance 1809


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