Monday, March 22, 2010

Regency Men's Clothing; pants, breeches, pantaloons, oh my!

Any well-heeled gentleman knows the importance of being well-turned out, if he hopes to catch the ladies' eyes, or even be accepted among their peers. Here are what Regency Romance Novel heroes would wear, based on what they really wore in Regency England.

Breeches, (pronounced britches) by the Regency era were considered old-fashioned. They are very baggy through the hips and seat. The exception was buckskin breeches, which are made of leather, and were quite tight, even being well molded to the body, like Levi's. That actually paints a nice visual, doesn't it? ;-)

Most breeches had a front fall which is a flap that covers the front opening. Early in the era the flap was a wide fall, going all the way across from hip to hip (think of the outer seam of the pants we wear today). Later, the fall narrowed, going only from hip-bone to hip-bone. Both falls worked in exactly the same way; the waistband buttoned, usually with 2-3 buttons, then the fall closed like a bib over the otherwise open front area of the pants.

Side by side drawing of wide and narrow falls which comes from:

There was a style called the "French fly", which is a simply a center front fly, but most Regency Englishmen didn't wear this style because they felt the French fly was somehow indecent and shouldn't be seen. In the painting "Passer Payez", Boilly c. 1803. The gentleman in the center is wearing breeches with a "French fly" which, isn't a suprise since it's a French painting. I think it's more flattering. This picture was taken from

Men in Regency England didn't use belts. Instead, pants of all types would have been held up by "X" crossed braces (suspenders). In England it had to do with the length of the waistcoat. When the waistcoat was long enough to cover the front of the trouser, you saw both front-fall and French fly configurations. When fashion shortened the waistcoat, the front-fall was the most popular method of closure. Personally, I don't see much difference in modesty but at the time, it mattered. Shrug.

A pair of breeches, front view, close, c. 1770s.

Back views of same. See how baggy it is?

Buckskin breeches, c. 1790s

1790s breeches, with a close up of the fastening which hides a pocket.

These are the slimmest breeches I've ever seen, and these were made by a reenactor. See how they are still much baggier through the hip than pantaloons?

These breeches are from Sense and Sensibility. Note now baggy they are, and how the fall gapes when the man bends over; Edwards are baggier than Willoughby's, Edward being more conservative in manners and dress, so that's a nice detail.

Buckskin breeches were the jeans of the 19th century. They were comfortable and generally fairly form-fitting, so in my humble opinion, flattering. This is circa 1815. In the detail shots that the waistband comes up higher than the fall, and that the knee has both buttons and ties. This one is my favorite.

On my next post, we'll discuss pantaloons for the Regency Gentleman. 'til then!


Regencyresearcher said...

Always nice to see good pictures of men's clothes-- and men wearing them.

Lesley-Anne McLeod said...

I wonder how the satin or velvet evening breeches were tailored. Bagginess probably wouldn't be appreciated. Are there any originals extant? Paintings are useful, but there is nothing like seeing the originals. Thanks for the information!

Tina Ordone, Regency Romance Writer said...

Great article.

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rayovintage said...

Great article, very informative. I have a pair of late 18th century mens breeches for sale right now on ETSY. My user name is rayovintage, you do not find these very often!

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Anonymous said...

I love you!

I had been searching for the exact breeches you described, buckskin. And it fitted so precisely because in my mind I was searching for the breeches that most easily replicated Levi's, not the baggy nor the saddle ones made of fake materials.
Thank you for what you have contributed in thought and onsight.

Anonymous said...

Hi, I m getting married sson and my Fiance is mad about Jane Austen and I thought it might be nice to make an effort and get a regency style jacket to wear but am having real trouble finding anything suitable. Can anyone help me track something down, preferably in a dark royal/navy blue? Thank you.

Suits said...

Even I have the same problem with you, its so hard to find regency style jacket.

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Irene Ludemann said...

Where can I find a pattern for "sailor front" long breeches? Fife & Drum in CT uniform part. I can modify if necessary.

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Baggy breeches said...

These Jodhpurs are baggy from waist to knee and are tight from knee to ankle.

Horse riding breeches said...

Traditionally styled, zipper at closure, belt loops, French Fly Front and two front pockets.

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What type of clothing would Downeast Mainers wear to climb mountains? My female character will wear men's clothes to climb Schoodic Mountain. Any suggestions would help.

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