Friday, January 29, 2010

The Joy of Being Properly Tied Up

from Emily Bryan . . .

I did a post on Regency men's fashions at this week that my readers seemed to enjoy. Thought I'd carry on the theme here with cravats. They were the precursers of the modern necktie, but were tied in more unique configurations than an origami master can imagine to fold a square of paper.

How a man chose to tie his cravat revealed a good deal about his taste and sense of self. (And, one might argue, the nimbleness of his valet's fingers!)

In case you are unable to read names of the styles pictured here they are, left to right-
Top row - Oriental, Mathematical, Osbaldston
Second row - Napolean, American, Mailcoach
Third row - Trone d'amour, Irish, Ballroom
Fourth Row - Horse collar, Hunting, Maharata
Botttom Row - Gordion knot, Barrel knot

Cravats were always of white linen, and heavily starched to hold their shape (part of what made the cravat such an effective weapon for my heroine in A CHRISTMAS BALL, when she ripped the scratchy, stiff cloth off my hero's neck!). Later, the flowing "Waterfall" style was popularized by the poet Byron and less starch was required. When Beau Brummell, the arbiter of Regency sartorial splendor, fled to France (after alienating the Prince Regent with his infamous "Who's your fat friend?" remark) other colors besides white were introduced.

So what was the appeal of the cravat?

As with all fashion, the point is to be more attractive to the opposite sex. IMO, the lure of the elegantly tied cravat is in imagining how much fun it would be to untie it!

What do you think? Sometimes fashion goes to ridiculous lengths. What male fashion, past or present, do you think crosses the line into obsession or just plain weirdness?


Mary Anne Landers January 29, 2010 at 6:46 PM  

Thank you for your post on cravats, Emily. I hadn't realized the way a strip of cloth is tied could reveal so much about a man!

In response to your question about men's fashions that crossed the line, the most ridiculous one I've read about must be the Renaissance codpiece. Yeah, that! It was sometimes made of cloth with contrasting colors in order to stand out, or padded in order to---well, that should be obvious.

Most ridiculous fashions I know about were/are for women. That probably says a lot about our culture and that of times past.

Keep up the good work!

EmilyBryan January 30, 2010 at 4:58 AM  

OMGosh, yes, Mary Anne! I have seen suits of armor with iron plated erections! I suppose they intended to intimidate their opponent with this obvious evidence of their masculinity, but it's just too funny!

And on a more personal note, I have mention a blast from my DH's past--a pair of plaid ORANGE pants. Honestly, you could see him coming from 8 blocks away.

librarypat January 30, 2010 at 5:49 PM  

In many historicals they mention the gaudy colors of the men's clothing and the high points of their collars.
I can just picture some young man strutting his stuff in a lime green and orange striped coat and a pointed collar high enough to keep him from being able to turn his head.

EmilyBryan January 31, 2010 at 5:58 AM  

In the 18th century especially the men were absolute peacocks. If you've seent the movie Dangerous Liaisons or Casanova, you know what I mean.

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