Thursday, September 30, 2010

"Your Clothes May Be Beau Brummell-y"

The first time I remember hearing the name Beau Brummell is in the 1980's musical Annie - the lyrics of "You're Never Fully Dressed Without a Smile" use the term "Beau Brummell-y" to describe a dapper wardrobe. (Of course I had no idea to what it referenced when I was 7 years old, I only figured out the wordplay several years later.) I assumed when starting this blog that anyone interested in Regency Men's Fashion would understand the reference in my title, but I'm realizing now that with the current Austen obsession ("Mr. Darcy" this and "Mr. Knightley" that), a little background on Brummell might be useful here.

During the social and political upheaval of the late 18th century in Europe, overdone fabrics and frippery went out of style (who wants to look like an aristocrat when they're all getting their heads chopped off??) and fashion was simplified. Women's fashion took its cue from Classical ideals, and for men, country clothing became the new trend in town. Breeches and stockings were out. Brightly colored brocade coats were out. Now men wore long trousers and a dark woolen coat (exquisitely tailored, of course) to be fashionable.

1805 Caricature of Beau Brummell
Beau Brummell made a name for himself with high society as a leader of fashion, right during this major turning point for men's clothing. He did not invent the new fashion, but he dictated the right and wrong way to wear it. He determined that the effect should be subtle and elegant, and worked hard to make it look easy and natural. He employed various tailors and hairstylists to help achieve his desired look, and would spend hours dressing and went through piles of cravats every day. The Prince Regent himself watched Brummell dress to learn the tricks!

Miniature Portrait of
Beau Brummell

The male mode of dress developed during the early 19th century has set the tone for menswear to this day. Even in this age of jeans and t-shirts, no man's wardrobe is considered complete without a tailored suit of dark wool. And luckily for me, it's easier to convince a guy to dress "period" in a coat and trousers than a doublet and petticoat breeches!

There are some great resources if you want to learn more about Beau Brummell and his cohorts - Wikipedia, of course, and lately I've also been enjoying reading An Elegant Madness: High Society in Regency England. I missed Beau Brummell: This Charming Man but want to see it someday!


  1. Neat!
    I'm really loving your blog :)
    I loved reading An Elegant Madness. That was a really interesting book!

  2. No one ever mentions that, in that miniature of Brummell, he is wearing something that looks suspiciously like his Eton school uniform, meaning he is probably only about 15 years old there.