Bits and Bobs
Updated: Mar 13
Bits and Bobs
Some of the little details about Regency things.
Though my first book, Joy to My Love, was set in the Regency period, I did not need to include a lot of the trappings of the things we consider Regency because my characters were from the poorer class. However, with Miss Glendenning’s Spy, I have included a lot more of the typical upper- and middle-class Regency society. This blog touches on a few things that may be not well-known about that time, especially for people who do not read a lot of Regency novels.
Gentlemen in those days were as conscious of dress as the women. Looking good was as essential to them as for the women. A man called Beau Brummel was the epitome of the well-dressed gentleman and influence men’s clothing of the period. This young Englishman, Zach McLeod, does more than cosplay but dresses like a Regency gentleman for his everyday attire. This video about him shows you what a Regency gentleman typically wore. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b01S7EBQztk
There were even nicknames for the way gentlemen dressed. This blog gives a good description. My characters are mostly military men so they get to wear uniforms, except for Sir Richard who would be more on the subdued dandy line. Minerva thinks he looks like a Corinthian which is a name for a man interested in sports and who looks athletic unlike other men who perhaps padded their shoulders or even padded their calves to look athletic.
Though a man’s jacket and breeches or trousers (fashion was changing about this time) were subdued, their waistcoats (vest, US and Canada) were often colorful. The most notable piece of men’s clothing was the collars, stocks, and neckcloth or cravat which were often tied in elaborate ways. See this blog which gives you more about Regency cravats than you probably ever wanted to know. https://regencygentleman.wordpress.com/2016/06/04/cravats-and-stocks-regency-neckwear/ . Here’s another one by Zach on how to prepare and tie a cravat. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q4jQnMRsBSU There are several other videos and blogs about Regency cravats. This one mentions the Belcher, which I have Richard wear and which he rips off to use as a tourniquet when he gets gored by the bull. https://mmbennetts.wordpress.com/2009/08/31/a-gentleman-ties-his-cravat/ So if you read any other Regency novels, you know what’s what about cravats.
Here are two examples that I snapped from the Scottish National Gallery in Edinburgh. I couldn’t tell you the names of the ties. If you noticed in Zach’s videos and in the Frenchman’s below they wear frilled shirts. I made Richard’s shirt plain when he met with the guerrilleros and frilled when going to balls and other official functions.
James Wauchope 1767-1797 by Sir Henry Raeburn
Portrait of a Man (French) 1809 by François-Xavier Fabre
Uniforms were as fashionable as the clothing for civilians. Officers, especially the higher up such as generals, admirals, etc. were festooned with ribbons and medals.
Richard would eventually wear his Royal Engineer uniform at the end of the book. http://www.warof1812.ca/artificers.htm
Here are some French uniforms : https://regency-explorer.net/uniform/
Jane Austen and Co bring various lecturers for fascinating discussions. The one in 2021 and 2022 were about the Regency period and Asia. I attended the lecture by Hilary Davidson, a dress historian, on the Regency and India. One little tidbit of information was how spices were shipped with muslins, the fabric that was worn by most people in the period. It meant that the fabric arrived sweetly scented by the aroma of spices. Though not mentioned, I’m sure that the scent also repelled insects. No need for cedar chests.
See also her website. Hilary Davidson dress historian. http://www.hilarydavidson.net/
Here's a short video showing how women dressed in the Regency period. (skip ads to get to the video) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0W36w-PT9ic
Pockets for Regency Women
I don’t know about you, but I dislike not having pockets in my pants and dresses. With the slim line of the women’s Regency dress you’d think they didn’t have pockets. Not so. They managed to sneak in some pockets under those dresses though it is doubtful that they wore pockets for balls and other illustrious occasions. https://riskyregencies.com/2019/05/17/pockets-in-the-regency-and-beyond/
Who knew that there were so many passionate articles about pockets. Here are a couple that refute the idea that a woman lost her pockets in the Regency era and had to use reticules. , https://www.lyv-on.com/where-did-our-pockets-go
https://www.vam.ac.uk/articles/womens-tie-pockets Victoria and Albert Museum
Scents and Snuff
The smells of the period would have been quite pungent, but both ladies and gentlemen had their colognes. Gentlemen also had scented snuff (a finely ground tobacco that was snuffed up the nose). Snuff was often made to order and scented to taste. It was kept in small snuff boxes to fit in a pocket or in a larger ones which could be shared with friends. These boxes became quite ornate. https://www.acsilver.co.uk/shop/pc/snuff-box-history-d130.htm
Women were more likely to use flowery scents such as lavender, rosewater and sandalwood. Here’s a delightful blog about perfumes from the Regency and even older times. https://www.austenauthors.net/perfume-in-the-regency But men used perfume too. Here’s another blog specifically about men’s cologne. I was intrigued enough to try to get a cologne from one of the stores, but they cannot mail them to the USA. So, once I knew the blend, many of which I already had as essential oils, I tried creating the Albany cologne. It is very pleasant, sort of citrusy. https://thecozydrawingroom.com/2016/07/03/how-to-smell-like-a-regency-era-gentleman/
Letter Locking :
Letter locking has been around for many years and were used by spies and also lovers. There's even a website dedicated to letter locking that shows you how to do it. http://letterlocking.org/
Here are two videos, one showing Sir Francis Walsingham's triangular letter lock. He was Queen Elizabeth I's spymaster. The second video is of the last letter written by Mary Queen of Scots.
I have Harry letterlock his literary coded letter to Minerva using a spiral letterlock. The point of letterlocking is to deter people opening them up. If they were found the have been opened, then the writers/receivers would know that the letter had been tampered with and take precautions. Although Minerva and Harry use literary codes, Purse, Sir Richard, and Huw used a coded message with a key which could use letters or numbers. You probably didn't notice the little detail of Sir Richard having a ring that had hieroglyphics. He would have used this stamp on hot sealing wax to show who the message was from.
Dancing in the Regency Period
There were formal dances such as the cotillion but many dances were similar to English or Scottish country dances. I attended a retreat in which we learnt how to do Regency dances. Some were fairly slow, but others like the Scots reel were quite vigorous. The waltz that came into fashion from the Continent at that time, was not similar to the waltz as we know it today. But it did put the male and female dancers in close proximity so it was deemed daring and a young woman at her first ball was not allowed to dance it or she would be thought "fast" (flirtatious, flaunting). Think of Lydia from the Pride and Prejudice and how her dancing is too exuberant.
I had to turn to The Guardian’s cryptic crossword puzzle to make up a riddle for Minerva to solve. When I worked in London at the Foreign Office (Diplomatic Service) there was always a copy of The Times cryptic crossword on a desk. Throughout the day, we would all try solving clues which were often very clever. There were whoops when a clue was solved as well as groans when the answer was obvious or had a pun. I could not get access to The Times crossword as I would have to pay for a subscription. But I did find free access to The Guardian. As I’ve been out of the habit of doing cryptic crosswords, this online version helped me solve clues. I surprised myself by actually solving some of them, especially if I knew the first letter. Americans may find these difficult as there are some British cultural references.