Sunday, June 12, 2011

The Cravat

As there is a sad lack of information available out there for men's fashion during the Regency era I thought I would dedicate this post to the gentlemen.

The cravat is a neckband, the forerunner of the modern tailored necktie and bow tie, originating from 17th century Croatia.[2]
From the end of the 16th century, the term band applied to any long-strip neck cloth that was not a ruff. The ruff, a starched, pleated white linen strip, originated earlier in the 16th century as a neck cloth (readily changeable, to minimize the soiling of a doublet), as a bib, or as a napkin. A band could be either a plain, attached shirt collar or a detachable "falling band" that draped over the doublet collar. It is possible that cravats were initially worn to hide shirts which were not immaculately clean.

The cravat originated in the 1630s; like most men's fashions between the 17th century and World War I, it was of military origin. In the reign of Louis XIII of France, Croatian mercenaries[4] were enlisted into a regiment supporting the King and Cardinal Richelieu against the Duc de Guise and the Queen Mother, Marie de Medici. The traditional Croat military kit aroused Parisian curiosity about the unusual, picturesque scarves distinctively knotted at the Croats' necks; the cloths that were used, ranged from the coarse cloths of enlisted soldiers, to the fine linens and silks of the officers. The sartorial word "cravat" derives from the French "cravate," a corrupt French pronunciation of "Croat" — in Croatian, "Hr̀vāt".
Considering the interdependence of many European regions (particularly the French) with the Venetian Republic, which occupied most of Croatia's coast, and the word's uncertain philologic origin, the new male neck dress was known as a cravate. The French readily switched from old-fashioned starched linen ruffs to the new loose linen and muslin cravates; the military styles often had broad, laced edges, while a gentleman's cravat could be of fine lace. As an extreme example of the style, the sculptor Grinling Gibbons carved a realistic cravat in white limewood which is now on display at Chatsworth House.

On returning to England from exile in 1660, Charles II imported with him the latest new word in fashion: "A cravatte is another kind of adornment for the neck being nothing else but a long towel put about the Collar, and so tied before with a Bow Knott; this is the original of all such wearing; but now by the Art and Inventions of the seamsters, there is so many new ways of making them, that it would be a task to name, much more to describe them". (Randle Holme, Academy of Armory and Blazon, 1688.)

During the wars of Louis XIV of 1689–1697, except for court, the flowing cravat was replaced with the more current and equally military "Steinkirk", named after the Battle of Steenkerque in 1692. The Steinkirk was a long, narrow, plain or lightly trimmed neck cloth worn with military dress, wrapped once about the neck in a loose knot, with the lace of fringed ends twisted togetherand tucked out of the way into a button-hole, either of the coat or the waistcoat. The steinkirk was popular with men and women until the 1720s.

The maccaronis reintroduced the flowing cravat in the 1770s, and the manner of a man's knotting it became indicative of his taste and style, to the extent that after the Battle of Waterloo (1815) the cravat, itself, was referred to as a "tie". Wikipedia)

When attending a Regency Ball with my boyfriend a few years ago we ran into problems when it came to his clothes. For starters, he doesn't reenact so a military uniform was out of the question. Secondly, making him his own clothes for one ball seemed a ridiculous waste of money and time for me to invest in. This left us with the option of renting a costume from one of the local costume warehouses. In turn this provided us with another obstacle- The men’s Regency clothes were way too costume-y and were poorly fitted to my boyfriend’s broad shoulders. After he tried on many bright blue and green colored tail coats I was ready to pull my hair out at the lack of refinement placed in the clothes. Finally I found myself a rack of black tailcoats that were formed perfectly for a refined Regency gentlemen. That with the proper pair of Regency pants, a white linen dress shirt, a black brocade vest and a top hat my gentlemen was beginning to take shape.

The last thing needed was a cravat- and of course here I was disappointed as the shop only had ruffs! What Regency gentlemen would be caught dead in a ruff! Certainly not mine. Luckily sewing a quick cravat was easy and could be done in a pinch. I allowed my gentlemen to pick which way he wished his cravat to be tied and away we went!

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