With Bertie Carvel cutting a dashing figure in the upcoming Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell (BBC AMERICA, Saturday, June 13 at 10/9c), you could be forgiven for wanting to follow in his footsteps to try and get that distinctive, 19th century gentleman look.
An important thing to note about Strange & Norrell is that it’s set just prior to the Victorian era, so the more stiff, austere look popularized by Charles Dickens adaptations isn’t quite the right look. Instead, the first three decades of the 19th century form what is known as the Regency era, as they include the decade during which Prince George ruled the United Kingdom as proxy due to the illness of King George III. This era was essentially a transitional period between the Georgian and Victorian styles, so while some of the flamboyance of the previous time remained, there was a shift towards darker, more subtle colors and an increasing sense of conservative formality. Perhaps the biggest influences were the clothing of the French Revolution and formal riding wear.
Strange & Norrell costume designer Barbara Kidd says, “We meet the dissolute Jonathan Strange as a young blade living in Shropshire. His clothes are suited to his disapproved occupation of riding horses and drinking, made of sturdy fabrics, full seated breeches and top boots.
“Being found by a profession—magician—and marrying, he is dressed for London life. He wears stockings, breeches and clean linen with patterned silk or velvet waistcoats, and fashionable coats from facecloth or moleskin with close fitting shoulders, curved sleeves and as yet cut without a waist seam.”
Some of the items that make up the costumes of characters such as Jonathan Strange, Mr. Norrell and the Gentleman may be difficult to source exactly in the present day, but hopefully our guide will help you find the closest equivalents possible.
1. Hair — The fashion for gentlemen during the Regency era was to wear hair heavily curled or otherwise brushed upwards on top. Strange himself has hair slightly longer than the style of the time and rather than being styled with wax, as began to become common during this era, it seems to be more unkempt and allowed to flow out to the sides. If you’re not blessed with the flowing locks of Bertie Carvel, you may need a dark wig to get the desired effect. Mr. Norrell, meanwhile, wears a Georgian-style wig—most likely made of horsehair—and its rather battered and fading nature gives away the fact that such wigs were largely going out of fashion by the time the Regency era began.
2. Shirt — Simple linen or cotton shirts are the order of the day, and, crucially, with no extra adornments such as the frilly cuffs of the previous era. With the collar high-standing to the jaw line, top it off with a simple cravat, probably made of silk, in beige or white. The Gentleman wears a more ostentatious, frilly cravat, more in keeping with the previous era rather than the simplicity of the Regency. “Neckwear, with stocks and shirts both white as the fashion, was becoming increasingly important and was frequently changed,” Kidd adds.
3. Waistcoat — Large, high-waisted waistcoats were the fashion, as can be seen from Strange’s lapels that reach almost to his neck and are visible under his coat. If you can’t get the exact combination of burgundy-brown and gold, any similar color will do. While many waistcoats of the time were double-breasted, Strange’s are single.
4. Tailcoat — The classic tailcoat is the most distinctive icon of the Regency era and easily the most stylish part of Strange’s outfit. It should be cut high at the back of the neck, cut away at the waist, and with tails that reach down to the backs of the knees. Made of a thick, dark green wool, it’s double-breasted, with gold or brass buttons. Finally, it should ideally have the distinctive “M notch” lapels that were unique to the Regency period.
5. Breeches — We’re not quite in the era of trousers just yet, although they were on the way. Instead, breeches had reached their longest point, reaching to just below the knees or where the tops of boots would be if worn. Simple beige, with three buttons at the side. The stockings beneath should be gray or white.
6. Shoes — Buckled shoes, as popular in the Georgian era, were on the way out, but the message evidently hadn’t got to Jonathan Strange yet, so you can wear a shiny black pair with gold-colored buckles. Mr. Norrell’s look more like slip-ons from a distance, but do still have small buckles. Both are low-cut around the ankle.
7. Accessories — To complete the look you’ll want to carry, but not necessarily wear, a tall top hat with a curved brim. And a cane is perhaps the most de rigeur accessory of the era.Read More