Regency Gentlemen's Dress

In the chapter on Empire/Regency ladies clothing you will have become acquainted with the terms “Full Dress”, “Half Dress” and “Undress”. This applies to gentlemen as well. 

“Undress” describes informal clothes to be worn around the house and in a close family circle. Clothing for everyday life was “Half Dress”, in which men would go out, receive company and attend public but not formal events. The cravats were not tied so elaborately and the fabrics were simpler, wool or linen. The height of attire, “Full Dress”, being the most formal and elegant attire, can be compared to modern black or white tie clothes and made from luxurious materials.


A man's wardrobe across the social ranks consisted of shirts, pants, waist coats, coats, cravats, socks, shoes and hats (top hats usually). They chiefly differed in the newness of the articles, quality of the materials and number of owned garments in total. The colour palette available to a Regency gentleman comprised mainly sober colours: dark blue, brown, black, grey, green shades from dark to olive green, beige/cream and white. Nonetheless, brightly patterned waistcoats and neck kerchiefs were worn as well.


Colin Firth's 1995 Pride and Prejudice edition's rendition of Mr Darcy emerging from a Pemberley lake dripping wet in a linen shirt has fixed the Regency hero and his shirt firmly in popular culture. Season 2 of Bridgerton references this scene when male lead Anthony Bridgerton dives into a lake in his shirt, observed by female lead Kate. Shirts were made of fine linen. The sleeves had some fullness and were gathered at the shoulder seam. Regency shirts could be buttoned for several inches down the front but not all the way down, or just have a slit which was covered by the neck kerchief. The shirts had collars which, when starched, would stand up and - depending on the precise year and its fashion - reach up to or even over the chin and frame the face. The collars were not folded down, standing up high and forcing the wearer to hold their head high. Long cravats/neck kerchiefs were wound and tied around the neck in ornamental knots.

Over the shirt a waist coat (or several over each other) is worn. These vests were rather close fitting, fastened double or single breasted with buttons in the front and could be laced at the lower back to fit at the small of the back. They had standing collars that framed the elaborate cravats. The snow-white cravats were a scarf-like long rectangular piece of fine fabric tied closely to the neck in more or less complex knots. They even prevented turning the head because they sat so close. Today cravats are still not very comfortable but back then it must really have been agony. Beau Brummel, the absolute Regency gentleman and dandy loved white cravats.


The waist coat was followed by a tailcoat when the gentleman left the house. This coat could be either single or double breasted and had long tails. Travelling coats or those for horseback riding had to brave the rain and were thus often reinforced by several cape layers over the shoulders. As Catherine Morland in Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey thinks about Henry Tilney when driven by him in his carriage: “And then his hat sat so well, and the innumerable capes of his greatcoat looked so becomingly important!


A Regency Fall-Front Construction for Men's Trousers © Epochs of Fashion
A Regency Fall-Front Construction for Men's Trousers © Epochs of Fashion

Trousers/Breeches were high cut, reaching up to the belly. In a deviation from the colourful styles of the Georgian era when men wore pink, bright green and canary yellow, Regency trousers were generally made of subdued tones, such as cream or light brown or blue cloth and had a flap in the front that was fastened with buttons. This front construction is called a Fall-Front and could be either a “broad fall” or a “narrow fall”.


For events like balls and evening parties breeches were the dictate of the moment. These breeches just covered the knee and were buttoned with same-fabric buttons either in dark shades like black, blue or green or (cream-)white. They were worn with white knee-length stockings.


Modenzeitung, ca. 1830
Modenzeitung, ca. 1830



Regency gentlemen had different shoes for different occasions. For outdoor activities like promenading, transacting business or travelling boots were worn.

Very popular were boots reaching to the knees made of two tones of leather: about the foot and halfway up the calf it was black, then followed a caramel brown or auburn section.

Another common type of boots were "Hessians". At first the footwear for members of the military Hessians made their way into fashion. These black boots reached to the knees and had very low heels. The semi-pointed toe made horseback riding and using stirrups uncomplicated. At the top of each shaft in the front sits an ornamental tassel, normally cream-white or silver in contrast to the dark shoe.


Dancing required light footwear that moreover had to fit perfectly to prevent the shoes from flying off when dancing rapidly. Men's footwear for balls was very like to ballet shoes with no heel and made of light material. Slippers were the common footwear for other evening or indoor events. Generally black, these slippers were buckled (for formal occasions) or tied with bows.


Chatelaine, London, 18th century. Museu del Disseny, Barcelona. Photo: Epochs of Fashion
Chatelaine, London, 18th century. Museu del Disseny, Barcelona. Photo: Epochs of Fashion



Like the ladies, gentlemen carried a variety of accessories with them. Canes were established accessories for promenading and walking about the town, they had emerged from the period when men carried swords with them.

Besides gloves and a wallet a Regency gentleman generally carried a pocket watch with him. The ornamental task of watches was quite as important as the practical function to check the time. A watch indicated wealth and it was carried on a watch chain or string in a small fob pocket on the right to protect the delicate timepiece. This fob pocket in the pants has survived to the present day where many pairs of jeans still have tiny pockets inside the normal pockets.

Watch chains made of precious metal or satin watch strings enabled the men to get out their watches quickly and prevent him from fishing in the tiny pocket for it. The colours of watch strings were either dark ones like black or grey or scarlet red. Watch strings were by far more common among gentlemen than chains. These watch chains or strings were long enough to show for several inches from under the waistcoat and had not only a watch attached to them but normally also a seal and dangling little trinkets. Tassels, a locked with the beloved’s hair or a miniature portrait can be frequently seen.

The word "fob" (not to be confused with "fop" which would relate rather to the wearer) meant at first only the pocket, then the whole watch chain, or string, and ultimately the whole lot of ornaments dangling from the end of the visible string or chain. 



  • Laughing Moon Mercantile Patterns
  • Black Snail Patterns
  • Kannik's Korner
  • Butterick 6573 (Tailcoat)
  • Burda 2471 (Napoleonic Uniform)
  • Burda 2767 (Trousers, waistcoat, tailcoat and coat)
  • Reconstructing History 806 "1820s Frock Coat and Great Coat" (zwei Gehröcke der 1820er Jahre)
  • Reconstructing History 818 "Regency Men's Great Coat" (Reise-/Kutschermantel)

© Epochs of Fashion