Jessica's Costume History Page
Tying a Regency Cravat
One item of interest that characterized the regency man’s attire was his cravat or, neckcloth. Those of you who have seen Leslie Howard as the elegantly foppish Sir Percy in The Scarlet Pimpernel, will know how essential a well-tied cravat is to the distinguished gentleman. While it does achieve the much desired, “dandy” image, of the times, tying one is (pun fully intended) quite a pain in the neck.
On my first attempt, I began by trying to tie my cravat around my own neck. This quickly proved to be too advanced for my unpracticed fingers so I used the excellent suggest of my lower leg as a “neck”. The cloth I used (a strip with dimensions of about 6"x55") was quite stiff in and of itself, having been some type of drapery at one point in it’s life, so I thankfully did not need to use any starch. I began with the seemingly simple looking “Mathematical” design but then realized I had forgotten the two vertical pleats when I began and my knot looked horrendous as well. I quickly turned it into a “Mailcoach” by covering the failure knot with one end of the tie and the result was admittedly better.
Feeling slightly more competent in my cravat tying skills I turned to my family for “cravat models”. One sister ran yelling from the room. I then found the dog, who proved a far more patient *ahem* victim, but I was hindered in that her neck was much larger then that of a human’s. After managing another Mailcoach on her, (even if somewhat shorter then desired), I found one of my siblings who was willing to let me use his neck as a model. With his help (and patience) I tried a variety of ties, using both the stiff cloth and a lightweight knit scarf I had found. My conclusions are as follows: (a.) there is no reason on earth anyone should want to tie a cravat, but if you insist I shall move on to (b.) If you begin by wrapping your cloth around the front of your neck first, rather then the back, you will get better results with a shorter cloth. (c.)The neater you can tie a knot, (a gordion knot is the one generally used), the neater the overall appearance of your cravat will be. (d.) While the stiffer fabric is better for ties with intricate pleats and/or smooth surfaces like the Oriental, Mathematical or American, softer ties like the Mailcoach or Waterfall come out better when used with the knit scarf.
The photo’s will, once I get them developed, give you a visual of what exactly it is I’m talking about. And yes, I promise, I will include the dog’s cravat.