Risky Regencies

Clothes Make the Man (or Woman)

I’ve been thinking about clothes this week. Okay, I know I always think about clothes! I subscribe to far too many fashion magazines, and shop more than I should. But this week even more than usual. There were wedding clothes (for my brother’s wedding, see pics here, plus one I’m attending this afternoon). There was the Horrifying Revelation that a gown Sarah Jessica Parker wore to one of the 450 Sex and the City premiers had (gasp!!!) been worn before. And I was sick for a few days, and laid on the couch watching recordings of Gossip Girl reruns.

Gossip Girl was my newest TV obsession last season. Twisted storylines, snappy writing, sex and drugs (in limos!), revenge through dinner reservations. Despite the disappointingly weak season finale, this is television gold! And what I like best is the fashion, and how it’s used to help define characters. With glamorous events like cotillion balls, masquerades, and, y’know, going to school, every week is a couture wonderland. Balenciaga, Dolce & Gabbana, Chanel! Chuck Bass and his dumb “signature scarf”! Headbands galore! What could be better??

June 7 also marks a milestone for 2 historical figures who knew the power of fashion, and how to use it to get their point across.

Beau Brummell was born on June 7, 1778, and for a time during the Regency his opinion on style and wit held highest sway in Society–until gambling and extravagance, along with quarrels with former BFF the Prince Regent, led to his downfall. He ended up bankrupt and syphilitic, and what’s worse dirty and slovenly, wandering around France. But his style holds sway in menswear to this day. As Byron purportedly said, there was nothing much remarkable about his fashion except “a certain exquisite propriety.”

He established a mode of understated, dark-colored, perfectly fitted and cut clothes, along with an impeccable crisp white cravat. He also emphasized daily bathing, shaving, and tooth-cleaning. It was said he took 5 hours to dress. Would he approve of Chuck Bass’s style of modern dandyism, with seersucker suits, bow ties, and the aforementioned scarf?

For more information, I recommend Ian Kelly’s book Beau Brummell: Ultimate Man of Style. On an unrelated note, I also recommend the show Blackadder the Third, where Blackadder is a servant to Hugh Laurie’s hysterical Prinny. One day Blackadder is reading the paper, with such headlines as “Beau Brummell in purple pants probe” and “King talks to tree–Phew! What a loony.”

June 7 was also the day George Sand died in 1876at age 72. Her refusal to reform to gender conventions of the day led to her use of men’s clothes (she said they were sturdier and cheaper, but they also enabled her to move more freely about Paris and gave her access to mostly-male venues, like restricted libraries and museums and the stalls of the theater). She also (gasp again!!) smoked in public. And had many, many lovers. And wrote 20 pages a night.

Margaret Fuller wrote, “George Sand smokes, wears male attire, wishes to be addressed as Mon frere; perhaps, if she found those who were as brothers indeed, she would not care whether she were a brother or a sister.”

Of course, sometimes no clothes at all is even better…

What have you been wearing (or watching, or thinking about) this week?

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14 years ago

Didn’t George have an affair with Chopin?

Diane Gaston
14 years ago

Didn’t George have an affair with Chopin?

Never mind that, she wrote 20 pages a night??????

Cara King
14 years ago

Maybe they were little pages, Diane. 🙂


Amanda McCabe
14 years ago

“Never mind that, she wrote 20 pages a night????”

I know!!! Astonishing–20 pages AND Chopin (plus several others…)

There’s an entertaining movie called “Impromptu” about Chopin, Sand, etc. Hugh Grant of all people plays Chopin, with a hilarious fake nose!

14 years ago

Who’s the guy in the last photo?

Amanda McCabe
14 years ago

“Who’s the guy in the last photo?”

Richard Armitage!!

14 years ago

Richard Armitage. SIGH! I’d like to wear HIM this summer. Oh! Did I say that out loud?

I have to laugh that the thing we all honed in on was the 20 pages a night! Makes you want to take up wearing men’s clothes, smoking and taking on lovers, doesn’t it? 🙂

I have that movie on DVD, Amanda. It is very entertaining, especially the nose!

I am stuck wearing khaki slacks and navy shirts – the current Wal-Mart uniform. Why in God’s name they would make me wear a navy shirt when I work with WHITE icing, for the most part, is beyond me!

It has been a while since I shopped for really nice clothes, but I am using the excuse of the conference in San Francisco to do just that! The best part? I am pulling out some of the @ 200 pairs of shoes I own to match them to my outfits! These are shoes that were part of my allowance as a member of the opera company. Gotta’ love a job where you get a shoe allowance! Of course I haven’t bought a new pair of dress shoes in about 15 years, but the ones I have are labeled and lovingly preserved each in their own plastic shoe box. A girl can never have too many shoes!

Mallory Pickerloy
14 years ago

Great post Amanda!

I find George very fascinating.

In the past I could write 70 pages in one night. All night-Upon a ‘good night’.
That was with being a recluse, no lovers, ect. (by choice) However I did wear mens clothes.(by choice) Well, mens inspired anyways. Like Greta Garbo style.

I still can write that many in these recent years, on ‘good days’ or ‘nights’ for that mater. I still also wear the clothes (as is my personal style).

14 years ago

I was going to write something deep or, at the very least, witty but then I saw Richard and my mind wandered.

Still impressed by 20 pages a night while having many lovers. Talk about multi-tasking!

Diane Gaston
14 years ago

I have to laugh that the thing we all honed in on was the 20 pages a night! Makes you want to take up wearing men’s clothes, smoking and taking on lovers, doesn’t it? 🙂

Sigh. I’ve tried all that, O Doggie One. I still can’t write 20 pages a night!

Mallory, I’m impressed that you CAN write that much! Wow.

Amanda McCabe
14 years ago

Doglady, you are right–it makes NO sense to make you wear navy with white icing flying around!! I went shopping for some summer dresses for work and RWA yesterday, and they were having a great sale at Dillards. Maybe I need to borrow some of your shoes, though. 🙂

“I was going to write something deep or, at the very least, witty but then I saw Richard and my mind wandered.”

LOL! Mine tends to do that, too. 🙂 I have even willingly sat through episodes of BBC’s “Robin Hood” to see him in his leather outfits. I just found out he played Monet in a BBC series about the Impressionists, which is now on my Netflix list.

14 years ago

My relationship with clothes can be summarized quite briefly:

“I don’t know much about fashion, but I know what I don’t like.” 🙂

I love the film Impromptu, though I gather that the depiction of George Sand was not too close to her historical character–at least, I’ve seen one citation that claimed that in spite of her scandalous behavior she was actually quite shy in company. But I certainly wouldn’t claim that to be definitive, especially since I can’t remember where I read it. 🙂


Keira Soleore
14 years ago

Loved Impromptu. Good acting all around.

200 pairs?!?! Pam, you’re a true diva.

Can’t get into Gossip Girls; love the fashion though. And I adored Sex and the City. Am dying to see it again.

Keira Soleore
14 years ago

Santa, I don’t think George wrote and did other extracurricular stuff at the same time. No multitasking. 🙂

That picture of Armitage. le sigh He’s beautiful.

R. M. Wittingslow
14 years ago

A friendly message from your friends at Dandyism.net:

At the moment, you’ve just linked the posted image to our server, instead of uploading it onto your own. If you could rectify the situation, it would be greatly appreciated; we don’t particularly enjoy paying bandwidth charges so people can look at sites that aren’t ours.

Thank you, and if you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to email me at ryan@dandyism.net.

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