History Hoydens


Historical Romance Writers Dishing the Dirt on Research

10 May 2010

No such thing as a good looking bum

Over on Smart Bitches they're discussing a couple of covers that show what I think are supposed to be Regency-era men in breeches. Lots of people seem to think the breeches are too loose and don't fit. Well, they're right about the "don't fit" part . . .

I once had a discussion with my editor about a book where the heroine spends and inordinate amount of time looking at the hero's bum and pontificating about how fine it is. There are multiple problems with this scenario. Firstly, if the man is in a coat (and he was) the tails would obscure his bottom. Secondly, we're glad they do, cause the hinny in this period is not a pretty sight . . .

Because breeches and panataloons were high-waisted and held up by braces, the seat has to be quite full so that he can sit down. And if you're thinking trousers would be a better option, think again. They're even baggier.

Sadly, you heroine will have to wait for a chance to see your hero naked in order to sigh over his fine hind end.


Upper right, Breeches, early 19th century
You can see that these are baggy in the rear.

Middle left, Brummell 1805
You can see that his pantaloons are not skin tight.

Lower right, Breeches, early 19th century
You can see the sagging bottom in this side shot


Blogger Victoria Janssen said...

I adore your posts.

That is all.

1:30 PM  
Blogger Jane O said...

Love this. Nothing like a dose of reality.

I do have a question though. I seem to recall reading somewhere that breeches were frequently made out of a knit fabric of some sort. Pre-Lycra, wouldn't this make them even baggier? (I can remember when that was a problem with nylon stockings.)

Also, given the rather voluminous shirt that got tucked in there, isn't the scenario about the hero's "interest" being so obvious that he has to step behind a chair or some such a bit unlikely?

2:22 PM  
Blogger Tracy Grant said...

Great post and good reminder of the importance of period detail, Kalen!

2:47 PM  
Blogger Kalen Hughes said...

They did make them out of a nice heavy knit (as well as woven fabric*). There's a lovely example in the Victoria & Albert's collection. And yes, when worn the seat would tend to bag out quite badly.

*It's worth noting that today we get a bit of stretch out of woven fabrics by cutting them on the bias. I've never seen this technique employed with Georgian-era garments.

As for the legendary cockstand . . . the hip area is loose enough that I think one would certainly be noticeable.

3:00 PM  
Blogger Kalen Hughes said...

good reminder of the importance of period detail

I think it's one of the things that simply slips past a lot of 21st century people. In "the movie in their head" they see the guy's bum, cause in modern life they would be able to see it. The clothing details only come into play when they're specifically thinking about them.

3:02 PM  
Blogger Diane Whiteside said...

Kalen - a reenactor once reminded me that most people, up until the 20th century or so, spent much of their time squatting to work. It's simply impossible to do so in trousers which are snug around the derriere, no matter how much others might enjoy the view.


4:10 PM  
Blogger librarypat said...

You just ruined the romantic images of many, many women. It makes sense that the breeches and pantaloons would have to be at least a little
loose. Movies and spandex have allowed many to swoon over the hero in his form fitting breeches and high boots as he escorts his fair companion. Really, the image of Mr. Darcy with saggy britches is a bit of a downer.
Thanks for the post.

9:08 PM  
Blogger Leslie Carroll said...

Kalen, I always adore your sartorial "reality checks." It makes me nuts when I read something anachronistic in a novel (costumes from Romancelandia) because I feel like the author didn't bother to do her research, or else is willing to insult the intelligence of her readers who know about period fashions for the sake of a titillating sentence or two.

11:35 AM  
Blogger Kalen Hughes said...

I always just assume they don't know.

A lot of this stuff is hard to understand if you've never made it, worn it, been around people who do. And I don't think it matters to the VAST majority of readers. But it does really matter to me.

2:54 PM  
Blogger Joanne Lockyer said...

Hi Kalen, You'll be pleased to know that when I saw the cover, your Beaumonde workshop was the first thing I thought of! Cheers, Joanne

1:27 AM  
Blogger Louisa Cornell said...

Which answers the question "What is the best way to assess a Regency hero's "ass"ets ? Why, when he's wearing nothing at all !!

5:09 PM  

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