TROUSERED BEFORE HIS TIME?

Regent

Writers about the Regency period and the Prince of Wales credit Beau Brummel with influencing him in the wearing of trousers, and relate that they did not come into general use until about 1800, and particularly that the Prince was apparently strongly opposed to people wearing the things in his company.  Since Brummel didn’t meet the Prince until 1794, what was Prinny doing wearing trousers in 1788 I wonder?

He had previously sometimes ordered his tailor Louis Bazalgette to supply trousers or pantaloons, but these were only as part of certain military uniforms.  Suddenly, in 1788 he began to order many pairs of trousers.  It is not suggested that these were for evening wear.  It looks as this was not acceptable in polite society until some years later. 

However, this evidence is important as a ‘mythbuster’ I think.

The Prince ordered no pairs of trousers in 1786 and a few in 1787, e.g, ‘2 pair India dimity trousers & all materials at 36/- each’ on the 7th July, ‘2 pair nankeen trousers as usual – 36/- each’ on the 23rd July and a ‘a pair nankeen trousers’ on 24th August. 
On 30th March 1788, the Hussar uniform that Prinny ordered (mentioned in an earlier blog) naturally included trousers to match.  On 19th June he ordered ‘a pair nankeen col’d cotton stocking trowsers’ and another pair on the 21st.  On 27th June ‘a pair nankeen trousers as usual’.

Other orders for trousers in July 1788 are listed below:
5th July:
To a pair slate col’d cotton trousers
To a pair nankeen do.
2 pair nankeen trousers – 38/- each
8th July:
Altering 2 pair cotton stocking trousers
To a pair dark green cotton trousers
To a pair slate col’d do.
15th July:
Altering 6 pair stocking breeches & 2 pair trousers at 18d each
16th July:
To a pair nankeen stocking trousers
18th July:   
2 pair nankeen trousers – 38/-
Altering 10 pair breeches 7 trousers & bringing the fall downs & for stuff – 2/- each
19th July:   
To a pair nankeen cotton trousers
To a pair olive col’d do.
24th July   
To a pair dark brown trousers
To a pair nankeen  do.
To a pair patent do. do.
Altering 9 pair breeches & trousers – 2/- each

So there you have it! 14 pairs just in July! Prinny was more trousered than you thought!

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12 Responses to TROUSERED BEFORE HIS TIME?

  1. nicholasstorey says:

    So Prinny was up there, pre-French Revolution, with the sans culottes!

  2. Charles Bazalgette says:

    I hadn’t thought of it that way, I must say! I don’t think it was a political statement though. However, since George supported Fox, and Fox and several other prominent Whigs were at least initially sympathetic to the revolution, maybe there is something in it….

  3. paulgrassart says:

    This is just great. Another myth busted indeed.In France, trousers were indeed a political statement, as a symbol of the Tiers-Etat deputation (before 1789). I’ve never searched traces of anglomania as early as 1787, your discovery gives some food for thoughts…

  4. Charles Bazalgette says:

    Thank, you Paul. I will have to analyze further accounts to see how the trouser-wearing trend developed and what its effects were.

  5. nicholasstorey says:

    I think that this shows clearly that Prinny was on the way to evening pantaloons before Brummell succeeded in making them acceptable around 1815 for evening wear at Almack’s ballroom and it might even be that Prinny wore them in a close social circle as the subsequent PoW(Edward VII), later took to the less formal dinner jacket, in place of the dress coat, under the influence of Lord Dupplin.

  6. nicholasstorey says:

    Another point is that Meyer & Mortimer say that it was around 1800 that either Brummell or Meyer thought up the footstrap for daytime pantaloons (leading to the adoption of the military ‘overalls’, which even the sartorially uninterested George Orwell later liked so much). Brummell’s evening pantaloons seem to have buttoned over the ankle and, by around 1815, they seem to have become acceptable at Almack’s. Do you have anything in the LB records suggesting that footstraps appeared on Prinny’s daytime trousers/pantaloons before 1800 and/or anything about Prinny ordering of pantaloons that buttoned over the ankle? I ask because most of Meyer & Mortimer’s records were lost to a bomb in WWII and, therefore, their account is part of an oral tradition (nothing wrong with that) but it is unsupported by full, written records and accounts. The reference to ‘stocking trousers’ in the LB records I take to be possible references to what was being called ‘stockinette’ in relation to evening breeches in the last Court guidance for alternative evening dress (as Court dress) in 1939. The fact that the records also refer to ‘stocking breeches’ suggests that it might have been the material of which they were made, rather than that they were trousers to be worn with stockings – because breeches were obviously to be worn with stockings. However, there is a reference also to ‘nankeen stocking trousers’ and nankeen was not an evening cloth. On the other hand, there might be a suggestion that Prinny was ordering stockinette breeches and stockinette trousers for evening wear – maybe for use in private. It is not clear. I was also wondering whether you have in the LB records any actual patterns for the clothes that LB made for Prinny?

  7. Charles Bazalgette says:

    You raise some interesting points, Nicholas, to which I’ll have an initial stab at trying to answer. These is no mention of straps or buttons in connection with these trousers (that I have seen so far). There may be mentions later. After I have finished transcribing 1788 I plan to do 1795 to make a bit of a change and to have something to compare with the earlier records. Breeches had ‘strings’ but that is all that is mentioned as far as fastenings is concerned.’Stocking’ is a term I haven’t quite come to grips with. It seems to be used in a variety of ways. Sometimes as a type of cloth – in this case it suggests it was the weave or knit of the cloth which made it stretchy I expect. So I agree that ‘stocking trousers’ probably were made from a cloth of this type. Stocking breeches (see my earlier blog which describes beautifully how to make them) were cut to make the best use of any stretch in the cloth, but they could be made of almost any material including cotton and silk. Then there are the German stocking breeches of the same period (Strumpfhosen) which were actually knitted like stockings.We might ask Jason on the Cutter & Tailor site to help us with answers to these technical questions.Unfortunately no patterns! These accounts only survived because they had to be submitted to Parliament for the payment of the POW’s debts in 1795.

  8. Charles Bazalgette says:

    My mistake it appears. Any cloth called ‘stocking’, whatever fibre was used (or a mix) was woven (or rather knitted) on a stocking frame (later a machine). So it had a loop stitch rather than a weave, and was of course more prone to unravel if nicked.

  9. nicholasstorey says:

    That’s clarified that then!

  10. I wonder if the simple reason was that they were more comfortable…. When I was carrying a bit more weight, my knees swelled – which would be excruciating in knee breeches. As Prinny put on a bit of embonpoint any chance he had the same trouble? I know it’s more mundane than a political or even sartorial statement…..

    • chasbaz says:

      I think the most likely reason for this episode is as Sarah suggests. Possibly his weight but also maybe afflictions with his legs.

  11. Charles Bazalgette says:

    The odd thing is that after this he reverted to breeches, and not many trousers were made until much later. Of course, Prinny might have found another tailor to make his trousers, but by all accounts he didn’t wear them much until about ten years later. I’m sure they were more comfortable, especially when worn with ‘bretelles’.

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