Monday, October 26, 2009

Ascots and Cravats: Dandies Rule, OK?

What a fine specimen.

No! Not of an Austen hero (in case you don't recognize him, Captain Frederick Wentworth of Persuasion, played by Rupert Penry-Jones). Thank you Rupert.

No, I'm talking about his neckwear, specifically a cravat. Tied in "Mail Coach" fashion and held in place with a stickpin, probably pearl.

A cravat was originally an element of the uniforms worn by Croation soldiers stationed in Paris in the 17th century. The French adopted it as a fashion item, finding it more comfortable and laundry-friendly than the ruff which preceded it. A narrow strip of starched linen, muslin, silk, or later, cotton, it was looped once around the neck to form a band and then tied in any one of a number of different manners through the 17th and 18th centuries.

Ascots, which became popular in the early part of the 20th century, were the flamboyant grand-nephews of the cravat. Typically made of heavier silk, they had wider ends and were often brightly patterned with stripes, dots or paisleys. Alternately known as "day cravats," they would be affected--notably by the stylesetting Prince of Wales--in outdoor leisure pursuits that weren't likely to leave the partipants ruffled, like rounds of golf or sturdy walks around the estate with the dogs.

Like cravats, ascots could be handsomely set off with a fine stickpin. These are gorgeous little pieces of kit, shamefully neglected in the actual and virtual vitrines of the vintage-jewelery world. I think they are long overdue for a revival.

The problem with them is, they will put an unsightly big hole in your lapel or expensive Herm├Ęs scarf. So why not pick up a narrow silk strip from a charity shop for pennies, tie it cravat style, and then find a lovely stick pin to set it off? (Tieing tip, from the flipping awesome Jane Austen Centre gift shop, where you can purchase an actual cravat, if you are so inclined: "hold the centre of the cloth up against the neck, cross the ends behind before bring them back to the front and tying in a bow or knot.")

A cool look for setting off round the estate, and one that's just right as necks begin to feel the autumn chill.

1 comment:

  1. Fabulously informative post - thanks so much for this! Cravats are curiously classy, so it's great that they're experiencing something of a revival. We noticed this a while ago and also commented on it: x