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KATHRYNE KENNEDY | How to Undress an Eighteenth Century Gentleman

June 30, 2010


Hello again to all the Fresh Fiction readers! It sure is a pleasure to be back here, and I’m looking forward to hearing from all the kind people that I remember!

I put together a simple cheat-sheet for writers about eighteenth century clothing, and I thought it might not only be a good guide for writers researching the era, but also a bit of fun for readers who love history (although you may want to note the changes I made because of the fantasy aspect of my world). So without further ado, here’s how you might go about undressing my hero, General Dominic Raikes, from my upcoming release The Fire Lord’s Lover

1. Shoes: First, let’s get Dominic comfortable be removing his shoes or boots. Like the women, men wore heeled shoes similar to our modern day clogs where you slip your foot in, but mostly of black with large buckles. The toes started out square, and went round by 1740.
Pumps had low heels. I prefer my hero to wear boots, however, and many a military man wore them to a ball. I prefer the half jackboots, which ended below the knee in a turned-down top, made of leather. Heavy jackboots went above the knee, and light jackboots were cut in the back so a man could bend easier. Slippers were worn indoors, usually heelless leather.

2. Coat: Now we might want to remove Dominic’s coat. The most common coat for a gentleman had no collar, a flared skirt-like pleated bottom, buttons and very wide buttonholes down the entire front and along the sleeves. The buttons could be made of gold, silver, brass, and other metals. The sleeves were wide and turned up into a large cuff, and short enough that the frills on his shirtsleeves peeked from beneath. The front had two large pockets about hip-high. The skirt of the coat was often stiffened with buckram (a stiff fabric) and whalebone so it flared out widely from the waist. The coat fell past the knees. It was usually only buttoned at the throat and/or waist, so the rest of the buttonholes were just for show.

The frock coat was first worn by the lower class, having a less rigid and more comfortable cut. The gentlemen then adopted the coat for sports, riding & casual dress. The frock coat had a collar and sometimes, a slit in the sleeves. But otherwise, it looked similar to the coat described above.

As always, the difference between a gentleman’s dress and the lower classes was in the material. Silk, satin, damask, gold & silver stuff, etc. for gentlemen; ticking, rough wool & leather for the lower class. And I should also note here that a gentleman’s wardrobe was lined.

3. Waistcoat: You will then be able to remove Dominic’s waistcoat, and it looked very similar to the coat, with buttons down the front and a large pocket on each side. But the long sleeves and the back were often made of a thinner, cheaper material, since it didn’t show. And it was shorter than the outer coat, around mid-thigh. Waistcoats could also be laced up instead of buttoned, have decorative lining around the hem made of embroidery, lace or fringe. In The Fire Lord’s Lover, Dominic prefers buttons, since they are easier to remove, and less fussy.

4. Breeches: Depending on your mood, you might want to remove Dominic’s breeches next, which could be made of the same material as coats, but didn’t have to match. Start by unbuttoning the waistband’s three buttons (set close together), and about three more buttons below that to fully open the front. Breeches only went to just below the knees, so then you need to undo the knee buckles. During the first quarter of the century, stockings were pulled up over the knees of the breeches and rolled back down below them over garters (woven silk, ribbon, braid). But soon the breeches were buckled over the stockings below the knees. Dominic prefers this method, so after you unbuckle his breeches, you may then remove:

5. Stockings: The stockings were generally white and made of cotton or silk. You could certainly use different/contrasting colors for a dandy. But Dominic’s are usually black, to match the rest of his clothing, and he generally likes to rip them off.

6. Drawers: In The Fire Lord’s Lover, General Dominic Raikes doesn’t often wear them (I have found no evidence that drawers were always worn), but if he happens to have them on, they have to be untied at the waist and knees, and were generally made of linen.

7. Neckcloth or Cravat: Untie the cloth from under his chin, where the ends were left to fall to about his upper mid-chest, then slowly ease it off from around his neck. Made of muslin, lawn or linen, the ends were decorated with lace or tasseled. Commoners may wear a handkerchief knotted about the neck. There was other neckwear, including a stock and solitaire, but Dominic prefers the cravat, or nothing at all, if the shirt had a ruffled front.

8. Shirt: And finally, gratefully, you can unbutton Dominic’s shirt. Ruffles at the front and sleeves, often edged in lace. The ruffles at the neck were often referred to as a jabot, when the cambric or lace edging was sewn to both opening sides. For commoner or casual wear: plain sleeves with a narrow band. Generally made of fine white cotton or linen material, referred to as cambric. You could distinguish a gentleman by how clean his shirt was. In The Fire Lord’s Lover, Dominic’s shirt is very clean.

9. Other: Men usually had short, close-cropped hair, because they wore a white wig, longer at the beginning of the century, and of varying styles throughout. Wigs could be several colors, but were often powdered white. Real hair could be dressed to resemble a wig, and hair was worn long if you didn’t have one (artisans & commoners). However, black wigs were often worn by the military. Some had long and short curls all over, curls just at the sides, braided down the back, tied back in a queue. Wigs could me made of human hair, horse or goat hair, and feathers. There was such a variety of wigs that an author can surely use her imagination with them! In The Fire Lord’s Lover the men wear wigs to imitate the elven lords’ lustrous long white hair, and use silver glitter to try to copy the sparkle. Since Dominic has the original, he does not wear a wig, but will often wear battle braids at the sides.

The cocked, or three-cornered hat, usually made of black beaver felt, was worn indoors under the arm. It was often quite large, and could be decorated with ribbon, feathers, lace, etc. Men often wore nightcaps to keep their shaved heads warm, but the elven lords had a full head of hair to keep them comfy at night. In The Fire Lord’s Lover, Dominic wears his hat outdoors, but carries it under his arm the rest of the time, and he certainly never decorates it with anything other than his military ribbons.

The general prefers to dress simply, but when at court, he might also carry or wear: leather gloves, a sword (the hilt protruded through a side vent of the coat–Dominic always wears one, although he has several fancy swords for court), and after 1730, a cane as well. Pocket watches, a snuff or toothpick box, a lace-edged handkerchief.

For outerwear: open cloaks fastened at the neck & Greatcoats (a big frock coat with back vent for riding). Military men preferred the cloak, and Dominic was no exception.

References: Costume in Context/The Eighteenth Century by Jennifer Ruby ISBN 071345772, A History of Fashion in Costume/The Eighteenth Century by Anne Rooney 0816059489, Daily Life in Eighteenth Century England by Kirstin Olsen 0313299331, Handbook of English Costume in the 18th Century by C. Willett and Phillis Cunnington 0823801284.

I hope you enjoyed this description of how you might go about undressing my hero from The Fire Lord’s Lover, although you might do it in an entirely different order. Especially after you meet General Dominic Raikes. ;} Let me know what you think–I look forward to reading your comments!

All My Magical Best,


Kathryne Kennedy’s historical fantasy romances have garnered awards and a growing readership. This exciting new series, set against the lavish backdrops of Georgian and Victorian England so beloved by romance readers, is deliciously dark and exciting.

Fighting for control of a kingdom that is split into seven domains, Elven warlords use their human slaves to breed an endless supply of soldiers for their armies. Dominic Raikes, the half-blood son of the Elven Lord himself is one such warrior. Betrothed to Lady Cassandra, who has been raised in a convent to keep her pure, he little suspects that she’s been secretly trained as an assassin to murder his father. Dominic and Cassandra soon discover that each one is not what they seem, but the price of trust may be their very lives, and the destruction of the magical realm each is desperately trying to save–


Kathryne Kennedy is a multipublished, award-winning author of magical romances. She’s lived in Guam, Okinawa, and several states in the U.S., and currently lives in Arizona with her wonderful family–which includes two very tiny Chihuahuas. She welcomes readers to visit her website where she has ongoing contests.

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