Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Regency Trousers - A Not Entirely Toilet-Related Post

The main topic of discussion at the Privy Counsel right now is Regency trousers. Specifically, Regency trousers as related to embarrassing erections. (It probably surprises nobody to learn that this discussion was occasioned by an overdose of Austen adaptations.) You may find this hard to believe, but there is no information on the entire internet about what Regency gentlemen did if they accidentally got an unwelcome erection in the drawing room. None at all!

Buckskin breeches - which have been compared to a pair of Levi's - were appropriate morning attire in the country. They were supposed to be skin-tight, but would become baggy with time. However, whether helpfully tight or comfortably loose, you couldn't wear them to the drawing room, and so they would be of no use in hiding RREs (Rampant Regency Erections) except maybe when pottering round the stables or the kennels, and frankly, that's a train of thought we would rather not follow.
Image from janeaustensworld.

As anyone who has ever studied Austen adaptations in way too much detail knows, the distinguishing characteristic of a pair of gentlemen's breeches is that they are very, very tight. Also, the coats are designed to cut away from the front, leaving the crotch area abandoned and forlorn. What happened, one wonders, when one of the ladies accidentally flashed too much ankle and the gentlemen's blood was inflamed by a fiery passion?
Fictional Friend speculated that "I think that's the response Ms Bingley was trying to elicit by insisting upon perambulating the room". Was this, in fact, what the endless cups of tea were for? To place over the front of one's trousers, thus hiding any embarrassing physical response to bewitching beauty? As Tudor Friend mused, "Given the lighting conditions in most houses of the period, unless it's a very bright day, it might well work".

A fascinating close-up of the technical workings of the Regency fly.
How helpful, if at all, would this have been in hiding an RRE (Rampant Regency Erection)?
Image from janeaustensworld.

According to Lucy Worsley, one of our favourite historians, it was socially acceptable to relieve oneself when in company in the Georgian/Regency era, at least among gentlemen. Was it likewise socially acceptable to display an erection left, right and centre? Tudor Friend here argued that "it's post-Puritan England, so I'd be surprised if even the lascivious Regency crowd were THAT down with open sexuality". Fictional Friend added, "True. Just trying to figure out how to read between the lines and find a euphemistic reference to it". There was also a strong suspicion that standards may have differed between social classes; as Fictional Friend argued, "that farmer guy in Emma might have had different standards for this than Mr. Knightley".

A resolution was voiced to "go through every Jane Austen story and wonder which of her heroes suffers from RREs (Rampant Regency Erections)", and it was agreed that there is "nothing like a good smutty-minded paradigm shift"!

A gratuitous image of Alan Rickman wearing trousers in Sense and Sensibility.
Image from thepenofawdur.

The discussion ended with the Regency costume website we were studying being declared to be "PURE CRACK" (i.e. highly addictive). There were then some jokes in very poor taste about the Pump Room, and the whole thing deteriorated into a very unscientific conversation.

Seriously, though, why has there been no scholarly inquiry into this topic? As Tudor Friend ranted, "I'm genuinely surprised no one has written about this. Because there is NO WAY that trousers that skin-tight didn't have SOME sexual overtones intentionally". What are the social historians out there doing?

In order to salvage what is left of our self-proclaimed intellectualism, we feel the need to post some seriously classy toilet pictures. These are from the National Gallery - bog photos can hardly get more respectable than that! So there.

This is a functional and aesthetically pleasing motion-sensor tap,
with a functional soap-dispenser dispensing pleasant soap.

Well, strike us pink with a pair of buckskin trousers if that ain't a revolving towel! Huzzah!

There is only one possible festive video for this post. As we all know, thanks to Bridget Jones, the scene where Elizabeth Bennet walks to Netherfield to check on her sister Jane is one for which Andrew Davies, the director of the 1995 BBC adaptation, wrote in the stage directions that Darcy had a giant erection.

Says Bridget (who is interviewing Colin Firth):
BJ Oh. Do you think Mr Darcy would have slept with Elizabeth Bennet before the wedding?
CF Yes, I do think he might have.
BJ Do you?
CF Yes. I think it's entirely possible. Yes.
CF I think it's possible, yes.
BJ How would it be possible?
CF Don't know if Jane Austen would agree with me on this, but...
BJ We can't know because she's dead.
CF No, we can't... but I think Andrew Davies's Mr Darcy would have done.
BJ Why do you think that, though? Why? Why?
CF Because I think it was very important to Andrew Davies that Mr Darcy had the most enormous sex drive.
CF And, um...
BJ I think that came across, really, really well with the acting. I really think it did.
CF Thank you. At one point, Andrew even wrote as a stage direction: "Imagine that Darcy has an erection".
BJ Which bit was that?
CF It's when she's been walking across the country and bumps into him in the grounds in the early stages.
BJ The bit where she's all muddy?
CF...and dishevelled
BJ...and sweaty?
CF Exactly.
BJ Was that a difficult bit to act?
CF You mean the erection?
CF Um, well, Andrew also wrote that I don't propose that we should focus on it, and, therefore, no acting required in that department at least.
BJ Mmm.
CF Yes.
BJ Mmm.

You're welcome.

Festive video - Pride and Prejudice BBC 1995 walking to Netherfield scene

Related Reading

The by now classic post about Lucy Worsley and Regency toilet habits:
Lucy Worsley and Jane Austen: Historical Toilet Etiquette

Another classic post, which shamelessly objectifies Mr Darcy, but which is also surprisingly informative on the subject of Regency hygiene:

Some more objectification of Mr Darcy:
It Is Tolerable, We Suppose: A Privy Counsel Pick-Me-Up

Our festive abridged version of Pride and Prejudice:

If you wish to read more about tight trousers:
All Mouth and No Trousers - Sichuan Food in Singapore

Here's what happens when you go to Tudor Friend's house with the specific purpose of overdosing on Jane Austen costume dramas:
Failing to Be Disappointed: Tudor Friend's Tudor-Era House

1 comment:

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