George “Beau” Brummell (born on this day in 1778) throws a few old things on, as reported in William Jesse’s magnificently huffy 1844 biography:
Brummell was one of the first who revived and improved the taste for dress; and his great innovation was effected upon neckcloths: they were then worn without stiffening of any kind, and bagged out in front, rucking up to the chin in a roll; to remedy this obvious awkwardness and inconvenience, he used to have his slightly starched; and a reasoning mind must allow, that there is not much to object to in this reform.
He did not, however, like the dandies, test their fitness for use, by trying if he could raise three parts of their length by one corner without their bending; yet it appears, that if the cravat was not properly tied at the first effort, or inspiring impulse, it was always rejected: his valet was coming down stairs one day with a quantity of tumbled neckcloths under his arm, and being interrogated on the subject, solemnly replied, “Oh, they are our failures.” Practice like this of course made him perfect; and his tie soon became a model that was imitated, but never equalled.
The method by which this most important result was attained, was communicated to me by a friend of his, who had frequently been an eye-witness of the amusing operation.
The collar, which was always fixed to his shirt, was so large that, before being folded down, it completely hid his head and face, and the white neckcloth was at least a foot in height. The first coup d’archet was made with the shirt collar, which he folded down to its proper size; and Brummell then standing before the glass, with his chin poked up to the ceiling, by the gentle and gradual declension of his lower jaw, creased the cravat to reasonable dimensions, the form of each succeeding crease being perfected with the shirt which he had just discarded.
His morning dress was similar to that of every other gentleman – Hessians and pantaloons, or top-boots and buckskins, with a blue coat, and a light or buff-coloured waistcoat; of course fitting to admiration, on the best figure in England. His dress of an evening was a blue coat and white waistcoat, black pantaloons which buttoned tight to the ankle, striped silk stockings, and opera-hat; in fact he was always carefully dressed, but never the slave of fashion.