Beau Brummel. We owe him so much. Let’s just start with daily bathing.
Truly, he replaced the reliance on perfumes and powders with personal hygiene and normalized the concept of a daily bath. Every day, his toilette would take more than two hours and would involve brushing his teeth, shaving, a thorough wash and scrub; followed by brushing his body all over with a stiff brush and finally pursuing any errant remaining hairs with a pair of tweezers. He prided himself on never needing scent because he was so clean.
His sartorial style was also a revolution–in simplicity. Previous to Brummell’s innovations, men’s clothes were more flamboyant, heavily influenced by the French court and involved wearing wigs, white hair powder, perfume, elaborate silks, and knee-breeches with stockings. In direct contrast to the gaudy finery of the Georgian gentleman, he chose understated elegance with a limited palette of colors. Brummell rejected wigs in favor of natural, unadorned hair, long trousers worn with boots, and coats without much ornamentation. Specifically, his uniform was a blue coat (known as Bath coating) with a buff waistcoat, an off-white linen shirt with a white cravat, buckskin trousers, and dark riding boots. In the evening, he wore a blue coat as well, though with a white waistcoat, black pants that ended at the ankle, striped silk socks, and black slippers. Jane Austen’s books reference the “blue coat” often as the height of fashion.
For many years, it was Brummell’s opinion that mattered. He could bring someone into fashion by showing them favor or put someone out of fashion by cutting them. He patronized a variety of tailors so that no one could say that they made him famous. He was a member of the elite Gentlemen’s clubs Whites, Brooks, and Watiers. A bow window in his club at White’s became known as the ‘Beau window’ because that was where Brummell liked to sit. Though he flirted prolifically, Brummell’s affections were rarely engaged.
Brummell was famous for his wit, but infamous for his rudeness. It was this rudeness which eventually cost him the Prince of Wales’ regard. “Alvanley, who’s your fat friend?” he asked, referring to the Prince. When he fell out of favor with the Prince Regent, his fabulous life came off the rails.
His life ended in penury, loneliness, and syphilis, but let’s not focus on that. Let’s raise a glass and celebrate his divine elegance!
Join us for Beau Brummel’s Boozy Bash:
6 pm Friday night in the Virtual Lounge at Costume College.
While cocktails as such didn’t really exist in Brummell’s day, they did enjoy a good boozy punch as a party refreshment, such as the famous arrack-punch served at Vauxhall Gardens. Also, “rum punch” (rum, lemon, arrack, and sugar), Regent’s punch (various fruits, rum, brandy, hock, Curaçao, Madeira, and champagne) and Negus (port, lemon, sugar, and spices) were popular brews”1. All of these sound delightful and refreshing–and all of these recipes can be found with a quick Google search if you so desire.
You could also opt for a genteel splash of brandy or Madeira or port to sip. Or, if gin is your pleasure, you could join the London gin craze. A cold gin and tonic, gin martini, or even a Pimm’s Cup would be in the spirit of the thing, but if you crave something more HA, you could try the following:
This recipe is courtesy of Tasting History with Max Miller (follow on YouTube, Instagram, or Twitter). His video is worth a watch as he reviews the ingredients and gives in-depth historical background. All ingredients can be found on Amazon. Originally the recipe was taken from George Winter’s How to Mix Drinks: Barkeeper’s Handbook, 1884.
For a non-alcoholic refreshment, you could try an orgeat lemonade. Orgeat syrup (which can be found online or at your local Bevmo), is made from almond extract, sugar, and orange flower water. It was used as a flavoring in many baked goods, desserts, and drinks of the era. “Anon-alcoholic orgeat lemonade would have consisted of orgeat syrup, lemonade, and soda water, and might well have been the sort of drink served at an Assembly”1.
–Your Hosts, Christienne Palmieri & Laura Bower