“His coat of dark blue superfine was the very latest made by Evelyn for Weston..his stockinette pantaloons were knitted in the newest and most delicate dove-colour: his cambric shirt was modestly austere, with no ruffle, but three plain buttons…his hat, set at an angle on his glowing locks, had a tall and tapering crown, smoothly brushed, and very different from the low, shaggy beaver to which Fimber had taken instant exception.”
This is the town dress of the Regency gentleman as described by author Georgette Heyer in False Colours (1963).
The superfine fabric is exactly as it sounds–wool that is smooth, almost silky to the touch. The more narrow the fibers of the wool, the more “super” its grade. Today, superfine wool suits of the highest grade sell well into the thousands of dollars.
Stockinette is “an elastic knitted fabric used especially in making undergarments, bandages, and babies’ clothes–a fine-knit, soft, elastic weave.” Heyer’s hero, the handsome, blond Kit Fancot, wore pantaloons made of this material as he strolled through London, impersonating his fashionable elder brother, Lord Denville, the stockinette fabric clinging to his shapely legs in ways that I shall leave to your imagination.
Cambric is also known as batiste, a soft, airy cotton that makes marvelous baby sheets and blankets. Whenever I hear cambric mentioned, I think of the Little House books. You knew Ma or the girls were sewing something very special if it was made of cambric:
“They made four new petticoats….around the bottom of the fine cambric one, Laura had sewed with careful, tiny stitches the six yards of knitted lace that she had given Mary for Christmas.”
— Little Town on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder (1941)
If Fimber, or any other Regency-era valet, turns his nose up at an article of a gentleman’s dress, you can be sure it must be very unfashionable indeed. Kit’s hat was discarded for his brother’s not because it was made of beaver, but that was shaggy, with a low crown. Acceptable for a diplomat, which Kit was, but not at all the thing for his noble brother.
Next post: what Kit wore to a fancy evening party, when he:
“..realized that he had been imperfectly coached: he had no idea which of them was the lady to whom he was supposed to have offered his hand.”