Watches & Waistcoats: The Appeal of 19th Century Apparel

Jack Harkness

John Barrowman and Eve Myles as Captain Jack Harkness and Gwen Cooper in Torchwood. Notice the chain attaching his pocket watch to his waistcoat.

I realize that I posted last week about the attractiveness of suspenders, but apparently my roommates and I have been watching an awful lot of Torchwood lately, and when I see Captain Jack Harkness, all I can think of is how appealing he is.  A major part of that appeal is the way the character dresses.  Since he’s a man out of time, he wears fashions that are out of time as well, which is fine with me.  Last night, in the episode “Meat,” I was reminded how much I also appreciate waistcoats with pocket watches tucked into them.  This is yet another reason why it makes perfect sense that I majored in 19th Century British Lit.  The way men dressed in the Romantic and Victorian Eras is so much more dashing to me than the way men dress now.  I understand that times have changed, and with them the functionality of the clothing that people wear, and I’m grateful for the ease and comfort that we have now, but that doesn’t mean that modern clothes are anywhere near as beautiful as clothing was in the 1800s.

Dan Stevens and Michelle Dockery as Matthew and Mary Crawley in Downton Abbey. Matthew is wearing a pocket watch in his waistcoat.

Another example of just how beautifully people once dressed is in this photo from one of my current favorite shows, Downton Abbey. It shouldn’t surprise my subscribers to learn that like Doctor Who and Torchwood, it was also produced across the pond. Unlike (most) episodes of the other two shows, Downton Abbey is a period piece, and the way Matthew dressed doesn’t contrast with any of the other actors’ clothing, yet as shown, he is no less beautiful as he matches well with his wife’s outfit.

On second thought, it doesn’t stop with waistcoats and watches. I’m quite appreciative of the entire package: three piece suit, top or bowler hat and all.  Maybe I’ve read too many Dickens novels (though I don’t believe that to be possible) or spent too long immersing myself in the literature of the 19th Century.  Whatever the case may be, if I were to run into Jack Harkness, Matthew Crawley, I’d do well to keep my wits at all.  And if it happened to be that rascal Rhett Butler instead, then I’d try my hardest to make him forget all about that hussy Scarlett O’Hara Hamilton Kennedy before he married her.

Clark Gable as Captain Rhett Butler in Gone with the Wind.

Of the three men I’ve mentioned here, all are fictional, and if that makes me strange, then I’ll gladly accept the description.   Like I’ve said before, those are the best ones! All of them also experience tragedy, but I’m okay with that too, as long as they look handsome while they bravely face it.  Of course, if they look too good in their suits, I might have to borrow some smelling salts from Melanie’s Aunt Pitty-Pat, since fainting from heart palpitations in front of a man isn’t the most ladylike thing for a girl to do.  And if anyone sees a man who looks like he walked out of a novel set about 200 years ago, l’d appreciate it if you let me know.  I’ll make sure to invite you to the wedding.

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6 thoughts on “Watches & Waistcoats: The Appeal of 19th Century Apparel

  1. “I’ll make sure to invite you to the wedding…” whoah, slow down there, girl! Hahahaha! (Your blog always makes me smile. ^_^)

      • Thanks! They call me River for a few reasons: first because I have the same hair that Alex Kingston (who plays River) does, second because I’m feisty like she is and would totally wear hallucinogenic lipstick if I could find some, and thirdly because I’m an adjunct English professor. So, I don’t know how awesome I really am, but the name kind of fits, and I would love to be the Doctor’s wife (especially Ten’s)! 🙂

      • I’m sure you’re really awesome, you should never doubt that, and the fact that you have so many resemblances with River is extremely cool. I haven’t met any companion yet that would be similar to me, at least I don’t think so.

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