I’ve cut out the pieces of my Jane Austen-era ivory wool pants. From what I understand, light colored pants were preferred for evening and formal wear. Ivory was also the standard color for millitary pants as well. White pants pair well with the image of the status conscious British redcoat with their formality and strict discipline. But in reality, their physical circumstances were dirty and trying enough to kill those with weak constitutions way before musket shots were fired. So, how do ivory pants fit into both the backdrops of the bloody battlefield and the boisterous ballroom?
Naturally, ivory and white pants are the hardest to maintain, and a clear pair of light colored pants would demonstrate that one had the lifestyle, habits, morals and capabilities to keep them clean. When one imagines all of the British army officers of the late 18th and early 19th century struggling to keep their clothes clean in almost all of corners of the earth, one is astonished that the British Empire was able to form at all. Discipline must be something like a muscle – the more one uses it whether in laundering, musket-loading, or cutting back gastronomically – the more it is able to give back. To a British army officer, keeping one’s pants clean may have been seen as a reflection of the care he was capable of putting into detail-oriented warfare.
I remember reading in one of my Jane Austen-context books that military officers were incredibly fashionable to have as guests and admirers. The army was more fashionable than the navy, and the higher rank the officer basically the more his appeal would be in a ballroom or dinner party. So, the appeal of the white/ivory pants in evening and high fashion wear was a reflection on how British manhood was defined. High maintenance but relatively durable pants were a commentary on the discipline, physical skill, and service to society a man could provide all while keeping his clothes nice and clean.
Anyhow, thinking about this won’t get my pants done. Off to work.