Why Redingote?

The Oxford English Dictionary Online (paid subscription required) defines redingote as a " … double-breasted outer coat for men, with long plain skirts not cut away in the front. " Or a "… similar garment worn by women, sometimes cut away in front."

The etymological note in the OED entry explains that the word was believed to be in use in France by 1725, and that it is a corruption of the English word "riding-coat." In addition, the entry states that the first documented use of the word was in a letter written by Fanny Burney in February of 1793.

So why did redingote seem like a good choice for the title of this channel? Ah, let me count the ways …

Redingote was the first “Regency” word I ever encountered. I discovered it in one of Georgette Heyer’s novels. I think it was The Nonesuch, though it was so long ago I can’t be sure. I do remember that it taunted me for days. I understood from the context that is was a garment, possibly a coat, but I could not find it listed in the dictionary in my parent’s library. I do recall that it was summer, so I did not have access to my high school library, which was within walking distance. Instead I had to wait until the next time my dad took me to the city library across town. But it was worth the wait. I found redingote listed in the "big" dictionary on the stand in the reference area. I felt quite scholarly, for a high school student. But it gets better. Somehow, I also engaged the reference librarian in conversation about the word, and she introduced me to the Oxford English Dictionary. It was the two volume microprint edition, with the magnifying glass in the little drawer in the top of the slipcase. I was in heaven! All those lovely words, all with etymological information in addition to the definition and pronunciation for each. Nirvana for a word geek!

I wanted a title for this channel that was alliterative and, of course, regency was de rigueur. I considered other words for the title, such as reticule, repository, and realm, but all of them were already taken for similar purposes. Then I remembered my early adventure with redingote and knew that was the right choice. And it became even more obviously the right choice as I thought about what it was and how it represented so many of my other interests.

A redingote in its first incarnation was a coat, an outer covering. Thus it is the perfect metaphor for my plan to "cover" English Regency history in this channel. A redingote is a garment, and one of my favorite areas of study as an undergraduate was costume history. I am also an avid needleworker and a redingote is an article of clothing which was often heavily embellished. It could be worn by both men and women, so neither gender is excluded. Last, but not least, redingote is a corruption of the English word "riding-coat." Riding, as in horses. I was horse-mad as a child and I remain so to this day. There was now no doubt that the only possible choice for my channel’s title must be The Regency Redingote.

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About Kathryn Kane

Historian with a particular interest the English Regency era.   An avid reader of novels set in that time, holding strong opinions on the historical accuracy to be found in said novels.
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2 Responses to Why Redingote?

  1. Hmm – is this your first post? If so, I didn’t manage to work out the email thing!

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