The most basic explanation is that men Cool Album Cover Sum 41 Band Music shirt .Wore a lot of white shirts during the Regency period. Dress historian Dr. Alanna McKnight notes that “men’s dress shirts were also used as their nightshirts in the early 19th century, [so] it would’ve been considered unusual for a man to remove his shirt for anything other than laundering.” This would explain why Michael Fassbender’s dreamy Mr. Rochester is wearing one in Jane Eyre after being awoken by fire (I’m sorry to say the shirt wasn’t wet like in the 2006 mini-series), and Firth’s Mr. Darcy decides to go swimming fully clothed. There’s also a false assumption made by modern film and TV producers that women of the past were sexually repressed. Hence the not-quite-nude wet shirt’s popularity. “The shirt, albeit wet and clingy, means the man is still dressed, and the chaste woman remains free of the sin of gazing upon the male figure.”
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McKnight also says the wet shirt is used for character development Cool Album Cover Sum 41 Band Music shirt . As seen in Bridgerton, Anthony’s fall into the lake could (very literally) represent his falling in love with Kate. His costume, designed by Ellen Mirojnick, takes this idea further. On dry land, he wears a rigid and restrictive Regency-era suit —symbolizing his tough, emotionless exterior — but once he’s in the water, his jacket and collar disappear, and he’s left sporting a softer and more revealing ensemble. Coincidence? I think not. But perhaps the best explanation for all the men wearing wet white shirts in period dramas is the female gaze. Think about it — most of the productions are based on books written by women for women (Jane Austen, Charlotte Brontë, Bridgerton’s Julia Quinn, etc.), and the story is told from a female perspective. As a result, the heroines have depth and agency and are not merely objects of desire, as is often the case with the male gaze. Because of this, there’s a role reversal, and the male leads tend to take on a more sexualized role. And if we’re being honest, cinema has had a long and problematic history with the male gaze and female nudity. Whether done tastefully, the ratio of naked women to naked men on screen is highly unbalanced. Think of these scenes in period dramas as turning the tables for the post-“wet t-shirt contest” era.
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