The etymology of "cravat" derives from Croatian mercenaries who fought alongside the French during the Thirty Years War in 17th-century Europe; Croatians were known as "cravattes" by the French because of the neckwear they wore. In her book "The Cambridge History of Western Textiles," D.T. Jenkins follows the evolution of the cravat, noting that by the 18th century in the U.K., men wore an updated and elegant version of the Croatian necktie: a large square of starched linen folded in half diagonally, wound round the neck and tied in a bow at the throat or knotted. This evolved into a silk scarf and then a wider version of the modern tie. The ascot cravat is a loose, formal version of the tie knot and is set off with a cravat pin.
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Hold the cravat round your neck in the same way as you would an ordinary tie, with the ends hanging down at each side of your neck.
Take the right end of the cravat and pass it over the left end so they are crossed in front of you. Keep the cravat flat, with the underside facing your chest.
Hold the left end firmly while you slip the end of the right side up behind the crossover point. Pull it through, and bring it down in front, straightening the fabric where it folds over at the top.
Take hold of that end again, and pass it behind the fold from your right so it emerges to your left. Keep the cravat flat, trying not to crease or crumple it.
Push the end through the fold formed by passing the cravat from right to left. Gently pull both ends of the cravat to form a loose knot in front of your throat.
Draw both ends together at the front so they cross over beneath the knot. Secure with a cravat pin.
Tips and warnings
- Cravats can be flamboyant and colourful. Match the fabric of a waistcoat, or use a vivid colour to contrast it. Silk is a particularly good fabric to use for a cravat, as it folds and drapes beautifully.
- A more informal cravat is achieved by following only Steps 1 and 2 and then tucking the ends of the cravat neatly behind an open-necked shirt. The effect is soft and casual.
- Do not pull the knot too tight. The aim is to achieve a loose knot so that when the cravat is folded over at the front, the top shirt button is hidden and only the wings of the collar are visible.
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