National Trust Survey Shows Northern Ladies Prefer A Man In Tights

By David Prudames | 15 June 2005
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Shows a photograph of a man's legs, dressed in bright red leggings and standing on some stone steps.

Nice tights... shame about the wrinkles. As strange as it may seem, 31% of females surveyed across the country would go for a pair of these rather than a Regency gent or even a snappily dressed Edwardian fella.

Ladies in the north like their men in tights, find a nice beam and leaded window romantic and fancy stepping out in a large skirt.

And how do we know this? The National Trust has revealed the findings of a nationwide survey which sought the views of over 1,000 adults across Britain.

The idea was to investigate people's preferences for historical styles through houses, characters and costume. However, cutting to the chase, it began by asking people to select a dream date from a selection of historical characters portrayed by well-known actors and actresses.

Across the country the vote was split, with ladies from the north giving the nod to Robin Hood, the Midlands winking at Mr Darcy of Pride and Prejudice fame and the south unable to make up their mind between the two. Nationally, the clean-cut Edwardian gent with sharp suit and short haircut (as demonstrated for survey purposes by Johnny Depp in Finding Neverland) failed to get the girls going, polling just 6% of the vote.

Shows a photograph of a group of people standing outside Speke Hall in Liverpool, dressed in Tudor costume.

It's the choice of footballers up and down the country, but it seems that a bit of Tudor is a popular thing when it comes to bricks and mortar. © The National Trust.

As for the chaps, it would be Maid Marion on the receiving end of a G and T and mumbling about stars, eyes and angels.

"As the most favoured dream date for British men, Maid Marion highlights the appeal of the spunky yet beautiful heroine, and the attractiveness of women with spirit and courage," explained psychologist Helen Haste.

Carried out by market research agency MORI, the survey also asked people to name their ultimate romantic hideaway from six period properties and most attractive dress from six distinctive costumes from the past.

While women were asked what they’d wear on a dream date, men were asked which they found most attractive. The winner? The Regency, as modelled by Jane Austen heroine Elizabeth Bennett, romped home with a third of the vote.

Shows a painting of a woman dressed in a long, flowing Regency-era white dress.

It's a Regency classic and gets the nod from the guys and the gals when it comes to dateworthy attire. © The National Trust.

The Empire line, as it is known, was particularly popular among the over 55s while surprisingly their counterparts in the 15-34 category prefer the large crinoline skirt of the Victorian age.

"The findings regarding historical costumes best reflect the revival of the big skirt which has made a surprise come-back this summer," added Helen Haste.

"This is an example of the continual move back and forth between styles that draw the eye to the waist and place greater emphasis on the bosom, and styles that focus on women's legs. The appeal of the empire line frock seems to be enduring, but especially since we have seen so many recent films and TV plays set in this period."

Shows a photograph of Bodiam Castle in Sussex.

With its fairytale towers and moat Bodiam Castle in East Sussex is virtually everyone's idea of a romantic medieval fortress. © NTPL/Andrew Butler.

Somewhat unsurprisingly, and you can read into this what you will, when it came to historic housing men showed themselves twice as likely to open negotiations after spotting some towers and a moat than women. It was castles all the way for our knights in shining armour, but the womenfolk proved more partial to an Edwardian Mansion.

However, the top choice, both nationally and particularly in the north west and Merseyside, was the dark wooden beams and latticed windows of the Tudor period.

Shows a photograph of the timber-framed Tudor mansion, Little Moreton Hall in Cheshire.

Little Moreton Hall in Cheshire - you can almost smell the venison roasting... © NTPL/Rupert Truman.

For Sarah Staniforth, Historic Properties Director at the National Trust, this result is no surprise: "I believe the style's enduring appeal lies in its versatility of scale and approachability," she said. "It works well with larger houses such as the Trust's Speke Hall in Liverpool and Rufford Old Hall in Lancashire, as well as smaller houses we can all imagine living in."

Historians would be quick to point out that the Tudor age wasn’t merely a mead-swilling, lute-plucking and tight-wearing fantasy, but as Sarah explained, the past has an uncanny way of firing our imaginations.

"Historic houses provide a sense of continuity and contact with the past," she said. "Good architecture lifts our spirits and inspires us."

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