|Metropolitan Museum of Art|
Susan recently shared with me this image, whose description at the Met Museum site had me scratching my head. I knew I’d seen this wasp-waist-&-full trousers-look earlier than the 1830s. In fact, I had in mind an 1816 caricature—by Cruikshank, I think—of a dandy dressing. His valet is helping him tighten his stays, and he’s wearing the full trousers. Unable to put my hands on that caricature, I offer a group of 1818 fashion victims, with directions to the full-trouser wearers.
The Cruikshanks love making fun of this style, as in this excerpt from a poem in The Universal Songster, 1825:
Some folks, in the street, by the Lord, make me stare,
So comical droll is the dress that they wear;
For the gentlemen's waist is a top of their back,
And their large cossack trousers that fit like a sack.
Later, comparing to women's shortened skirts and huge hats, the poem continues:
Wear large cossack trousers quite down to their toes;
And a little brimmed hat, that wo’n’t cover their face,
Oh! Lunnun, this Lunnun’s a wonderful place!
Clearly it wasn’t the fashion, but a style that persisted alongside sleeker looks, according to the author of The whole art of dress,1830
But still the fashions, as may be remarked, are various, tight-kneed and full being worn almost indiscriminately. . .Nothing can more improve the look and fit of trousers than double straps; these, with very full cossack trowsers, are more indispensably requisite when the legs are particularly crooked or ill-formed.
The look never seems to die. Decades ago I wore men’s vintage pleated wool trousers (with cuffs). Susan thought the look was right for DeBarge. I thought of M.C. Hammer.
Date: ca. 1833; Culture: British; Medium: silk; Dimensions: Length at CB: 38 1/2 in. (97.8 cm); Credit Line: Catharine Breyer Van Bomel Foundation Fund, 1981'; Accession Number: 1981.210.4; www.metmuseum.org.
Cruikshank caricature courtesy Courtesy Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA
B&W illustration comes from a German collection whose record I've lost.