|Courtesy Library of Congress|
In considering the big fashion picture, we see men’s clothing becoming increasingly subdued as the 19th century wears on, and the fashionably extreme male—the peacock—becoming an endangered species. I’ve mourned his disappearance myself. But he never became completely extinct. There were and will always be men of dandy persuasion, and they weren’t all named Oscar Wilde. Both Dickens and Disraeli were Victorian dandies, most vividly in their younger years, about the time of this piece. But oh, how I wish I could have seen Mr. Bailey!
~~~Mr. Bailey was a dandy of the butterfly order: he was a patron of bright colours — light-blue coats, coloured silk cravats, fancy waistcoats — and was a warm supporter of nankeen trousers. To have seen him cantering up and down Rotten Row on a summer's evening, on his well-groomed black, perfuming the air as he fanned the flies from the noble creature with the well-scented cambric handkerchief, and to observe his gauze silk stockings, thin pumps, and silver buckles; or to have seen him lounging with folded arms against the door of the crush-room at the opera, his hair hanging in ringlets over his ears, with a waistcoat of pink or blue satin, embroidered with silver or gold, and all his apparel of the finest, gaudiest, and most expensive texture, a stranger would have set him down as the impersonation of a puppy: and yet, he would have been wrong, for Mr. Bailey was a fine manly fellow, and thrashed all the watchmen in Bond Street, single-handed, one night. Still, he was by far the gayest dandy that has been seen about London for years; and, when he reached the end of his tether, and the day of reckoning arrived, the tailors' bills for cashmere trousers, and the mercers', for French cambric shirts, excited the astonishment of the humble-minded jurymen who sat in judgment on the charges. The last time we saw him, he was vegetating on the beach at Ostend.
—Fraser's Magazine for Town and Country, Volume 15, 1837
Illustration: George Cruikshank, Humming Birds or a Dandy Trio, 1819. Courtesy Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA