When a wealthy 18th c. gentlemen dressed for evening, our modern "black tie" wouldn't even been considered. Instead he would have chosen a beautifully embellished suit – consisting of coat, waistcoat, and breeches – such as this one, resplendent with embroidered flowers. (Click the image to enlarge.)
This was male power dressing: the richer the silk fabrics and the more elaborate the silk embroidery, the more costly the clothing was, a walking demonstration of the owner's wealth and power as well as his taste. The light, bright colors would also have shown well in a room lit only by candles, and drawn attention to the wearer. Floral designs such as this one were popular, a reflection of the growing interest in nature and nature-inspired motifs towards the end of the 18th century.
No one at the time would have considered the shades of pink, purple, and mauve in this suit as effeminate. Dark colors and subdued tailoring for men's wear did not come into fashion until the 19th c., when more sober attire became perceived as serious and masculine. Beau Brummell and the Victorian gentlemen that followed him put an end to the elegant male peacock, and he hasn't truly returned to fashion since.
This suit is part of the Think Pink exhibition at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, running through May 26, 2014. I've written about several other garments from this small but enjoyable show here, here, and here - if you're in Boston, it's well worth a visit.
Above & left: Man's formal suit, France, 1770-1780. Silk plain weave, silk satin, embroidered with silk. Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.
There’s a big difference in how we use history. But we’re equally nuts about it. To us, the everyday details of life in the past are things to talk about, ponder, make fun of -- much in the way normal people talk about their favorite reality show.
We talk about who’s wearing what and who’s sleeping with whom. We try to sort out rumor or myth from fact. We thought there must be at least three other people out there who think history’s fascinating and fun, too. This blog is for them.