Tuesday, January 21, 2014

A Gentleman's Formal Suit – in Pink, c. 1770

Tuesday, January 21, 2014
Isabella reporting,

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. 

12 comments:

Shelley Munro said...

Gorgeous! I love the embroidery. It must have been quite a sight, back in the day :)

Laura Morrigan said...

That is exquisite! I would love to have one like that!

Jill Sardella said...

Despite my bleary-eyed state this morning, I'm mesmerized by the construction of the pocket (assuming it's a fully functioning pocket) of the coat. It looks like a panel was sewn over the bottom portion of the coat (from the waist to hem) and then the pocket sewn onto the panel itself as opposed to sewing the pocket into the coat directly. I'm guessing this would allow more than one person to work on different sections of the coat and if the pocket got screwed up, the coat itself would not be affected. I also noticed the motif on the lower portion of the coat is slightly smaller and slightly different. Possibly another indicator that multiple people worked on the embroidery. I would love to have seen this suit being constructed.

Rachel said...

I wish we dressed for dinner. Heck, we are lucky to see people dress up for dinner when they go out!

Debbie M said...

All this beauty for just one time wearing? Surly not. It's beautiful. All that work on it.

Julia Ergane said...

This is truly tasteful. I love men's clothes from that period when they were done just perfectly -- not over-done, like the Corinthians and other followers of the Prince of Wales later in the 19th century. I can almost see why the Beau was rebelling against that sort of silliness. This is not silly. This is oh-so-elegant -- sigh. Now, where is the Marquis?....

Deb Salisbury said...

I love the eras when men's clothing wasn't boring. This suit is wonderful!

Jenny Q said...

Beautiful! I can't imagine how many hours went into that exquisite embroidery. Thanks for sharing!

Sheila Henderson said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sheila Henderson said...

This suit is definitely lightyears away from the types of suit men wear today. Fashion back then was all about being ostentatious- the more detailed and expensive your wardrobe is, the more stylish you are. Yet men's fashion nowadays are leaning more toward Chanel's motto: Simpler is better. It's nice to see how men before weren't afraid to put on bold colors like this pink suit whereas men right now prefer darker and more solid colors.

Sheila Henderson

bumbu pecel bali said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Thedarzi Group said...

It's really an amazing blog about Formal Suits. Thanks for sharing with us great blog.

 
Two Nerdy History Girls. Design by Pocket