Monday, July 18, 2016

Proper Dress for Gentlemen in 1838

Monday, July 18, 2016
Men's Fashion Paris 1838
Loretta reports:

I tried to cut this excerpt down to my preferred short post size. Unfortunately, unlike so much 19th century prose, this is fairly concise, as well as being enlightening on several points.
However ugly you may be, rest assured that there is some style of dress which will make you passable ...
If you have weak eyes, you should wear spectacles. If the defect be great, your glasses should be coloured. In such cases emulate the sky rather than the sea: green spectacles are an abomination—blue ones are respectable, and even distingué.
Almost every defect of face may be concealed by a judicious use and arrangement of hair. Take care, however, that your hair be not of one colour and your whiskers of another. If you wear a wig, let it be large enough to cover the whole of your red or white hair.
The style of dress for the street is of little consequence, so that it be in good taste. Very light-coloured coats are to be avoided, as well as any thing in strong contrast with the other parts of your dress. The effect of a frock coat is to conceal the height. If, therefore, you are beneath the ordinary stature, or much above it, you should affect frock coats on all occasions that etiquette permits.
In the dining-room, and the drawing-room, dress coats must be adopted, and of late boots are permitted; but shoes and silk stockings are in better taste.
Abroad, in public assemblies, in the church or the theatre, as well as in walking the street, you should always wear gloves. The greatest care should be taken that they fit well, and that they are scrupulously unsullied.
Before going to a ball or party it is not sufficient that you consult your mirror twenty times. You must be personally inspected by your servant or a friend. From want of this precaution, I once saw a gentleman enter a ball-room, attired with scrupulous elegance, but with one of his suspenders curling in graceful festoons about his feet. His glass could not show what was behind.
When we speak of excellence in dress we do not mean richness of clothing, nor manifested elaboration. Profusion of ornaments, rings, chains, &c. &c. are in bad taste. Faultless propriety, perfect harmony, and a refined simplicity,—these are the charms which always fascinate.
It is as great a sin to be finical in dress as to be negligent. A gentleman will always be well and tastefully dressed—choosing a sort of middle course between the extremes: avoiding foppery on the one hand, and carelessness on the other.
Upon this subject the ladies are the only infallible oracles. Apart from the perfection to which they must of necessity arrive, from devoting their entire existence to such considerations, they seem to be endued with an inexpressible tact, a sort of sixth sense, which reveals intuitively the proper distinctions. That your dress is approved by a man is nothing;—you cannot enjoy the high satisfaction of being perfectly comme il faut, until your performance has received the seal of a woman's approbation.
Paris fashion June 1838
Etiquette for Gentlemen, with hints on the art of conversation, 1838

Images from Journal des Dames & des Modes, Costumes Parisiens, 1838. (Not a lot of men's 1830s fashion in any English publication I could find online.)

Clicking on the image will enlarge it.  Clicking on the caption will take you to the source, where you can learn more and enlarge images as needed.


Donna Hatch said...

Actually, I agree with this--don't be extreme in clothing nor negligent and get the approval of a lady :-)

Lucy said...

It is a fascinating read. The irrelevancy that catches my attention, though, is the pointedness of the mens' shoes in both prints. Texas cock-roach killers, anyone?

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