Tuesday, December 18, 2007


French Suit

French Suit, 1810–12. Green silk voided velvet with yellow and ivory silk filament fleck motif and ivory silk satin piping. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Purchase, Irene Lewisohn Bequest, 2003 (2003.45a–c).

The incipient classicism of the last years of the reign of Louis XVI continued to develop and inform post-revolutionary styles. This suit’s apparent austerity compared to the elaborately embroidered examples in vogue during the ancien regime suggests a concession to the mood of the tumultuous times. Still, the voided velvet is an example of simplicity masking luxury and technical virtuosity. As the eighteenth century ended, the narrow band collar of the coat had increased in height. In the Napoleonic era, it extended up to the jawline.

Similarly, by the Empire period, coat buttons grew in diameter. This shift in proportion, even if restricted to details of collar and buttons, had the effect of diminishing the scale of a man’s silhouette. A narrow, attenuated shape was held to be modish as much for men as for women.

Comments (79)

  1. Jacob P. Johnson Says:

    this suit is pretty darn sweet. i would totally wear it, even in today’s day and age… and i would look darn spiffy in it too.

  2. Walter10021 Says:

    Here’s a question — where has this costume been for the last 200 years? Can you all outline its provenance for us?

  3. Madeira Says:

    I adore this suit. I love men’s 18th century fashion in general. To be honest I think Rococo was the glam rock of yesteryear.

  4. Kerry Gibbons Says:

    You can see the influence the cut of this suit jacket later had on the frock coat. The hemline of the Prince Albert frock coat is highly indicative of this here.
    The thing I find most amazing about this suit is actually the fabric. Unlike anything I’ve seen in an exhibit of this kind, it is truly breathtaking.

  5. Noa Says:

    “attenuated shape was held to be modish as much for men as for women.”

    I can hardly imagine the agony of a man stuck in that suit on a hot summer day.

  6. Jacob P. Johnson Says:

    i love the red dress

  7. Camilo Says:

    Back at this time, we could say that men were as important as women in the conception of fashion. Prestigious people were no afraid of wearing accesories and the shape of mens fashion in that time, was worried about proposing men with sophisticated shaps or silhouettes. I wonder what coud a modern fashion engineer propose inpired on the XIX century suit.

  8. Sandra R. Says:

    I was so excited to see that rare embroidered Chanel dress. It is beautiful like all of her clothes, but unlike any of her other collections. Also, thanks for exhibiting a Poiret dress again. Along with Chanel, his work has always been among my favorites, and the exhibition you did on him was gorgeous!

  9. giancinephile Says:

    The outfit reminds me of that film “Le Roi Danse” by Gerard Corbiau wherein Benoit Magimel stars as Louis XIV. Those French period films are definitely very well dressed like Chereau’s Queen Margot despite the gore, the costumes were beyond words.

    Looking at this outfit just reminds me how nice it would be to go back to the lost era of dandyism.

  10. Lynne Says:

    Visions of dashing men sweeping onto the dance floor to steal the hearts of the ladies….understated yet bold, the color, the texture, the shape!

  11. Roberto Says:

    classic style on a mornistic look

  12. Donna Says:

    what, exactly, makes this “incredible?”
    it looks fairly like several beans sewn together.

  13. JMW Says:

    vibrant color and one can see the tenets of modern mens dressing- crisp shirt, waist suppression in the jacket and a tight fit at the shoulders. Even the pants are reminiscent of the hunting versions from Holland & Holland. Very well done.

  14. Cory Says:

    This suit deeply and intimately connects with my inner zeigeist.

  15. Bayron Says:

    I realy like the japanese styles i think women would look realy pretty in them

  16. andrew Says:

    This is a darn nice suit. Props to the 19th Century French

  17. laurel Says:

    george washington most def

  18. JES Says:

    This is what civilized folk should wear to court. . .including crimninal court, squash court . . .any court at all!

  19. Laurie Aron Says:

    This is austere indeed compared to what the courtiers at Versailles were wearing just before! I learned something here–I never knew these austere styles came into favor in advance of the Revolution. Still, I’m sure that even in a simple outfit like this, the aristocrat could not hide his origins.

  20. C.Seifert Says:

    Had I lived in the early 19th Century, this would have been my suit of choice, quietly understated yet beautifully tailored.

  21. allie Says:

    Good show for french`s artists, and others?
    Americans, Italians etc!!!!
    Ahh, I forgot, the director of museum is french!!!
    Congratulations !!!

  22. Darlene Eklou Says:

    Wedding attire for the year 2020

  23. marcela robbio from manhattan Says:

    really super color textur all!!!!!!!!!!!

  24. Becca Says:

    Those guys were so skinny!

  25. Moo Says:


  26. fj Says:

    Very original. Well maybe not original, but I couldn’t think of anything nice to say about it.

  27. Justin Says:

    This is the most hideous piece of work I have ever seen in my life. The color and design do not fit the designer’s name, I think this design is horific!!!!!:(

  28. Manuela Says:

    It looks really nice…

  29. Manuela Says:

    The outfit is plain but I really like it…. I b et Sharpay would hate Ryan wearing that outfit……

  30. Ken Mondschein Says:

    Is this where we began to go wrong, by substituting bourgeois grey for the aristocratic peacock’s plumage? Dressing men in de rigueur understated elegance while adorning women with the pearls of conspicuous consumption was a development that occurred simultaneously with the removal of women from the public sphere. In the ancien regime, an aristocratic woman could have power by virtue of birth and position; the Republicans, however, saw politics as a boy’s game. The new discourse of clothing declared that men are serious; women, frivolous. For a man to wear such a costume today would be “gay” in both the ancient and modern sense of the world. One wonders, however, if with the female adoption of the sensible dark colors in the realm of business and politics, if we might see a comparative renaissance of male color in the realm of pleasure…

  31. Allison Says:

    I love the high collar, but the rest of the outfit leaves me in tears. Why do the front of pants run so high with the hem of the jacket above the belly button? Ugh. I couldn’t imagine a man looking flattering in this at all!

  32. Harold Koda and Andrew Bolton Says:

    In response to Walter 10021’s inquiry regarding provenance, The Costume Institute purchased this early 19th century French suit from the Sotheby’s London-Olympia auction, 28 November 2002. Though our researchers go to great lengths to verify condition, authenticity, and provenance at the time of purchase, we unfortunately have no further information regarding the original wearer of this suit or its line of descent. Oftentimes, consigners to an auction prefer anonymity to recognition, despite the fact that an elevated and fully documented provenance will enhance the value of the consigned work. In the past, the auction house has forwarded our letters of inquiry to the consigners, and we have in some instances been able to secure fuller descriptions of the origins of a piece. More frequently, however, the consigner has little more information to provide than was described in the auction catalogue. On occasion, the consigner’s information based on family anecdote and oral history has actually been contradicted by the material evidence!

  33. natalie Says:

    i love this suit thing!! it really brings out the dancing pickle in him.

  34. Janet Says:

    I truly admire the architecture of L’Air du Temps. Amazing work of my old chap. Very spiffy indeed, fish and chips, tea and krumpets and all.

  35. Jo Says:

    Beutiful green color! Any man would look good in this, even my grandpa!

  36. fashionn Says:

    I think the best part about this piece is the posture. Its interesting to see the sizes and shapes of clothing designed for people 1000 years ago versus today. Today the typical male model is 6′1″ and weighs 190 pounds. I can only imagine the petite frame that fit into this particular outfit.

  37. Lauren Says:


  38. Kajal Ruia Says:

    Such a beautiful suit, such a shame it’s so hard to find a man who could pull it off in this day and age. Sigh!

  39. Adam A. Says:

    I was not impressed with this piece.

  40. Deano's Says:

    This suit is very handsome for a man to wear

  41. keating Says:

    You could probably wear the bird mask with this to finish th elook.

  42. keating Says:

    Excuse me Kajal, its not a shame, cuz if we could find a man to pull it off, I would feel sorry 4 him.

  43. James Says:

    This man was on a very low carb diet. Look at the legs! The thing that impresses me most about the execution is the refinement of the piping…the suit just wouldn’t be the same without it.

  44. Joshua Cartwright Says:

    Very nice, but a bit too uniform for me.

  45. val Beauchamp Says:

    Could see a renaissance in it. It was nice to review great fahion people.
    Val Beauchamp

  46. diana patricia velez Says:

    could you please send me informasion when the museon has fashion shows thanks

  47. as Says:

    very unusual I think it is OK
    age 7

  48. tom h Says:

    the only object for guys. one side of me says, light on fetish and heavy on the objectification. the other side of me says, when do i get to play?

  49. Fabs Says:

    they should start to produce clothes like that !!!
    would be a very big market for these.

  50. ana b. Says:

    sometimes i wish women could wear these too…

  51. Laurie Aron Says:

    And why shouldn’t we, ana b.? Le smoking a Louis Seize. Yves Saint Laurent is bound to turn to it for inspiration one of these days!

  52. Sophie G. Says:

    I could go for a guy in this suit.

  53. kris Says:

    i totes want my husband to wear this outfit when we get married!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  54. Larissa Says:

    Re: Donna’s comment-
    I believe the “incroyable”, or “incredible” refers to “Les Incroyables,” a group of people who engaged in “out-there” fashion in post-revolutionary France.

  55. Lily Monir Matini, Esq. Says:

    too stark
    looks like something Kermit the Frog would wear
    in a Muppet period piece

  56. George diggle Says:

    i used to wear this same outfit when i was a young lad!!!

  57. Jackie Says:

    Even though I’m a woman, I’d wear the the blazer any day!

  58. Tim Says:

    It makes me think of a combination of a leprechaun and a pimp.

  59. mk li Says:

    I don’t like it. You don’t have my collections which is a copy of old prada. If mark jacob can copy Prada and still be famous, why can’t I? So I don’t entertain anie winbag. what’s the world coming to? selling magazine?

  60. sashka pozzetti Says:

    What a beautiful modern-looking sculpture in fabric. Stunning!!!! :-)

  61. zach Says:

    i like the cape

  62. N Says:

    Its robin hood men in tights meets Leo Dicaprio in Man in the Iron Mask meets Marie Antoinette meets a tree.

  63. Marné Skelton (BYU-Idaho) Says:

    That is one good looking piece of fashion! It makes me want to go back to 1810. The men dressed so much better back then! Mmm..it’s just so yummy! - The color, the cut, everything!

  64. Dominic Says:

    Excellent choice of materials, very saavy.

  65. Alicia M Says:

    French silk 1810-1812 Green silk velvet suit was interesting to read about because I took a class History of Costume at my school and learned all about the Empire Period. During this time simplicity was fashionable and this suit displays that. I do not like the color, but I am sure that there was not so much of a variety to choose from.

  66. Katie and Kate Says:

    We’ve come a long way, baby

  67. Christa Avampato Says:

    The first impression of the full exhibit being in black contrasted by the white of the staircase and the lead-in to the exhibit is very powerful. The use of glass to reflect the surrounding costumes in separate cases lends a wonderful illusion to the entire exhibit. Extraordinarily curated! Congratulations.

  68. Hildreth Gertunadiansobormantuanloualjamestownerinlividinamenzel Says:

    This is fantastic!!


  69. Steve A. Says:

    This suit is like wow!

    I can’t believe people don’t dress like this anymore as this particular fashionista wearables has really never gone out of style.

    I really now need to spend my free time seeing if I can find this exact replica to wear to work.

  70. Elliot Robinson (The Reptile!) Says:

    This suit looks great. I can picture a British officer with all of his equipment with this on.

  71. max Says:

    i like this. i think i would wear it in a play though.but im too small for it anyway:)

  72. Zack N. Says:

    This suit looks pretty cool. I would wear it just in those hot humid summer days it would be pretty harsh.

  73. Slashor Says:

    For a more modern spin on this style, I point you all to Japan where they seem to be producing far more period pop fiction. Off the top of my head I can think of Seto Kaiba as a good example. Google him and look for his white jacket. It’s got elements of this style, and the more LXIV/V period jacket that preceded it.

  74. Fluff McFluffster Says:

    Great show.. I especially like the security guards costumes!!!

  75. Aub A Says:

    Looking a this outfit I found it very interesting and ironic that this is something a man would wear considering it looks so feminine to today’s standards. The attention to detail is impecable.

  76. Patrick Ross Says:

    I’d totally wear this on St. Patty’s day! Where can I buy?

  77. Tom F Says:

    The pantaloons are amazing

  78. meimi1995529 Says:

    I wouldnt date ANY guy that even thought of wearing this.

  79. Denise Shapiro Says:

    Rather boyish. I love it and would wear it any day.

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