Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Gilded Gentry

Coat and Waistcoat

Coat and Waistcoat, ca. 1730. Probably British. Coat: red wool broadcloth with gilt thread and sequin embroidery; waistcoat: white silk satin with gilt thread and sequin embroidery. Isabel Shults Fund, 2004 (2004.411a, b).

In the eighteenth century men’s formal and court attire expressed, in forms only slightly less constrained than the womenswear of the period, a lavishness that was notable for the elegance of its finish and the finesse of its application of artisanal techniques. The elite of Western Europe and the Americas emulated styles originating in France since the time of Louis XIV. This coat, with its flaring peplum, or skirt, is a persistent silhouette favored at the end of the Sun King’s reign that continued in modified form until the last years of Louis XV.

It is likely that the ensemble’s breeches, which have not survived, would have matched the coat. The use of red wool broadcloth for such a formal ensemble is unusual but indicates the provenance as British. From the mid-eighteenth century, wool became symbolic of British civility and freedom and was adopted as a fashionable fabric by such notable Anglophiles as Voltaire.

The coat’s elaborate gilt and spangled embroidery in a scrolling plume pattern is repeated, though scaled down, on the satin waistcoat’s front. The embroidery is done à la disposition—on the panel of fabric before it is cut. The feather motif reappears much later in the Napoleonic era executed in dense gold bullion embroidery on formal military dress.

Comments (22)

  1. Charity Says:

    The stitching on this amazing!! Just think how long it must have taken to stich it all by hand

  2. CC and Sunbun Says:

    Amazing! I would love to see Johnny Depp wear this next. More men today should take a hint from earlier fashions periods. There is nothing wrong with a bit of trim, and this isn’t even the coat of a “dandy!!”

  3. Rumistatt Says:

    I would buy this piece in an instant. The stitching yes is amazing, but the overall garment is simply fabulous!

  4. don rafael de la cruz Says:

    GROSS…. i would hate to wear his

  5. Anita Says:

    The work done on the embroidery is amazing. It’s a masterpiece of its kind but I wouldn’t wear it myself :)

  6. Lopez Says:

    scruvy!!! like mad.

  7. Kenny Says:

    this outfiit is dope gaahht!

  8. Jay Lopez Says:

    Fo Sho this is some hot stuff! i heart it…ya

  9. Christian Says:

    The coat is very nice and “cool” but I think it could be a little bit shorter in length so it does not look to girly… Try a little bit shorter please.

  10. Israel P Says:

    Ah, for a time when people dressed elegantly…

    Perhaps that day will come again, and jeans and t-shirts will be regulated to museum curiosities…

  11. tintin Says:

    In the 18th C, men dressed themselves in threes. The tri cornered or cocked hat provided the top. The Great coat was flared and was the middle. The stocking legs were third usually with shoes whose heels were painted red as was the custom in the French courts. A beautiful silhoutte that Savile Row continues to echo.

  12. Haley Loraine Says:

    it would be great to see people walk around in these types of clothes now … the clothes for men and women were so ornate and elegant … walking around in these garments would make anyone feel regal … the stitching on this coat and waistcoat is just incredible and the colors complement each other well … a beautiful garment

  13. Laurie Aron Says:

    I think much of the point with these elaborate clothes was to set apart the haves (who could afford to stay in fashion with all that fabric and elaborate handwork) from the have nots for whom rags were always de rigueur.

  14. meimi1995529 Says:

    i like the red coat and the brown coat under it. the ruffles are ok but i would like it better without them. altogether though its a really hot outfit and guys would probably look good in it… as long as they dont wear one of those white wigs… ewww…

  15. tintin Says:

    Fashion in the 18th C was complicated to say the least. The Great Coat, waistcoat, breeches and stockings stayed in style for over 100 years. Fabrics set people apart. Cotton was very expensive while linen was cheap. Hence, “homespun” was cheap but cut cut like the more expensive fabrics. People were able to look rich and made an attempt to.

    But they didn’t have GQ, Vouge and Esquire telling them that if they didn’t rush out and buy something from their advertisers they were losers. So people developed a style that was refelcted not only in what they wore but how the stood, walked and spoke. An interesting time.

  16. Rebecca Says:

    I heard this look is totally coming back.

  17. yolanda Says:

    this looks like napoleons jacket!

  18. Lily Says:

    Probably British.

  19. Susan Gordan Says:

    Loved the fact that you put this on a revolving stand so we could see all of it. I wondered if it was mounted a tad low as it seemed that the man who would have worn it might have been taller? Or perhaps it was the fashion to have the coat so low over the thighs?

  20. yui Says:

    I swear if this coat was available today, I would wear it and run out the door and be fabulous all day long.

  21. coco Says:

    this was really boring from the man side of view

  22. Daniel Says:

    When and why did it become unacceptable for men to be able to wear clothes with such amazing colors, attention to detail and fabrics?

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