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Tips for the Gentlemen

early 1700's - mid 1700's - late 1700's

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Early 1700's- My dear gentlemen, formalism is beginning to triumph over nature and it is time to trade in those loose, flowing coats for fully pressed seams and stiffly arranged folds. Do visit the tailor instead of the seamstress and see what he can do for you.

If you're a man of the gentry ask for wide sleeves, a knee length coat, and a cocked hat to set you apart from those commoners with closer sleeves, below the knee coats, and their plain, un-cocked hats. But I do believe I am getting ahead of myself! Let's begin at the logical place, or possibly not so logical, but nevertheless a good starting point when one is dealing with matters of fashion- the bottom.

Your shoes should be adorned with buckles, not bows or rosettes. Breeches should be tight and be sure not to leave your knees uncovered. Both your coat and your waistcoat should be richly embroidered and your buttonholes should be frogged. Tending to matters of waistcoats, my most highly recommended material is Calimanco, a material of wool or linen weave, faced on one side with satin, on which a rich design may be worked. Skirts should be wide (mayhap even wired) and sleeve cuffs broad. Be sure your tunic is open to show your waistcoat and a bit of lace ruffling on the sleeves wouldn't be ill-advised.


You can never go wrong when mimicking the styles of King George and adapting them to your own station. Copyright Corporation of London.

Now a quick digression into accessories: if you want to be seen as "ahead of your time" or "on the cutting edge of fashion," I advise you to pick up a snuffbox. These will not truly reach their height for several years, but back to advice for your dress...

As our journey culminates upward toward the head, don't let your neck be caught without a neck-cloth or cravat. I suggest Brussels lace, with the ends passed through the waistcoat buttonholes. As for hair, wigs are getting always larger, higher, and fuller (not to mention costlier!). It is proper to wear a Ramillies wig, which is a powdered, brushed-back peruke, with the hair puffed out at the sides, and at the back a long tail, fastened with black bows at top and bottom. Topping it off, turn up the edges of your "boater" hat to give it a slightly cocked appearance. Hmmmm, I do believe you're ready to walk the streets in style- not forgetting your muff in the winter months of course! (Return to top)


Playwright, David Garrick wears a fashionable  Ramillies wig.  Copyright Corporation of London.

Mid 1700's- What a prettily dressed period to live in my lucky friends! This time of empiricism is a time for personality, and what better way to show individuality than through the beautiful embroidery and delightful silks of our waistcoats! It is best to garnish these waistcoats with gold and silver threads and sequins. They are also getting longer and beginning to include large flap pockets. If you have the means, trim the edges richly with natural flower and leaf designs to reflect the modern rage for the pastoral.

Try to acquire a largely flared, wired, skirted coat, with a large row of buttons down one edge. But take care after about 1750 or so to shrink this coat and shorten the waistcoat.  


Your dear knees will finally get to breathe fresh air as shorter breeches gathered above the knee come into style. Use a plain band with a button or buckle. These should be set off beautifully by white stockings tapering down to square-toed shoes with matching square buckles of silver.

Periwigs are disappearing in favor of the bag-wig, a white-powdered wig, with its sidepieces brought round in front and tied with bows of ribbon. Around 1750 these front-pieces are becoming side curls in horizontal rows. If you think that hairstyles are becoming elaborate, do wait until we have delved into the intricacies of the proper hat! The Chapeau Bras was a tri-cornered felt hat that was carried underneath the arm as often as worn on the head. Sometimes these hats can be adorned with ostrich feather trimming. Equally fashionable is the Kevenhuller, a three-cornered hat that has high turn-up brims with a peak coming in front that is always banded with gold braid or other material (personally, I find these extremely garish, but, alas, it is only my duty to keep you abreast of current modes, not comment upon them). When you are not wearing a wig, it is acceptable to wear a sort of turban, but only indoors, and I don't suggest the practice in front of strangers and superiors!

Take advantage, gentlemen, for this is the last time you will be able to wear truly "beautiful" clothing, as modern styles have sunken to the drab and uniform- so indulge, in your silks, satins, velvets, and brocades! (Return to top)

Late 1700's- This age of solid prosperity is reflected in the heavy, massive cuts of our clothing, as well as in the rich, thick, heavily embroidered materials of which they are made. Although cuts are becoming more modest, rich materials such as velvet and satin with embroidery and lace are not yet gone. The phenomenon of a fashionable young man called a Macaroni is coming to pass putting exaggeration center-stage. He wears a wig that towers miles above him and perches a small, ridiculously foppish hat on the top of the peak (I fear here that I am again interjecting my personal values on this style of dress, but what can be seriously said about a hat that needs to be raised with a sword or a cane to its appropriate position?). He also wears two fobs to his waistcoat, carries a jeweled snuffbox, a gold-knobbed amber cane with a tassel, and a diamond-hilted sword.

But for the common man, coats are becoming more cut away and collars are becoming higher and higher. The stiffened flares of coat and vest are disappearing and the vest loses its long skirt in 1780. Overcoats with first flat, wide collars, sometimes double, and then treble collared capes are becoming stylish. The shirt with a double line of fringe should peek out from under the coat.

As sword carrying is becoming more and more discouraged at this time, I encourage you to hang it on your wall and trade it in for a nice pair of Top Boots, used for riding, or perhaps, after 1790 the Hessian Boot, which is short, and close-fitting, which comes to the knee and is finished with a tassel in the front. Of course, pumps are the only fitting ballroom attire.

Hats will be generally the same as earlier days except for the introduction of the Bicorne, which has only two corners. It can be worn either longways or shortways. The wide Quaker hat and the tall Beaver hat appears in 1780, carrying further the British tradition of ridiculous headwear.


The Macaroni was an 18th Century British Dandy. Copyright Corporation of London.

What is most important to remember my dear advice-seeking friends is that no matter what time period you are dressing in this extravagant century it is important to express individuality. Formalism and empiricism are the main forces involved in dress becoming a reflection of the economic and social status of England at the time. Remember that your dress is more than simply a way to protect yourself from the elements, but a way to express your social position, attitudes, and class. I am filled with confidence that if you look about you, study the dress of the Kings, and adapt it to your own station, you will be perfectly successful in your quest for the perfect ensemble. (Return to top)

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