Friday, April 20, 2012



18th & Early 19th Century England

By Maggi Andersen

Regency men
It was not in France but Britain that the classic style of clothes worn by men today began to evolve.
During the Georgian period, upper-class Englishmen were busy running their country estates. They needed fabrics which supported their sports, travel and life in the countryside.

18th Century Frenchmen's clothing
 18th Century Frenchmen’s clothing 
Surprisingly, the French, who remained in court and dressed accordingly, came to admire the sensible dress of the English. And in the 1780s, France became obsessed with all things English. This frenzy was known as Anglomania. Sir Walter Scott describes it well: “France, who had so long dictated to all Europe in matters of fashion, seemed now herself disposed to borrow the more simple forms and fashions of her ancient rival.”
Aside from the adoption of English butlers, carriages, dogs and horses, the French began to use wool for jackets instead of the traditional silks and satins. The French Revolution influences this, with the turning away from aristocratic forms of dress.
This resulted in a turning away of bright colors for men. The colors of jackets were limited to brown, grey, dark green, blue and black. Blue was acceptable for any occasion, and black reserved for morning (informal) or for eveningwear.

Regency riding boots
Boots were de rigueur, and by the 1820s trousers became the dominant item of clothing for men instead of breeches and pantaloons. The colors were predominantly tan, white, blue, grey and, occasionally, black. Normally one plain color but sometimes pin-striped. Materials were wool, cashmere, corduroy, cotton, linen, leather and silk.

Waistcoats were the main item used for color and variety. Sometimes two waistcoats were worn simultaneously to show contrasting colors. They were made in a variety of fabrics and often exhibited expensive embroidery. Many wore white or flesh colored waistcoats to give the impression, should the man remove his coat, that he was naked. Influenced by the Grecian Ideal, men were proud of their bodies and sought by fair means or foul (a little padding or corsetry) to display them at their best. 
Shirts were white linen. A great symbol of flair and individuality was the cravat, which required several meters of expensive cotton. Tying it took a considerable amount of time and assistance. These were predominantly white, although some striped fabrics were used, similar to ties worn today. By the Regency era, cleanliness became an important factor and white fabrics demonstrated that the wearer’s clothing was clean. Regular bathing and the use of soap replaced the heavy use of perfume to disguise body odor.
The movement away from powder, perfume wigs, silks, lace, embroidery and stockings segregated the fashions of men and women to become more like our modern day understanding of menswear and masculinity, through the many changes during the Victorian and Edwardian periods. 

Bridegroom's Attire
Groom’s attire
1900′s-1920′s (Edwardian Period): A frock coat (a double breasted long coat) was widely worn as part of men’s formalwear during the Edwardian and Victorian periods. By 1910, three-piece suits became more popular than frock coats, but the slim fitted jackets and trousers were still worn.

And up to the present day...

Contemporary Male Attire
Maggi Andersen, Author of The Reluctant Marquess

Facebook: Maggi Andersen Author

Resource: NAPOLEON and the Empire of FASHION 1795-1815 Skira.
FASHION IN THE TIME OF JANE AUSTEN Sarah Jane Downing Shire Library.

Friday, April 13, 2012


I remember it well, the “burned orange” wool suit with the snazzy fitted jacket over a mini skirt, sent all the way to me in Jamaica by a friend in the UK for my arrival in London in 1967. But the suit needed the right shoes, so the second I landed in the most happening city of the sixties, I rushed off to buy the most impractical pair of boots I could lay my hands on. They were black patent leather knee-highs and served at least one purpose – to draw the attention of every man I passed as I strode along the sidewalk to school. The first day I wore them, I hadn’t gone a yard before I heard a voice from somewhere above my head call out, “Nice boots, luv.” Blushing, I looked up to see that work on the roof of the building next door had completely ground to a halt. My boots were off to a good start.
What a decade the sixties was. It began with skirts climbing to well above the knees and ended with them falling almost to the ankles in flowing “Granny” prints.” It was a heady decade that, as it began, dragged along leftovers from the fifties such as prim Jacky Kennedy-style Pill Box hats and little white gloves only to eventually dump them as all fashion discretion was thrown to the wind.
Jacky Kennedy
Everything about the 60s was exciting, and often downright sensational, but the defining style of the decade was the miniskirt. Designed by British fashion icon Mary Quant in 1964, the mini revolutionized fashion in a way no other design had since the "Roaring Twenties" when fashions exposed the legs for the first time.

With Quant in the lead of the 60s fashion revolution, hemlines rose to previously unimagined heights. Soon, rugby shirts and other upper garments were being worn as mini dresses. In her book, From A to Biba, former Biba owner Barbara Hulanicki claims it was not Quant who first designed the miniskirt. According to Hulanicki, the mini came about quite by accident. Not long after Biba opened, Hulanicki received a delivery of stretchy jersey skirts that had shrunk dramatically between leaving the manufacturer and arriving at her shop. “I nearly had a heart attack. The skirts were only 10 inches long.” “That little fluted skirt walked out on customers as fast as we could get it onto the hatstands.”
Mary Quant

 Whatever the real story, the mini (said to be named after Quant’s favorite car) spread like wild fire from “Swinging London” to Paris where André Courrèges ran with it all the way to the runway with his Mod look for spring/summer 1965. His less clinging version of the mini was worn with his trademark white Courrèges  boots. Yves St. Laurent also jumped on the mini bandwagon in his fall/winter collection that year.

Courrèges (image from The Red List)
The mini had now gained full fashion respectability in its evolution from youth street fashion to haute couture. In no time, it made its way across the Atlantic where Rudi Gernreich was among the first American designers to include it in a collection.

Fashions of the 1920s
I couldn't help noticing the similarity between the mid-1920s fashion revolution and the one that took place in the mid-1960s. In the 20s the women’s rights movement had a strong influence on fashion, as it did in the 1960s. Compare the abandoning of the confining corset with the burning of the bra. Compare the 1920s hemline inching its way up to the knee with the 1960s hemline rising almost to the derriere. In the 1920s, we also see the nymph-like figure and a flatter chest become the height of fashion. In the 1960s – well, that photo of the iconic Twiggy above says it all. What is also interesting about the two eras is that it was the younger generation that set the fashion trends that were, at first, frowned upon by the status quo. There is a great story about supermodel Jean Shrimpton appearing at the races in Melbourne, Australia minus stockings, hat or gloves - and wearing a mini dress. The headline of the day read “SHRIMP SHOCKED THEM.” Reading the article, I was surprised to learn that Shrimpton earned as much as the Beatles. See With the arrival of Jean Shrimpton, Twiggy and Veruschka on the fashion scene, the era of the super models had begun. But that’s a another story.

Jean Shrimpton

I confess I’m a pack rat and today I’m glad I am. Look what I found – part of a letter I wrote to my best friend in 1961, complete with sketches! Think the writing was on the wall?