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Costumes - The Clothes Men Wore

( Originally Published 1902 )



AND now, if it be asked how our exquisite, who, until 1749, was known as a " Fribble," was dressed, we shall have to note that about 1727–1730 he wore black velvet breeches, a Ramilies wig, a coat that fitted very smartly and was buttoned tightly at the waist, trimmed with lace, and open from the neck to the waist to show the lace ruffles beneath it. He had an array of buttons, his sleeve was finished with a deep cuff, and his wrists were adorned with ruffles. His waistcoat was long, and adorned with buttons and flaps. His shoes were gay with red heels, his silk stockings had gold clocks, his hat was a cocked beaver, and he wore a sword and carried a cane decorated with tassels.

The clothes that Gov. Montgomerie wore conformed to the above in every detail. Among them were cambric ruffled shirts, dimity vests, a scarlet coat and breeches trimmed with gold lace, a cloth suit with open silver lace, silk stockings with clocks, a gold-headed cane, and several wigs.

A few years later, the coat had grown longer, reaching to the calf of the leg, fitting as tightly at the waist as ever, and just as profusely adorned with buttons. The cuff, now somewhat smaller at the wrist, reached to the elbow, and a broad collar turned over and lay low upon the shoulders. The coat was still open, showing the ruffle or frill of the shirt.

About 1744, there was a slight change. The coat was no longer laced, although a plain band of lace was retained upon the still ample waistcoat. The skirts of the coat were lined with stiff buckram, or canvas, and stood out in rigid folds, and still fell below the knee. The stockings were drawn over the knee and just met the breeches, ornamented as before with glittering buckles. In 1753, a writer exclaimed :

" What gentleman now rolls his stockings ? or lets his breeches cover the cap of his knee ? Who suffers his coat-skirts to hang low enough to hide his thighs? or, who dare appear now with high-topped gloves ? Are not, even on the stage, full bottoms discouraged ? Nay, a Brigadier is as unseemly ; the scratch usurps the throne of long-bobs, and a tye-wig is banished for a pigeon-winged toupee. But the hats—the hats, gentlemen, suffer most. Is not the Dettingen cock forgotten ? the noble Kevenhuller discouraged ? Are not hats brought down to caps ? and ladies, who will exceed in extremes, disdain to wear caps at all."

At the beginning of George III.'s reign, our beau decorated his coat and waistcoat with a profusion of lace, and wore a small black cravat. Otherwise, his costume suffered no change. The costume of 1766 is well hinted at in Anstey's New Balk Guide, when Simkin dresses himself in the latest fashion. He writes home :

" For I ride in a chair, with my hands in a muff,
And have bought a silk coat and embroidered the cuff;
But the weather was cold, and the coat it was thin,
So the tailor advised me to line it with skin :
But what with my Nivernois' hat can compare
Bag-wig, and laced ruffles, and black solitaire ?
And what can a man of true fashion denote,
Like an ell of good riband tyed under the throat ?
My buckles and box are in exquisite taste,
The one is of paper, the other of paste."

The next and last change was a violent one. In 1770, the Macaroni appeared, whose style of head dress we have already described. He cut his coat much shorter and left it unfastened to show his waist-coat, also shortened till it reached the waist only. His two watches, with

their dangling seals, hung from his pockets ; and a large white neckerchief was tied in a full bow beneath his chin. The turnover collar of his coat was small. The latter fitted snugly and was ornamented with lace or braid, embroidery, frogs and sometimes tassels. His tight breeches of striped or spotted silk reached to the knee and were tied with bunches of ribbons or strings. Small paste or diamond buckles adorned his shoes, and his stockings, of course, were of silk. Upon his enormous toupee, was perched a tiny hat, which he removed with his cane when necessary. The latter was decorated with tassels. A sword also dangled at his side.

He was a very curious object and did not escape caricatures and lampoons of all kinds. The Oxford Magazine for 1770 said : " A kind of animal, neither male nor female, lately started up amongst us. It is called a Macaroni. It talks without meaning, it smiles without pleasantry, it eats without appetite, it rides without exercise." The type originated about 1770, when a number of fashionable young Englishmen who had made the "Grand Tour," formed themselves, on their return, into a club, which they named in honour of Italy's favourite dish. From the Macaroni Club they took their name, and they carried extravagance in fashion, in dress, and in manner to the verge of absurdity. In 1772-'3, they altered their costume slightly, combing their hair still higher above their foreheads in an oval shape, with large curls above each ear. They also wore knots of flowers upon their breasts.

Horace Walpole noticed them in 1772, fathering them upon Lord Clive. " Lord Chatham," he wrote, " begot the East India Company, the East India Company begot Lord Clive, and Lord Clive begot the Macaronis ; and they begot poverty ; and all the race are still living." Under date of Feb. 17, 1773, he said : "A winter without politics . . . . even our Macaronis entertain the town with nothing but new dresses and the size of their nosegays. They have lost all their money and exhausted their credit and can no longer game for twenty thousand pounds a night."

For a few years, everything was a la Macaroni, and the term was as familiar in New York as in London. In September, 1771, we even find "The Macaroni Purse for L100" being run for by Mr. De Lancey's Lath and Mr. Waters's Liberty. The word was also adopted here as a nom de plume. The name is particularly interesting to Americans on account of the song beginning :

" Yankee Doodle came to town
Upon his little pony,
Stuck a feather in his hat
And called it Macaroni."

The story that this popular song is of Cromwellian origin is scorned by the best authorities on old English ballads, who hold that the word Macaroni establishes the date of the lines when the derisive words had peculiar significance, for the Macaroni was then a familiar figure.

Gentlemen in New York had every opportunity to keep up with changes in fashions. The tailors were a numerous body. In 1750, "Simon Smith, Taylor, from London, living at his shop at Mr. Joseph Delaplain's, joiner, in Smith's Fly, near the Fly Market, makes all sorts of Mens and Boy's Cloaths, lac'd or plain, likewise Ladies Habits and Riding Josephs in the newest Fashion."

In 1751, Joseph Reed, Taylor, from London, removed from Depuyster's Street to the Sign of the Blue Ball in Wall Street, and in the same year "William Anderson, Taylor, makes all sorts of laced or plain Cloaths in the newest Fashion as in London." In 1771, Ennis Graham is selling clouded silk waist-coat patterns richly embroidered and spangled, gold spangled frogs for clothes and "macaroni velvet."

Fashionable tailors in large numbers advertised clothes of costly and beautiful materials in large quantities, but space will not allow further quotations. In 1775, William Thorne gives a price list of the most sumptuous dress of the day. From this we learn that a plain suit superfine cloth cost £8—10—0; a half trimmed ditto, L9-0-0; full drest ditto, £10—0—0 ; coat and waistcoat, superfine cloth, £6—15—0 ; a suit best velvet, any colour, lined with satin, £38—0—0 ; suit figured Manchester velvet, £15-10-0 ; suit rateen trimmed with feather velvet and gold buttons, £21-0-0; pair silk velveret breeches, £2—0—0 ; single coat, superfine cloth, £5-0-0; plain suit second best cloth, £7-0-0; coat and waistcoat, ditto, £5-5—0; surtout coat, best Bath beaver, £2-15-0; plain cloth suit livery, £5-16—0 ; ditto, with shag breeches, £7-0-0; thickset frock and waistcoat, £13—16—0 ; and livery surtout coat, £3-16-0.



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