Clothes Make the Man

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Introduction M972.51.1-2 M2002X.6.1 I-27904.1 M972.81.13 I-42589.1 M973.49.7 M973.49.11.1-3 II-100033
Coat and waistcoat
About 1775, 18th century
121 cm
Gift of Mrs. Ludlow Haskell
© McCord Museum
Keywords:  Coat (40)
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Keys to History

In the 18th century, fashion was considered an entirely legitimate interest for men, consistent with prevailing notions of masculinity. Men of wealth and influence devoted their attention to fashion, just as women did.

Fashions worn by the nobility of the French court dominated Europe, and to a lesser degree, England. It was not only fashionable but de rigueur for wealthy men to advertise their status by wearing costly silks, laces and embroideries. Styles worn by élite men filtered downward through the social ranks. Fashionable Canadian men followed the lead of their European and English counterparts.

By the end of the 18th century, however, this elaborate style of dress for men was on the wane. Less than 100 years later, it was all but obsolete.

  • What

    Silk coats and waistcoats, with co-ordinating floral silk embroidery, were worn with plain silk breeches, usually in the same fabric as the coat.

  • Where

    Coats this elaborate were worn at court or to formal balls or dinners. This coat was probably of European origin.

  • When

    The cutaway front and shorter waistcoat date these garments to 1770-90.

  • Who

    Professional embroiderers produced floral masterpieces in silk thread on men's coats and waistcoats in the 18th century.