THE CRAFTED APPEARANCE:
18th & 19th Century Men's Fashion
April 1 - June 7, 2013
The term “Dandy” is defined in the Oxford English Dictionary as “One who studies above everything to dress elegantly and fashionably.”
Since the late 18th century writers and illustrators have depicted characters, both real and fictional, for which appearance is an art. Examples of the well-dressed man in this exhibition are from various sources: prints engraved from 18th century paintings; fashion plates from 19th century French magazines; books with caricatures and social commentary by 19th century illustrators; and illustrations of English nobility and politicians from late 19th century issues of Vanity Fair magazine.
In these selected images, one can see (perhaps even exaggeratedly) in pose and gesture, the man who took great pains to create a certain style or look. Essential elements for the fashionable man included the formal morning coat, depicted with an hourglass silhouette. Is it possible that men actually wore corsets to create the tiny waist deemed so elegant? Other accessories were a top hat, colorful cravat, gloves, occasionally a long and sweeping frock coat, and a walking cane. In the 18th century men wore more silks and lace, pants were knee length and worn with stockings, and powdered wigs were in vogue. In the 19th century styles became a bit more simplified with a leaner look. Long slim pants as well as waistcoats were made of plaids and stripes, and hairstyles were shorter, in the classical Roman style.
In either century, the man of fashion typified a life of leisure and elegance. This clothes wearing man-about-town took great pains to craft his appearance and even to this day, that style is remembered and emulated.
For more of the fashionable man, see also the Artist/Rebel/Dandy: Men of Fashion exhibition at the RISD Museum, April 28 – August 18.