Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Research on Men's Garments, 1795-1815

I haven't decided exactly what year to place Kenny's costume in... I'm a little worried that my tailoring skills are not up to making the large and magnificent rolled collars that were in vogue after 1800, and the separated collar of earlier years is something I'm pretty sure I could tackle. However, I am a big fan of the cut-away fronts evident in frock coats after 1800 (at least I think they are frock coats - I know there's a debate over 'what is a frock coat' out there); coats before that have a very gentle curve toward the back, but not a distinct cut-away at the waist. I'm afraid that the gentle curve might just make Kenny look like a straight skinny post (or maybe Lowly the Worm). Kenny isn't exactly a huge man. Actually, he is distinctly diminutive. As you can see below, we are almost the same size (except for the fact that I am significantly stouter than him). So while a little visual widening wouldn't hurt (a cutaway would help with that), the narrow inverted 'v' shape formed by earlier coats might just slim him down to a wee sliver.

I began my research by looking at paintings from around the dates that I want to reproduce. I had a particularly hard time finding paintings dating close to 1800 exactly, which seems to be a distinct turning point in men's fashion. I don't really need a costume from 1800 anyway, I just use it as a point of reference. We (Kenny and I) haven't quite decided whether to make something from 'before' (mid-late 1790s) or 'after' (1810s). So, I gathered some paintings and fashion plates from a small range of years to try to figure out exactly what we wanted to go for.

Potrait of Bertrand Barere de Vieuzac, 1793-94, by Jean-Louis Laneuville

This first painting is one of my favourites. I think because I just love his colourful cravat! The colourful cravat seems to just be a French thing, though - I haven't found any Englishmen in anything but white cravats. I also love the red waiscoat, which seems to also be a French thing... I can't really tell anything at all about the collar of the frock coat. At first glance it looks like an older style, with the tails curving away from the waist. However, the silhouette of the collar makes it look like the chunky high separated collar typical of the 1790s. If I peer at the picture really closely, a wide lapel is also visible.

Portrait of a Conventionnaire in the Revolution, 1794, by Jean-Francois Sablet

This Portrait of a Conventionnaire is another painting of a French man with a coloured/patterned cravat and a red waistcoat. The prominent outer coat is actually not a frock coat, it is definitely outerwear. However, the frock coat is visible underneath it. It looks to be an older style, with the front edge coming right up to a standing collar, with no lapels. It is interesting to note that the outer coat has large lapels and a separated collar... but the coat beneath it does not. and the waistcoat beneath that, does! The end result looks a little motley, but I don't think that is entirely bad. I kind of like it, actually.

Portrait of the Sculptor Callamard, 1801, Jean-Baptiste-Jacques Augustin

Final picture for the day, this is another Frenchman. His neck-cloth is ridiculous, but the collar of his coat is pretty clearly defined. It is very large, and very stiff! Something must be stiffening it, but I'm not exactly sure what kind of interfacing would have been used. I have read about buckram or the equivalent being used, but I need to investigate that a little more. I also can't see a bit of waistcoat, unless that little white ridge along the opening of his coat is supposed to be the neck edge of his waiscoat. If so, that is an incredibly white waistcoat.

Next post I will put up some paintings by Louis Leopold Boilly which illustrate a lot of different ages and types of men at one time. They provide a glimpse of the variety of fashions and colours which would have been worn at the turn of the century.

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