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À la Mode, 1795 to 1920
Fashion Plates
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Changes in 19th Century Male Fashion


In the early years of the 19th century, ultra-fashionable men known as "dandies" spared no expense in care and attention to their dress. They also shared a fashion silhouette with contemporary women, and adopted similar fabrics and fashion details.

The male and female plates from Costume Parisien of 1825 illustrate this point. The man’s cutaway tailcoat, with its squared-off high waistline, related to women’s styles shown in the other volume from the same year. Men’s sleeves, like those for ladies, were cut full and puffy at the shoulders, and shoulders sloped downward from the neck. The delicacy of the man’s pinstriped trousers, bright buttons, lavishly curled hair, shoes with little bows, and snowy high cravat matched the overall effect of the female toilette. Men and women shared the same faces and poses.

The 1823 dandy featured in Costume Parisien presented a slightly different example of this peacock mode for men. His elegant evening attire consisted of elaborately curled hair, skin-tight pantaloons over hose, two layers of waistcoat, including one in vivid red, and a velvet cloak trimmed with fur and silver chain.

Dandyism never widely popular, was a doomed phenomenon.  By the 1840s a dramatic change had occured in men's fashion, as men in France, England and the United States[put on the black suit as their uniform.  Fashion historians have come to call  this change "the great masculine renunciation." Black, which began as the color for ecclesiastical garments, extended to clerks and financial men, and then spread throughout male society to become the favored color for all urban gentlemen, respectable professionals, shop clerks, and even artists and writers. Men wore dark shades day and night. The large 1886 Parisian fashion plate from Les Modes Françaises—Journal des Tailleurs shows how sober and serious male costume had become. Tailors offered fabrics in black or dark tweeds for suits and overcoats and the lines of the clothing were simple and stark. Pants could be checked or striped but fabric tones were subdued. Hats with unadorned lines completed a picture of business-like sobriety and no-nonsense severity.

According to fashion historian Anne Hollander, the clean lines and ease of wearing of the male suit made it an example of "modern" fashion art. She contrasts the advanced nature of menswear with the fantasy and backwardness of women’s clothing of the time, still mired in the constrictions of ruffles, swags, corseting, bustles, and lace. To compare, see Parisian women’s garments from the Magasin des Demoiselles of 1880.

Fashion and Classicism
Fashion Plates 1818-1846
Fashion Plates 1862-1896
Fashion Influences from Abroad
Fashion and Modernism
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Exhibit Images

Costume Parisien, 1825

Man of fashion
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Costume Parisien, 1825

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Costume Parisien, 1823

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Les Modes Françaises, 1886

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Magasin des Demoiselles, 1880

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Magasin des Demoiselles, 1880

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