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Rate the Dress: A man in stripes, spots, lattice & lace

Last week I showed you a Gilbert Adrian dress with a simple silhouette and a muted photographic print of bread and milk.  Alas, quite a few of you found the colours, silhouette, and print a total dud, dragging the rating down to a disappointing 6.5 out of 10.

I think the dress lost a lot in the translation of time: for us, photographic fabric prints are common, and thus uninteresting, an the use of mundane images on fabric has been done multiple times.  In 1951 photographic printing on fabric was groundbreaking, and pop art was still half a decade away.  While novelty print fabrics featuring food and kitchen tools were very popular, Adrian’s use of an everyday scene in muted colours turns both the novelty trope and the classical tradition of still-lifes on its head.  (Obviously I thought the dress was incredibly clever, subtle and bold, both less and more in exactly the right ways.  On a tall, slightly curvy woman with Hepburn-esque colouring and attitude?  Oh my!  It would make every other woman at the afternoon soiree in Hollywood look clichéd, common, and completely un-memorable in their hyper-pretty, hyper-feminine, skin baring, colourful floral, lace and polka dot frocks.)

This week, let’s go back in history 150 years, and look at some menswear:

This outfit from the last years of the 18th century shows the transition between the elaborate, detailed outfits of the 18th century gentleman, and the more severe, restrained styles of the early 19th century.

The colours and patterns used in this outfit are definitely more toned down than they would have been a couple of decades earlier, but while florals (or animal prints) have given way to stripes, and cerise to mustard and mauve, there overall look is still layers of detail and combinations of shades.  From the satin striped breeches, to the gold, mustard and peach jacket, with shiny, spotted buttons, to the waistcoat, patterned with a lattice of interlocking ribbon, to the lace peeking out from the cuffs and spilling down the waistcoat, and even to the swordstick, with tromp l’oeil branch effect, the whole outfit is about combining texture and pattern.

What do you think?  Do the multiple textures and tones add up to sartorial splendour?

Rate the Dress on a Scale of 1 to 10

* I was only able to find the link to the waistcoat in this ensemble on the V&A website, so if you know the link to the other pieces, please let me know!

29 Comments

  1. Sink me! ‘Tis the Scarlet Pimpernel!
    I think it works well as an outfit: not too peacocky, but with enough visual interest to avoid being blah. I love the way his subdued hat and shoes go together, too. I would happily steal his hat, in fact, if I thought it would fit.

      • True! but then he was also supposed to be the leader of fashion, so if the more subdued look was coming in, I suppose he might have premiered it.
        I forgot to add a rating: 7/10

    • Elise says

      YES! Exactly. Peacocky, but in good taste. You know that he loathes Beau Brmmel and the understatement.

      10/10 from me. I adore it!

  2. Barbara Stevens says

    The subdued colours work well – but I think you would have to be a fairly vibrant personality not to fade into a similar subdued state in a social gathering. I have often wondered just how comfortable these fashions were to wear.
    No, actually I find the colours dull and boring and probably wouldn’t give the wearer a second look.
    Cut and style – very precise so full marks there, colour and attractiveness – a bit bleh really. So overall 6/10.

  3. Mixing patterns with these colors is just not my cup of tea. Same with the buttons which are just way too big and costume-y. And then he is wearing a bowtie on top of his lace bib. I also hate the hat. The pants are okay but can’t save anything. 4 out of 10 because my hate for this outfit feels slightly irrational.

  4. I’ve never cared for the extremely short men’s coats of the turn-of-the-18th-into-the-19th century, but this outfit manages to harmonize colors and differing patterns very well. On the other hand, the short breeches look a bit odd with the coat/waistcoat combination. Overall, a 7 for its subtle boldness.

  5. This is my favorite fashion era, so I love it. It’s the perfect transition between the earlier styles, with their strong colours and florals, and in my point of view too much of everything, but it hasn’t yet gone down the dark and serious route that it’s been stuck in since then. The only little thing I’m not a fan of are the striped trousers, would have preferred them to be solid, but the stripes are hardly visible so it’s still a 9/10.

    • Elise says

      I love this period, too. And isn’t it so incredible to think that men have been wearing the same suit for 200 years???

  6. Johanne says

    How utterly handsome. The buttons? Although they are a last gasp of earlier, more elaborate styles, are a bit too ornate for this outfit. My only complaint. To me, this is an almost perfectly co-ordinated and balanced outfit punctuated by black accents. Very Tom Lefroy. According to the V&A, the waistcoat is lined with cotton so may even have been comfortable. That vest! Its subtle intricacy of materials and pattern are a tribute to the tailors, weavers, seamstresses of the time. Just grand.

    9/10

  7. I COMPLETELY missed the Adrian dress last week! Where was my head?!

    Here’s the coat:
    http://collections.vam.ac.uk/item/O13946/coat-unknown/
    The knitted silk breeches:
    http://collections.vam.ac.uk/item/O75637/breeches-unknown/

    I can’t find the swordstick – no pictures of it on database and not sure where to start looking for the lace, and I think everything else is replica.

    Anyway, I LOVE this outfit and I love this era – and I would definitely love to dress like this. My style goes towards mixing textures and colours in a similar way, although in a more contemporary context. So it’s an easy 10/10 for me.

  8. I think I’d give this outfit an 8/10. The details are very subtle rather than blatant and I enjoy the combination of textures and patterns which I think leaves lots of room for a personal touch in putting together the outfit. It is definitely more interesting than all black but also easier to imagine wearing everyday than some of the earlier, more elaborate court suits. Perhaps slightly less drab colours would have given the outfit a lift but then they may well have been brighter and richer originally. All in all though, if I were a man, I think I would feel very elegant and stylish wearing this and completely at home in the company of Sir Percy Blakeney! In fact, I wouldn’t mind wearing it anyway 🙂

  9. Julia Ergane says

    All in all I like it even though I would have preferred the front of the jacket/coat to come to the waist. I love the hat, it is similar to ones in the 17th century. I’ve never really cared for the “top hat” as it it too high and seems ready to blow off. I would like a bit more colour in the waist coat. My rating is 9/10

  10. I actually love the combination of prints and would happily wear them in a modern interpretation. They are coordinated without being the dread “matchy-matchy”.

  11. Lyn Swan says

    I rather like the color palette and the mix of prints. I know very little about men’s clothing so am just going on how it hits my eye. The short jacket is just right in its scale with the waistcoat…And lace at the neck and cuffs?…One must display ones finery! It is too bad that men are so restricted in their clothing choices these days…the “too small” suits in vogue at the moment leave me underwhelmed. All of that said 10/10. I would love to be seen with someone dressed this way, man or woman!

  12. India says

    Oh, how Georgette Heyer’s heroes would disapprove. His neckcloth is askew! That apart I quite like this. It’s not what a wealthy man about town might wear to a ball but, I think, rather something he would have worn when seen, well, about town. It is exactly of its era and in excellent taste for that era. 9/10 – because I’m just not 100% sure about that waistcoat beneath that jacket and because I can feel the ghost of Mrs Heyer tut-tutting over that neckcloth.

  13. Lynne says

    9 out of 10 from me.

    It is a smart and wearable outfit. I do like knee breeches. When knickerbockers were fashionable (again) back in the early 80s?? I used to wear them – smart and comfortable. In the early 70s I had a woollen trouser suit in a very similar stripe and colouring to the coat of this outfit, so I have slight deja vu feelings. For those of you who remember humbugs, the stripped sweet – something similar.

    The buttons are good – the big steel ones, and the self-fabric ones on the waistcoat. And the lace is lovely. My only real qualm is about the bow ‘tie’ neck-cloth and the lace. Would they really have been worn together? Like that?

  14. Those white-faced ring-eyed mannequins at the V&A give me the creeps.
    Trying to imagine someone more rosy-cheeked in it, I think it’s quite nice for the era, but that’s also about it. 7/10.

  15. I actually can’t find anything to like about this one. The pants and waistcoat are okay but the rest I really don’t like at all! I’ve never liked this style of top hat (the shape and the enormous buckle just look wrong to me), I don’t like the enormous buckle on the shoes either. I don’t like the bow tie (it just looks a bit much with the ruffle on his shirt and I’m not that fond of bow ties anyway). The thing I dislike the most, however, is the coat. I don’t like this style of tailcoat where the front waist is so far above the waist and I really don’t like the colours. Or the buttons.

    Actually, on second (or third) look I do like the ruffles on the front and wrists. Even so 3/10

  16. These very late transitional styles aren’t usually my favourite, but I really like this one. I like the colours, and I rather like the combination of patterns. Sometimes combining a number of different patterns can get too over the top, but I think these ones work well together. 10/10

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