18th Century, Rate the dress

Rate the Dress: an elegance of leopard-skin suit

Last week I tried something different: I posted two dresses, and we had a dress-off.  It was certainly interesting to see your comments and comparisons.

The dislikers of dress #1 mainly felt it was too much like a uniform, the dislikers of dress number two thought it twee and less polished.  The accusation that it wasn’t fair as the mannequin wasn’t doing the dress justice, so the other had too much of an advantage, was leveled at both dresses by different commenters.  Some of you got quite literal and considered how it would actually work in a nautical situation, though the verdict on which was more suitable for boats and the seaside was anything but unanimous.  Finally, some of you annoyed me (in a loving way) by refusing to give the dresses different ratings (which rather defeats the point of a dress-off!).

Of all the comments I most agreed with Stella, who called the slim dress “beautiful and innovative” and the full-skirted dress “insipid, dull, and looks like it was intended for a small child” but did you feel the same way?

Well, the slim dress certainly got the most enthusiastic ratings (eight 10/10s compared to the full-skirted dresses’ measly two 10/10s), but when I added up the points the full dress came out 7.5 points ahead.  But then I double checked both sets of numbers, realised I sucked at adding, re-did them all and the final verdict was….a draw!  Yes, 7.9 out of 10 for both dresses.  The slim dress half a point ahead of the full in the final add up, but it was too small a percentage to make a difference once I divided by the number of voters.  I guess Norell just designs a good nautical dress!

Sometimes I feel I need to introduce a picture. To tell you about it, get you amped up and ready to consider it and rate it. Not this week. This week you’re rating this image:

An interior with elegant company, Venceslao Verlin, 1768

An interior with elegant company, Venceslao Verlin, 1768

Well, not the whole painting.  Not the guy in the boring brown suit, or the guy in the boring green suit, or even the lady in the extremely chic white silk hoodie.  You’re rating the guy wearing leopard print breeches and a matching waistcoat.  Just in case you hadn’t noticed him.

An interior with elegant company, Venceslao Verlin, 1768

An interior with elegant company (detail), Venceslao Verlin, 1768

I can only surmise how this rating will go.  Either you will react in utter horror, wondering if this was the 18th century version of hammer pants or metallic platforms for me, or you will decide that this is truly the awesomest thing ever, and Mr Animal-Print Unmentionables was clearly the manliest baddass of the Rococo, his girlie face aside (I mean, really, look at his face!  Now do a mental face-swap between him and Ms Satin Hoodie and tell me she doesn’t get prettier with his face!).

So?  What’ll it be?

Rate the Dress (or three piece suit, stockings, buckled shoes etc., as it may be) on a Scale of 1 to 10

*Also, based on the title of the work, and in the spirit of the collective nouns for costuming post, I hereby declare that a collection of animal-print menswear, should you be so…ummm…idiosyncratic as to have one, shall henceforth be known as an elegance of leopard-print suiting.  Make it so.


  1. Try as I might, I can’t see elegance – I see someone who was in such a hurry he threw a coat on over his jammies. The woman he’s trying to educate seems to be horror-struck herself. I’ll give him 2 points for originality, but that’s all.

  2. holy hell.
    This pair of breeches just might get me into historical sewing. They are Ah-MAY-zing! Inspirational! And, I rated the second dress from last week – sorry that was totally not intentional and not meant to annoy you. Also, I check into your blog just once a week so I didn’t see it!

    What do I love about it? Everything. I think he’s an illustrator (high-five with that dude because so am I). He’s wearing a super-quirky pair of breeches in cheetah print – I can only aspire to this level of quirk. And, he paired them with a lovely blue jacket with the sweetest checked buttons, and oh, I might try to recreate a modern version of this. ((swoon))

    For this lovely ensemble – 9/10.

    • No worries about last week! I would LOVE to see you do a version of this, either modern or (pretty, pretty please!) historical.

  3. I…
    I… I just can’t…. I don’t even know…
    I’ve seen too many internet photos of people wearing today’s equivalent of that outfit and people snickering over the clothing to find this very attractive… and yet there is something I like about it.
    Seems like whomever wearing something like this would have had quite the personality. He probably wouldn’t have been married if he wore it. Most wives would NOT let him out of the house in such an outfit without a very good reason, I think…!
    I think I’m going to have to give him and his wild outfit a 5/10. That’s 4 more points than I was thinking in the beginning. Can’t put my finger on why I ended up giving it 4 more points, but I did. 😀 Perhaps it is because I think I would have liked to have known him, had I lived in that era.

    And I am totally going to be saying “An elegance of leopard-print suiting”. Without a doubt. 😀

  4. I think it’s an incredibly snazzy ensemble. I think he showed good judgment in keeping his coat in a more subdued hue and the ruffles peeking out at his wrists of a restrained size. My question now is whether he was actually wearing leopard-print (or leopard skin!) trousers or whether that was the artist’s imagination clothing him thus. If he really is wearing leopard trousers, is the suggestion that he’s not only an illustrator, but also possibly a traveler, using his illustrations to show places he’d been, places where fur was in fashion as clothing and/or more readily accessible for garment making? The look the dog is giving him is priceless. 10/10.

    • Elise says

      That was my first thought, too. Similar to Ben Franklin sporting a coon skin cap in France: “I have traveled to lands exotic,” quoth he. Ok, so Franklin was at least from the country of the coon-skin, but the idea of punching up an exotic trend is the same.

      And like someone above said: Ah-MAY-zing!


  5. 10 of course! Wonderful! I have seen a few 18th century gentlemen with leopard collars, but never before BREECHES!

  6. I have a theory. In the original, his breeches and waistcoat were white. The young lass pictured detested her tutor as he was a mamby pamby prig who loved to correct her Latin, and was prettier than her. So, one night, she took her paints, sneaked into the room where it was hanging, and 3 hours later, it’s Hammer time!
    Her parents. who took no notice of her anyway let alone the painting, never twigged, and thus it stayed.
    It’s the only possible explanation… 😉

    • I don’t buy your theory, MrsC, but I love it; it *should* be true, even though it likely isn’t. 🙂

      But what’s your rating of his outfit?

    • OK, given breeches were frequently made from buckskin leather, and I don’t know how flexible leopard leather is, I cannot decide if they are real or not. If they are then 0. If it’s a print or embroidered, then 9. Not helpful, I know, but it’s a tricky one!

  7. karenb says

    I can’t believe that I am actually liking this guy’s outfit. I don’t like animal prints, have been avoiding them in the shops but this guy looks great.
    I love the colours…love his coat even more and he looks happy. Most of the paintings I have seen they all look sour as heck.
    I like the whole look of the outfit, shape, colours, even his shoes….

    So 9/10

  8. He is either the best dressed guy of his era or belongs on the 18th century version of “People of Walmart”. Personally I think he’s FABULOUS so I give him a solid 10 : )

  9. Oh wow. so many feels. It is simultaneously ridiculous and fantastic. I think it’s one of those pieces of clothing that only some people could pull them of, and well, but most people would look awful in ’em. ANYWAYS. 8/10

  10. I had a moment of “is this for real?” But dude went for it. You gotta give it to him for that.


    (And I love his coat too!)

  11. Olivia says

    10/10 This man is my hero and he sure knows how to put together an outfit! I’m a sucker when it comes to men’s suits not entirely matching (i.e. 1830s), and 18th century leopard-skin breeches and waistcoat simply take the cake!

  12. Lynne says

    How… unusual! Cari rightly draws attention to the look the dog is giving the young man! Brilliant. Dear young man – I’ll bet his father was horrified. Wonderful picture – a great discovery.

    The coat helps a lot – calms the leopard-skin pattern down. It’s actually a rather appealing outfit, in a ‘look at it side-ways’ way. 8 out of 10 – the kid’s out there!

  13. I am giving this a 10 because, FABULOUS. I had no idea leopard print fabric was so historical.

    But I also love the extremely skeptical expression of the woman looking at him. “Girlfriend, please!” What is he showing her? A lithograph of a building?

    • Lithography wasn’t wide spread yet at that point. Most likely he’s showing the lady an etching or an engraving… or just a plain old pen/ink illustration. He’s holding what looks like a fancy writing tool in one hand, too. It could also be a fancy lead holder or a fancy travel brush. Either way, your transcript is hilarious.

      ((Woot! I could finally contribute something about history – I heart printmaking & art history.))

  14. Sharon P says

    I am in the 10/10 group too – it’s awesome to see unexpected prints of the past!

  15. I like the coat, hate the rest of it. The animal print just makes it look tacky to me. 2/10

  16. I usually detest animal print…but…this is rocking my socks off. There, I said it. Socks, rocked off. I love the whole shebang, right down to the silver trim on his coat. (Yes, he’s got metallic AND leopard going on and I still love it!) I think the coat’s calmer color tempers the whole ensemble just enough. 9/10

    For what it’s worth, I do like the other two gentlemen’s ensembles, as well. The clover-green is a fun, bright color, and even Mr. Boring Brown livens it up with purple stockings.

  17. 5 out of 10.

    If his coat had been black, or golden yellow, or even brown, I would think his outfit was really sharp. But teal? The color of the coat just wrings all the life out of the leopard skin/print. So only 5 of 10, because the idea of doing a waistcoat and trousers in leopard was really innovative, and the sihouette is superb.

    By the way, though he’s supposedly showing the woman in white a lithograph, he’s looking at the painter/audience, with an expression that says “Isn’t my outfit sharp”? I find that annoying, too.

  18. I can’t stand animal prints in modern clothing, but 18thc? Bring it on! It’s so ridiculous it crosses the line back into awesome. 10/10

  19. I feel like I should be more torn about this. On the one hand, I never even like animal print! What is it doing in menswear in this era? The colors of his outfit kind of clash. I don’t understand! But the absurdity of the outfit kind of pleases me (not only does he have animal print breeches, but he even has a matching waistcoat! Clearly not going halfway here!) It is just so unusual and audacious that I love it. He’s even giving the painter a sassy look!

    So, while I think that it is the 18th century equivalent of metallic platforms, it is fabulous anyway. I give it 8/10 for awesome/audacity, and also I because I like seeing what we think of as unusual costuming examples from historical eras.

  20. wd,Oh my gawwwwwd, I love it!

    9 points for being fabulous, and only not a 10 because the jacket is not also in leopard.

  21. Vicki says

    RAWRRR BABY! LOVE this. I had no idea animal prints went back so far 10/10.

  22. Tenshi says

    I’m firmly in the “I don’t even like animal prints in modern clothes, but this is fabulous!”-camp. I didn’t expect to be. I expected to be horrified by it, but this really is awesome. It’s bold and unusual, and I got to love that. It’s one of those outfits that only very, very few people could pull off, but he does.

  23. Fabulous! Love that there is no gold in his suit, just the white and silver details. 10/10

  24. Cat says

    Oh, man! I have such a history crush on this dapper cockscomb!
    10/10 because I may just have to make myself a version of this.
    Mind = blown.

  25. Dawn/Wanda says

    My first reaction is HORROR! But, then I looked at his face. He is young. And the young can get away with fashion statements-especially if they are artistic! Anyone else notice that he is the only one looking at the painter. I think in stage and TV that is called breaking the barrier…actors are supposed to pretend that there isn’t an audience out there. He has a “beautiful” woman hanging on every word and he is more interested in the audience. This guy is used to being center stage. If I were at a ball with this guy in the room I’d be curious about what kind of person he was and what he might have to say but I might be inclined to think I could only stand him in small doses. 6/10

  26. fidelio says

    I’m curious–does anyone else think Mr. Brown Suit might be a servant–possibly a gamekeeper? Between the brown, the gray stockings, and the unpowdered hair he really doesn’t fit in with the rest of the group, and the paterfamilias in green seems to be giving him orders about something (possibly about keeping the leopards on the property under better control…); the positions the two of them are in don’t suggest a conversation between social equals. The dog, which is plainly a hunting hound and not a froufrou parlor dog could be his. I’m sorry, I know he’s not the point here. But I couldn’t resist.

    Somewhere out there in the Great Wide World, although Mr. Google will not cough it up, there is a photo of a bold Texas frontiersman in a jacket and trousers made of ocelot* hides from ocelots that he had (naturally, being a bold Texas frontiersman) killed himself. Dashing as he was, he lacked the elegance of this youngster, although they both shared a certain nonchalance about their wardrobe choices that was notable.

    I have to give this guy points for having the sense to keep his coat simple and to go with a black stock rather than a lacy neckcloth. Better to have only part of your outfit be intensely outre and stay low-key with the rest of it. Now, knowing whether those are in fact leopardskin, or brocaded silk garments (the folds suggest the latter–I don’t think the skin would end up folding so finely), would affect my reaction, because in the former instance I’d have to be impressed by such evidence of his hardy and vigoorous nature. In the latter–well, OK he’s fabulous. Big deal, the entire upper class of Europe was fabulous in the 18th century, or at least as fabulous as they could manage.

    So either 7/10 or 6/10 depending–and since we cannot know, that gives 6.5/10. I’m not all that sure the blue is the best choice for the coat color here, although they did have different ideas about contrasting colors and what looked good historically than we do.

    *It may have been jaguar hides, but I seem to recall ocelot being the term used. Something to do with the look of the rosettes.

  27. Hell to the yes, omg. Back in the day he woulda been my gay best friend. I had no idea they had leopard print anything that far back. I would have had to have a matching dress. Is there any evidence of any women’s clothing in animal print?

    Dude is just too cool, I have to give him a 10

  28. Brenda says

    Whether it’s 1768 or 1986, leopard print pants are always a NO. Totally clashes with everything else. BUT, I will be generous and give this a 4/10 because everything else in this gentleman’s suit is perfect and because, I must admit, wearing those pants (most likely made of real leopard skin!) must’ve taken some balls.

  29. missjoidevivre says

    I have no idea if this is a good example of the era bit I think this is fantastic! And given I rate these things based entirely on my visceral reaction, he gets a 10 because seeing it just made me happy!

  30. Kathy says

    It is a 2 out of 10 here, I’m afraid. Those pants are very distracting! I wouldn’t know where to look. Just too much for me.

  31. I absolutely adore the entire outfit. I don’t believe I have ever seen an entire animal print ( skin?) suit on a man in any kind of pre-1980s context at all. I wonder, though, what the drawing is that he is showing the Lady of the manor. Perhaps plans for a new house? Or renovations to the estate stretching behind them? Or perhaps a drawing of some fear off land he has visited….where he happened to pick up his awesome outfit?

  32. Belinda says

    This! It’s so wonderful! I love it when there are examples of unexpected prints/fabrics/shapes/colours in historical costume. What a bold and elegant gentleman! 10/10. Hell, I’d high-five him if I could.

  33. Claire Payne says

    Nooooooooooooooooooooo!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Sorry but it is a 0 out of 10 from me. Too awful to even contemplate. Lawks!

  34. I don’t like animal prints. This guy does not get an exception just because he’s 18th century.
    I love the coat, the shoes, the stockings, the hair. But the spotty, tan breeches and waistcoat clash horribly with the blue. The lack of trim turns them into a big blob of spottiness.


    Awesomely awful is still awful.

  35. Elise says

    It’s much easier to talk about fur, isn’t it, while it’s safely in the far past. Jackie O’s leopard coats? Appalling. But this is fabulous.

  36. Daniel says

    I actually think I love it. But I’m not sure if it’s adore love, or love the chutzpah. I’ve seen this before. The coat is lovely, and I think it’s definitely fabric woven to resemble leopard spots as there are plenty of existing eighteenth century fabrics with faux leopard spotting. Would I wear it? I do not think I would. If it was a complete three piece suit in leopard spot, I think I would absolutely love the boldness and nerve. Not sure why people are so down on faux animal prints sometimes, I think they can work amazingly well in the right contexts – especially if it is an unexpected context like this, which gets originality points from me. 🙂 Vivienne Westwood would be proud.

    Rating? Oh gosh, I don’t know. I flip flop between 4/10 because it’s really rather awful isn’t it, and 8/10 because it’s fabulous with it, but not LOVE LOVE LOVE fabulous, so I’ll go in the middle and say 6/10.

  37. Costumedzyner says

    While real leopard hide is a definite possibility for this ensemble, I doubt that it is real. The V&A book “Seventeenth and Eighteenth Century Fashion in Detail” has a great paragraph on the popularity of animal-print velvets in the second half of the 18th Century. Here is a picture from that book:


    I think if this suit was done in lustrous velvet with a leopard print, it would be really stunning in person. 8/10

  38. Wow, I didn’t realise they had animal print back then. I assume it’s painted or block printed. Mr Leopard Print’s suit goes right through cheesey and out the other side into awesome. 10/10.

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