18th Century, Miscellenia

Rate the Dress: Felipe I, Duke of Parma circa 1760

Last week I showed you a striped 1820s dress with a variety of different trim ideas across the dress, and contrasting sleeves.  As a whole, certain bits of the dress you loved, other bits you hated: problem was there was no consensus as to which bits to admire  and which bits to condemn!  Some of you loved the purple sleeves, others loathed them.  I was among those who adored the bias striped trim at the hem, but many of you found it awful.  It was a very bitsy dress, and the bitsy votes came together at 7.4 out of 10, which impressed me considering all the criticism.

Many of you were also quite critical of the display, which I think is a bit harsh.  They are auction-house pictures after all.  It’s very generous of Augusta Auctions to make so many detailed photos available online in the first place, and they have a lot of stuff to photograph and dress: you can hardly hold them to the same standards as the Metropolitan Museum of Art!

This week it’s time for a men’s fashion on Rate the Dress.  It’s just been too long.

This is Felipe the I, Duke of Parma.

Felipe I, Duke of Parma by Laurent Pecheux (1729-1821), circa 1760

He’s got it all!  The chin to end all chins!  The dog with its eye falling off its face!*  Parquet!  Naked goddesses in the fireplace!  Gilded shell-bedecked furniture!  Basketweave patterned velvet breaches!  And a jacket to match, though it’s hard to tell under all the embroidery and medals and frogging, and oh, have I mentioned the fur cuffs that are each big enough to be a respectable muff?  Plus, he’s got lace at cuffs and stock, and snowy white stockings.  And let’s not forget his floral brocade waistcoat, or his brilliantly blue sash scarlet neck sash which display more medals and orders (I’m sure there is a proper name for the sashes but I’m tired and it’s late). Finally, you can just glimpse his hair bag, and the glitter of the buckles on his shiny, shiny shoes.  And is his coat lined in fur?

In other words, there is a lot  to take in.

Too much?  Or is it the excess of men’s rococo fashion that makes it work?  Does all the over-the-top-ness come together fabulously, or ridiculously?

Rate the Dress on a Scale of 1 to 10.  

*OK, that’s actually just a bit of light reflecting off the dogs hair, but unless you look closely all you see is alien-melty-dog-face!


  1. Wretched excess, I call it. I like the basic color scheme (old gold with brown) and I think the men’s fashions of the 1750s-1770s rather handsome, but there’s entirely too much gold brocading on both fabrics (in different patterns, no less). It does look as though his coat is lined in fur, which I cannot blame him for, but the wide fur trim at the sleeve is excessive from a fashion standpoint. A 6 from me.

  2. Jenny Wren says

    I think he would look a bit silly in real life, but the painter makes him pull it off. Only quibble is that his breeches look like they’re cutting off circulation to his feet…

  3. Brenda says

    I agree with Catherine in that I like the color scheme (and I love the blue/orange combination of the sash/medallion) but the different patterns on the breeches, vest, and jacket are too much. And the fur cuffs…for shame!


  4. Just a note re: Brenda’s comment. I chose to disregard the clashing sash and medallion altogether. I figured that they were signs of various offices he held, and did not want to blame him for choosing to wear them for that reason. In other words, I did not see them as a fashion statement per se.

    On the other hand, the fur cuffs and clashing patterns were purely voluntary. (On the third hand, I tend to oppose the wearing of clashing patterns, period, even though they were popular in some periods, and with some people.)

  5. Brocade…on top of brocade…with some more brocade, and fur! The white stockings are startling in contrast. Still, I’m giving him an 8 so that he travels forwards in time and gives me a Parma ham. And he must have loved that old spaniel to have the dog in the painting.

  6. Daniel says

    The overall effect is pretty splendid. Major wow factor. Gold and brown is a harmonious blend that works well. The cravat and lace cuffs are not overlarge, but proportioned well – in fact, the proportions overall are very good, especially for his figure.

    Although… his legs are VERY glaringly white, almost too white and brilliant for the mellow tones of the rest of the ensemble. But I still give this a solid 8/10.

    • I rather liked the white stockings, myself; they were a restful contrast to the opulence of the rest of the ensemble. Ditto the simple black shoes with the (relatively) plain silver buckles.

  7. I love it. All of it, and most particularly the OTT combination of the different elements. 10/10.

  8. The clothing is well put together, the colors blend well. The turquoise sash saves the outfit from being too much of one color. I give it a 9 out of 10.

  9. Actually, I do like his outfit — 18th century tres chic. It is not too frou-frou at all — not like the French court. He is definitely dressed for his station in life. 9/10

  10. Lynne says

    He looks splendid, and still ‘real’. That podgy spaniel, obviously a friend.

    He displays his status, with all his honours, and still manages to have a very attractive and practical (did I just say that about all that gold?) costume. I like the brown velvet very much, and find the colours very pleasing. Beautiful fabrics. I like the way his sword messes up the hang of his fancy waistcoat!

    I imagine that is his best winter suit, and while I understand the problem with fur, a fur-lined coat would be wonderful in a palace which was so concerned with the look of the thing that they put a golden nude in the fire-place instead of a fire!

    10 out of 10 for a beautiful, subtle (I mean that!), splendid, yet practical outfit! Great portrait.

    • It *is* subtle, relatively speaking (it’s more subtle than the Rate The Dress) featuring the 18th c. gentleman in leopard skin, for example). But the Dreamstress asked for our personal ratings, not for what fashionistas in the Duke’s time would have made of it. I stand by my 6.

      • It is interesting what criteria people use to rate. Many seem to see things only through their own aesthetic or taste, including often whether they would suit the outfit or wear it, others prefer to look at it in the historical context. I don’t think either view or any other variation is the only way to rate. 🙂

        • You may be right, Mrs C. Thus I will modify my previous comment to “I rate based on my personal esthetics, since I believed that is what being called for by our hostess.”

          • Nope. People can rate however they want. The one thing that sometimes bugs me a bit is when people rate everything based on how it would look on them. The world would be such a boring place if all the clothes were only made to look good on one specific individual! They may not flatter me, but I love clothes for thin, curve-less bodies, and clothes for bodies with lush busts and hips and small waists, and clothes that come in vivid hues and all shades of buff and brown. What a sad thing fashion would be without those clothes, although I am a sad thing in those clothes!

  11. Oh, it’s so difficult to focus on rating the outfit and not Felipe himself! The pained yet still wonderfully supercilious expression of a man who has been holding his arm outstretched for many days of portrait sittings – the splendid bulging calves – the estimable absence of spaniel hair on his gleaming stockings.

    I agree that the colours of the decorations Felipe boasts are unlikely to be of his choosing, making it unfair to include them in the rating. For unashamed opulence I would give it a ten to the knees, and a 2 below – my husband has shoes more appropriate to that ensemble than the shoes in the painting. I would hope to see something in gold thread going on with the stockings as well, and if not for the fact that the white at his wrists and throat echoes them, I would be even more uncomfortable with them.

    A ceremonial sword does break up the line of one’s outfit so distractingly, and combined with a long-line waistcoat can give rather an unflattering pear-shaped effect. Can anyone tell me what are those embellishments on the fur of the sleeve cuffs? I think they clinch it for me. Notwithstanding the fact that he possibly can’t sit down, it’s a 9 for Felipe and his gorgeous clothing.

    • Actually, I suspect the Duke could sit well enough. I’ve seen pictures of pants patterns for the period and a few surviving examples of pants, and although the legs might well be cut to fit tightly, the part crossing the abdomen and seat were usually terribly baggy–precisely to allow the man to sit while clothed. That may be the reason why waistcoats remained long during this period– to conceal the unsightliness of the upper portions of the pants.

  12. It almost looks like the things on his cuffs are tassels rather than frogging. 9/10.

  13. Belinda says

    Oh wow! He’s so ostentatious. I’m sure the whole effect would be hideous on anyone who didn’t have that that ‘yeah baby fur cuffs, what of it?’ attitude, but look at the guy, he’s all like, ‘come at me, ladies’. He makes it work. It’s like Austen Powers, only baroque style.

    I give him 10.
    Mostly for the ‘tude, also because spaniel.

  14. Yeah, I don’t know if someone without that chin could pull it off.

    [WORDPRESS HASHCASH] The poster sent us ‘0 which is not a hashcash value.

  15. I loves it. All that mad bling bling, but in such a tight colourway, it really works. Gosh haven’t men changed in their attitude to clothing Except my husband, who would wear that lot in a minute given half the chance. I’m not making it for him though! hehehe

  16. fidelio says

    You know, one of the great results of the War of the Spanish Succession we don’t often think about is that Spanish male royalty
    started wearing colors besides black.

    For those who were dying to know, the order on the diagonal blue sash is L’Ordre du Saint-Esprit, or the Order of the Holy Spirit, a French order, and the one around his neck is for the Order of the Golden Fleece (Spanish branch, most likely).

    The whole thing walks along a narrow line between Much Too Much and A Little More Gold Brocading and Embroidery, Please, rolling its eyes (it has too much decorum to stick out its tongue, after all) at the notion that one might possibly overdo it somewhere.

    It’s a coherent whole, and clearly someone (perhaps the painter?) cleverly noticed that the decoration on his waistcoat was a lot more interesting than his coat, so we get a good view of that. It dies what it’s supposed to do, which broadcast the idea that he is a ruling prince, and that his income and resources, to say nothing of his taste and sense of style, clearly exceed anything his poor creeping mortal subjects could aspire to. So it’s great propaganda, and not a bad suit either–the colors manage to be restrained, which I think makes the decorations stand out more, and the whole thing is balanced.

    I’d give it 8/10–the dog rates an extra point.

    • Lynne says

      Thank you for the information about the orders! I was too lazy to look them up.

  17. Given the masses of gold in the decor, it just occurred to me that he would have needed some amount of amped-up splendor in his raiment in order not to be dominated by the interior decorating, but I find the interplay of the different fabric/patterns surprisingly subtle (except for the fur, but that I excuse on the grounds of castles being dismally cold, and this one doesn’t appear to have any comfy arrases to block drafts). The dog looks like he’s glad he doesn’t have to be concerned with fashion.

  18. Thanks so much for your kind words! You’re right, we handle a huge amount of garments for each auction and do our best to display each one in the best possible way. If only there were enough hours in the day to make each one look museum quality!
    We really appreciate your support and seeing all the pictures you post, keep up the great work!

    Augusta Auctions

  19. L. A. Khatt says

    Although most roccoco fashion feels OTT to me, this one doesn’t. The combination of gold and brown is wonderful and his order insignia add a nice splash of color to break the monotony. I don’t mind the use of multiple patterns…the pattern on the vest is subtler than the coat and breeches so they don’t, to me, fight each other. Even the fur adds a contrast that doesn’t appear to fight with the other textures/patterns. The plain stockings and shoes are fine with me…they keep the attention on Felipe, not the floor (maybe why he chose to wear them?) Overall a favorable impression.
    10/10 for an easy on the eye look.

    Love his spaniel companion too!

  20. Generally, I like it.
    There are a couple things I would change. I don’t like the way the red looks with the rest of the colours, and the sleeves should be a bit fuller. The problem with the coat isn’t that the cuffs are too big, it’s that the tight sleeves make them look silly.
    I love the coat fabric and all the gold frogs on it. I am also quite envious of his shoes.


  21. It’s over the top, but quite awesome nonetheless. The pattern mixing, the fur, the gold, the chin, the dog. I don’t know what I could add to the discussion at this point, other than I’d like to see my husband try out an outfit like this someday. 10/10.

  22. Beatrix says

    Love it.
    Definitely a ‘power suit’.
    White stockings show this man does not have step over puddles or stroll the muddy streets of the time ( a big PFFFFFT!!! to all you plebians).
    9/10 only because the shoes aren’t formal enough for the rest of the ensemble.

  23. Fur muff-cuffs are a bit much. Well, it’s all a bit much isn’t it? He’s well put together for the times, but the lace coming out of the fur-muff-cuffs… Well, it’s hard for me to put aside my modern view of things.


    Also, strangely, the painter placed the dog in such a way that it kind of looks like the couch in the background is on the dog’s head. Not the best choice of composition for a dark dog to be in the foreground and placed to look like the couch’s shadow.

    • Not the best choice of dog either. All those black hairs he must be shedding would spoil the sparkling white appearance of the Duke’s stockings.

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