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The 1660s
Restoration Costume Comes to Life

Part 3, Page 1
Gentry and Aristocracy, Men: Overview

Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4 Part 5
Lower Class Women and Men Gentry and Aristocracy, Women Gentry and Aristocracy, Men The Whole Look: Accessories Costume Focus: Women's Headwear & Neckwear
 

This part is all about the clothing of the rich, and about the gentlemen at that. There was a decisive fashion change taking place between 1660 and 1670, the most remarkable feature being a complete change of silhouette from the 'triangular' man with circular cloak, short doublet and wide petticoat breeches, towards the long, tailored coat which will soon develop towards the flaring, waisted coat that is so very well known and stands for the whole of the Baroque period.

1660 sees the petticoat breeches or open kneed breeches with ribbon bows. Nevinson, for example, describes the pantaloon breeches worn by Edmund Verney at Charles II’s coronation (see the chapter on ceremonial & vocational clothing) as opening to a circumference of 1.37 metres (4ft 6in) at each knee and being trimmed with 228 metres (250 yards) of ribbon.

Samuel Pepys Diary, 1661
April 6.
Among other things met with Mr. Townsend, who told me of his mistake the other day, to put both his legs through one of his knees of his breeches, and went so all day.

Short doublets were worn with those breeches, often worn in a style similar to modern day short matador bolero jacket with a longer, loose and wide coat over the top. This coat had derived from the cassock, which was a garment that could be turned into a cloak by buttoning the sleeves to the side seams of the body.

The change started towards the end of the 1660s, in 1666 to be precise, and Samuel Pepys (1633-1703), as well as his close friend in later years and fellow diarist John Evelyn (1620-1706) even marks down the exact date when Charles II decided to go away from the French fashion towards what Evelyn calls the new 'Persian' mode. What now are either the French fashion or the newfangled 'Persian' mode? Furthermore, is the new one, truly that new? It would be a surprise if there were no continuation of existing fashions whatsoever, and indeed, as pictorial evidence and surviving garments will show, a longer, loose coat appears much earlier, even as early as the 1630s, when it comes along as a cassock. So what is this particular new fashion? It seems to be a change in combination, because 1666 sees the foundation of modern man's 'uniform': the suit. Consisting of shirt, waistcoat, coat. The trousers of today were the breeches of bygone. The frilly lace and fine line cravat has turned into the tie, modern man's sole badge of individuality.

Samuel Pepys Diary, 1666
Oct. 8.
The King hath yesterday in Council declared his resolution of setting a fashion for clothes, which he will never alter. It will be a vest, I know not well how; but it is to each the nobility thrift, and will do good.
Oct. 13. To White Hall, and there the Duke of York was just come in from hunting. So I stood and saw him dress himself, and try on his vest, which is the King's new fashion, and he will be in it for good and all on Monday next, and the whole Court: it is a fashion, the King says, he will never change.
Oct. 15. This day the King begins to put on his vest, and I did see several persons of the house of Lords and Commons too, great courtiers, who are in it; being a long cassocke close to the body, of black cloth, and pinked with white silk under it, and a coat over it, and the legs ruffled with black riband like a pigeon's leg: and, upon the whole, I wish the King may keep it, for it is a very fine and handsome garment.
Oct. 17. The Court is all full of vests, only my Lord St. Albans not pinked, but plain black; and they say the King says the pinking upon whites makes them look too much like magpies, and, therefore, hath bespoke one of plain velvet.
Nov. 4. (Lord's day). My taylor's man brings my vest home, and coat to wear with it, and belt and silver-hilted sword; so I rose and dressed myself, and I like myself mightily in it, and so do my wife... and so, it being very cold, to White Hall, and was mighty fearful of an ague, my vest being new and thin, and the coat cut not to meet before, upon my vest.

John Evelyn Diary, 1666
Oct. 18. To court. It being the first time his majesty put himself solemnly into the Eastern fashion of vest, changeing doublet, stiff collar, bands and cloake, into a comely vest, after the persion mode, with girdle or straps, and shoe strings and garters into bouckles, of which some were set with precious stones, resolving never to alter it, and to leave the French mode, which had hitherto obtain'd to our greate expence and reproch. Upon which divers courtiers and gentlemen gave his majesty gold by way of wager that he would not persist in his resolution. I had sometime before presented an invective against that unconstancy, and our so much affecting the French fashion, to his majesty, in which I tooke occasion to describe the comliness and usefulness of the Persian clothing, in the very same manner his majesty now clad himselfe. This pamphlet I intitl'd Tyrannus, or the Mode, and gave it to his Majesty to reade. I do not impute to this discourse the change which soon happen'd, but it was an identity that I could not but take notice of.

Nothing happens nor is adopted out of the blue, and political or religious reasons are often the driving forces. When Charles II adopted the 'Persian' mode to go away from the French fashion, this was clearly a political statement. He had been chastised by parliament and many people on the streets for being so 'French', which is not a surprise looking at where he had stayed in exile, mainly in France at Louis XIV's court. He would have been heavily influenced by French fashion and taste. Since the French and the English have been having animosities though since at least the Norman conquest in 1066, fashion fobs would be often called 'French dog!' in the streets and pelted sometimes. Going away from the obvious French look was a clear statement of 'being English' and also of supporting the English wool trade. As you will see in the paintings, brocade is very rare in men's clothing in England, and appears to be reserved for the waistcoats, but it the fabric of choice for France. In fact, French court wear had to be made from brocade, wool was not allowed, while the English court sported fine worsted woollens, both indicators of the countries' main fabric productions.

But Lord! to see the absurd nature of Englishmen, that cannot forbear laughing and jeering at everything that looks strange.
Samuel Pepys: Diary, 27 November 1662

Recommended Books
Waugh, Norah. The Cut of Men's Clothes 1600-1900. London: Faber and Faber, 1964.
It is indeed the book for men's clothing patterns. Actually, it is the only one for this period. All others are for theatrical costumes only.

Recommended Web sites
Samuel Pepys Diary

The British Library: The Archive of John Evelyn

The Diary of John Evelyn

 

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Nicole Kipar 1998