This magnificent red silk velvet suit from the 1770s had been in our Fashion Timeline exhibition for the past several months but, we recently took it off exhibit. The textile is a remarkable textured velvet and it is trimmed with silver embroidery and sequins.
As I was undressing the mannequin I was amazed again at the particular way that 18th century men’s suits were constructed. I snapped a few quick pictures as I was working so I could share.
Detail of buttons on coat and waistcoat, KSUM 1995.17.174 a-c.
Detail showing hidden buttonholes and buttons. The beautiful silver buttons are entirely ornamental; the waistcoat is secured using this hidden set of velvet buttons.
Detail of the waistcoat open showing the functional velvet buttons.
Detail of interior showing the placket with the buttonholes.
The front of the breeches.
Men’s breeches were very ample in the rear. They cinched at the waist with tabs and a little buckle.
This photograph shows the way that the breeches open. The bib-like front flap secures to the front with buttons at each side and at the center front. The buttonhole in the center is formed right in the center front seam.
This arrangement creates several pockets at the front of the breeches. There are in fact extra pockets that are covered by the bib-front.
The buttons at the knee are just as beautiful as those on the coat and waistcoat except these are functional. You can see the additional wear they have taken.
6 thoughts on “A Closer Look at an 18th-Century Suit”
Thank you Sara. I always appreciate the opportunity to see detail of garments 🙂
Thank you so much for sharing this!
Now I have to make myself one.
At last!!!! The first excellent backside of 18c breeches I found. With a lot of space so gentlemen can sit down or ride a horse comfortably. While many patterns focus on the front, it is actually the back that matters. Thanks you.
Are those metal buttons on the right-hand-side of the waistcoat there to pretend the metal buttons are used, showing because the waistcoat is always open a little at the top?
Yes, it looks like there are buttons but no buttonholes on the top of the waistcoat. I assume those buttons are decorative to look like the waistcoat is gallantly unbuttoned at the neck.