Purchase, Irene Lewisohn Bequest and Polaire Weissman Fund, 1996
Not on view
This magnificent suit remarkably survives complete with all of its components. Because elements of menswear were often retailored to accommodate changes in the wearer's size or in fashion, this ensemble in essentially unaltered condition is an exceedingly rare example. Characteristic of the fashion of this date, skintight breeches that buckle below the knee and a fitted waistcoat are almost entirely covered by a coat with collarless, narrow chest and stiffly flaring skirt that concentrates emphasis on the lower torso and thighs. The placement of the opulent applied decoration bolsters this effect. Although the coat retains stiffness reminiscent of the 1750s styles, the buttons do not meet below the upper chest and the angular opening anticipates the pronounced front curve and diminishing skirt of late decades. The color coordination of all three parts and the utilization of wool, both decidedly English elements that anticipate modern attire, were generally reserved for informal wear. Here, however, the suit is resplendent with an abundance of gold buttons and braid more closely associated with high-style occasions.