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Suit

Date:
1740s
Culture:
French
Medium:
silk
Dimensions:
Length at CB (a): 42 in. (106.7 cm) Length (b): 33 in. (83.8 cm) Length at CB (c): 29 in. (73.7 cm)
Credit Line:
Purchase, Irene Lewisohn Bequest, 1962
Accession Number:
C.I.62.27a–c
Not on view
Gentlemen all over Europe wore three-piece velvet suits, similar to this one, to show that they were men of substance. The suits of the middle classes and of the aristocracy were strikingly different in the quality of the materials used and in the standards of workmanship. A Mr. Campbell, writing in The London Tradesman in 1747, listed the requirements for a first-rate tailor:
He ought to have a quick Eye to steal the Cut of a Sleeve, the Pattern of a Flap, or the Shape of a good Trimming at a Glance; any Bungler may cut out a Shape when he has a Pattern before him, but a good Workman takes it by his eye in the passing of a Chariot…. He must be able, not only to cut for the Handsome and Well-shaped, but to bestow a good shape where Nature has not designed it…. His hand and his head must go together. He must be a nice Cutter and finish his work with Elegance…. They make a handsome Penny and would raise Estates thereon were it not for the Delays in Payment among the Quality.
Although splendidly dressed, the aristocracy paid little heed to their tailors’ bills, often dragging their credit on for years at a time.
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