The triumph of cloth over silk in men’s clothing


July 10, 2015 by Ville Raivio

“From the beginning of the [18th] century cloth had been the correct material for day wear; its quality constantly improved and with this, the tailor’s skill in cut and fit. Soon these became the distinguishing features in the well-dressed, and though originally the Frock and Buckskins had been comfortably loose, now the grip of Fashion ordained a tight fit; ease was sacrified to a new ideal — to look ‘smart’… As the ideal material for a close-fitting was cloth this fashion encouraged the wider use of that material… By the end of the century woollen cloth had reached to the very pinnacle; in 1795 the King himself at a reception was wearing ‘a prune-coloured coat of broadcloth’, and in 1797 the Prime Minister Mr. Pitt ‘went to Court in a brown cloth dress.’

But the final triumph of this material came when the arbiter of fashion George Brummel [sic(k)] pronounced the revolutionary doctrine that henceforth a gentleman’s clothes should be inconspicuous in material and exquisite only in fit; and for this he laid down the rule that the only permissible material was — cloth.

Brummel’s conception of a gentleman’s clothes was, in fact, a fundamental change from a pictorial design to an architectural one; from a composition in colours to one in lines, marking a progress from a crude to a subtle method of expressing social superiority.”

— C. Willett & Phillis Cunnington in Handbook of English Costume in the Eighteenth Century


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Only a beautiful life is worth living.

"If John Bull turns around to look at you, you are not well dressed; but either too stiff, too tight, or too fashionable".
~ Beau Brummell