There are dozens of articles and videos about female clothing in the 18th century. But what about men? How did they look like? What articles of clothes were used by the 18th-century gentlemen? What accessories did they wear? Did they use the help of servants while getting dressed? What tips and tricks did tailors use at that time to make a gentleman’s life easier? Come on, let’s find the answers to all of those questions.
The 18th-century gentleman would balance the fashion for wearing wigs by being clean-shaven.
He wore a long linen nightshirt in bed and a banyan, or wrapper, over it after getting up. Such a garment would also serve as an informal indoor coat and would be worn about the house over shirt, waistcoat, and breeches. Both types of garment reflect British interests abroad: the wrapper was Japanese in influence, while the banyan was based on an Indian gown.
The shirt opened with a small vertical slit at the neck, which was sometimes disguised with ruffles. The shirt was full, with voluminous sleeves and square-shaped gussets under the arms to allow for ease of movement.
Stockings came up and over the knee and were held in place by the knee-band on the breeches.
The gentleman would select his accessories according to the occasion. Selecting shoe buckles of steel for everyday wear or silver, perhaps, set with precious stones or glass paste for special occasions.
The shirt cuffs were usually fastened with a pair of cuff buttons, linked with a chain.
A gentleman might wear linen underdrawers but since the shirt was cut with long tails so that it would tuck neatly around the groin for comfort, drawers were not essential.
The knee breeches were cut full at the back and were gathered into the waistband with a laced vent to allow the wearer to sit or ride more comfortably. They fastened at the front waist with buttons, and the fall flap performed the function of the modern fly.
Breaches usually had at least one pair of pockets.
The breaches closed the side of the knee with buttons, and the knee-band was closed with buttons, buckles, or ties just beneath the knee.
Suit waistcoats were made either to match or to contrast with the coat. The top few buttons would be left undone to allow the shirt ruffles to show.
Although the pocket buttons were placed below the pocket flap, suggesting that it was just for show, the pockets were, in fact, functional.
The shirt collar was soft and closed with tapes or buttons, and the gentlemen would wear a fine linen cravat or stock of it.
Men's shoes were buckled across the top of the foot.
The stock was made of pleated linen and fastened at the back of the neck with a buckle.
A gentleman would have owned at least 2 wigs, so the one could be dressed while the other was worn. But he would probably have had a number of styles to choose from.
He would have worn a wrapper to protect his clothing and a mask to protect his face, while the wig was being dusted. Wig powder was made from finely ground starch, scented with orange flower or lavender. It also came in many colors, including gray, brown, black, or white. It was even available in blue. It was applied by the means of puffers, shakers, or miniature bellows.
A black bow would be tied at the back of the neck to control the wig tail or queue.
Men's formal dress suits consisted of 3 garment: breeches, waistcoat, and coat. They could be made of matching or contrasting fabrics – of silk, linen, or wool. Also, they could be left plain or decorated with metal braid or embroidery and sequins.
A suit of 3 identical pieces was known as a “ditto suit”.
A gentleman's coat fitted smoothly across the chest and back and widened into a skirt with pleats at the side seam. It was usually worn unbuttoned. The coat’s centre-back vent allowed the skirts to be swept aside for sitting or riding.
The open side vents allowed a ceremonial sword to emerge.