Male Georgian Costume

a picture of a gentleman in costume

A man circa. 1760

Men dressed plainly for sports and country life, but at court they were peacocks. Their suits were of velvet, silk and satin, loaded with braid and embroidery, and trimmed with valuable buttons of gold, silver, and jewels.

A suit consisted of coat, knee breeches, and waistcoat. In this illustration, the coat is long and flared. Sometimes the skirts of the coat were boned to make them stand out. Despite the buttons all down the front, the coat is designed to lie open to show the rich waistcoat.

The sleeveless waistcoat comes down to mid-thigh, but buttons only to the waist. The knee breeches also button to fit snugly around the knee ever the tops of his stockings. For this formal occasion, the stockings would be of silk, and note the clocks -- the embroidered design at the ankles. With such fine hose, it's not surprising that some men resorted to "calf-enhancers," pads to disguise thin legs. High heeled shoes were de rigeur for a fashionable appearance, though in more relaxed circumstances, men wore low-heeled shoes or boots.

The ruffles at wrist and neck are part of the shirt, and sewn on with a running stitch so they can be easily removed for special care. They were often of very valuable lace. The cravat is soft cloth, tied around the neck. An alternate neckcloth much used by the military was the stock -- a stiffened circle of cloth that buckled in the back.

Underwear? Most men wore cotton or linen drawers. Their "fly" on both drawers and breeches was a square flap fastened with a couple of buttons.

Hair was worn long and tied at the neck. It could be waist-length and braided below the tie, but more commonly in was shoulder-length. For formal occasions, it would be powdered, and the side hair would be formed into tight curls on clay rollers. Powdering, by the way, required applying a kind of goop to which the powder would stick, so it ended up a mess. Powder (generally flour) came in many colors -- brown, gray, and white being common, but blue and pink being quite possible.

Because of all this fuss, many men preferred to wear wigs, especially for formal occasions. At least they didn't have to be there while their coiffeur curled, gooped, and powdered! Beneath the wigs, however, most still had their hair which they would just tie back for casual days. Some chose the shaved look covered by cap or wig -- or perhaps the smooth-tops were just those who went bald.

Men of fashion more makeup -- pale powder, rouge, and lip color. They often carried fans, and embroidered silk handkerchiefs drenched with perfume. But the delicious thing is that all this fine plumage only disguised the hawks beneath. Though not shown in this picture, most gentlemen routinely wore swords, and knew how to use them.

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