Male Peacocks of the 18th and 19th Centuries

Male Peacocks of the 18th and 19th Centuries

No, this post is not about the gorgeous birds with the fan-shaped tails. It deals with the court dress for men during these time periods. When I began putting together my Pinterest boards, I discovered men’s clothing and especially the court dress for men. I was astounded at the elaborate embroidery that many of the court suits displayed.

For those of us who write Regency romance or JAFF, we might think strictly in terms of the following.

1807 Men’s clothing

However, that doesn’t take into account court suits or other fancy dress—jackets or waistcoats—that some of the men needed or preferred. Some of these articles of clothing have some of the most beautiful embroideries you might ever see. And keep in mind that all of this embroidery was done by hand.

Silk velvet court suit, 1790-1810


Green velvet court coat circa 1790


Close-up of green velvet embroidered court coat circa 1790


And these fancy clothes covered a wide range of colors.

Detail of back of 3-piece suit, circa 1790-1800

Close-up of embroidered 3-piece suit, circa 1790-1800 Henry Ford Museum

And if you think that pink or wine-colored are the sole territories of women, think again. Check out these suits.

Court suit of Louis XVI

Close-up view of French frock coat, circa 1770-1790


Pink silk court suit of a young Alexander I, Russia. 1786

These hand embroidered coats, suits, and waistcoats are really drool worthy. The stitching must have taken many hours, perhaps over one hundred or more to achieve such lovely results. And they were so wasted on men.  🙂  I love the colors of this next coat.

Embroidered Noble’s coat and waistcoat

Before I wrap this up, here are some close-ups of the embroidery on three other coats.

Detail French man’s suit, 1785-1790

Court suit details 1774-1793

Detail of long-sleeved waistcoat. France circa 1730

This post contains only a tiny portion of the gorgeous embroidery that appears on Pinterest. My board for Men’s Clothing has only a few court suits and embroidery patterns and is men’s clothing in general over three centuries, but you can find much more by searching for boards that have only court suits, etc.


Gianna Thomas Author Men’s Clothing

20 Responses to Male Peacocks of the 18th and 19th Centuries

  1. Gianna, great post! I’m always amazed by the intricacy of embroidery on both men’s and women’s fashion before the late 18th century and in court dress even after that, and particularly how drastically the fashions for both changed going into the 19th century.

    • Thank you, Sophie. Glad you enjoyed it. The embroidery was gorgeous. Yes, there were a lot of changes in fashion from the 1700’s to the 1800’s and even within the 1800’s between the high waist lines, low waist lines, bustles, etc. And Charles Frederick Worth turned fashion on its head too. Interesting centuries as far as fashion was concerned. 🙂

  2. Gianna, your article and the pictures are so great. I enjoyed it a lot. the embroidery is stunning, but I feel sorry for poor women who had labored over them for hours without electric lights. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Some of those coats are beaitiful! I agree I love the colors in that one. So intricate they are too! What a great find!

  4. Imagine doing that embroidery 1) with no lights, only sunlight or candles, and 2) with limited eyeglass usage!! I also know that some decorations were pre-done and then sewn onto the material, to be taken off and reused later. It makes my feeble cross-stitch work look awful.

    • I know what you mean, Teresa. Mine can’t compete either. I wonder how many years it took for a woman to become that proficient. Whether counting stitches or using patterns, most of the work looks perfect. Sigh! We can only wish and wonder. 🙂

  5. wow. Talk about needing to love your job, especially if it started to bother your eyes or hands to do that kind of detailed work all day and every day. Beautiful work they did tho’! Thank you for sharing.

    • You’re welcome, Linda. I imagine it could have become tedious after a while. Especially hard on the eyes after many hours. And, yes, their work was gorgeous. More than a machine could do.

  6. Thank you, Gianna! Those are beautiful, and inspiring (as in, it would be great to work more elaborate men’s clothing into my writing, not as in, I’m going to take up embroidery.) I can’t imagine how much work that would be to do. Thank you for the link to your pinterest page. It’s a great resource.

    • You’re welcome, Summer. One of the reasons for my Pinterest pages are so I can see what I might write about. Descriptions are a little easier with a picture than just imagination. 🙂

  7. Gianna, What stunning examples of incredible handwork. Your post arrived just in time as I needed something for Darcy to wear to a royal ball in my latest book. Of course he chose that gorgeous noble’s blue coat and white waistcoat.Thank you! 🙂

  8. What makes the embroidery even more impressive is that it was not done on a printed pattern. The beautifully precise repeats might have been done by counting stitches, which meant even more work than the basic embroidery.

    (OK, they had printing, but carving a woodblock to allow printing on fabric, fitting it to the pattern of the coat, finding an ink that would show up on the fabric and but not stain the embroidery thread, as well as aligning it precisely, with mirror images doesn’t seem easier than counting stitches.)

    • I’ve wondered about how they were able to get the embroidery so precise myself. I can’t imagine counting stitches. It would probably drive me nuts trying to keep track of everything. How ever they did it, the embroidery IS magnificent and so beautiful, I just swallow my tongue at some of it. Thank you for your comment. 🙂

  9. What beautiful embroidery. I myself have only ever done basic stuff at school such as flowers or initials on a handkerchief (too many years ago to count) so I’m not a true proficient!
    I have true respect for anyone who could produce such exquisite work on such difficult fabrics and am so pleased that so many have survived in various collections.
    I really enjoyed this post so thank you.

    • You’re welcome, Glynis. I too have done embroidery in the past, but nothing like this either. Just imagine trying to do this beautiful work by candlelight. And the poor women who did this lovely work were probably paid just a pittance for days of delicate work.

      These clothes may have survived well because they were expensive for the time, and, I imagine, the owners took very good care of them. And what I showed here is only a small part of what are available in museums.

      Glad you enjoyed the post. It was a fun one to do. 🙂

Comments are precious!

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.