Friday, April 19, 2013

A Summer Surtout, c.1760s

Paris,  Friday 11 July 1760, heading for that special enlightenment salon this evening, but it’s too warm for a complete habit à la française. Why not try the demi-habit this summer and stay cool as the champagne fizzes and the bon mots sizzle?

This 1760s man’s coat sold at the Hotel Drouot in Paris in 2010. The fabric is a lightweight striped silk taffeta in shades of green and pastel pink; it has wide lapels and an attached vest. (Some of the buttons for this garment are missing.) The two front sections of the vest are sewn directly to the armholes of the coat, so there is no back to the vest, just the coat itself. 

According to the auction catalog, this is a rare example of a coat for the summer or the French Colonies.  This utilitarian combination allows for a degree of formality while alleviating a least one layer of clothing. Oddly, this appears to be more akin to a formal banyan, if such a creature ever existed, than a day coat. Makes one wonder at the number of novel solutions for comfort and conformity lost to time.

Below, find an example of a banyan created from a blue dragon robe with a matching long sleeved waistcoat, which also straddles the formality line. 

Finally, another example of a banyan, but more in keeping with the "accepted" idea of the style. This brown woollen damask garment, c. 1739-41, is from the Museum of London.

I would like to thank Alain Truong for the use of the photograph of the striped silk coat, as it was the only copy that worked for me.  His blog archive is:

Jeff Hopper writes on men's fashions, past and present for SilkDamask. Previous blog posts may be found on the site.

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