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The Tailor's Art



houndstooth hat

Rene Mancini, glen plaid pumps

Creation of the Manís Suit
The Suit in the 19th Century
Menís Dressing Gown and Waistcoat Fabrics
Menís Accessories in the 19th Century
Neckties and Cravats
Menís Accessories in the 20th Century
Tailoring for Women
Appropriating the Dandy
Contrast Between the Modern Suit and Feminine Fashion
Mid-Century America: Conformity in Suburbia
Mid-Century Humor: Conversational Textiles
Counterculture Menswear
Contemporary Tailoring for Men
Menswear Fabrics - A Glossary



Women have often adopted elements of menswear, especially for sport. In the 1830s and 1840s, when most fashionable women wore delicate slippers, Queen Victoria popularized the high-button Balmoral boot as a sensible choice for walking the grounds of her Highland estate. Also in the 19th century, the female equestrienne, or Amazone, was held as an erotic ideal. With her tightly corseted figure sheathed in a tailored wool habit, she was accessorized with a tall topper (based on the top hat), leather gloves, tall military-style boots, and a riding crop. Practicality aside, this signified serious intent: a desire to be seen as both competitor and physical equal to her male counterpart.

The ďborrowingĒ of male accessories typically occurs when gender roles are in flux and conventional female dress is interpreted as limiting. By borrowing the clothes of the dominant gender, women appropriate some of its power, at least in visual terms. In the 1920s, for example, women borrowed flat oxfords, neckties, and blazers. Likewise, the 1960s witnessed the appropriation of menswear inspired accessories.

Using elements of menswear adds authority to an outfit, and a brisk, no-nonsense charm. Fabric choice is often all it takes. Thick, nubby tweeds, houndstooth, glen plaid, tartan, wool flannel, stripes, and twills are all fabrics associated with traditional sportswear and menís suiting, prized for their durability and strength. Yet they can also add a feeling of daring to otherwise conservative womenís garments.


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All photographs by Irving Solero, courtesy of the Museum at FIT, unless otherwise noted.