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The Tailor's Art



Creation of the Man’s Suit
The Suit in the 19th Century
Men’s Dressing Gown and Waistcoat Fabrics
Men’s Accessories in the 19th Century
Neckties and Cravats
Men’s 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



America in the 1950s was a nation that expected respectable gentlemen to wear to be “the man in the gray flannel suit,” and subservient ladies to embrace “wife dressing.” These gender stereotypes were reflected in two popular books, whose titles are referenced above: the former a novel by Sloan Wilson, published in 1955, and the latter a guide to appropriate dressing by fashion designer Anne Fogarty, published in 1959.These publications not only reinforced the defined roles that men and women were expected to embrace, they also reflected the limitations that their clothing dictated. The male suit was the dullest of all public forms of attire, while the dress shaped with a corset and crinoline was the most restrictive.

Despite this conformity, there were some types of clothing that allowed for greater personal expression and physical comfort. One was the type of casual weekend wear exemplified in the “he and she clothes” made for barbeques and other kinds of casual, outdoor entertaining. Inexpensive, novelty-printed cotton shirts ornamented with whimsical images, such as cattle or condiments, were extremely popular for men. Meanwhile, California-based designer Barbara Baroness McLean focused on designing casual hostess outfits with wool knitted tops and skirts, crafted to keep ladies warm as the afternoon cookouts continued past sundown.


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