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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



A cravat is a length of white linen, casually knotted around the neck. Worn plain or trimmed with costly lace, the cravat was the defining element of personal elegance in the early 19th century. Cravats had existed in various forms since the 17th century, but they reached their height of complexity in the 1810s, due to the influence of Beau Brummell, the noted dandy. Brummell was known for his impeccably clean and crisp linen, carefully folded and tied in place over a high collar that reached up to his chin.

The modern necktie developed in the mid-19th century. At the time, it was called the “four in hand,” because the knot echoed the knotting of reigns in horseback riding. The “four in hand” was one of many neckwear options during this period. Also popular were the ascot, the bowtie, and the stock. These styles represent a considerable change from the cravat.

Although largely decorative, the necktie is frequently interpreted as a symbol of masculine strength and power. Lending credence to this interpretation is its frequent appearance in the wardrobes of sportswomen and suffragettes in the later years of the 19th century, and again in the 1920s.With the demise of most formal accessories in the early 20th century, neckties – along with hats – became an important way to distinguish oneself in a sea of conformity.

Fashionable neckties of the 20th century varied tremendously in length, width, and choice of pattern. Stripes and foulards were perennial favorites, while during some decades, such as the 1940s and 1960s, the favored ties were wide and often decorated with flamboyant floral or geometric patterns.


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