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The Tailor's Art


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



Tailored clothes for women have existed since the 17th century, when aristocratic ladies donned riding attire. Yet despite their masculine air, these styles have rarely afforded women the same range of movement as men. Even the equestrian riding costumes of the late 19th century included a fitted jacket worn over a corset and a voluminous, asymmetrically draped skirt.

Beginning in the 1860s, and especially after 1880, women began to wear suits during the day. Like menís suits, high fashion versions for women were often made of dark wool and worn with crisp white shirts. However, instead of trousers, women wore skirt styles popular in their day. Feminine suits were frequently ornamented with soutache, or narrow braided trimmings, in colors that either matched or contrasted the ground fabric. The use of soutache referenced another male form of dress Ė the military uniform.

Suits continued to gain importance in the womanís wardrobe throughout the 20th century. By the 1920s, designers such as Gabrielle ďCocoĒ Chanel created short, sleek suits for modern women. Reconfigured in the 1950s, Chanelís simple, boxy suits made of colorful tweeds epitomized tasteful daytime dress for women. By the 1970s, the rise of women in the workplace boosted the popularity of masculine-inspired suits. Yves Saint Laurent not only designed some of the best examples of pantsuits, he also pioneered the female tuxedo Ė Le Smoking Ė and made it fashionable. This male costume reconfigured for women was as important an innovation as Chanelís suits had been a few decades earlier


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