Men's Fashion in the 18th Century

The Kyoto Costume Institute

Vibrant colors, gorgeous embroidery, expensive lace––luxurious outfit for men of the Rococo era

Men’s clothing in the Rococo era
Men’s clothing throughout the eighteenth century underwent fewer changes compared to the opulent and extravagant designs of men’s clothing in the seventeenth century. Vibrant colors, gorgeous embroidery, the expensive lace used in jabots and cuffs, and buttons, which were an important fashion point, were indispensable as finishing touches for stylish men of the Rococo era. In the eighteenth century, it was in men’s clothing that the aesthetic potential of embroidery came to the fore.

Mid-18th century menswear. The coat has large cuffs and deep pleats from both sides of the waist to the hem at the rear. The waistcoat is long enough to fully conceal the wearer's back.

The set has gorgeous weave patterns, with gold and silver thread and various colors of silk thread.
Before the modern period, Men's clothing worn by Western royalty and nobles was at least as splendid and gorgeous as that for women, as men dressed in a manner that would maintain class distinctions, flaunting their privileged status.

Three-piece set of coat, waistcoat, and breeches. Textiles entirely covered by a small pattern (droguet) were often used for men's clothes in the middle of the 18th century.

Habit à la française
The luxurious outfit that men from the 18th century nobility would wear, the habit à la française, is composed of a coat, waistcoat, and breeches. It also included a pair of silk stockings, a jabot, a linen or cotton shirt with decorative cuffs, and a cravat (a neckcloth).

It may be no exaggeration to say that in the 18th century the beauty of embroidery was effectively used in men's clothes rather than women's dresses. Evidence can be found in the formal wear of Académie Française members until now. Especially the coat and the waistcoat of the panoply called habit à la française are fully embroidered with golden and silver threads and other multi-colored threads, sequins, and artificial gems.

This suit is characterized by elegant embroidery and pale, pastel tones said to be the colors of the Rococo Period.
Men's suits transformed to a more functional style in the last half of the 18th century. Overall the coat became tight-fitting, the length of the waistcoat became short, the waistcoat's sleeves were removed, and the hem was cut horizontally.

On this waistcoat are delicately embroidered arches and rows of pillars in the style of ancient Rome. During the latter half of the 18th century, under the influence of neoclassicism, ancient Roman and Gothic ruins and remains were frequently adopted as motifs in paintings, garden fixtures, and such.
At the end of the 1780s, waistcoats had a lapelled collar and their length became extremely short. From that time to the first half of the 1800s, while coats were being simplified, waistcoats were adopting the showier tendencies of men's fashion.


Japanese kimono and yogi (nightclothes) that the Dutch East India Company brought back to Europe were favored there as indoor clothing for men. Due to an insufficiency of imports to meet the swell in demand, items made from Indian chintz and Chinese textiles also entered the market. In Holland, the general term for such goods was Japonsche rocken (Japanese indoor wear); in France, robe de chambre d'indienne (indoor gowns of Indian chintz); and, in England, banyan (Indian merchant).

The outer fabric, with a design and colors that inspire feelings of foreign lands, utilizes fabric manufactured in China that targeted the Western market.

Long trousers
An example of the style of clothing worn by the working class around the time of the French Revolution, characterized by the long trousers worn by men, rather than the breeches. With the outbreak of the revolution in 1789, the revolutionaries regarded luxurious and extravagant silk as the enemy of the revolution, replacing breeches and white silk stockings - the symbol of aristocracy - with the long trousers worn by the lower classes, in an attempt to distance themselves from the previous era.
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