The Mutilated Sportsman and the Phrenological Bust: Gentlemen’s Fancy Dress: 1882

male fancy dress

Last week we advised the ladies on how to create inexpensive historical fancy dress. To-day we offer some inspiration to the gentlemen.

In selecting a costume a little forethought is necessary; some suit particular features and build of body better than others. A very short man as Coeur de Lion, or a tall one as Richard III., would be anomalies; but more than this, people at Fancy Balls often render themselves absolutely ridiculous because they assume characters in every way opposed to their own personality. I have seen a man with fine presence, and a face which would have added dignity to the garb of a Venetian senator, arrayed as a clown, and an inveterate practical joker, he who was “wont to set the table on a roar,” “a fellow of infinite jest,” as Rizzio. In our day, when taste and culture are considered worthy of a thought, historical costumes should not be chosen by people of education without some little study. England is rich in old portraits that might be copied with advantage rather than the theatrical ideas of periods which originate, not in history, but in the fertile brains of modern days. Our Royal Family afford an example worthy of imitation. The greatest pains were bestowed on the costumes worn at Her Majesty’s Fancy Ball in 1842, when the reign of Edward III. was specially selected; and the Fancy Ball at Marlborough House was notable for a Venetian and a Vandyke Quadrille, so truthfully carried out it seemed as if the originals of the Old Masters had come to life again. A long experience of Fancy Balls makes me advise those who desire to dance to avoid heavy wigs, hats, cloaks, swords, wands, and the several etceteras which have to be carried in the hand. They are laid down anywhere early in the evening, and seldom found except with difficulty.

For Calico Balls the costume, though made of cotton,, chintz, cretonne, &c, is generally allowed to be trimmed with gold or silver, and neither cotton shoes nor gloves are deemed necessary. Among suitable costumes for Calico Balls are Postboy, Incroyable, Yankee, Perfect Cure, Porter, Cook, Christy Minstrel…

Many are deterred from accepting invitations to Fancy Balls, by the difficulties which surround appearing in appropriate guise. My object has been to meet and facilitate these as much as possible.

Thence follows several hundred suggestions for fancy dress, most of which do not stray beyond the standard Pierrot, Sicilian Brigand, Cavalier, and historical figures like The Earl of Essex or Alfred the Great.  Still, occasionally one finds a flash of whimsey, such as the following:

AQUARIUM (Suitable for a boy) Stockings; short trousers; close-fitting bodice high to the throat, with tight sleeves to wrist, make in light green sateen or cotton, covered with lobsters, crabs, and other fish, in bright red embroidery, or in red paper stuck on; green seaweed fringe goes round the knees, waist, and the close-fitting green cap; red shoes; a belt of shells

ATLANTIC CABLE Sailor’s dress; a thick cable wound four or five times round wist, encircles the limbs below the knees, and falls in thick coils over left arm; an anchor is attached to it. The brim of the hat is turned up in front and bears the words, “Telegraphic Despatches”; the long blue streamers are marked “Transatlantic Cable.”

CLOCK: Classic robe of white cashmere, with cape and hood; VIII on the hood, shoulders, and back; dials, with hands poiting to the hour, on back and on knees, the latter having weights attached. High pointed cap with the hours round. Wand in hand with 24 upon it.

EVENING DRESS OF THE FUTURE: viz., white where it is now black and vice vera; white evening dress coat and trousers; black shirt; tie and collar, &c.

JAPANESE: Loose robe of yellow and gold satin worked with birds; loose orange trousers embroidered with gold. It is better, if possible, to obtain a dress from the country; any attempt to produce the embroidery in England would result in failure.

LUCIFER: Velvet tight-fitting doublet and trunks; black silk stockings; black velvet shoes with pointed toes; large black tarlatan wings made on frames; and a silver star on the forehead.

MUTILATED SPORTSMAN: Wears an old shooting-shirt, and has a wooden leg, and an arm tied up, as though broken.

PHRENOLOGICAL BUST: Draped in white, with skull wig, drawn out as a map according to bumpts, &c.

PICNIC: Grass green stockings and shoes; white tablecloth, worn as Mexican poncho, on it drawings of pigeon-pies, lobster salads, orange jelly, &c., looped up where necessary with knife and fork in tin.

Gentlemen’s Fancy Dress: How to Choose It, Ardern Holt, 1882

The variety in costumes really was quite staggering. Here is a list of the characters seen at a fancy-dress charity ball in 1823 Liverpool.

“Here,” says the Mercury, “mingling in the dance, promenading, or conversing, were seen abbots, Algerines, antiquaries, and angels; barons, bravoes, barristers, and beauties; clowns, courtiers, and caliphs; dukes, danes and dowagers; ensigns, esquires, & egotists; farmers, fairies, & flower-girls; Grecians, gossips, Germans, and gardners; hussars, highlands, and Hindoos; Indians, infants, and Icelanders; Jews, Japanese, and jokers; kings and Kamschatdales; lawyers, lords, lovers, ladies, and Laplanders; mayors, magistrates, and mandarins; nabobs, nobles, and Neapolitans; officers, Oxonians, outlaws, and oddities; princes, peasants, priests, and pirates; queens, quakers, and quidnuncs, robbers, Romans, and racers; Spaniards, sailors, and shepherdesses; Tartars, Turks, tyrants, and Tyrolese; userers and Utopians; Venetians, villagers, and villains; warriors, woodmen, and warders; youths and yeomen; zealots and Zealanders.” New Hampshire Patriot and State Gazette [Concord, NH] 8 December 1823: p. 1

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: A “calico ball” was a fancy-dress entertainment in which creations in lowly printed cotton were substituted for velvets, silks, and brocades. They were quite popular as ways to raise money for charities, the logic being that if one had an inexpensive costume, one could spare more money for the charity.

The ladies of the Royal School of Needlework would, no doubt, be incensed at the aspersions cast on English embroidery in the Japanese costume section.

It is most curious that there are no suggestions for a fancy-dress ghost, nor for a vampire, zombie, or werewolf. One supposes it is because tights are practically a requirement for the well-bred Englishman donning fancy dress.

Here are some ingenious costumes worn by gentleman unafraid to eschew tights.side of bacon fancy dress 1894

rooster fancy dressStork costume

 

skeleton costume masque of red death

Masque of the Red Death skeleton

Mrs Daffodil invites you to join her on the curiously named “Face-book,” where you will find a feast of fashion hints, fads and fancies, and historical anecdotes

You may read about a sentimental succubus, a vengeful seamstress’s ghost, Victorian mourning gone horribly wrong, and, of course, Mrs Daffodil’s efficient tidying up after a distasteful decapitation in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales.

Mrs Daffodil invites you to join her on the curiously named “Face-book,” where you will find a feast of fashion hints, fads and fancies, and historical anecdotes

You may read about a sentimental succubus, a vengeful seamstress’s ghost, Victorian mourning gone horribly wrong, and, of course, Mrs Daffodil’s efficient tidying up after a distasteful decapitation in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales.

 

 

 

Mrs Daffodil invites you to join her on the curiously named “Face-book,” where you will find a feast of fashion hints, fads and fancies, and historical anecdotes

You may read about a sentimental succubus, a vengeful seamstress’s ghost, Victorian mourning gone horribly wrong, and, of course, Mrs Daffodil’s efficient tidying up after a distasteful decapitation in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales.

 

 

 

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One thought on “The Mutilated Sportsman and the Phrenological Bust: Gentlemen’s Fancy Dress: 1882

  1. Pingback: Book Fairy Fancy Dress Costumes: 1899 | Mrs Daffodil Digresses

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