The Three-Piece Suit and Modern Masculinity: England, by David Kuchta

By David Kuchta

39 b/w images In 1666, King Charles II felt it essential to reform Englishmen's gown through introducing a manner that built into the three-piece swimsuit. We research what encouraged this royal revolution in masculine attire--and the explanations for its awesome longevity--in David Kuchta's enticing and handsomely illustrated account. among 1550 and 1850, Kuchta says, English top- and middle-class males understood their authority to be dependent partly upon the show of masculine personality: how they awarded themselves in public and validated their masculinity helped outline their political legitimacy, ethical authority, and monetary application. a lot has been written concerning the methods political tradition, faith, and financial concept assisted in shaping beliefs and practices of masculinity. Kuchta permits us to determine the method operating in opposite, in that masculine manners and conduct of intake in a patriarchal society contributed actively to people's knowing of what held England jointly. Kuchta indicates not just how the ideology of contemporary English masculinity was once a self-consciously political and public construction but additionally how such explicitly political judgements and values turned internalized, customized, and naturalized into daily manners and behavior.

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72 Worn at the pleasure of the prince, clothes should not make an impression on a man’s heart, for that was affectation and vanity. ”73 Properly used, gay dress was noble and manly; improperly used, it was affected, vain, and effeminate. For the courtier, donning sumptuous dress was, in theory at least, merely an act of political allegiance. In this equation between political and sartorial loyalty, ruling by example had its dangers: being followed in the wrong way. Allegiance to the court’s example was always threatened by upstart emulators who dressed the part in order to obtain the power, who mistook the one-way correspondence between sign and substance.

1610. ” Courtesy of the National Portrait Gallery, London. as essential to instilling political allegiance and social deference. Disputes over the court’s expenditures were of no small account in TudorStuart England, and the crown needed to balance its liberality with its exemplary moderation. ”61 Good government thus meant set- The Old Sartorial Regime 31 ting a sartorial example for the nation—not in the style of dress to be followed, but in the principle of moderation. The monarch was to be emulated not in fashion, but in the principle of dressing according to one’s station.

24 Figure 2. George Perfect Harding, George Clifford, earl of Cumberland, 1590s. George Clifford was made a Knight of the Garter in 1592. This portrait demonstrates his loyalty to the queen, since he wears her glove. While Clifford was known to be a spendthrift and gambler who wasted the income from his estates, he chose to have himself portrayed not as a domestic wastrel but as a knight abroad in armor, equipped with pike and helmet. Standing with arm akimbo, a standard gesture of command, his military posture went hand in hand with his sartorial display of plume, embroidery, and silk hose.

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