The Tailcoat

Few other articles of clothing say “dapper” like a sleek, black tailcoat! Whether it’s worn for a wedding, evening dinner, prom or a dance performance, the tailcoat is always elegant and brings to mind the dressier days of bygone years. Let’s take a look at what tailcoats are, where they originated and how they made their mark in the fashion world.

What is a Tailcoat?

The history of this unique jacket goes all the way back to the early 1800s, where it was worn as a horse-riding outfit. The knee-length, double-breasted sports coat was the norm, of course, until someone introduced the brilliant idea of a tailcoat. This was a coat with the front cut away at the waist for the sake of easier maneuvering in the saddle.

The back remained knee-length, with a split down the center, so that the “tails” could fall comfortably over the back of the saddle and horse.

While most modern tailcoats are black, they were worn in many colors in the 19th century. Today, you’ll see men sporting them at formal gatherings, professional settings, equestrian competitions and military events.

Who Designed the Tailcoat?

The gentleman commonly attributed to the tailcoat’s design was a man named Beau Brummell (1778-1840), an Englishman who was intimate friends with the British aristocracy and who also became a recognized leader in the fashion of his day. Unfortunately, however, Brummell engaged in his high-society lifestyle without prudence and racked up unmanageable debts. He died an impoverished and abandoned man. However, his legacy of fashion continues to this day.

The Modern Tailcoat

Today’s tailcoats are no longer double-breasted and aren’t generally worn with a high, lacy collar as it was in the Regency Era. The color is usually restricted to black, paired with a bow tie and reserved for very formal settings such as weddings, orchestral concerts and proms.

The Cloak: A Universal and Practical Garment

The purpose of all garments is to protect the body from the elements. Even though we may use them for symbolic purposes on occasion, their main intent remains. Cloaks are an excellent example of a protective garment, being one of the oldest forms of clothing to have been utilized in every imaginable way. While its primary purpose is to keep the body warm and dry, it holds numerous possibilities for designers and wearers alike.

Where do Cloaks Come From? 

Essentially, cloaks have existed for about as long as human beings have been living on earth. It’s thought that they evolved from the use of blankets worn around the shoulders for warmth. The definition of a cloak is simply a sleeveless overgarment worn loosely over the shoulders. This is a pretty broad definition, implying that people everywhere have worn cloaks throughout all of human history.

Nearly every civilization on the planet has worn some form of this garment. The Egyptians, Romans, Chinese, Native Americans and Mesopotamians have worn cloaks since antiquity. As universal as they were, these cloaks were not all alike. Every culture had its own unique shapes, styles and designs.

In the Northern Hemisphere, warmer fur cloaks were worn, while nearer to the Equator, cotton or linen cloaks were more common. During the Bronze and Iron Ages, the cloak was an essential garment for everyone, regardless of class, sex or occupation. Simple cloaks could be found everywhere, while wealthier people often wore decorative cloaks made from finer material.

Certainly, protective clothing is as necessary to life as physical nourishment to our bodies. However, cloaks remain a significant element in the world of modern fashion.

Cloaks for Dress and Fashion

Today, cloaks can be seen on popular TV shows like The Game of Thrones. Many people wear them during Halloween or other celebrations. In the 1500s, cloaks emerged as the predominant form of formalwear throughout western Europe. Fashionable cardinal or velvet cloaks were also quite popular in 18th century Britain.

Elegant cloaks have often been worn as fashion statements. However, they’re more likely to be worn for a practical purpose today.

Though the use of cloaks has declined in the last century, the fashion world would be bereft of an iconic style without these exquisite garments. 

The Maillot: A Rebel With a Cause

While the name may be unfamiliar to you, you’ve no doubt seen the maillot many times and perhaps even worn one yourself at the beach or pool. “Maillot” is, in fact, the original French term for what we know today as a one-piece swimsuit. The name isn’t the only thing to have changed, however. From shape to style variations, this garment has evolved countless times over the decades since its inception.

The Birth of the Maillot

The one-piece swimsuit made its first appearance — as popular fashion styles often do — when someone broke the rules. In 1908, champion swimmer and future vaudeville star Annette Kellerman decided to flout convention by appearing on a public beach in a form-fitting one-piece suit that exposed her arms, legs and neck. She was promptly arrested for indecent exposure.

Thanks to Kellerman’s daring, in the aftermath of World War I, the maillot became a legitimate option for women and a welcome alternative to the voluminous swimwear usually worn. This original maillot was sleeveless with attached long shorts, as popularized by the “Diving Girl” advertising icon of the Oregon swimwear powerhouse, Jantzen.

Changing Times, Changing Tan Lines

Though the arrival of two-piece swimsuits and the 1946 bikini stole some of the maillot’s popularity, it has nonetheless remained a swimwear staple. The original long shorts were gradually phased out and replaced by the high-cut leg lines we see today. Meanwhile, the development of a stretchy, more elastic fabric in the 1930s gave the suit a tight-fitting look that’s still in vogue.  

Nowadays, we see the maillot in an endless variety of shapes and styles, as consumer preferences continue to evolve. Today, maillots can have plunging or halter necklines. Some even have criss-cross lacing in the front or back. Whether worn in the water or for sunbathing ashore, this wonderful swimsuit has shown itself to be functional, flattering, and interesting in its every iteration.

A History of Battledress

Military dress is a relatively modern invention, aside from the clothing ascribed to specific ethnic groups or tribes throughout history. Below, we analyze some of the key forces that have influenced the need for battledress and how the garment has evolved.  

Battledress Evolves With Warfare

The carrying of weapons may have been the earliest identifier of the warrior class within a tribe. However, as societies grew, it is believed that some resourceful civilizations created specific dress codes for those tasked with protecting civilians. As Love to Know points out, the Papal Guards in Rome are one example of those who wore these early uniforms.

As gunpowder made its appearance on the fields of war, the needs of the battlefield heavily influenced the look of battledress. With battlefields often clouded by smoke, largely thanks to gunpowder, the need to tell friend from foe became a matter of life and death. As such, bright colors were used by different armies, in order to avoid shooting at their own peers during the heat of battle.  

Battledress Evolves With Globalization

Battledress evolved as leading-edge technologies made their appearance on the world stage and trade across continents became more prevalent. Better weapons were developed, delivering more precision at farther distances. So, battledress no longer needed to be distinguishable in nature. Instead, they came to be used as a means of camouflage.

As such, military uniforms around the world took on the colors found in the fields of war: greens, khaki browns and desert colors, which made soldiers “invisible” to their enemies. This fantastic graphic from Military History Now shows the evolution of British battledress and how it has changed throughout history.  

Tradition Still Has Its Place

While those engaged on the ground need to blend in with their surroundings, the more ceremonial and traditional elements of battledress are now reserved for ranking members of the military. Those who war through diplomatic channels against their adversarial counterparts use emblems, medals and other ornamentation to communicate rank, power and military might.  

As we move into an era of cyber warfare, it will be interesting to see how battledress evolves to reflect modern trends. For example, will military robots figure in future wars? Similarly, how will nations distinguish themselves during non-violent conflicts?  Or, will anonymity be a weapon of its own?  Only time will tell. Nevertheless, the battledress remains a stalwart element of modern warfare.

Peplum: Form Flattering Fashion

Peplum is a popular fit-and-flare style. It referred to a woman’s outer tunic in ancient Greece and was highly prized during the Italian Renaissance. The peplum style migrated to Italy from the Eastern Ottoman Empire, which controlled the majority of Southeast Europe, Western Asia and North Africa for roughly six centuries.

This beautifully feminine style resembles an upside-down tulip. Historically, the peplum was a fashion embellishment worn by both men and women. Today, it’s overwhelmingly used to create a fit-and-flare silhouette in women’s clothing.

Daring Flare Style

The unique peplum style refers to the extra strip of fabric fitted to the bodice or waistband of a blouse, jacket, dress, skirt or overcoat. This extra fabric (or overskirt) gives a flared, flouncy silhouette to the garment. Peplum can be made in various lengths, cuts and styles.

The flaring overskirt accentuates the hips and visually slims the waist. This versatile fashion can be paired with pencil skirts or full skirts. Both daring or conservative necklines also go well with a peplum outfit. 

East Meets West

In Charlotte A. Jirousek’s recently published book Ottoman Dress and Design in the West: A Visual History of Cultural Exchange, she explains that “the Eastern idea of open-fronted garments layered over other garments was introduced into European fashion via Italy late in the 14th century.”

During this early period, the peplum style was apparent in both male and female garments. In Italian artist Sofonisba Anguissola’s mid-sixteenth century painting of a family, the young subjects of his painting (a girl and boy) was dressed in the peplum style of the time.

Though no longer fashionable for men or boys, peplum has a long history in the feminine world of fashion. This versatile style was especially popular during the decadent 1980s and has taken on different incarnations since. A modern, elegant choice for all body types, the peplum’s ability to imbue traditional office wear with a feminine touch has made it an essential piece in many career women’s wardrobes. From casual to chic, this style suits every occasion!