18th Century Men’s Suits

See also breeches, waistcoats, and coats.

I’ve organized these roughly by type; the category designations may not be entirely accurate. (The categories are based on descriptions of the suits in the V&A’s collection, and seemed to work well for classifying other suits. Many of the plainer suits in the “evening ensembles” section certainly could have been “day wear,” though.)

Formal ensembles for day wear

Dress ensembles for evening occasions

  • Dress suit and waistcoat, silk lined with silk, linen, and buckram, England or France, c. 1720-1730
  • Man’s dress suit in red silk uncut velvet, France, 1750-1770
  • V&A 657 to B-1898, cut and uncut yellow and purple silk velvet, United Kingdom, c. 1760
  • Augusta 8.4820.132.272, gent's striped velvet coat and breeches, c. 1760; “Horizontally striped maroon silk velvet with cut, uncut and voided areas, narrow standing band collar, fitted sleeves with 4" cuff, deep, shaped pocket flaps, front cut with curve over chest, twenty five self fabric covered buttons on jacket and fifteenon breeches, breeches with homespun facings”
  • LACMA M.2007.211.946a-c, a man’s suit in wool, with sequins and metal-thread embroidered appliqués & passementerie, France, c. 1760
  • Met 1996.117ac, Britain, c. 1760; “This magnificent suit remarkably survives complete with all of its components. Because elements of menswear were often retailored to accommodate changes in the wearer's size or in fashion, this ensemble in essentially unaltered condition is an exceedingly rare example. Characteristic of the fashion of this date, skintight breeches that buckle below the knee and a fitted waistcoat are almost entirely covered by a coat with collarless, narrow chest and stiffly flaring skirt that concentrates emphasis on the lower torso and thighs. The placement of the opulent applied decoration bolsters this effect. Although the coat retains stiffness reminiscent of the 1750s styles, the buttons do not meet below the upper chest and the angular opening anticipates the pronounced front curve and diminishing skirt of late decades. The color coordination of all three parts and the utilization of wool, both decidedly English elements that anticipate modern attire, were generally reserved for informal wear. Here, however, the suit is resplendent with an abundance of gold buttons and braid more closely associated with high-style occasions.”
  • Augusta 8.4819.131.271, gent's 3-piece striped silk suit, 1760-1780; “Narrow striped silk satin in golden brown, light blue and black, each trimmed with covered self fabric buttons and two bifurcated linen pockets: coat with narrow standing collar, curves over chest, sleeves end in 5.5" cuff, shaped pocket flaps; 33" long sleeveless waistcoat, narrow stand collar, back lacing, one pocket lined in pigskin, coat and waistcoat with cream silk linings; breeches with narrow four button fall front, knee bands with buckles, napped flannel lining”
  • Vintage Textile 1766, French gentleman's three-piece silk suit, 1760s-1780s; “The suit is fashioned from gold silk piqué. The body of the top coat and fronts of the waistcoat are lined with ivory silk. The sleeve lining of the top coat and back of the waistcoat are of ivory linen. The breeches are lined with brown linen.”
  • Met 1994.405.1a-f, ensemble with yellow coat and white embroidered silk waistcoat, France, c. 1765
  • V&A T.137 to B-1932, French silk, patterned in cerise and cream, lined with horsehair and silk, United Kingdom, c. 1765-1770
  • Vintage Textile 1687, lavender silk gentleman's 3-piece suit, c.1765-1785; “The suit is fashioned from pale lavender silk taffeta. Over time the color has faded a bit but is still extraordinary. The shade of lavender was chosen with great care by the Important Person who wore this magnificent suit. The lavender is rich enough to call attention to the wearer but not so bright as to offend conventional taste by its foppishness. The sleeves and back of the waistcoat are ivory linen. The fronts of the waistcoat are lined with ivory silk. The unlined breeches have ivory linen facings. The back and sleeves of the topcoat are lined with ivory linen; the rest is lined with ivory silk.”
  • Augusta 8.4818.129.215, gent's printed cream velvet suit, 1770s; “Two piece suit of horizontally ribbed silk velvet with pink and green dots: collarless coat with self covered button trim, 5.5" deep cuffs, shaped pocket flaps, cream silk lining; narrow fall-front breeches with cut steel buckles at knees, napped cotton-linen lining”
  • V&A 858&A-1864, silk velvet with an embroidered waistcoat, United Kingdom, c. 1770-1780
  • Met C.I.61.13.2a-c, silk embroidered “à la disposition, created in predetermined pattern shapes, thus to accord fully with the silhouette and outlines of the suit,” Paris, 1774-1792
  • PMA 1935-16-2a--c, a man’s three-piece suit: coat, waistcoat, and breeches; silk faille with chainstitch and ribbon embroidery; France, c. 1775-1785
  • Augusta 18.7922.87.87, “Coat & breeches putty faille, metallic bobbin lace trim, large cut-steel buttons on jacket, small self covered on breeches; cream satin sleeveless waistcoat w/ colorful floral embroidery”
  • Met 26.56.14a, b, a suit of red silk, Italy, c. 1780
  • MoL, 1780; “The jacket is black velvet striped with pink, embroidered lavishly with coloured silks and mirror glass in Hower motives. The waistcoat is ivory embroidered with coloured silks. The breeches, probably a later replacement, are black velvet with small pink diamond-pattern embroidered knee bands.”
  • Met 26.56.16a-c a suit of rose and blue silk changeant taffeta with red foil and hammered silver buttons and embroidery, Italy, fourth quarter of the 18th century
  • Christie’s Lot 109 / Sale 5318, a gentleman’s court suit of green and grey velvet, lavishly embroidered in cut pastes and silks with borders of dripping wisteria florets, with matching breeches, 1780s
  • LACMA M.67.56.3a-c, a man’s three-piece suit, coat and breeches of cut and voided silk velvet, silk waistcoat with metal sequin embroidery; France, c. 1785-1789
  • Met 2003.45a-c, man’s ensemble, three-piece men’s suit composed of tailcoat, waistcoat, and breeches of green silk velvet with green and yellow silk brocade and ivory silk twill and ivory linen lining, France, c. 1790
  • A suit from the 1790s in seafoam and orange shot silk taffeta
  • V&A 136, 137-1880, dress suit, cut and voided silk velvet, lined with silk, United Kingdom, 1790-1800

Court suits