Saturday, September 02, 2006

Old Cool

Fashion advice you may not want to follow

NEW YORK — Men have been telling one another how to dress for nearly as long as they've been wearing clothes. At least that's the contention of A Rakish History of Men's Wear, an exhibit opening next week at the New York Public Library. We asked curator Paula Baxter for a few notable sources of fashion advice from (way) back in the day.

Il Cortegiano, 1592: "This book advocated that the professional men of Urbino, Italy, only wear black when doing business because it was a way of showing your power—the first time that someone thought to write that down."

Journal des Dames et des Modes, circa 1790: "A French magazine that gave a lot of play to men's fashion. It made observations like, ‘Here comes the silk top hat from England. It's very nice and it's better than what we have.'"

The Whole Art of Dress! Or the Road to Elegance and Fashion, 1830: "There were a few sections on how to do elaborate things with cravats. There were tying styles with names like Mathematical, the Ornamental, and the Waterfall."

Mercure des Salons, circa 1830: "They showed examples of coats that had a ‘wasp waist,' which was cinched in at the waist. That was quite the thing."

Vanity Fair: A Weekly Show of Political, Social, and Literary Wares, late 1800s. "This magazine abhorred dandyism—they thought it was about self-love—and they thought men should keep things simple." Just a bit ahead of its time.

A Rakish History of Men's Wear, September 8-April 7, 2007 at the New York Public Library, Fifth Ave. at 42nd St., NYC, (212) 869-8089,

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