Getting Dressed Guide for Men -- 1680s-1720s

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The Quick and Dirty

This Getting Dressed Guide is designed for absolute beginners so they can make good choices their first time out. To that end, it glosses over some of the finer points of correct historical clothing. If you want to find out more about the clothing of this period, follow the links in the text to the more in-depth articles elsewhere on this site.
    1. Shirt -- Men's shirts are very similar from the 16th century through to the end of the 19th.
The illustration below is from an extant shirt. The important elements are that it's white and has no decoration. Shirts with no collar, a band collar, a standing collar or a fold-over collar were all worn in this period by all levels of people. Avoid lace and frills.
A GAoP Shirt
Buy a pattern for a GAoP shirt here!
    1. Breeches -- In the first part of this period (1680s and 1690s), breeches are very simple updates of the breeches of the previous decades. When compared to English Civil War breeches, they ride lower (on the hips) and are narrower in the leg. But the construction is very similar.
We barely see breeches in pictures from the GAoP, but a couple of elements are essential: they are gathered into a band, they fasten under the kneecaps by ties or buttons, and they're close to the leg. They are closed with a button fly -- the buttons either on a flap or the breeches proper.
Common Man's Breeches from the Cryes of London
The practice of wearing one's stockings over the breeches doesn't seem to have be adopted by this class of people. Stockings are worn under the breeches and tied with garters. Later in the period (after 1700) the breeches we think of as typically 18th century come into use by everyone. These are characterised by a baggy seat and fitted (not gathered) legs. The length remains the same, but the later breeches are always closed by buttons. Buy a pattern for GAoP breeches here!
    1. Jacket -- I'm not calling this "Frock Coat" or "Justacorps" or "Waistcoat" because many different types of jackets were worn by common men. The straight-bodied coat called justacorps was one of the more frequently seen styles on the working class in London in the 1680s through 1700. It is characterised by a plethora of buttons along the front opening, back and side vents. Cuffs with buttons are often also seen, but they aren't the large "dog ear" cuffs being worn by wealthy people of the time period. Sometimes buttons are missing from these common justacorps, sometimes the justacorps is rather tattered and torn, but it's still decidedly this style of straight-bodied coat.
Common Men's Justacorps. Note that a second layer with tight sleeves (the waistcoat) is visible at the cuffs.
Buy a pattern for GAoP justacorps here! Another popular style of jacket among the lower classes is the common man's jacket. This jacket does not have the side vents and multitude of buttons that typify the straight-bodied justacorps. The jacket only closed to the waist and laces were as common as buttons. Gores were let into the side seams to widen the skirts rather than opening the vents. The sleeves were worn close to the arm and the ends buttoned at the wrist or turned back. These jackets strangely resemble medieval tunics and are extremely simple garments.
Common Men's Jacket of the GAoP
Buy a pattern for GAoP common man's jacket here! After 1700, frock coats became popular for all strata of society. This was probably due to the trade in second-hand clothing -- frock coats had simply "trickled down" to the lower classes. Lower class frock coats would be unadorned and made from plain wool, either unlined or lined with linen.
    1. Shoes -- Among common men, tied shoes are very common in the 1680s and 90s. Slowly buckled shoes are coming to be worn. By the 1700s, buckled shoes will be just as common as tied shoes among common men. The basic style of shoe was the same across the board -- narrow latchets over the instep, very small openings in the side, long tongues running up the ankle, and stacked heels. Heel height could vary from nearly flat to what we'd modernly consider "too high" for a man.
Tied Shoes
Early Buckle Shoes
    1. Hats and Caps -- Tricorn (the period word was "cocked") hats have become a cliché. As you can see from the illustrations on this page, there were many caps and hat being worn by common men, very few are cocked at all.
    1. Neckwear -- Stocks were the most common neckwear among the better sort. Common men more often wore neckerchiefs rolled and tied in a double knot at the throat. Some common men wear nothing on their necks but their shirt collars worn open. However even when worn open, nothing below the clavicle shows.
    1. Stockings -- Knit or cut cloth. And garters to hold them up with. Tied around the knee.
    2. Apron -- Just a rectangle of linen (white, coloured, checked or plaid) on a string worn around your waist over your jacket. Common men who worked in dirty professions often wore their aprons at all times.


    1. Wear boots
    2. Wear nothing on top of your shirt

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© 2006 Kass McGann. All Rights Reserved. The Author of this work retains full copyright for this material. Permission is granted to make and distribute verbatim copies of this document for non-commercial private research or educational purposes provided the copyright notice and this permission notice are preserved on all copies.