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tailcoat

A tailcoat is a coat with the front of the skirt cut away, so as to leave only the rear section of the skirt, known as the tails. The historical reason coats were cut this way was to make it easier for the wearer to ride a horse, but over the years tailcoats of varying types have evolved into forms of formal dress for both day and evening wear. Although there are several different types of tailcoat, the term tailcoat is popularly taken to be synonymous with the type of dress coat still worn today in the evening with white tie. This dress coat, one of the two main surviving tailcoats, is a dark evening coat with a squarely cut away front. The other one is the morning coat (or cutaway in American English), which is cut away at the front in a gradual taper.

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Types[edit]

Beau Brummell wears a Regency period dress coat as daytime dress. The coat is able to close and the tails are knee length.

A mid-twentieth century dress coat, with the longer tails reaching below the knees fashionable then.

A rare women’s version of a tailcoat in black wool, from 1939.

Dress coat[edit]

A dress coat, sometimes called a swallow-tail or claw-hammer coat, is the coat that has, since the 1850s, come to be worn only in the evening by men as part of the white tie dress code, also known as evening full dress, for formal evening occasions. It is commonly referred to as just a tailcoat, but amongst tailors (both British and American) and dress historians it is traditionally called a dress coat to differentiate it from other types of tailcoats.

The modern dress coat is an evolution of the coat that was once both day and evening dress. It became increasingly popular from around the late 1790s and was particularly widespread during the British Regency, and in America in the 1830s to 1850s.[1] The eighteenth century dress coat was supplanted in the 1850s as formal day wear by the frock coat, which was in turn replaced in the twentieth century by the morning coat. In the Regency period, the dress coat with gilt buttons was always worn with non-matching trousers, pantaloons or breeches. Since the Victorian era, the modern dress coat for evening wear has been worn with matching trousers of the same cloth with two stripes of braiding down the side. The resulting suit is traditionally referred to by tailors as a dress suit.

A dress coat is waist length in the front and sides, and has two long tails reaching to the knees in back. Sometimes there is a pocket on the inside to hold gloves. Since around the 1840s the dress coat has lacked outside side pockets, but prior to this it took flapped side pockets. Since the early twentieth century it has become acceptable to have a welted pocket on the outside of the chest to hold a pocket square, but prior to this dress coats lacked any outer pockets. The front of the skirt is squarely cut away. Since around the 1830s the coat has been constructed with a waist seam that allows greater waist suppression. From the Victorian era, the revers has taken facings in silk (grosgrain or satin) on the lapels. Although it is double-breasted, since the 1870s, the dress coat no longer fastens in the front.[2] As a result, although there are two rows of buttons, these are all non-functional, serving only a decorative function.

As part of modern white tie, either a black or midnight blue dress coat is worn with a stiff detachable white wing-collar dress shirt, with a plain starched bib, and single cuffs fastened with cufflinks; a matching white bowtie and white waistcoat; black trousers; and black patent leather pumps with stockings.

Morning coat[edit]

Two men wearing morning coats at a wedding. 1929.

A morning coat is a single-breasted coat, with the front parts usually meeting at one button in the middle, and curving away gradually into a pair of tails behind, topped by two ornamental buttons on the waist seam. The lapels are usually pointed (American English peak), not step (notch), since the coat is now only worn as formalwear. When it was first introduced, the step lapel was common, since it was worn as half dress. The coat can be grey or black as part of morning dress, and is usually worn with striped, or very occasionally checked, trousers.

The morning coat may also be worn as part of a morning suit, which is mid-grey with matching trousers and waistcoat.

The modern morning coat (or cutaway in American English) is a man’s coat worn as the principal item in morning dress. The name derives from morning nineteenth century horseback riding exercise for gentlemen. It was regarded as an informal form of half dress. Gradually it became acceptable as an alternative to the frock coat for formal day wear or full dress. Since the nineteenth century it is normally only seen at weddings, at formal baptisms, and in England, at races such as Royal Ascot and the Derby where it is worn with a contrasting waistcoat, usually light grey or sometimes ‘fancy’. It is very occasionally seen at funerals but more often it is used as day wear at formal luncheons, especially civic occasions under formal gowns, when worn with a black matching waistcoat (or ‘vest’). Male members of the cabinet of Japan wear it in their first public appearance following the formation of the cabinet.

The Marshal and Clerk of the United States Supreme Court wear morning coats when the justices are appearing in public wearing their traditional robes, for example when the court is in session, or when attending the President’s State of the Union address. At one time all attorneys appearing before the court wore morning coats but they now wear standard business attire. The United States Solicitor General (when the office is held by a male) and his or her male deputies continue the tradition of wearing morning dress when arguing before the court.[3]

During the Victorian and Edwardian era, in America morning coat referred to a single-breasted frock coat, so the British then made fun of the fact that Americans were unable to distinguish between morning coats and frock coats. In modern American English, morning coats are referred to as cutaway coats.

Shadbelly[edit]

In the extremely conservative field of equestrianism, a variant called a shadbelly is still worn in certain disciplines in its eighteenth century role as daytime formalwear. It is basically a form of dress coat which is closer in cut to the early nineteenth century style worn by Beau Brummel than to the modern version worn with evening formal dress. The male version of the shadbelly is often called a “weaselbelly”.

Levée dress coat[edit]

This is a type of dress coat traditionally worn with court dress, until the mid twentieth century. It was made of black velvet and traditionally worn at court, levées, and evening state parties by those who did not wear uniforms. A version made of black barathea was also worn as diplomatic dress. It was single breasted with a stand up collar, with plain gauntlet cuffs, and two three-pointed flap pockets on the waist seam. It had six metal buttons at the front, and two decorative buttons at the back. The body of the coat was lined with black silk, and skirts with white silk. It was worn with breeches, black silk hose, white bow tie, white gloves, and court shoes (pumps) with steel buckles. The front of the coat was cut away squarely like a standard dress coat.[4]

Highland coatee[edit]

This is worn with Highland dress, and has a square cut away front like a dress coat, but the tails are cut significantly shorter.

Footman’s coat[edit]

This was worn as livery (servant’s uniforms) and was knee length with a sloped cut away front like a morning coat. It was single breasted with a stand up collar and gilt buttons. There were three pronged side pockets similar in style to the levée dress coat.

Military use[edit]

Winfield Scott wearing a tailcoat at the Battle of Veracruz

Military issue tail coat, 1789

From c.1790 until after the Crimean War a red tail coat with short tails (known as a coatee) was part of the infantry uniform of the British army. The collar and cuffs were in the regimental colors and the coats had white braid on the front.[5] Elite light infantry units like the 95th Rifles were issued short green coats to provide camouflage and ease of movement.

The Americans issued a similar uniform in dark blue to enlisted men during the War of 1812. This remained in service until 1833 when it was replaced with a shell jacket.[6] Officers continued to wear tail coats until after the Mexican War when frock coats became the standard field wear. By the time the M1858 uniform was introduced tail coats had been relegated to full dress.

The Royal Navy had an elaborate hierarchy of tailcoats for the officers, allowing further buttons and gilding according to rank and seniority. These were single-breasted for junior officers and double-breasted for those with the rank of lieutenant and above.

Masonic use[edit]

Freemasons wear tailcoats to their meetings.[7][8] Dress for Grand Lodge Officers at official functions and Installations is “Full Evening Dress (Tails) with stiff white shirt and peak collar, white bow tie, white buttons or studs, stiff white waistcoat and white gloves with Full Regalia or Full Evening Dress (Tails) with plain white long-sleeved business shirt, white bow tie, soft white waistcoat and white gloves with Full Regalia or when the prescribed dress of the lodge is lounge/business suit, all members of the Grand Delegation may wear the same, with no gauntlets.”

from wikipedia

Frock coat

A frock coat is a man’s coat characterised by a knee-length skirt (often cut just above the knee) all around the base, popular during the Victorian and Edwardian periods. The double-breasted style is sometimes called a Prince Albert (after the consort to Queen Victoria). The frock coat is a fitted, long-sleeved coat with a centre vent at the back, and some features unusual in post-Victorian dress. These include the reverse collar and lapels, where the outer edge of the lapel is cut from a separate piece of cloth from the main body, and also a high degree of waist suppression, where the coat’s diameter round the waist is much less than round the chest. This is achieved by a high horizontal waist seam with side bodies, which are extra panels of fabric above the waist used to pull in the naturally cylindrical drape.

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The frock coat was widely worn in much the same situations as modern lounge suits and formalwear, with different variations. One example is that a frock coat for formalwear was always double-breasted with peaked lapels; as informal wear, the single-breasted frock coat often sported the step, or notched, lapel (the cause of its informality), and was more common in the early 19th century than the formal model.

Dress coats and morning coats, the other main knee-length coats of the period, shared the waist seam of frock coats, making them all body coats, but differed in the cut of the skirt, as the frock coat does not have the cut away front which gives dress coats and morning coats tails at the back. As was usual with all coats in the 19th century, shoulder padding (called ‘American shoulders’) was rare or minimal. The formal frock coat only buttons down to the waist seam, which is decorated at the back with a pair of buttons. The frock coat that buttoned up to the neck, forming a high, stand-up collar, was worn only by clergymen.

History[edit]

Justacorps, the precursor to the frock coat fashionable from the 1660s until the 1790s.

Man’s wool and silk twill frock coat, France, 1816–1820. Los Angeles County Museum of Art, M.2010.33.7.

Frock coats emerged during the Napoleonic Wars, where they were worn by officers in the Austro-Hungarian and various German armies during campaign. They efficiently kept the wearer warm as well as protected his uniform. Privates and non-commission officers would wear greatcoats on campaign.

The earlier frock[edit]

During the mid 17th century, the older doublets, ruffs, paned hose, and jerkins were replaced by the precursor to the three piece suit comprising waistcoat, tight breeches, powdered wig, tricorne hat, and a long coat called a Justacorps. This coat, popularised by Louis XIII of France and Charles II of England, was knee length and looser fitting than the later frock coat, with turn-back cuffs and two rows of buttons. English and French noblemen often wore expensive brocade coats decorated with velvet, gold braid, embroidery, and gold buttons to demonstrate their wealth.[1]

Before the frock coat existed, there was another garment called the frock in the 18th century, which was probably unrelated to the frock coat, sharing only a similarity in name. The earlier frock was originally country clothing that became increasingly common around 1730. Formal dress was then so elaborate that it was impractical for everyday wear, so the frock became fashionable as half dress, a less formal alternative. By the 1780s the frock was worn widely as town wear, and, towards the end of the 18th century, started to be made with a single-breasted cut away front and tails. It was thus the precursor to the modern dress coat worn with white tie.

These relations can be seen in similar foreign terms. The modern word for a dress coat in Italian, French, Romanian and Spanish is frac; in German Frack; and Portuguese fraque, used in the late 18th century to describe a garment very similar to the frock, being a single or double-breasted garment with a diagonally cutaway front in the manner of a modern morning coat. Even coats with horizontally cut away skirts like a dress coat were referred to as a frock in the late eighteenth and very early 19th century, before being renamed to dress coat.

This suggests that the earlier frock from the 18th century is more the direct ancestor of the modern dress coat, whereas the frock coat in the 19th century, the subject under discussion here, is a different garment altogether with separate military origins in the 19th century, although a remote historical connection to the frock cannot entirely be excluded.

Other meanings of the term frock include clerical garb, and a type of woman’s dress combining a skirt with a shirt–blouse top.

The origins and rise of the frock coat[edit]

Prince Albert wearing a black frock coat with silk-faced lapels, and bow tie

Heads of government wore frock coats at the formal signing of the Treaty of Versailles in 1919.

When the frock coat was first worn, correct daytime full dress was a dress coat. The frock coat began as a form of undress, the clothing worn instead of the dress coat in more informal situations. The coat itself was possibly of military origin. Towards the end of the 1820s, it started to be cut with a waist seam to make it more fitted, with an often marked waist suppression and exaggerated flair of the skirt. This hour-glass figure persisted into the 1840s. As the frock coat became more widely established around the 1850s, it started to become accepted as formal day time full dress, thus relegating the dress coat exclusively to evening full dress, where it remains today as a component of white tie. At this period, the frock coat became the most standard form of coat for formal day time dress. Through most of the Victorian era it continued to be worn in similar situations those in which the lounge suit is worn today such as in weddings, funerals, and by professionals. It was the standard business attire of the Victorian era.

Prince Albert, consort to Queen Victoria, is usually credited with popularising the frock coat. During the Victorian era, the frock coat rapidly became universally worn in Britain, Europe and America as standard formal business dress, or for formal daytime events. It was considered the most correct form of morning dress for the time.

The decline of the frock coat[edit]

Around the 1880s and increasingly through into the Edwardian era, an adaptation of the riding coat called a Newmarket coat (now renamed to be our 20th century morning coat) began to supplant the frock coat as daytime full dress. Once considered a casual equestrian sports coat, the morning coat started to slowly become both acceptable, and increasingly popular, as a standard day time full dress alternative to the frock coat, a position which the morning coat enjoys to this day.

The morning coat was particularly popular amongst fashionable younger men, and the frock coat increasingly came to be worn mostly by older conservative gentlemen. The morning coat gradually relegated the frock coat to only more formal situations, to the point that the frock coat eventually came to be worn only as court and diplomatic dress.

The lounge suit was once only worn as smart leisure wear in the country or at the seaside, but in the middle of the 19th century started to rise rapidly in popularity. It took on the role of a more casual alternative to the morning coat for town wear, moving the latter up in the scale of formality. The more the morning coat became fashionable as correct daytime full dress, the more the lounge suit became acceptable as an informal alternative, and finally the more the frock coat became relegated to the status of ultra-formal day wear, worn only by older men. At the most formal events during the signing of the Treaty of Versailles in 1919, heads of government wore the frock coat, but at more informal meetings they wore morning coats or even a lounge suit. In 1926, George V hastened the demise of the frock coat when he shocked the public by appearing at the opening of the Chelsea Flower Show wearing a morning coat. The frock coat barely survived the 1930s only as an ultra-formal form of court dress, until being finally officially abolished in 1936 as official court dress by Edward VIII (who later abdicated to become the Duke of Windsor). It was replaced by the morning coat, thus consigning the frock coat to the status of historic dress.

Parts and cut[edit]

Formal wear[edit]

Frock coats worn with waistcoat and formal striped trousers are still very occasionally worn as daytime formal wear, especially to weddings, as an alternative to morning coats, in order to give the wedding attire a Victorian flavour. They are today usually only worn by the wedding party, where elements of historical costume are more acceptable, and even this practice is unusual, as its role as a formal ceremonial coat in daytime formal wear has been long supplanted in modern dress code by the morning coat. Like morning coats, frock coats are only worn for daytime formal events before 5 p.m. and no later than until around 7 p.m.

Cloth[edit]

Standard fibres used for the frock coat included wool and vicuña. The most common weave was known as broadcloth. The standard colour of a frock coat was solid black, but later, in the Victorian era, charcoal grey became an acceptable but less common alternative and Midnight Blue was an even rarer alternative colour. For business and festive occasions the revers was lined with black silk facings (either satin or grosgrain). For funerals black frock coats without self-faced revers were worn with a matching black waistcoat.

On more formal outings the coat was worn with a pair of cashmere striped morning trousers: (cashmere stripes refers to the muted design in black, silver and charcoal grey, not the fibres of the cloth.) However, trousers of muted checks were also worn in slightly more informal situations. In keeping with the rules set for morning dress, trousers matching the coat were considered a somewhat less formal alternative.

A matching black waistcoat was worn for more formal business or more solemn ceremonies. During the earlier Victorian period, colourful fancy waistcoats of silk were noted as being worn by gentlemen such as Charles Dickens. In summer a white or buff coloured linen waistcoat could be worn. For festive occasions a lighter coloured waistcoat such as light grey was permissible.

Cut[edit]

The length of the skirt of the frock coat varied during the Victorian era and Edwardian era according to fashion. The most conservative length became established as being to the knees but fashion conscious men would follow the latest trends to wear them either longer or shorter. Similarly, the height of the waist – the point of maximal waist suppression – changed according to fashion. During its heyday, the frock coat was cut following the 19th century ideal of flattering the natural elegance of the naked figure, based on the ideals of Neoclassicism that admired the depiction of the idealised nude in Classical Greco-Roman sculpture. The elegance of the form of the frock coat derived from its hourglass shape with a closely cut waist which at times around the 1830s-40’s was reinforced further with padding to round out the chest. A cut with an ideal hourglass silhouette was achievable because coats during this era were all made bespoke, individually cut to the exact measurements of the customer. The 19th century aesthetics of tailoring contrasted markedly to the modern style of cutting suits which involves a greater degree of drape (fullness), as established by the great early 20th century Savile Row tailor Frederick Scholte. Caution needs to be exercised by modern tailors trained to create the drape cut style of modern lounge suits to minimise drape – particularly around the waist – when cutting a historically accurate frock coat. Sometimes, modern lounge suit coats with an unusually long skirt are referred to by ready-to-wear makers as a ‘frock coat’ but these lack the waist seam, resulting in the fuller drape more typical of a modern overcoat or a lounge suit jacket. The silhouette of the historically accurate frock coat has the waist seam precisely tailored to permit the classical and elongating hourglass figure with the strong waist suppression.

Details[edit]

Oscar Wilde (1854-1900) wearing a frock coat with a chest pocket sporting a pocket square and a pinned cravat in a Ruche knot. Frock coats with any external pockets at all are a rarity.

Another characteristic of frock coats was their lack of any outer pockets. Only late in the Victorian and Edwardian era were they ever made with a chest pocket to sport a pocket square, a feature more typical of the modern lounge suit. Oscar Wilde, a famous dandy of his time, was often seen in portraits wearing just such a model, but this was rather rare on frock coats; while in keeping with the flamboyant nature of Wilde’s dress, it was frowned upon by traditionalists. Side pockets were always absent from frock coats, but pockets were provided on the inside of the chest.

The buttons on a frock coat were always covered in cloth, often to match the silk on the revers, showing in the triangle of lining wrapped over the inside of the lapels. Another common feature was the use of fancy buttons with a snow-flake or check pattern woven over it.

Through most of the Victorian era until towards the end, the lapels were cut separately and sewn on later, apparently because it made the lapel roll more elegantly. The revers from the inside of the coat wrapped over to the front, creating a small triangle of silk, while the outer half was cut from two strips of the body fabric. This was a feature of double-breasted frock coats used on all such coats, but morning and dress coats, which had previously followed this practice, began to be made with attached lapels (wholecut) around the end of the Edwardian era. Through the Victorian era, a row of decorative button holes was created down the lapel edge, but by Edwardian period these were reduced down to just the one lapel boutonnière button hole.

Turn back cuffs on the sleeves, similar to the turn ups (cuffs in American English) on modern trouser hems, were standard, with two buttons on the cuff.

Another rare feature was the use of decorative braiding around the sleeve cuffs and lapel edges.

Accessories[edit]

The Duke of Connaught in a braided frock coat suit with silk hat, stand-up collar, cravat, buttonhole, striped shirt, gloves, button boots, cane and racing glasses, in a cartoon from 1876

Proper accessories to wear with the frock coat included a non-collapsible top hat and a boutonnière in the lapel. A Homburg hat was considered too informal to wear with proper formal morning dress. During the Victorian and Edwardian era, button boots with a single row of punching across the cap toe were worn along with a cane. On cold days, it was common to wear a frock overcoat, a type of overcoat cut exactly the same as the frock coat, with the waist seam construction, only a little longer and fuller to permit it to be worn over the top of the frock coat. Patent leather dress boots were worn up until the Edwardian era with morning dress. The practice of wearing patent leather shoes is today reserved strictly for evening formalwear. Trousers are uncuffed and worn with braces (suspenders in American English) to avoid the top of the trousers from showing underneath the waistcoat. Only white shirts were worn with frock coats. The shirt was worn with a standing detachable collar. The most standard neckwear was a formal cravat (or Ascot in American English). The cravat was tied in the Ascot knot (the entire cravat is called an Ascot in American English) characterised by way the ends cross over in front, or alternatively in a Ruche knot, tied like a four-in-hand knot of a modern necktie. A decorative cravat pin often adorned with a precious stone or pearl was used to keep the cravat tidy. The cravat was usual with a frock coat when worn in more formal occasions through the Victorian and Edwardian eras, although the long necktie came to be worn increasingly after the turn of the century in the same manner as it is today with morning dress. The practice of wearing bow ties as an acceptable alternative with formalwear fell away after the late Victorian to early Edwardian era and became relegated to eveningwear, as remains the case in the twenty-1st century. As with a formal shirt for white tie, cuffs were single (rather than double) cuffed and made to close with cufflinks. The waistcoat was usually double-breasted with double-breasted style (or peaked) lapels. Formal gloves in light grey suede, chamois, or kid leather were also required.

Informal frock coat suits[edit]

An informal checked frock coat suit with odd waistcoat. The foreparts are connected by a chain link.

The solid black garment described above was widely used, but before the lounge suit became popular, there was a need for a more informal garment for smart casual wear. A version of the frock coat was used here too, with matching trousers and a more informal cloth, featuring stripes, or the check shown in the plate opposite. The waistcoat, instead of being black as usual in the formal version, was matching or odd. Until the modern cut away morning coat was worn, the single breasted frock coat was called a morning coat, and was used in such a less formal context, and double breasted coats made this way would often not fasten, being held loosely together in much the same way the modern morning coat is, with a single link.[2]

The accessories for the two styles depended on the intended use of the coat: for more formal settings, the outfit might still have striped trousers and demand a top hat and white gloves; for business, by the turn of the century, the morning coat was used (again, this referred to a single breasted frock coat then, not the modern morning coat). This last was accompanied by a business collar (such as winged collar, not a standing Imperial collar); a four in hand tie (as opposed to the formal cravat and puff), and a soft Derby or Homburg.[2]

Modern use[edit]

A British Army general wearing a frock coat in 2012.

Military wear[edit]

German Landwehr soldier in frock coat, 1815

The first military frock coats were issued late in the Napoleonic Wars to French line infantry and Prussian Landwehr troops.[3] Unwilling to soil the expensive tail coats on campaign, the French adopted a loose fitting single-breasted coat with contrasting collar and cuffs. The Germans, having been devastated by years of war, were unable to afford elaborate uniforms like the British line infantry and chose a peaked cap and double-breasted blue coat,[4] again with contrasting collar and cuffs, as these were cheaper to produce for the large numbers of recruits, smart enough for full dress, and more practical for campaigns.

By the 1840s frock coats were regulation for the American, Prussian, Russian[5] and French armies, although the British did not adopt them until after the Indian Mutiny. US army officers were first issued navy blue frocks during the Mexican War with gold epaulettes and peaked caps of the German pattern. Enlisted USMC personnel received a double breasted version with red piping worn with a leather stock and shako to reflect their status as an elite unit, although infantry soldiers continued to be issued the 1833 pattern shell jacket until the M1858 uniform, complete with French style kepi, entered service shortly before the US Civil War.[6]

The cut of a frock coat with a waist seam flatters a man’s figure, as opposed to a sack coat, and such frock coats remained part of some 20th century military uniforms. They can either be single-breasted as in army uniforms, or double-breasted as in navy uniforms. The British Army currently retains the frock coat for ceremonial wear by senior officers of Lieutenant-General rank and above, by officers of the Household Division, by some bandmasters and by holders of certain Royal appointments.[7]

Orthodox Jewish wear[edit]

In the Lithuanian yeshiva world, many prominent figures wear a black frock coat also known as a kapotteh (accompanied by either a Homburg or fedora hat) as formal wear. In recent years many Sefardi rabbis also wear a similar frock coat. The frock coat amongst Jews is usually reserved for a rosh yeshiva, (maybe also the mashgiach and other senior rabbis of the yeshiva) and other rabbis such as important communal rabbis and some chief rabbis.

Most married male Lubavitcher Hasidim also don frock coats on Shabbat. All Hasidim also wear a gartel (belt) over their outer coats during prayer services.

Most Hasidim wear long coats called rekelekh during the week, which are often mistaken for frock coats but are really very long suit jackets. On Shabbat, Hasidim wear bekishes, which are usually silk or polyester as opposed to the woollen frock coat. The bekishe and the rekel both lack the waist seam construction of the frock coat. Additionally, bekishes can be distinguished from frock coats by the additional two buttons on front and a lack of a slit in the back.

Part of the slit hem in the back of the frock coat is rounded so as to not require tzitzit. The buttons are usually made to go right over left on most Jewish frock coats, particularly those worn by Hasidic Jews.

In Yiddish, a frock coat is known as a frak, a sirtuk, or a kapotteh.

Teddy Boys[edit]

The Teddy Boys, a 1950s UK youth movement, named for their use of Edwardian-inspired clothing, briefly revived the frock coat, which they often referred to as a “drape”.

from wikipedia

Frock

Frock has been used since Middle English as the name for an article of clothing for men and women. In Standard and World English the word is used as an alternative term for a girl’s or woman’s dress. In Australia it is frequently used this way, with the phrase “to frock up” meaning to wear a formal dress or gown for a special occasion.[1]

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History[edit]

Originally, a frock was a loose, long garment with wide, full sleeves, such as the habit of a monk or priest, commonly belted. (This is the origin of the modern term defrock or unfrock, meaning “to eject from the priesthood“.)

The term has been continually applied to various types of clothing, generally denoting a loosely fitted garment:

  • From the 16th century to the early 20th century, frock was applied to a woman’s dress or gown, in the fashion of the day, often indicating an unfitted, comfortable garment for wear in the house, or (later) a light overdress worn with a slip or underdress.
  • From the 17th century on, a frock is a thigh- or full-length loose outer garment worn by shepherds, workmen, and farm workers in Britain, generally of heavy linen with a broad flat collar, now usually called a smock-frock. In some areas, this traditional frock buttons up the front in the manner of a coat, while in others it is a pullover style.
  • In the 18th century in Britain and America, a frock was an unfitted men’s coat for hunting or other country pursuits, with a broad, flat collar, derived from the traditional working-class frock. Late in the 18th century it came to be made with a cutaway front without a waist seam and this may have evolved into the standard dress coat with horizontally cutaway fronts worn for daytime wear by the early 19th century and from which the modern tail coat for white tie is derived. The great coat may similarly be historically derived from the frock as it similarly is single breasted, with a high and broad collar, waist pockets, and also lacked a waist seam early in its history as can be seen in an example[which?] in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

The precise historical evolution of the frock after the second half of the 18th century is obscure, however it is likely that the frock was gradually supplanted by the frock coat in the early 19th century, eventually being relegated to evening dress. The frock coat in turn became cut away into the modern coat, giving us the two modern coats with tails.

  • Frock is also a woman’s or girl’s dress.[2][3]
  • Frock (especially in the phrase “short frock”) can be a child’s dress or light overdress.
  • A frock is a dense knitted overgarment worn by sailors and fishermen, as guernsey frock, jersey frock (now usually simply guernsey and jersey).
  • The name “oil frock” has been used for a type of sailor’s oilskin.

Related terms[edit]

A frock coat is a men’s coat style of the 19th century, characterized by full skirts reaching to the lower thigh or knee. Despite the similarity in the name, the frock coat should be regarded as being a distinct garment quite separate from the frock. In the French language the frock coat is called ‘une redingote’ (from English “riding coat”), and so unlike the English language implies no immediate relationship to the frock which is called ‘une fraque’. Indeed, the modern French word for a tail coat is “une frac” which better betrays the historical relationship between the tail coat and the frock. In construction the frock coat could scarcely be more different from the frock for unlike the latter it is usually double breasted, lacks any pockets, lacks a high collar, has V-shaped lapels, is closely fitted and is constructed with a waist seam.

A frock motor is a hub motor frequently fitted to electric bicycles. Unlike belt or chain driven motors which can pose a hazardous entanglement risk to those wearing long or loose garments, the hub motor is laced into the center of the bicycle’s wheel. With no fast moving parts near the rider’s legs it poses little threat to those wearing frock-like garments. Frock motors are either internally geared or direct drive and come in various sizes depending on their power output. They are the most common type of electric bicycle motor and are fitted to millions of bicycles throughout China and around the world.

from wikipedia

Clothing

Clothing (also called clothes and attire) is fiber and textile material worn on the body. The wearing of clothing is mostly restricted to human beings and is a feature of nearly all human societies. The amount and type of clothing worn depends on body type, social, and geographic considerations. Some clothing types can be gender-specific.

Physically, clothing serves many purposes: it can serve as protection from the elements, and can enhance safety during hazardous activities such as hiking and cooking. It protects the wearer from rough surfaces, rash-causing plants, insect bites, splinters, thorns and prickles by providing a barrier between the skin and the environment. Clothes can insulate against cold or hot conditions. Further, they can provide a hygienic barrier, keeping infectious and toxic materials away from the body. Clothing also provides protection from ultraviolet radiation.

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Origin of clothing[edit]

There is no easy way to determine when clothing was first developed, but some information has been inferred by studying lice. The body louse specifically lives in clothing, and diverge from head lice about 170 millennia ago, suggesting that clothing existed at that time.[1][2][3] Another theory is that modern humans are the only survivors of several species of primates who may have worn clothes[4] and that clothing may have been used as long ago as 650 millennia. Other louse-based estimates put the introduction of clothing at around 42,000–72,000 B.P.[5]

Functions[edit]

A baby wearing many items of winter clothing: headband, cap, fur-lined coat, shawl and sweater

The most obvious function of clothing is to improve the comfort of the wearer, by protecting the wearer from the elements. In hot climates, clothing provides protection from sunburn or wind damage, while in cold climates its thermal insulation properties are generally more important. Shelter usually reduces the functional need for clothing. For example, coats, hats, gloves, and other superficial layers are normally removed when entering a warm home, particularly if one is residing or sleeping there. Similarly, clothing has seasonal and regional aspects, so that thinner materials and fewer layers of clothing are generally worn in warmer seasons and regions than in colder ones.

Clothing performs a range of social and cultural functions, such as individual, occupational and gender differentiation, and social status.[6] In many societies, norms about clothing reflect standards of modesty, religion, gender, and social status. Clothing may also function as a form of adornment and an expression of personal taste or style.

Clothing can and has in history been made from a very wide variety of materials. Materials have ranged from leather and furs, to woven materials, to elaborate and exotic natural and synthetic fabrics. Not all body coverings are regarded as clothing. Articles carried rather than worn (such as purses), worn on a single part of the body and easily removed (scarves), worn purely for adornment (jewelry), or those that serve a function other than protection (eyeglasses), are normally considered accessories rather than clothing, as are footwear and hats.

Clothing protects against many things that might injure the uncovered human body. Clothes protect people from the elements, including rain, snow, wind, and other weather, as well as from the sun. However, clothing that is too sheer, thin, small, tight, etc., offers less protection. Clothes also reduce risk during activities such as work or sport. Some clothing protects from specific environmental hazards, such as insects, noxious chemicals, weather, weapons, and contact with abrasive substances. Conversely, clothing may protect the environment from the clothing wearer, as with doctors wearing medical scrubs.

Humans have shown extreme invention in devising clothing solutions to environmental hazards. Examples include: space suits, air conditioned clothing, armor, diving suits, swimsuits, bee-keeper gear, motorcycle leathers, high-visibility clothing, and other pieces of protective clothing. Meanwhile, the distinction between clothing and protective equipment is not always clear-cut—since clothes designed to be fashionable often have protective value and clothes designed for function often consider fashion in their design. Wearing clothes also has social implications. They cover parts of the body that social norms require to be covered, act as a form of adornment, and serve other social purposes.

Scholarship[edit]

Although dissertations on clothing and its function appear from the 19th century as colonising countries dealt with new environments,[7] concerted scientific research into psycho-social, physiological and other functions of clothing (e.g. protective, cartage) occurred in the first half of the 20th century, with publications such as J. C. Flügel‘s Psychology of Clothes in 1930,[6] and Newburgh’s seminal Physiology of Heat Regulation and The Science of Clothing in 1949.[8] By 1968, the field of environmental physiology had advanced and expanded significantly, but the science of clothing in relation to environmental physiology had changed little.[9] While considerable research has since occurred and the knowledge-base has grown significantly, the main concepts remain unchanged, and indeed Newburgh’s book is still cited by contemporary authors, including those attempting to develop thermoregulatory models of clothing development.[10]

Cultural aspects[edit]

Gender differentiation[edit]

Former 3rd Duke of Fife wearing a traditional Scottish kilt. (1984)

In most cultures, gender differentiation of clothing is considered appropriate. The differences are in styles, colors and fabrics.

In Western societies, skirts, dresses and high-heeled shoes are usually seen as women’s clothing, while neckties are usually seen as men’s clothing. Trousers were once seen as exclusively male clothing, but are nowadays worn by both genders. Male clothes are often more practical (that is, they can function well under a wide variety of situations), but a wider range of clothing styles are available for females. Males are typically allowed to bare their chests in a greater variety of public places. It is generally acceptable for a woman to wear traditionally male clothing, while the converse is unusual.

In some cultures, sumptuary laws regulate what men and women are required to wear. Islam requires women to wear more modest forms of attire, usually hijab. What qualifies as “modest” varies in different Muslim societies. However, women are usually required to cover more of their bodies than men are. Articles of clothing Muslim women wear for modesty range from the head-scarf to the burqa.

Men may sometimes choose to wear men’s skirts such as togas or kilts, especially on ceremonial occasions. Such garments were (in previous times) often worn as normal daily clothing by men.

Social status[edit]

A Barong Tagalog made for a wedding ceremony.

Alim Khan‘s bemedaled robe sends a social message about his wealth, status, and power

In some societies, clothing may be used to indicate rank or status. In ancient Rome, for example, only senators could wear garments dyed with Tyrian purple. In traditional Hawaiian society, only high-ranking chiefs could wear feather cloaks and palaoa, or carved whale teeth. Under the Travancore Kingdom of Kerala, (India), lower caste women had to pay a tax for the right to cover their upper body. In China, before establishment of the republic, only the emperor could wear yellow. History provides many examples of elaborate sumptuary laws that regulated what people could wear. In societies without such laws, which includes most modern societies, social status is instead signaled by the purchase of rare or luxury items that are limited by cost to those with wealth or status. In addition, peer pressure influences clothing choice.

Religion[edit]

Muslim men traditionally wear white robes and a cap during prayers

Religious clothing might be considered a special case of occupational clothing. Sometimes it is worn only during the performance of religious ceremonies. However, it may also be worn everyday as a marker for special religious status.

For example, Jains and Muslim men wear unstitched cloth pieces when performing religious ceremonies. The unstitched cloth signifies unified and complete devotion to the task at hand, with no digression.[citation needed] Sikhs wear a turban as it is a part of their religion.

The cleanliness of religious dresses in Eastern religions like Hinduism, Sikhism, Buddhism, Islam and Jainism is of paramount importance, since it indicates purity.

Clothing figures prominently in the Bible where it appears in numerous contexts, the more prominent ones being: the story of Adam and Eve who made coverings for themselves out of fig leaves, Joseph‘s cloak, Judah and Tamar, Mordecai and Esther. Furthermore, the priests officiating in the Temple had very specific garments, the lack of which made one liable to death.

In Islamic traditions, women are required to wear long, loose, opaque outer dress when stepping out of the home.[citation needed] This dress code was democratic (for all women regardless of status) and for protection from the scorching sun. The Quran says this about husbands and wives: “…They are clothing/covering (Libaas) for you; and you for them” (chapter 2:187).

Jewish ritual also requires rending of one’s upper garment as a sign of mourning. This practice is found in the Bible when Jacob hears of the apparent death of his son Joseph.[11]

Origin and history[edit]

Main article: History of clothing

First recorded use[edit]

According to archaeologists and anthropologists, the earliest clothing likely consisted of fur, leather, leaves, or grass that were draped, wrapped, or tied around the body. Knowledge of such clothing remains inferential, since clothing materials deteriorate quickly compared to stone, bone, shell and metal artifacts. Archeologists have identified very early sewing needles of bone and ivory from about 30,000 BC, found near Kostenki, Russia in 1988.[12] Dyed flax fibers that could have been used in clothing have been found in a prehistoric cave in the Republic of Georgia that date back to 36,000 BP.[13][14]

Scientists are still debating when people started wearing clothes. Ralf Kittler, Manfred Kayser and Mark Stoneking, anthropologists at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, have conducted a genetic analysis of human body lice that suggests clothing originated quite recently, around 170,000 years ago. Body lice is an indicator of clothes-wearing, since most humans have sparse body hair, and lice thus require human clothing to survive. Their research suggests the invention of clothing may have coincided with the northward migration of modern Homo sapiens away from the warm climate of Africa, thought to have begun between 50,000 and 100,000 years ago. However, a second group of researchers using similar genetic methods estimate that clothing originated around 540,000 years ago [15] For now, the date of the origin of clothing remains unresolved.

Making clothing[edit]

Some human cultures, such as the various people of the Arctic Circle, traditionally make their clothing entirely of prepared and decorated furs and skins. Other cultures supplemented or replaced leather and skins with cloth: woven, knitted, or twined from various animal and vegetable fibers.

Although modern consumers may take the production of clothing for granted, making fabric by hand is a tedious and labor-intensive process. The textile industry was the first to be mechanized – with the powered loom – during the Industrial Revolution.

Different cultures have evolved various ways of creating clothes out of cloth. One approach simply involves draping the cloth. Many people wore, and still wear, garments consisting of rectangles of cloth wrapped to fit – for example, the dhoti for men and the sari for women in the Indian subcontinent, the Scottish kilt or the Javanese sarong. The clothes may simply be tied up, as is the case of the first two garments; or pins or belts hold the garments in place, as in the case of the latter two. The precious cloth remains uncut, and people of various sizes or the same person at different sizes can wear the garment.

Another approach involves cutting and sewing the cloth, but using every bit of the cloth rectangle in constructing the clothing. The tailor may cut triangular pieces from one corner of the cloth, and then add them elsewhere as gussets. Traditional European patterns for men’s shirts and women’s chemises take this approach.

Modern European fashion treats cloth much less conservatively, typically cutting in such a way as to leave various odd-shaped cloth remnants. Industrial sewing operations sell these as waste; home sewers may turn them into quilts.

In the thousands of years that humans have spent constructing clothing, they have created an astonishing array of styles, many of which have been reconstructed from surviving garments, photos, paintings, mosaics, etc., as well as from written descriptions. Costume history serves as a source of inspiration to current fashion designers, as well as a topic of professional interest to costumers constructing for plays, films, television, and historical reenactment.

Contemporary clothing[edit]

Western dress code[edit]

Main article: Western dress code

The Western dress code has changed over the past 500+ years. The mechanization of the textile industry made many varieties of cloth widely available at affordable prices. Styles have changed, and the availability of synthetic fabrics has changed the definition of “stylish”. In the latter half of the 20th century, blue jeans became very popular, and are now worn to events that normally demand formal attire. Activewear has also become a large and growing market.

The licensing of designer names was pioneered by designers like Pierre Cardin in the 1960s and has been a common practice within the fashion industry from about the 1970s. Among the more popular include Marc Jacobs and Gucci, named for Marc Jacobs and Guccio Gucci respectively.

Spread of western styles[edit]

By the early years of the 21st century, western clothing styles had, to some extent, become international styles. This process began hundreds of years earlier, during the periods of European colonialism. The process of cultural dissemination has perpetuated over the centuries as Western media corporations have penetrated markets throughout the world, spreading Western culture and styles. Fast fashion clothing has also become a global phenomenon. These garments are less expensive, mass-produced Western clothing. Donated used clothing from Western countries are also delivered to people in poor countries by charity organizations.

Ethnic and cultural heritage[edit]

People may wear ethnic or national dress on special occasions or in certain roles or occupations. For example, most Korean men and women have adopted Western-style dress for daily wear, but still wear traditional hanboks on special occasions, like weddings and cultural holidays. Items of Western dress may also appear worn or accessorized in distinctive, non-Western ways. A Tongan man may combine a used T-shirt with a Tongan wrapped skirt, or tupenu.

Sport and activity[edit]

Main article: Activewear

Fashion shows are often the source of the latest style and trends in clothing fashions.

Most sports and physical activities are practiced wearing special clothing, for practical, comfort or safety reasons. Common sportswear garments include shorts, T-shirts, tennis shirts, leotards, tracksuits, and trainers. Specialized garments include wet suits (for swimming, diving or surfing), salopettes (for skiing) and leotards (for gymnastics). Also, spandex materials are often used as base layers to soak up sweat. Spandex is also preferable for active sports that require form fitting garments, such as volleyball, wrestling, track & field, dance, gymnastics and swimming.

Fashion[edit]

Main article: Fashion

There exists a diverse range of styles in fashion, varying by geography, exposure to modern media, economic conditions, and ranging from expensive haute couture to traditional garb, to thrift store grunge.

Future trends[edit]

Main article: Fashion forecasting

The world of clothing is always changing, as new cultural influences meet technological innovations. Researchers in scientific labs have been developing prototypes for fabrics that can serve functional purposes well beyond their traditional roles, for example, clothes that can automatically adjust their temperature, repel bullets, project images, and generate electricity. Some practical advances already available to consumers are bullet-resistant garments made with kevlar and stain-resistant fabrics that are coated with chemical mixtures that reduce the absorption of liquids.

Political issues[edit]

Working conditions in the garments industry[edit]

Safety garb for women workers in Los Angeles, c. 1943, was designed to prevent occupational accidents among female war workers.

Though mechanization transformed most aspects of human industry by the mid-20th century, garment workers have continued to labor under challenging conditions that demand repetitive manual labor. Mass-produced clothing is often made in what are considered by some to be sweatshops, typified by long work hours, lack of benefits, and lack of worker representation. While most examples of such conditions are found in developing countries, clothes made in industrialized nations may also be manufactured similarly.[citation needed]

Coalitions of NGOs, designers (including Katharine Hamnett, American Apparel, Veja, Quiksilver, eVocal, and Edun) and campaign groups like the Clean Clothes Campaign (CCC) and the Institute for Global Labour and Human Rights as well as textile and clothing trade unions have sought to improve these conditions as much as possible by sponsoring awareness-raising events, which draw the attention of both the media and the general public to the workers.

Outsourcing production to low wage countries like Bangladesh, China, India and Sri Lanka became possible when the Multi Fibre Agreement (MFA) was abolished. The MFA, which placed quotas on textiles imports, was deemed a protectionist measure.[citation needed] Although many countries recognize treaties like the International Labor Organization, which attempt to set standards for worker safety and rights, many countries have made exceptions to certain parts of the treaties or failed to thoroughly enforce them. India for example has not ratified sections 87 and 92 of the treaty.[citation needed]

Despite the strong reactions that “sweatshops” evoked among critics of globalization, the production of textiles has functioned as a consistent industry for developing nations providing work and wages, whether construed as exploitative or not, to many thousands of people.

Fur[edit]

Main article: Fur clothing

The use of animal fur in clothing dates to prehistoric times. It is currently associated in developed countries with expensive, designer clothing, although fur is still used by indigenous people in arctic zones and higher elevations for its warmth and protection. Once uncontroversial, it has recently been the focus of campaigns on the grounds that campaigners consider it cruel and unnecessary. PETA, along with other animal rights and animal liberation groups have called attention to fur farming and other practices they consider cruel.

Life cycle[edit]

Clothing maintenance[edit]

Clothing suffers assault both from within and without. The human body sheds skin cells and body oils, and exudes sweat, urine, and feces. From the outside, sun damage, moisture, abrasion and dirt assault garments. Fleas and lice can hide in seams. Worn clothing, if not cleaned and refurbished, itches, looks scruffy, and loses functionality (as when buttons fall off, seams come undone, fabrics thin or tear, and zippers fail).

In some cases, people wear an item of clothing until it falls apart. Cleaning leather presents difficulties, and bark cloth (tapa) cannot be washed without dissolving it. Owners may patch tears and rips, and brush off surface dirt, but old leather and bark clothing always look old.

But most clothing consists of cloth, and most cloth can be laundered and mended (patching, darning, but compare felt).

Laundry, ironing, storage[edit]

Humans have developed many specialized methods for laundering, ranging from early methods of pounding clothes against rocks in running streams, to the latest in electronic washing machines and dry cleaning (dissolving dirt in solvents other than water). Hot water washing (boiling), chemical cleaning and ironing are all traditional methods of sterilizing fabrics for hygiene purposes.

Many kinds of clothing are designed to be ironed before they are worn to remove wrinkles. Most modern formal and semi-formal clothing is in this category (for example, dress shirts and suits). Ironed clothes are believed to look clean, fresh, and neat. Much contemporary casual clothing is made of knit materials that do not readily wrinkle, and do not require ironing. Some clothing is permanent press, having been treated with a coating (such as polytetrafluoroethylene) that suppresses wrinkles and creates a smooth appearance without ironing.

Once clothes have been laundered and possibly ironed, they are usually hung on clothes hangers or folded, to keep them fresh until they are worn. Clothes are folded to allow them to be stored compactly, to prevent creasing, to preserve creases or to present them in a more pleasing manner, for instance when they are put on sale in stores.

Non-iron[edit]

Main article: Permanent press

A resin used for making non-wrinkle shirts releases formaldehyde, which could cause contact dermatitis for some people; no disclosure requirements exist, and in 2008 the U.S. Government Accountability Office tested formaldehyde in clothing and found that generally the highest levels were in non-wrinkle shirts and pants.[16] In 1999, a study of the effect of washing on the formaldehyde levels found that after 6 months after washing, 7 of 27 shirts had levels in excess of 75 ppm, which is a safe limit for direct skin exposure.[17]

Mending[edit]

In past times, mending was an art. A meticulous tailor or seamstress could mend rips with thread raveled from hems and seam edges so skillfully that the tear was practically invisible. When the raw material – cloth – was worth more than labor, it made sense to expend labor in saving it. Today clothing is considered a consumable item. Mass-manufactured clothing is less expensive than the labor required to repair it. Many people buy a new piece of clothing rather than spend time mending. The thrifty still replace zippers and buttons and sew up ripped hems.

Recycling[edit]

Used, unwearable clothing can be used for quilts, rags, rugs, bandages, and many other household uses. It can also be recycled into paper. In Western societies, used clothing is often thrown out or donated to charity (such as through a clothing bin). It is also sold to consignment shops, dress agencies, flea markets, and in online auctions. Used clothing is also often collected on an industrial scale to be sorted and shipped for re-use in poorer countries.

There are many concerns about the life cycle of synthetics, which come primarily from petrochemicals.[weasel words] Unlike natural fibers, their source is not renewable and they are not biodegradable.[18]

from wikipedia

Dress

A dress (also known as a frock or a gown) is a garment consisting of a skirt with an attached bodice (or a matching bodice giving the effect of a one-piece garment).[1] In many cultures, dresses are more often worn by women and girls.

The hemlines of dresses vary depending on the whims of fashion and the modesty or personal taste of the wearer.[2]

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Contents

from wikipedia

History[edit]

Before the Victorian period, the word “dress” usually referred to a general overall mode of attire for either men or women, as reflected today in such phrases “evening dress”, “morning dress”, “travelling dress”, “full dress”, and so on, rather than to any specific garment. At that time, the most-often used English word for a woman’s skirted garment was gown. By the early 20th century, both “gown” and “frock” were essentially synonymous with “dress”, although gown was more often used for a formal, heavy or full-length garment, and frock or dress for a lightweight, shorter, or informal one. Only in the last few decades has “gown” lost its general meaning of a woman’s garment in the United States in favor of “dress”.

In the ancient world, for example Ancient Greece and Rome, both men and women wore a similar dress-like garment termed generically a tunic. From this developed the dress worn by women and male clothing such as cassocks and Fustanella worn by priests and soldiers respectively. An ancient Greek tunic, appearing on the Charioteer of Delphi inspired an early twentieth gown designer, Mariano Fortuny to create the Delphos gown in 1907.

19th century[edit]

Dresses increased dramatically to the hoopskirt and crinoline-supported styles of the 1860s, then fullness was draped and drawn to the back. Dresses had a “day” bodice with a high neckline and long sleeves, and an “evening” bodice with a low neckline (decollete) and very short sleeves.

Throughout this period, the length of fashionable dresses varied only slightly, between ankle-length and floor-sweeping.[2]

20th and 21st centuries[edit]

A typical pre-prom gathering, with girls in dresses, and boys in tuxedos

Beginning around 1915, hemlines for daytime dresses left the floor for good. For the next fifty years fashionable dresses became short (1920s), then long (1930s), then shorter (the War Years with their restrictions on fabric), then long (the “New Look“).

Since the 1970s, no one dress type or length has dominated fashion for long, with short and ankle-length styles often appearing side-by-side in fashion magazines and catalogs.[3]

Usage[edit]

In most varieties of formal dress codes in Western cultures, a dress of an appropriate style is mandatory for women. They are also very popular for special occasions such as proms or weddings.[4] For such occasions they, together with blouse and skirt, remain the de facto standard attire for many girls and women.

from wikipedia

Gown

A gown, from medieval Latin gunna, is a usually loose outer garment from knee- to full-length worn by men and women in Europe from the early Middle Ages to the 17th century, and continuing today in certain professions; later, gown was applied to any full-length woman’s garment consisting of a bodice and attached skirt. A long, loosely fitted gown called a Banyan was worn by men in the 18th century as an informal coat.

The gowns worn today by academics, judges, and some clergy derive directly from the everyday garments worn by their medieval predecessors, formalized into a uniform in the course of the 16th and 17th centuries.

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Formal gown[edit]

In women’s fashion, gown was used in English for any one-piece garment, but more often through the 18th century for an overgarment worn with a petticoat – called in French a robe. Compare this to the short gowns or bedgowns of the later 18th century.

Before the Victorian period, the word “dress” usually referred to a general overall mode of attire for either men or women, such as in the phrases “evening dress”, “morning dress”, “travelling dress”, “full dress”, “priest’s gown” which are white, and so on, rather than to any specific garment, and the most often used English word for a woman’s skirted garment was gown. By the early 20th century, both “gown” and “frock” were essentially synonymous with “dress”, although gown was more often used for a formal, heavy or full-length garment and frock or dress for a lightweight, shorter, or informal one. Only in the last few decades has “gown” lost its general meaning of a woman’s garment in the United States in favor of “dress”. Today, the usage is chiefly British, except in historical senses or in formal cases, such as evening gown and wedding gown. Formal gowns generally have a fitted bodice and a full-length full skirt.

from wikipedia

Sewing

Sewing[1] is the craft of fastening or attaching objects using stitches made with a needle and thread. Sewing is one of the oldest of the textile arts, arising in the Paleolithic era. Before the invention of spinning yarn or weaving fabric, archaeologists believe Stone Age people across Europe and Asia sewed fur and skin clothing using bone, antler or ivory needles and “thread” made of various animal body parts including sinew, catgut, and veins.[2]

For thousands of years, all sewing was done by hand. The invention of the sewing machine in the 19th century and the rise of computerization in the 20th century led to mass production and export of sewn objects, but hand sewing is still practised around the world. Fine hand sewing is a characteristic of high-quality tailoring, haute couture fashion, and custom dressmaking, and is pursued by both textile artists and hobbyists as a means of creative expression.

The first known use of the word sewing was in the 14th century.[3]

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History[edit]

Origins[edit]

Seated woman sewing a kimono, Utagawa Kuniyoshi, early 19th century. Different cultures have developed diverse sewing techniques, from methods of cutting fabric to types of stitches.

Sewing has an ancient history estimated to begin during the Paleolithic Age.[4] Sewing was used to stitch together animal hides for clothing and for shelter. The Inuit, for example, used sinew from caribou for thread and needles made of bone;[5] the indigenous peoples of the American Plains and Canadian Prairies used sophisticated sewing methods to assemble tipi shelters.[6] Sewing was combined with the weaving of plant leaves in Africa to create baskets, such as those made by Zulu weavers, who used thin strips of palm leaf as “thread” to stitch wider strips of palm leaf that had been woven into a coil.[7] The weaving of cloth from natural fibres originated in the Middle East around 4000 BCE, and perhaps earlier during the Neolithic Age, and the sewing of cloth accompanied this development.[8]

During the Middle Ages, Europeans who could afford it employed seamstresses and tailors. Sewing for the most part was a woman’s occupation, and most sewing before the 19th century was practical. Clothing was an expensive investment for most people, and women had an important role in extending the longevity of items of clothing. Sewing was used for mending. Clothing that was faded would be turned inside-out so that it could continue to be worn, and sometimes had to be taken apart and reassembled in order to suit this purpose. Once clothing became worn or torn, it would be taken apart and the reusable cloth sewn together into new items of clothing, made into quilts, or otherwise put to practical use. The many steps involved in making clothing from scratch (weaving, pattern making, cutting, alterations, and so forth) meant that women often bartered their expertise in a particular skill with one another.[4] Decorative needlework such as embroidery was a valued skill, and young women with the time and means would practise to build their skill in this area. From the Middle Ages to the 17th century, sewing tools such as needles, pins and pincushions were included in the trousseaus of many European brides.[9]

Decorative embroidery was valued in many cultures worldwide. Although most embroidery stitches in the Western repertoire are traditionally British, Irish or Western European in origin, stitches originating in different cultures are known throughout the world today. Some examples are the Cretan Open Filling stitch, Romanian Couching or Oriental Couching, and the Japanese stitch.[10] The stitches associated with embroidery spread by way of the trade routes that were active during the Middle Ages. The Silk Road brought Chinese embroidery techniques to Western Asia and Eastern Europe, while techniques originating in the Middle East spread to Southern and Western Europe through Morocco and Spain.[11] European imperial settlements also spread embroidery and sewing techniques worldwide. However, there are instances of sewing techniques indigenous to cultures in distant locations from one another, where cross-cultural communication would have been historically unlikely. For example, a method of reverse appliqué known to areas of South America is also known to Southeast Asia.[11]

Industrial Revolution[edit]

Early 20th century sewing in Detroit, Michigan.

A woman sewing as a street vendor in Bangkok, Thailand.

File:Sewing with a 1894 Singer sewing machine.webm

Sewing with an 1894 Singer sewing machine.

The Industrial Revolution shifted the production of textiles from the household to the mills. In the early decades of the Industrial Revolution, the machinery produced whole cloth. The world’s first sewing machine was patented in 1790 by Thomas Saint.[12] By the early 1840s, other early sewing machines began to appear. Barthélemy Thimonnier introduced a simple sewing machine in 1841 to produce military uniforms for France’s army; shortly afterward, a mob of tailors broke into Thimonnier’s shop and threw the machines out of the windows, believing the machines would put them out of work.[13] By the 1850s, Isaac Singer developed the first sewing machines that could operate quickly and accurately and surpass the productivity of a seamstress or tailor sewing by hand.

While much clothing was still produced at home by female members of the family, more and more ready-made clothes for the middle classes were being produced with sewing machines. Textile sweatshops full of poorly paid sewing machine operators grew into entire business districts in large cities like London and New York City. To further support the industry, piece work was done for little money by women living in slums. Needlework was one of the few occupations considered acceptable for women, but it did not pay a living wage. Women doing piece work from home often worked 14-hour days to earn enough to support themselves, sometimes by renting sewing machines that they could not afford to buy.[14]

Tailors became associated with higher-end clothing during this period. In London, this status grew out of the dandy trend of the early 19th century, when new tailor shops were established around Savile Row.[15] These shops acquired a reputation for sewing high-quality handmade clothing in the style of the latest British fashions, as well as more classic styles. The boutique culture of Carnaby Street was absorbed by Savile Row tailors during the late 20th century, ensuring the continued flourishing of Savile Row’s businesses.

20th century and today in Sewing[edit]

Bangladeshi women sewing clothes.

Sewing underwent further developments during the 20th century. As sewing machines became more affordable to the working class, demand for sewing patterns grew. Women had become accustomed to seeing the latest fashions in periodicals during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, increasing demand for sewing patterns yet more. American tailor and manufacturer Ebenezer Butterick met the demand with paper patterns that could be traced and used by home sewers. The patterns, sold in small packets, became wildly popular. Several pattern companies soon established themselves. Women’s magazines also carried sewing patterns, and continued to do so for much of the 20th century. This practice declined during the last decades of the 20th century, when ready-made clothing became a necessity as women joined the paid workforce in larger numbers, leaving them with less time to sew, if indeed they had an interest. Today, the low price of ready-made clothing in shops means that home sewing is confined largely to hobbyists in Western countries. With the exception of cottage industries in custom dressmaking and upholstery.

The spread of sewing machine technology to industrialized economies around the world meant the spread of Western-style sewing methods and clothing styles as well. In Japan, traditional clothing was sewn together with loose chain stitches that were removed so that the clothing could be taken apart and the assorted pieces laundered separately. The tight-locked stitches made by home sewing machines, and the use of Western clothing patterns, led to a movement towards wearing Western-style clothing during the early 20th century.[16] Western sewing and clothing styles were disseminated in sub-Saharan Africa by Christian missionaries from the 1830s onward. Indigenous cultures, such as the Zulu and Tswana, were indoctrinated in the Western way of dress as a sign of conversion to Christianity.[17] First Western hand sewing techniques, and later machine sewing, spread throughout the regions where the European colonists settled. However, a recent examination of new online learning methods demonstrated that technology can be adapted to share knowledge of a culture’s traditional sewing methods. Using self-paced online tutorials, a Malay sewing class learned how to tailor and sew a traditional men’s Baju Kurung garment in 3 days, whereas a traditional Malay sewing class would have taken 5 days to teach the same information.[18]

Advances in industrial technology, such as the development of synthetic fibres during the early 20th century, have brought profound changes to the textile industry as a whole. Textile industries in Western countries have declined sharply as textile companies compete for cheaper labour in other parts of the world. According to the U.S. Department of Labor “employment of sewers and tailors is expected to experience little or no change, growing 1 percent from 2010 to 2020”.[19] It is estimated that every lost textile job in a Western country in recent years has resulted in 1.5 jobs being created in an outsourced country such as China.[20] Textile workers who perform tasks with sewing machines, or do detailed work by hand, are still a vital component of the industry, however. Small-scale sewing is also an economic standby in many developing countries, where many people, both male and female, are self-employed sewers.

Garment construction[edit]

A tailor fitting a suit in Hong Kong.

Main article: Pattern (sewing)

Before sewing together an article of clothing, a pattern is generally followed to construct the garment. A pattern can be quite simple; some patterns are nothing more than a mathematical formula that the sewer calculates based on the intended wearer’s measurements. Once calculated, the sewer has the measurements needed to cut the cloth and sew the garment together. At the other end of the spectrum are haute couture fashion designs. When a couture garment is made of unusual material, or has extreme proportions, the design may challenge the sewer’s engineering knowledge. Complex designs are drafted and refitted dozens of times, may take around 40 hours to develop a final pattern, and require 60 hours of cutting and sewing.[21]

Most clothing today is mass-produced, and conforms to standard sizing, based on body measurements that are intended to fit the greatest proportion of the population. However, while “standard” sizing is generally a useful guideline, it is little more than that, because there is no industry standard that is “both widely accepted and strictly adhered to in all markets”.[22]

Elements of garment sewing[edit]

People at sewing machines in a small garment factory

Garment construction

Sewers working on a simple pattern need only a few sewing tools: measuring tape, needle, thread, cloth, and sewing shears. More complex patterns done on a sewing machine may only need a few more simple tools to get the job done, but there are an ever-growing variety of helpful sewing aids available, such as presser foot attachments for sewing ruffles, or hem repair glue.

When the sewer has gathered the necessary tools to tackle a pattern, there are several elements of garment construction that are part of the process. Patterns will specify whether to cut on the grain or a bias cut. Construction stitches include edgestitching, understitching, staystitching and topstitching;[23] seam types include the plain seam, zigzag seam, flat fell seam, French seam, and many others. Supporting materials, such as interfacing, interlining or lining, or fusing, may be used as well, to give the fabric a more rigid or durable shape. Volume can be added with elements such as pleats, or reduced with the use of darts.

Sewing machines are now made for a broad range of specialised sewing purposes, such as quilting machines, computerized machines for embroidery, and various sergers for finishing raw edges of fabric.

Clothing technology[edit]

Clothing technology has evolved to a complicated science weighed against the labor cost making positive and negative effects across the globe. Millions of women in Bangladesh and other developing countries have come out of poverty working as Sewing Machine Operators.

Construction of digital garments[edit]

Virtual sewing machine tools in a cloth simulation software

Digital clothing created with virtual sewing machine in a cloth simulation software

With the development of cloth simulation software such as CLO3D, Marvelous Designer and Optitex, seamstresses can now draft patterns on the computer and visualize clothing designs by using the pattern creation tools and virtual sewing machines within these cloth simulation programs.[24]

from wikipedia