View Full Version : Costumes: Angel in the Enlightenment

24-01-19, 05:07 PM
I wasn’t sure I’d do a boys’ version of my historical-costume posts, for three reasons: 1) I don’t know much about 18th-century Ireland, 2) the costumers utterly failed to take advantage of the OTT wonders of Enlightenment-era masculine fashion, and 3) Victorian British mens’ fashion is, well, boring. Buuut my brain is still too foggy to write anything meaningful, so I thought I’d have a crack at it anyway.

First up: Angel, or Liam, as he’s still calling himself. Actually, scratch that, because first I have to provide context.

There aren’t a lot of extant garments from this period in Irish history, at least not that have been identified as such. Further, Irish painters and engravers tended to make country landscapes (understandable, as the country was overwhelmingly agrarian and rural at the time) and portraits of wealthy, often Anglo-Irish clients, who weren’t necessarily representative of the average native Irish person. While there was some mixing between the groups– ethnically Irish second-generation converts to the Church of England would’ve faced more censure for marrying a Catholic than for marrying (https://www.law.umn.edu/library/irishlaw/subjectlist/intermarriage) a fellow Anglican–, “Liam” does not sound like the name of someone whose parents wanted him to blend into the quasi-English class. IIRC, Liam also rages about the English being “pigs” and hates noblewomen, so he’s probably from a native Irish and Catholic family.

This makes knowing what he’d wear a little harder. Irish artists tended to paint rural landscapes and portraits of Anglo-Irish patrons. Additionally, not a lot of 18th-century clothing identified as Irish has made it into museums (or if it has, they’re not advertising it). Liam lives in a city and is of Gaelic origins, which means the details of what he should be wearing are a little fuzzy; however, there’s just enough information to reconstruct a 1750s Galway wardrobe in broad strokes. Bear with me here, because I originally posted this to Tumblr, and I'm having to reformat to deal with forum-style image limitations; you might have to follow the links to see some of the pictures.

A Prospect of the City from Magazine Hill (https://www.ria.ie/sites/default/files/dublin_from_phoenix_park.png), Joseph Tudor, 1753. The city in question is Dublin, not Galway, but I imagine that the port cities had similar influences.

Whipping the Herring out of Town (https://www.crawfordartgallery.ie/ImagesCrawford/PaintingImages/372-P-N-Grogan-Whipping-the-Herring-out-of-Town.jpg), Nathaniel Grogan, c. 1760. This rare example of an intimate cityscape is set in Cork. I have no idea how or why one whips fish out of town, so don’t ask. From the Crawford Art Gallery. (https://www.crawfordartgallery.ie/Grogan_Butts.html)

The Adelphi Club, Breakfast (https://www.irishtimes.com/culture/art-and-design/great-18th-century-irish-art-and-crafts-that-took-the-boat-1.2167628), Joseph Wilson, 1783. Belfast. While I don’t know this club’s backstory, these guys look like sober merchant types.
These Irish are wearing typical European-urbanite clothing. Most of it wouldn’t be the envy of the court, but the basic structure is the same.

Now let’s compare these pictures to Liam/Angel:

1. (http://images5.fanpop.com/image/photos/27300000/2x21-Becoming-Part-1-angelus-and-darla-27386422-500-375.jpg)

2. (http://images5.fanpop.com/image/photos/27300000/2x21-Becoming-Part-1-angelus-and-darla-27386389-500-375.jpg)

This would be a terrible outfit for your average 1750s merchant-class Irishman, although only some of its terribleness applies when the character is a lecherous drunk bent on rebelling against all things respectable.

Being underdressed is one thing. No, you don’t see a lot of bourgeois men outdoors without a coat or a hat, or even poor men without their waistcoats fastened, but that was as more a class than decency issue. Farmers (https://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/stubbs-haymakers-t02256) thought nothing about working the fields in their shirtsleeves; while I can’t recall seeing the look on any urbanites of the period, written works make clear that it existed. Clothing and the Poor in Eighteenth Century London: Evidence from the French Protestant Hospital (http://www.academia.edu/2240201/Clothing_and_the_Poor_in_Eighteenth_Century_London _Evidence_from_the_French_Protestant_Hospital) discusses the lack of clothing in an English setting. I’d be surprised if urban manual laborers didn’t sometimes choose to work bare-shirted as well.

So it isn’t as if he’s going to wind up in jail for coatlessness, or for the fact that he failed to button his waistcoat. And he probably wouldn’t care if that were a risk. True story: My great-aunt Needer (why Appalachian nicknames are so ugly is another question I can’t answer) once got soused and took a naked bath in a horse trough. You never know with drunks.

But the way that he’s wearing his shirt, and the signs that its meant to be worn that way, are so wrong.

The18th-century shirt was long and slit at the sides, creating the shirttails that we all know and love; while there might also be a slit at the top front to facilitate putting it on and taking it off, it didn’t have a top-to-bottom opening. It was a pullover garment.* Drawers (http://collections.vam.ac.uk/item/O137722/drawers-unknown/) existed in the 18th century, but not everyone wore them. Instead, the convention was to protect the relatively-expensive fabric of the breeches from bodily secretions by tucking the shirttails in such a way that they covered their buttocks and genitals. The good folks at Colonial Williamsburg have an interactive (and SFW) tutorial on the basics of men’s clothing, if you’re interested: http://www.history.org/history/clothing/men/anatomymen.cfm

All of this means that not tucking in your shirt was… kinda like putting on your briefs over your jeans– which, again, is something that could happen to a guy on a bender, even if Darla would probably’ve been too busy snickering to sire him. What I think is really unlikely to have happened was making a shirt with a slit up the bottom front. When a major point of a shirt is to wrap up your junk, you’re not going to design it with a built-in penis escape. (This paragraph contains at least two unintended and terrible puns, and I apologize.)

I also have questions about the discoloration on back of the waistcoat, since Liam can afford the laundry bill for white stockings and shirt ruffles (which are period-accurate, BTW), and why his wig is so much worse than Darla’s, but now I’m just splitting hairs. Focus on the shirt, that’s the real problem. Or try to forget it, because I don’t think that Joss is going to make a public apology for including it in the final cut.

*I have seen one example of an “undershirt” (http://collections.vam.ac.uk/item/O236213/undershirt-unknown/) from before ~1830 that opens all the way up the front, but it a) dates to the early 19th century and b) is made entirely of wool, which suggests that it was intended for warmth and would have gone over the regular linen shirt.