Clothes Make the Man
1860, 19th century
Gift of Mr. I. M. Drum
© McCord Museum
Keywords: Waistcoat (30)
Keys to History
The waistcoat was an essential element of men's wardrobes throughout the 19th century and often a fashion focal point. Fabrics, patterns and colours that had gradually become unacceptable elsewhere in a man's wardrobe were still used for waistcoats that contrasted dramatically with a black or navy wool coat. Showy silk-thread embroidery and silk brocade fabrics in brilliant colours, common in men's clothing throughout the 1800s, were used for waistcoats into the last half of the 19th century. Enthusiasm for flamboyant waistcoats declined toward the end of the century, when they were largely concealed by a buttoned coat.
Many elaborate 19th century waistcoats survive in museum collections, probably because their beauty saved them from the ragbag.
Waistcoats were sometimes embroidered at home, then made up by a professional tailor.
This waistcoat was worn around 1860, but elaborate embroidery was already on the wane. Fancy waistcoats came back in the 1890s.
Charles-Elzéar Mondelet of Trois Rivières and Montreal, a lawyer and supporter of Louis-Joseph Papineau, wore this waistcoat.