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Cultural Studies

By Philip Shawcross

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Sample text

These were reprobate aristocrats whose identities pivoted around their sexual audaciousness, piercing wit and striking adoption of the more extreme features of the contemporary wardrobe; the tumbling perukes, extended lace cuffs, ‘bizarrely’ patterned waistcoats and vertiginous heels that symbolized irresponsibility and excess. More recently the Macaroni had used the potency of clothing to make a political and sexual statement that critiqued the status-quo during the 1770s. 34 His tight pastel-coloured suits, tiny hats and overblown maquillage drew controversy from the alien nature of their influences.

For if it were not for these things, how should my neighbour Froth, the haberdasher, keep his gig and country house at Newington Butts, or I my one horse chaise and villa at Hammersmith ? 36 This notion, that standards of fashion were as much under the control of tradesmen as they were in the hands of elite consumers, was a concern that also surfaced in the pages of The English Spy, a competing account of the metropolis to that produced by Egan which appeared four years later in 1826. Writing under the pseudonym of Bernard Blackmantle, the author Westmacott used the same conceit of detailing the variety of London’s pleasure haunts through a narrative revolving around the introduction of a provincial novice to the capital by a more experienced roue.

There may be more pathos in the fall of a collar, or the curl of a lock, than the shallow think for. Should we be so apt now to companionate the misfortunes of Charles I if his pictures had portrayed him in a bob-wig and a pig-tail ? Vandyke was a greater sophist than Hume. The most graceful principle of dress is neatness - the most vulgar is preciseness. Dress contains the two codes of morality - private and public. Attention is the duty we owe to others - cleanliness that which we owe to ourselves.

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