19 thoughts on “SNARK WEEK: No, 18th-Century Men Did Not Wear Lace Bibs

  1. Oh gawd, so much sad trombone. I think you need some kind of GIF to use at these moments. I don’t know how to make them or I would do it for you.

    And I’m not a menswear expert either but I’m pretty sure the double tabs thing is occupational – lawyer and/or clergy.

    1. I don’t know if it’s strictly occupational but it persisted longer among the legal profession than the general public. There are some great prints from the late 19th century in my office of legal people and all but one have them.

      In some countries judges still wear the two tab collars or jabots. And of course rbg’s Collars are inspired by that tradition.

      1. Re: Daniel Wray portrait. Those are called ‘elevens’ and were worn by clergymen and lawyers. I’ve seen pre-fab cravats in a French costume book of the 19th century that contained many 17th/18th century fashion prints – basically a fancy bow or fall of lace attached to a stock that tied in the back of the neck..

      2. The clerical “elvens” is still worn by barristers in Britain – I see them a lot in and around the courts in Nottingham, along with wigs.

        1. Still worn by old-fashioned Reformed preachers, too, and called “preaching bands” in that context.

  2. I don’t know what is worse sad trombone, derpy bonnets or head necklaces of any type. What I do know is it should be a crime for costume designers to use polysatin baroque materials, metal grommets on corsets and bodies, and letting their leads wear poorly fitted bodies like AB in Wolfe Hall.

    There are exceptions say an actress has lost a lot of weight due to new baby and no longer pregnant or costumes were fitted, cut and made for actress A, actress A had to leave project close to filming, actress B cast too late and had to go in front of camera with minimal fittings, budget constraints prohibiting new garments being made otherwise designer needs to return to school.

    Sad trombone is the equivalent of head necklaces for men.

  3. Bless me mother, for I have sinned… I helped make a Hamilton costume for a colleague for a cultural exchange event. He had a surprisingly good closet to pull from but needed the shirt/vest/cravat thing. It was a quick turnaround because of crazy schedules and I did it in my off hours (ha) with scrap fabric (I work for a nonprofit, and nothing about this relates to my regular job at all), including some terribly cheap lace. I made I think a 3 tier ruffle thing that buttoned onto the collar. Oops.

    It’s rather hilarious to find this out this way though. I repent of the error of my ways. Actual cravats only in the future.

  4. Really the only place you should see one of those confections is on extremely formal Highland dress (known here in Scotland, not always kindly, as ‘the full Bonnie Prince Charlie’). Maybe that’s where the idea that they’re universally traditional has grown from.

    Anyway, for what it’s worth here’s the description and definition from the KinlochAnderson, kiltmakers, website:

    “Originally the term jabot referred to the frilling or ruffles decorating the front of a shirt. It has evolved into a decorative clothing accessory consisting of lace or other fabric falling from the throat, suspended from or attached to a neckband or collar; or simply pinned at the throat.

    Jabots survive in the present as components of various official costumes and continue to be worn as part of the highest formal Scottish evening attire. They are usually worn with high-necked jackets or doublets (Sheriffmuir or Montrose), often with matching cuffs for both genders and a fly plaid of the same tartan as the kilt, draped over-the-shoulder for men.”

  5. The tabs, in France at least, where the bourgeois thing to put on. Honest, how is an aristocrats in Versailles supposed to know if he can look down his nose onto you if you wear the same lace as he does, I ask? It relaxed over time, of course, but stayed a mark of industrious people… Or bigoted, but that’s a whole other can of worms!

  6. I think we can blame the Victorians and Edwardians (and the 1970s) for this one. When they “revived” 18th century fashion for women, the Victorians used lace bibs and collars to get “the masculine look” without having to wear a men’s shirt. It’s very 1890s-1905 ladies clothing rather than 18th century menswear. Also, #1970s. OMG…the 1970s! The bicentennial hit and the resulting wave of historical costume mania created a lot of the tropes we’ve come to associate with poor HA choices. I’ll admit, though, I love me a good lace bib. They are hilarious and flamboyant! I like them on anime characters and for comedic effect (Mozart and 1776, I’m lookin’ at you!), but for serious costuming moments…NO.

    1. The Victorians have so much to answer for when it comes to history. What they did to the Middle Ages is just short of criminal.

  7. Oh man, these are horrendous! 18th century menswear is my Very Favorite Thing, and it pains me to look at so many lace bibs.

    Another thing that stands out here is that every. Single. One. of these coats is cut incorrectly in the front. The front pieces are all too narrow, and too straight. Where’s the lovely sweeping curve??? (Some early coats have front edges that straight, but still not that narrow) Not a single one of these coats could be buttoned up anywhere along the front edges.
    In the earlier part of the century the coats were cut very full, and large enough to close down the entire front edge (though the fashion was to wear them open, or only buttoned at the waist) And later the front edges swept back, but they could still be buttoned up at the top, or closed with hooks and bars! BUY A NORAH WAUGH BOOK AND CUT YOUR FRONTS CORRECTLY YOU BIB-WEARING BUFFOONS!

  8. To be fair sometimes costume designers are subject to the director who may have absolutely no context on anything other than what they like. Which had been the case in many a bad costume selection that made me absolutely cringe when I used to do theater costuming years ago. Sometimes a director is bent on the stupidest thing and you can’t change their mind because it’s part of their ‘vision.’

  9. Depiction of bearded man in 18th century Western Europe is already an aberration (unless depicting beggars or some religious minorities) but a such a beard with a wig is plain abomination. :) It seems a very common way for film maker to make a “corrupt administrator” visible to the audience.

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