#1682 $2,600Gentleman's wool suit, c.1780-1790.
The expertly tailored gentleman's suit was purchased many years ago by a knowledgeable collector from a New England estate and is believed to have been worn in America.
The two-piece suit is fashioned from high quality black wool with a satin-like napped weave. The coat is lightly padded across the chest and is lined with black silk twill. The fine fabric and skillful hand tailoring indicate it was made for a gentleman of means. The waistcoat, not originally part of this suit, is for sale separately.
The suit partially closes in front with two concealed hooks. The self-covered buttons and simulated buttonholes in front are decorative only. The pocket flaps are also decorative. The pockets are concealed in the back. Everything is hand stitched.
The unlined breeches are in the narrow fall-front style. The buttons on the breeches top, stamped "Ridpath & Manning", are 19th century replacements. Perhaps this was done in 1876 to make the suit wearable for the American Centennial celebration. Without provenance, we can only guess.
The waistband edges of the breeches are bound with black silk. The legs close on the side with small self-covered buttons, which are original.
Throughout the 18th century, the essential features of a gentleman's costume—the topcoat, waistcoat, and breeches—did not change, but the shape slowly evolved. After 1760, topcoats were cut away at the front. They were fitted with a stand-up collar and seldom buttoned.
This 18th century suit is an important historical artifact. It belongs in the hands of a museum or major collector, the future cultural custodian of this fine man's suit.
The condition is almost excellent. The only problem: several small holes in the front of the breeches—see detail pictures below. The suit displays beautifully if you slip a piece of black fabric behind the holes, as I did for the pictures of the full suit. It has not been altered and is all original except for replaced buttons on the breeches.
The coat measures: 38" chest, 30" waist, 16 1/2" from sleeve cap to sleeve cap, 23 1/2" sleeve length, 17" from shoulder to waist, and 35" from neckline to hem at center-back.
The breeches measure: 28 1/2" waist and 29" from waist to hem.