A perusal of the online version of the Daily Mail suggests a contemporary fascination with “wardrobe malfunctions” and whether or not fashionistas on the red carpet are, or are not, displaying underwear (or indeed, speculation on whether they are wearing any at all…). And you can always rely on the Press to pay photographers to take pictures of women getting out of vehicles displaying acres of thigh, just so that the fashion editor can go “Tut tut.”
Nothing new about that! Here are a couple of nice caricatures from the end of the Eighteenth Century. The first, by James Gillray in 1796 shows “Ladies Dress as it soon will be” with our heroine displaying all the qualities of modesty which you would expect from a Liz Hurley or one of the tribe of Kardashians.
The second, published in November 1799 is by Isaac Cruikshank and shows Parisian Ladies in their winter dress for 1800.
And just to give the inside track as to how men were presenting themselves, here is a lovely caricature from 1818 by George Cruikshank.
From left to right: The seated figure exclaims “D__n it! I really believe I must take off my cravat or I shall never get my trowsers on”
To his right “Pon honour Tom you are a charming figure! You’ll captivate the girls to a nicety!!
The half dressed dandy, one calf pad in place, replies “Do you think so Charles? I shall look more the thing when I get my other calf on.”
The figure standing on the chair trying to tie his cravat with both hands, is saying “Dear me this is hardly stiff enough. I wish I had another sheet of fools cap“ to which the dandy looking at himself in the glass replies, (no doubt without a hint of double entendre!) “You’ll find some to spare in my breeches.”
So there you have it – ludicrously high cravats, men being laced into their corsets to give them a fashionably cinched waist, hair combed into a bouffant quiff – and leg-padding to give the right shape inside those oh-so-tight trousers… 1818? Bring it on!