Images from the Past: Research into Prussian Fashion

I’ve said before, and I’ll say it again, I don’t like to research. I have a terrible head for dates and years and things.

For example, I don’t remember if I’ve mentioned that Scribbling Windhund isn’t based off the Victorian era… or even the Regency.  Prussia was a nation-state in the 1700s.  So when I write the story of a fashion critic in a Steampunk version of Prussia this is the height of fashion:

Frederick the Great and Voltaire
Friedrich the Great and Voltaire in Sanssouci (If you want to spread salacious rumors about 300 year old men, these two were totally banging.)

Since I have such a terrible memory (or such a penchant for anachronism), I have to keep really good notes.  Normally, since that takes time away from actually writing the thing I want to write, I tend to be rather sloppy about it and let actual fact be damned. But Otto Lang is obsessed with fashion so, for once I couldn’t cut corners. So I actually tried to do this correctly… for you.

From what I can gather (and it’s mostly from Wikipedia) the idea was to look at tall and narrow as possible, to wear pale but bright colors, and to have curly white hair. I think, the 1700’s was the last time when men were as vulnerable as women to the whims and trends of fashion since they were peacocking it up as much as the ladies.

Men in court, at balls, and on the job would wear a three piece ensemble. Breaches (the tight shorts that stop at the knee) a waistcoat (the fancy vest) and a justaucorps (which is the really long jacket). The actual shirt and stockings were considered like underwear and probably only had to be changed when they got dirty.

The cravat, which I mention a lot in The Scribbling Windhund, is basically the forerunner to the necktie only a lot fancier. I read on one of the fashion blogs that it was, like much men’s fashion, originally based on military clothing. Apparently, wearing thick fabric around your neck protected you from spears, bayonets, and daggers.  Maybe it was psychological.

For those philosophy buffs watching at home, that last image is of Voltaire. He came up a lot when I googled Fashion and 1700s.

My favorite images, by far, are the Prussian army. Keep in mind, these fellas were one of the fiercest fighting forces in history. Lead by the junkers (the nobles who were trained from birth to lead the army) and comprised of mostly peasants who could expect to become middle-class if they survived the battles and the discipline of army life, one of Fredrich the Greats ministers quipped that, “Prussia was not a country with an army, but an army with a country.”

The final bit of research I suffered through was basically to find out what these fuckers wore at home when they were relaxing. I’m so glad I did, because I was rewarded with these sexy, sexy gems:

 

 

Apparently, formal dress was too restrictive for intellectuals and it was very common for studious men (like Sir Issac Newton on the left) to have their paintings done in their libraries wearing banyans.

Here’s the kicker for me. He’s still wearing breeches, stockings, a waist-coat and cravat. Basically, when you went home to relax you took off one jacket and replaced it with another, less tight, jacket.

Oh, and you also took off your wig.

My take away from all research is a loud and joyful, “Thank God for jeans and sneakers!” Though, if I were asked to be more profound:

Sassy never goes out of style.

498EL MONTE-  71.

 


The Fantasist is a quarterly online magazine that publishes three original Fantasy novellas on the third Thursday of every third month.

And this month, while they celebrate Steampunk, one of them is mine!

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