Friday, 7 November 2014

The Macaroni, a Real Character at the Late Masquerade

One of the greatest joys of the long 18th century is the vast range of fashion that found favour, and the sometimes singular ways of the people who were slaves to it. Both male and female fashionistas were spoilt for choice in the Georgian era and there were some exceptionally colourful style movements cutting a dash in the salons of society. Today I take a closer look at The Macaroni, a Real Character at the Late Masquerade, an illustration by Philip Dawe published in 1773.


The Macaroni, a Real Character at the Late Masquerade by Philip Dawe, 1773
The Macaroni, a Real Character at the Late Masquerade by Philip Dawe, 1773

The rather fine gentleman above is, without a doubt, a macaroni. The term was applied to 18th century chaps who considered themselves the very height of fashion; affected in manner, dress and speech, they went one step beyond fashion and stamped a flamboyant mark on everything they did. Conscious of their image above all else, the macaroni means to make a splash and to be remembered by all who encounter him.

The term came out of a slang term used by gentleman returning from their grand tour; experienced in continental ways and cuisine they were referred to as "the Macaroni Club", in reference to the food they had eaten whilst in Europe. This was shorted to the slang term, "macaroni", and the name stuck.

The dress and style of the macaroni is perfectly parodied in Dawe's work, where a fine chap is captured in his stylish abode, mincing along to use a well-stocked toilet table of potions and powders. Our breathtakingly styled subject is clad in fine and fussy garments that surpass the height of fashion, with lashings of lace for good measure. His crowning is his magnificent wig, half as tall as him again and atop it he has perched a tiny tricorne hat. To protect against the less salubrious odours of the city and give him a little extra pizazz as he trots off to enjoy an evening at the pantheon, our macaroni has adorned himself with an elaborate nosegay and no doubt he will be as looked-at as the entertainments he is going to enjoy!

This mezzotint was first published on 3rd July 1773 and perfectly captures the preening pinnacle of macaroni fashion; I think he looks rather fabulous!

19 comments:

  1. Madame de Winter7 November 2014 at 10:21

    I should dearly love to slap him!

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  2. For years, I have been confused by the children's rhyme, "Yankee Doodle Went to Town". Now I understand what it was referring to. Thanks. (I am really glad I discovered your blog. Right up my alley!)

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    1. My pleasure; really glad you enjoyed it!

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  3. I shall enjoy writing about him and others of his ilk when I move back in time to write some Georgians to go with my Regencies. Such fun to make fun of, and to know in my own mind that I'm also poking fun at those people of today who wear their trousers at half mast to show off their designer underwear, and at those a few years back with the enormous trainers you couldn't train in, at people with tattoos and piercings, at green and purple hairdos standing on end, at hoodies and all the things that look silly. [I quite like the Goth look, but that can be silly taken to excess too]
    It's why I refuse to write in the Elizabethan era because every man apart from the peasantry wore trunk hose in some form, and when fashion excess infects the whole of society, it is no longer a matter for enjoyable satire, but a matter of sorrow...

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  4. He's giving me a few plot bunnies already, thanks!

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    1. Fantastic, I really can't wait to read your take on the macaronis!

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  5. That wig resembles an exaggerated 1950's beehive hair style!

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    1. He's ahead of his fashion time, setting the trends!

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  6. well, I certainly enjoyed myself writing Beau Popham, in 'Jane and the Opera Dancer', a Regency fribble!

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  7. I love his pointed toe, his poised hands, and his coy expression. It all enhances the exquisite fashion he models. ;)

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  8. Thanks so much for this historical tidbit, Catherine. Might be able to use it!

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  9. I love the excesses of this age. A masquerade is a powerful form of expression that brings out hidden aspects of our personalities. Exciting! I'm writing about one in my WIP

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  10. Great article, as always. And a fantastic print!

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    1. I'm glad you enjoyed it; he is fabulous!

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