186: You're the leading man in your own period drama
A menswear revival from the Renaissance to the Regency.
If the last two summers had us ambling through a provincial French lingerie shop, this winter walks us out the door and into the wing of the museum where costume designers stake out source material for period dramas.
In winter 2024, we are all Joseph Fiennes, Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Colin Firth, and (pre-Succession) Matthew MacFadyen; we are the leading men of our own ornate cinematic universes. Fashion is entering a menswear revival that spans the Renaissance to the Regency—epochs apart but united in their ensembles of delicately billowing sleeves, sumptuous contrasts, and handsome finishes.
I’ve touched on this previously via narrower topics: the rise of tightly buttoned coats and waistcoats and “burro bags,” purses that look the part for riding in on a donkey or on horseback. But the scope of this cresting movement extends much wider. Bows, broderie Anglaise, and box pleats make way for a new Romantic: calottes, cloaks, cufflinks, brooches, pelts, and drawstring pouches. Fashion is giving us a history lesson in moody accessorizing.
A public Are.na board I put together of Renaissance-era portraits draws lines to the kind of dressing I’m outlining here. There is so much rich, raw material in these paintings to take inspiration from, from the layering (the LAYERING) to the proportion play to the color stories to the jewelry stacks, and what I think is so fascinating is seeing these ideas iterated on from vastly different vantage points. Cawley, for example, has a very Ren-y throughline threading its men’s and women’s FW23 collections via the soggy English countryside, and The Row is of course a guilty party to this resurgence (when is it not?) by way of its signature WASPiness.
The recent, rampant return to hats has been the biggest tell. Rachel Tashjian and Em Seely-Katz (Mag’s own News Editor) both published hat-focused newsletters this week, meanwhile myself and some of my peers have apparently been advancing the pokey-top biretta agenda. (It’s also been a mast year for this type of hat; I really want one.)
The Toteme trapper hats and Mark Kenly Domino Tan woven cloches (very Guinevere in the 1973 animated classic Robin Hood-coded) I’m seeing lately are spiritually, energetically linked to the furs and linen wimples of the era. But keep scrolling to the bottom to find a full market edit.
Our priestly birettas are just one hint at the piety that runs through this whole dressing moment; what keeps coming up when I peel back the layers of this schematic is its relationship to vestments. It’s been almost six years since “Heavenly Bodies,” the Met’s tongue-unraveling exhibition on Fashion and the Catholic Imagination—the Cloisters had one of the most moving collections I’ve ever seen—but it feels like it’s just hitting now.
Cardinal red—having peaked this fall after a steep multi-year climb—is, in kind, ushering in bishop purple, which Blackbird Spyplane is calling “the coolest color you can wear in 2024.” (They’ve dubbed it it “yurple.”) Friendly reminder that Gammarelli in Rome is the only authorized retailer for the Vatican’s red and purple socks, and it has an ecomm site.
Those draped robes, those tassel belts…quite literally God-tier garment inspo. Some of us, it seems, are not just the leading man, but the leading He in our own period piece.
Leading man-dom looks like a brooch affixed to cape through which a sword is drawn (the best brooch look I’ve seen is on Simone Bodmer-Turner who pinned her collaborative piece with Agmes to a navy scarf over a navy trench). It’s a pair of leather gloves slung over a belt as though they’d been removed to whip someone across the cheek and challenge them to a duel. It’s a minaudiere worn across the body like one of Henry VIII’s gloating gold chains—I happen to know that Daniela Kallmeyer and Attersee’s Isabel Wilkinson are both fans of the style, and yet neither of their brands are offering one…we’re ready and waiting, ladies.
Period-drama dressing can be high-collared white shirts, neckerchiefs, shawl collars, and a cuff peeking past a double-breasted jacket punctuated by a pinky ring. It’s all of the things a man you shared a prohibited love with whispers in dulcet tones after running to you through the rain. The Austen one-two.
The thing about this whole thing is, I know exactly what I mean. But do YOU KNOW what I MEAN???? The frenetic web I arranged trying to articulate what is crystal clear in my mind’s eye has me thinking of that old adage about pornography (“I know it when I see it”) but elusive of definition. I have no choice but to press on.
If we’re musing on which thread to pull at next, another low-hanging, easily adoptable Rennaissance hat was the red toque (which Diana Vreeland apparently loved), and I’m tickled by the little peaked caps that look like the tops of Elf Bars, if I only they were still a thing.
Until those go back into production by popular demand, I’ve mined my saves for a few odds and ends that fit the bill for period-drama dressing.
Issey Miyake Enveloping Dress, $985 / Lemaire Foulard T-Shirt, $315 / vintage tassel pillbox hat, $17 / vintage Line Vautrin Talosel Green Circular Clip Earrings, $395 / vintage sterling minaudiere, $250 / Cristaseya Double Breasted Trench, $1,930
I may earn some money if you make a purchase through one of the links above.
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