Anybody can be good in the country, as pithy Oscar Wilde wrote.
You can wear your panama hat aslant, unbutton your shirt’s collar and cuffs (shirt from Frank Foster), smile effortlessly, and even wear sandals, can’t you?
Most of the time I have little need of a suit or even a sport jacket, when I live in the country during summer. I manage with shorts, shirts, a knit jersey, good food, and liquids. Moreover, I try to read fiction, poetry, a biography. Crime novels are not for me.
This summer I read Gustave Flaubert’s Sentimental Education (1869) about Frédéric Moreau, a young man, who travels to Paris to conquer life, which to him means love, enjoyment, money and status. The engine of the novel is Frédéric’s relationship to Marie Arnoux. She is married, but it doesn’t stop him. He is in love with her, and little by little she finds out that she has deep feelings for him as well. They cannot carry out their relationship though. Not because it is not socially feasible. They are in Paris afterall. But a mysterious force holds them back.
The theme might sound romantic or sentimental, yet Gustave Flaubert’s writes without much pathos. You get a refined, humorous, and sometimes ironic description of Frédéric and his friends selfishness and shattered dreams.
There are sartorial glimpses here and there in the novel. One thing I noticed was the use of black tailcoat and black breeches in evening wear, which Gustave Flaubert lets us know is old-fashioned. Fashionable men would sport trousers with the tailcoat. Frédéric has a tailor, of course. He makes him frock coats, which are the most important garments for men in the 19th Century. The quality and cut of a frock coat pointed to a person’s social status as few other artefacts. For the neck men were using a cravat. Here I need the original text French though. I have a suspicion that the translation into Danish is not accurate. According to fashion history men had started to wear stocks and bow tie cravats around 1850.
Photos: Sartorial Notes