Sunday, June 8, 2014

Be an Oscar Wilde, or Just Dress Like One

The fashion of the day
On June 8, 1882, Oscar Wilde was getting frequent mention in the American newspapers, and some people were mimicking his mode of dress, or at least the popular imagination of it. For example, the Weekly Democratic Statesman of Austin Texas noted that
Miss Florence Gerald, of Waco goes north soon to study for the stage. Mr. Walter Maxcy, also of the hub, appears on the street in knee breeches, black stockings, yellow vest and sunflower, a la Oscar Wilde.

While in Brenham, Texas, the Brenham Weekly Banner took note of a whole drill company joining in:
The close of the exercises consisted of what the company termed “Japanese Evolutions.” The members of the company appeared each with a good stout sunflower, Oscar Wilde style, pinned on his manly bosom, while the color sergeant had a whole sunflower “tree” which he bore triumphantly aloft. After going through the usual evolutions the members halted in front of the gun rack and each was furnished with a palm leaf fan. The manual of arms was went through with, the fans taking the place of muskets. The fan drill had been carefully worked up and proved a grand success—its object being to afford amusement to the guests.
Just to be clear, The Weekly Kansas Chief of Troy Kansas did describe Oscar Wilde’s clothing choices:
He wore a soft hat and a kind of steel-colored velvet sack coat. He also wore his hands in his pockets clear up to his elbow joints. He wears a kind of Byron collar, and a necktie the color of a diseased liver. His pants were of a gray material, and held in place with pale pink gum suspenders. These were shown as he stooped over, his coat being cut just below the shoulder blades. His shoulder blades are high and intellectual.
There was a level of mockery over Wilde, which probably suited Richard D'Orly Carte nicely, but also a real public fascination.

Update: One more person following the Oscar Wilde fashion:
Young Mr. Arthur, a son of President Arthur, caused talk in Washington the other day by appearing on the quarter-stretch of a race course in a loud—not to say thunderous—costume. He wore trousers with tong-like legs padded on the side with bucksin, a red necktie, a la-de-dah English plug and an Oscar Wilde sunflower.
The "young Mr. Arthur" of this June 6, 1882 piece is Chester Arthur II. The President's son was a month shy of his eighteenth birthday, his mother had died about eighteen months before.
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