You might be wondering what has Italian pasta got to do with a needlework/textile blog. I don’t mean macaroni found on dinner plates but the 18th century “fop” featured on antique fashion plates.
These illustrations tell us so much about a particularly interesting and opulent period in the history of textiles and design.
The name Macaroni came from people who had been on ‘The Grand Tour’ and it became fashionable to refer to something that was Italian in style as very Macaroni. They gloried in carrying fashion to excess.
Macaronis wore a ‘uniform’ based on tight breeches and flowered, brocaded waistcoats with elaborate buttons, trimmed with lace; skirted coats of satin or velvet, also trimmed with lace; a ruffled shirt and a neckcloth.
They also wore high-heeled shoes, elaborate Italianate wigs and sometimes small hats perched on the side of the head. Accessories might include a gold or silver-topped cane, a ‘quizzing glass’, a small sword, a muff and a heavily decorated snuff-box. Being so refined, they could not tolerate the everyday smells of the time, so they would either carry a posy of scented flowers or pin one to their waistcoats in a prominent place.
You would find a Macaroni hanging around the fashionable places of London or playing the popular card game ‘Faro’. This was a game at which one could very quickly win or lose vast fortunes and many Macaronis gambled away their family fortunes.
They quickly became a figure of fun to the media. Amanda Foreman in her book “Georgiana” refers to them.
‘The term ‘macaroni’ was coined to describe the fashionable young fops of the 1770s. The term probably originated in the 1760s when members of the short lived Macaroni club brought attention to themselves by their prediliction for all things foreign, especially food. Macaronis were much criticised in the press. The Oxford Magazine complained: “There is indeed a kind of animal, neither male, nor female, a thing of neuter gender, lately started up among us. It is called a Macaroni. It talks without meaning, it smiles without pleasure, it eats without appetite, it rides without exercise, it wenches without passion.”‘
The artifice of the macaroni was an attempt by aristocratic young men (and young men who aspired to be aristocrats) of the time to prove their worldliness in order to affirm their right to the luxury their station provided them.
Yet, this only served to demonstrate their disconnection with the wider world; of the coming social and political changes that were about to shatter the aristocratic structure the macaroni so desperately wished to display in their foppish dress.
With the arrival of Beau Brummel it became fashionable to embrace the masculine look. The rise of the Dandy was a movement of the middle-class gentleman expressing their masculinity and their disdain for the ridiculous style of upper classes in dress. They hadn’t the money or privilege, but the Dandy had his sense of style with which to shame the foppish Macaronis.
The next time you sing Yankee Doodle came to town riding on a pony. They stuck a feather in his hat and called it Macaroni. Just think of all those gorgeous embroidered 18th century clothes.
If you have enjoyed today’s blog post you might like to sign up for our newsletter and receive future posts via email.
Subscribing is easy just fill in your email address in the box at the top right hand side of this page. Don’t forget to add us to your contact list so the newsletters go into your inbox rather than spam.
We will never share your details.
- See more at: https://hands-across-the-sea-samplers.com/?page_id=53#sthash.lHnDi7RE.dpuf