The Literary Gentleman

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I really enjoyed writing Fine Art, (which, wow, was already a full year ago) so I have been thinking about doing another. We’ll call this a spin-off.

As it turns out, matching style to literary eras, is a lot trickier than art. Art comes with colors and shapes and things you see in clothing. Literature…does not. So the resulting piece is a little bit about the style of the , a little bit about the style of the writing, and a little bit about the flavor of the authors…I hope.

The Lost Generation – World War I 

The most recent of the three eras I’m going to touch on, the Lost Generation is marked by notable figures like Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, James Joyce, and T.S. Eliot. The phrase supposedly comes from Gertrude Stein telling Hemingway the following, “That is what you are. That’s what you all are … all of you young people who served in the war. You are a lost generation.”

Wartime and the experiences there are fundamental to the Lost Generation aesthetic, as is the rejection of wealth. Think Great Gatsby – the moral, not the man.

Wear: Tight Short-Sleeved Button-ups, Suspenders, Khakis, Cuffed Jeans, and Coats with Sheepskin Collars.

Lit Gent

The Victorian Era – 1837-1901

Ah, the fin de siècle, what a wonderfully weird time in literature and history. Now, we often think of the Victorian Era as very buttoned-up, conservative, and proper, but oh hoho, is that ignoring so much of what was churning below. One of my favorite classes in Uni was called Fin de Siècle: Decadence and Degeneration. That should tell you something. While the visible culture was often quite proper, monsters, faeries, murderers, and debauchery were increasingly popular in books and entertainment.

Wear: Deep Blues and Purples, Crisp Button-ups, Tall-Collared Coats, Subtle Mixed Patterns

litgent

The Romantics – approx. 1770 – 1848

Right up front, we should address the fact that the Romantic Period is my favorite literary period, partly due to my overwhelming love for John Keats. (How many times can I legitimately mention Keats on a fashion blog? We shall see).

The Romantics are in part a rejection of the Industrial Revolution, embracing nature and individuality in a rapidly changing Europe. They were introspective, restless, and extremely emotive writers. They ranged from the elderly William Wordsworth to the, uh, lusty Lord Byron, and their works span a myriad of subjects.

The Romantic’s love of aesthetic and the marrying of awe and horror, results in some of the most purple and rich language and messages informed by true emotion first and foremost.

Wear: Floral Prints, Pastels, Overly-large Wool Coats, Rumpled Suits, Disheveled Hair, Layers

Lit Gent1

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Guide to Semi-Formal

I think we’ve all received an invitation that included a dress code and we honestly didn’t know what it meant. The rules for these seem so fluid, but at times they really aren’t, which makes the whole issue more stressful. Some are easy – the ultra formal white tie and formal black tie  have pretty clear rules – but the more common ones are generally more confusing.

This post is inspired by an event I’ve been planning for work that is “semi-formal,” which in my area could mean really anything. The western US is, generally speaking, a pretty casual place, so I did some research.

Searching for semi-formal menswear is basically like typing “clothes” into google. And all of the more specific rules I did find varied from site to site, so here is my synthesis of what you should wear to a semi-formal event.

Evening Events (after 6 pm)

evening semi formal

Do not wear a tux – that is black tie or formal – but you should wear a dark jacket. I would also lean toward dark slacks or a full suit. A tie is probably advisable, although it can be colorful or patterned. Shirts can also maybe be colored, but I would avoid anything too wild.

Be sure to take into account the type of event. Weddings should probably be more formal, whereas cocktail parties allow for a little more play.

Day Events (before 6 pm)

day semi formal

Day events have the same basic rules, although suits do not need to be dark. In fact, it is probably more appropriate to go with khaki/tan or grey (even navy is better than black for a day event). By their nature, day events tend to be a little more casual, so you could forgo the tie or play with colors, but again read the event.

An outdoor wedding is going to be more casual than an indoor, especially during the day. A garden party is usually more casual than a cocktail party (unless the former is with the queen).

In more casual places, like my hometown, you could probably really tone it down and no one would bat an eye, but here I defer to Oscar Wilde’s immortal words “You can never be overdressed or over-educated.”

Oscar Wilde on fashion

And if you are going to trust any author about fashion, let it be Mr. Wilde.