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English Costume by Dion Clayton Calthrop

English Costume,
Painted & Described By
Dion Clayton Calthrop

Edited By Pauline Weston Thomas for

English Costume by Dion Clayton Calthrop

Editor note - There can be few devotees of early English costume history who have not seen a copy of the early C20th work entitled:-


Early English Costume Plates - Dion Clayton Calthrop

You can see all of the images shown on this page enlarged more and with many more extra colouring drawings for every reign of English Costume by looking at the individual pages on site. Use the gold sidebar or links at the bottom of every Calthrop page, view the sitemap or use the search facility to navigate to a Calthrop era of interest.

Cloaks in English Costume Plates - Dion Clayton Calthrop

The Book - English Costume by Dion Clayton Calthrop

I love my battered old wine leather bound tomb of a book with art nouveau patterns impressed on the cover. As a little girl I would leaf my way through this book to find the coloured costume plates of the pretty dresses the ladies wore. 

Dion Clayton Calthrop English Costume Book CoverI've never been so interested in male costume, but it was clear to me even then some of the garments the men were depicted wearing in the book plates were frequently just as handsome ensembles as the ladies garb. Of course all the costume in the book is pre1830 so dress for men was relatively more flamboyant. This website is about female dress history, but by putting the bulk of this book online I have the opportunity to show you some male dress from eras I would not normally cover, whilst I also continue with my personal passion for adding more female costume.

You can see all of the images shown on this page and many more by looking at the individual pages.

This 36 page section on consists of a text copy of the book ENGLISH COSTUME PAINTED & DESCRIBED BY DION CLAYTON CALTHROP.  Visuals, drawings and painted fashion plates in the book have a charm of their own and are shown amid the text. The book covers both male and female dress history of over 700 years spanning the era 1066-1830.

DION CLAYTON CALTHROP lived 1875 to 1937 and I am struck how his philosophy of life shines through this book in his closing book introduction paragraph he states:-

"The book is intended to be read, and is not wrapped up in grandiose phrases and a great wind about nothing; I would wish to be thought more friendly than the antiquarian and more truthful than the historian, and so have endeavoured to show, in addition to the body of the clothes, some little of their soul." I really love this attitude since I also believe clothes never live in isolation of a person and their daily circumstances. We can read many messages into them and the character of the people who wore them. Lets take a look at Impresario Dion Clayton Calthrop's opinion of costume history and written in his own words over 100 years ago.

Medieval Fashion History



Published in four volumes during 1906.
Reissued in one volume, April, 1907.

The book begins with an INTRODUCTION and this illustration of A Man Of the Time - George IV 1820-1830 - Image Right.Georgian Man Costume 1820-1830.


Here you see the coat which we now wear, slightly altered, in out evening dress. If came into fashion, with this form of top-boots, in 1799, and was called Jean-de-Bry. Notice the commencement of the whisker fashion.

The text of this introduction is below.
You can see 35 other text chapter/images from the book in this section and navigate it on the sidebar on the left.


The world, if we choose to see it so, is a complicated picture of people dressing and undressing.  The history of the world is composed of the chat of a little band of tailors seated cross-legged on their boards; they gossip across the centuries, feeling, as they should, very busy and important. Someone made the coat of many colours for Joseph, another cut into material for Elijah's mantle. 

Baldwin, from his stall on the site of the great battle, has only to stretch his neck round to nod to the tailor who made the toga for Julius Caesar; has only to lean forward to smile to Pasquino, the wittiest of tailors. 

John Pepys, the tailor, gossips with his neighbour who cut that jackanapes coat with silver buttons so proudly worn by Samuel Pepys, his son. Mr. Schweitzer, who cut Beau Brummell's coat, talks to Mr. Meyer, who shaped his pantaloons.  Our world is full of the sound of scissors, the clipping of which, with the gossiping tongues, drown the grander voices of history.

Medieval Cloaks

As you will see, I have devoted myself entirely to civil costume - that is, the clothes a man or a woman would wear from choice, and not by reason of an appointment to some ecclesiastical post, or to a military calling, or to the Bar, or the Bench.  Such clothes are but symbols of their trades and professions, and have been dealt with by persons who specialize in those professions. I have taken the date of the Conquest as my starting-point, and from that date -a very simple period of clothes I have followed the changes of the garments reign by reign, fold by fold, button by button, until we arrive quite smoothly at Beau Brummell, the inventor of modern clothes, the prophet of cleanliness.

Medieval Surcoats & Houppelande - Costume

I have taken considerable pains to trace the influence of one garment upon its successor, to reduce the wardrobe for each reign down to its simplest cuts and folds, so that the reader may follow quite easily the passage of the coat from its birth to its ripe age, and by this means may not only know the clothes of one time, but the reasons for those garments. To the best of my knowledge, such a thing has never been done before; most works on dress try to include the world from Adam to Charles Dickens, lump a century into a page, and dismiss the ancient Egyptians in a couple of colour plates.

Medieval Houppelande Tunic & High Headdress

So many young gentlemen have blown away their patrimony on feathers and tobacco that it is necessary for us to confine ourselves to certain gentlemen and ladies in out own country. A knowledge of history is essential to the study of mankind, and a knowledge of history is never perfect without a knowledge of the clothes with which to dress it.

A man, in a sense, belongs to his clothes; they are so much a part of him that, to take him seriously, one must know how he walked about, in what habit, with what air.  I am compelled to speak strongly of my own work because I believe in it, and I feel that the series of paintings in these volumes are really a valuable addition to English history.  To be modest is often to be excessively vain, and, having made an exhaustive study of my subject from my own point of view, I do not feel called upon to hide my knowledge under a bushel.  Of course, I do not suggest that the ordinary cultured man should acquire the same amount of knowledge as a painter, or a writer of historical subjects, or an actor, but he should understand the clothes of his own people, and be able to visualize any date in which he may be interested.

Medieval Hennin -English Costume Plates - Dion

One half of the people who talk glibly of Beau Brummell have but half an idea when he lived, and no idea that, for example, he wore whiskers.  Hamlet they can conjure up, but would have some difficulty in recognising Shakespeare, because most portraits of him are but head and shoulders.  Napoleon has stamped himself on men's minds very largely through the medium of a certain form of hat, a lock of hair, and a gray coat. In future years an orchid will be remembered as an emblem. I have arranged, as far as it is possible, that each plate shall show the emblem or distinguishing mark of the reign it illustrates, so that the continuity of costume shall be remembered by the arresting notes.

Tudor Fashion - Henry VIII Six Wives

As the fig-leaf identifies Adam, so may the chaperon twisted into a cockscomb mark Richard II.  As the curled and scented hair of Alcibiades occurs to our mind, so shall Beau Nash manage his clouded cane. Elizabeth shall be helped to the memory by her Piccadilly ruff; square Henry VIII by his broad-toed shoes and his little fiat cap; Anne Boleyn by her black satin nightdress; James be called up as padded trucks; Maximilian as puffs and slashes; D'Orsay by the curve of his hat; Tennyson as a dingy brigand; Gladstone as a collar; and even more recent examples, as the Whistlerian lock and the Burns blue suit.

C16Th Fashion For Shakespeare - Queen Mary & Queen Elizabeth I

And what romantic incidents may we not hang upon out clothes-line!  The cloak of Samuel Pepys (' Dapper Dick,' as he signed himself to a certain lady) sheltering four ladies from the rain ; Sir Walter Raleigh spreading his cloak over the mud to protect the shoes of that great humorist Elizabeth (I never think of her apart from the saying, 'Ginger for pluck'); Mary, Queen of Scots, ordering false attires of hair during her captivity - all these scenes clinched into reality by the knowledge of the dress proper to them. 

And what are we doing to help modern history - the picture of our own times - that it may look beautiful in the ages to come ? I cannot answer you that.

Some chapters of this work have appeared in the Connoisseur, and I have to thank the editor for his courtesy in allowing me to reproduce them. I must also thank Mr. Pownall for his help in the early stages of my labours. One thing more I must add: I do not wish this book to go forth and be received with that frigid politeness which usually welcomes a history to the shelves of the bookcase, there to remain unread.  The book is intended to be read, and is not wrapped up in grandiose phrases and a great wind about nothing; I would wish to be thought more friendly than the antiquarian and more truthful than the historian, and so have endeavoured to show, in addition to the body of the clothes, some little of their soul.

Illustrations in Colour - 1. A Man of the Time of George IV. 1820-1830 Shown in the Book Frontispiece.

If you like this book you can probably find a copy on EBay or Amazon at reasonable cost. I recently bought a copy for a friend who liked the authenticity and handle of my 100 year old book. I paid under 10 for the old copy for her. A leather bound book like this gives many people great pleasure in a similar way to downloaders to iPods. The same yet different. If you are more erudite in your approach and collect first edition books you may prefer to pay Antiquarian book prices at 100+.

You have been reading the introduction to the Dion Clayton Calthrop English Costume History article at ©

Page Added August 2010. Ref:-P782


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About looks at women's costume and fashion history and analyses the mood of an era.  Changes in technology, leisure, work, cultural and moral values. Homelife and politics also contribute to lifestyle trends, which in turn influence the clothes we wear.  These are the changes that make any era of society special in relation to the study of the costume of a period.Fashion History can take no responsibility for any information on the site which may cause you error, loss or costs incurred from use of the information and links either directly or indirectly.  This site is owned, designed, written and developed by author: Pauline Thomas and Guy Thomas. This site is designed to be viewed in 1024 X 768 or higher.

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