Search This Blog

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Macaroni! And I Don't Mean Pasta

Every era has its extremes of dress. The Sixties had micro-minis. The Roaring Twenties had flapper dresses. Georgian England had macaronis.

Although today most fashion is geared toward women, the macaronis were men. "Macaroni" or "maccaroni", from the Italian word, maccherone, which literally means a boorish fool, described the height, and often the extremes, of male fashion in the mid 1700's.

Brought from the continent by idle young men on their Grand Tour, macaroni dress took the standard male wardrobe of wig, coat, waistcoat, breeches, stockings and shoes to absurd lengths. The express purpose was to shock people. And shock they did. Coats were tight. Huge buttons decorated short waistcoats. Narrow, dainty shoes sported buckles almost larger than they were. And copious amounts of lace, ribbon, ruffles and whatever other outrageous decoration took the wearer's fancy trimmed the outfits, with everything in gaudy colors and showy fabrics like silks and satins.

Perhaps the most obvious feature of macaroni fashion was the wig. As in these pictures, macaroni wigs were excessively elaborate and tall, and, by contrast, crowned with a tiny hat that literally could be removed only with the point of a sword.

Macaroni clothing was never mainstream. While the fashion provided a wealth of fodder for caricatures, most people laughed it off as the blatant posturing of immature males.

The word remains in the vocabulary, although today its definition has constricted to pasta. But several vestiges of its original meaning linger to confound us.

The Macaroni Penguin, a large crested penguin native to Antarctica and the southern tip of South America, owes its name to the Georgian macaronis. English mariners in the Falkland Islands, off the coast of Chile, named the bird. With its flamboyant, colored head feathers, the penguin reminded the sailors of the macaronis back home.

And Yankee Doodle "stuck a feather in his hat and called it macaroni".

Next time, Yankee Doodle and macaronis.

Thank you all,


Debra Glass said...

Great article!

Lynne Connolly said...

Actually, the macaroni came to prominence in the 1770's. My etymology dictionary says the word dates from after 1764. It's thought that the caricatures weren't taken from life (thank goodness!)
But really nice article, I enjoyed reading it!

Lindsay Townsend said...

Super article, Linda! I wonder how long it took for a bloke to get (or be helped) into that rig?

Linda Banche said...

Thanks, Debra, Lynne and Lindsay.

Lynne, yes, the dictionary says 1764, but we know that's the written word, and people would use the word in speech before that date. And I'm sure macaroni fashion was a long time coming into prominence. I wonder why *g*

LOL, Lindsay! I'll bet they took hours to get dressed, and the same amount of time to get it all off, too. There goes their day!

LK Hunsaker said...

Fun post, Linda! They must be the equivalents to our rock stars. ;-)

catslady said...

I think we still have some macaronies in our current culture lol.

Margaret Tanner said...

Thank you Linda, very interesting article.



Linda Banche said...

Thanks, LK. You and catslady are probably right!

Hi Margaret, glad you liked the post.

Mary Ricksen said...

Never heard of it. Great information!
Iffy, but great! :0)

Sandra Sookoo said...

Interesting article. I always wonder what would happen in today's society if the men were required to dress up like that LOL It would seriously cut into their "just run my fingers through my hair and pull on a t-shirt and jeans" time LOL

cawetshok said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Linda Banche said...

Hi Mary, there's always something new out there that you never knew existed!

LOL, Sandi. You're certainly right there!

Savanna Kougar said...

Linda, what an adorable penguin.

Fascinating as always. That way of being reminds me of the high fashion shows of today, and those who attempt to live that, imo, ridiculous lifestyle. Personally, I adore fashion, however, not when its done to an extreme that serves no one.

Hey, I always wondered why 'macaroni' in Yankee Doodle Dandy... now, I know why. That's puzzled me since early childhood because, of course, I always thought of cheesy macaroni.

Linda Banche said...

Thanks, Savanna. Yes, fashion extremes are always ridiculous. And, like you, I never knew what Yankee Doodle was doing, either.