From Pantaloons To Power Ties

PAULA BAXTER sees a thread running through the history of men's fashion: dissolute or licentious elements of style acting as a goad of dress norms. "Men's clothing over the centuries has been impacted by what men on the street wear," says the curator of an exhibit of about 200 engravings, prints, watercolors, drawings and photographs (from Ralph Lauren ads to Auguste Racinet's Le Costume Historique) opening at the New York Public Library this month. "A Rakish History of Men's Wear" surveys the factors—sumptuary laws, chivalrous codes, spiritual and marital values, dandyism and a bourgeois middle class—that helped men's style evolve from...

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