Jacket Lapel - Origin

Origin

The usual style of lapel (the notched lapel) originated in older types of jacket or coat that buttoned to the neck, by unbuttoning and turning back the upper part of the closure at an angle indoors or in hot weather, and then removing the upper buttons. The upper points are derived from the end corners of the collar. This can be duplicated by similarly turning back the closure in a modern button-to-the-neck garment such as an outdoor coat or a boilersuit. Sometimes when caught outside in bad weather in a lapelled jacket and nothing over it, its wearer may unfold the lapels and hold them that way to temporarily reproduce the ancestral to-the-neck closure.

As tailcoats evolved rapidly among the wealthy during the Regency period, various styles of closure saw popularity, from fastenings at the top, the middle, or even hanging open. The turn-down collar popular on earlier garments like the frock was succeeded by long lapels folded down to below the waist (fashionably tightly nipped in). Invariably, there were long rows of buttons down the front, most of which did not fasten; in fact even into the late Victorian era, all frock coats had a long row of button holes on the lapel, long since obsolete. As buttoning styles changed, the loosely folded front of the coat correspondingly shifted shape, and the V then formed by the meeting of the fold and the collar continues now in the traditional shape of notched and peaked lapels, both of which originate from that period.

Once double breasted frock coats were established, lapels were sharply creased and their form was more static, varying only in details such as height, since they were buttoned nearly to the neck by the Edwardians, then lengthened to the classic three-button shape, the two-button jacket being a further American innovation. The other significant change over that period was the use of the revers in the construction of the lapel, as the Victorians used elaborate three-part patterns to cut a fold of cloth from the lining into the front of the lapel, a universal consideration of frock coats and dress coats of the period, but abandoned in favour of our current single-piece lapels at the same time as the switch to morning coats and lounge suits. Modern lapels are largely identical in form to their 1930s counterparts.

Some historians of dress such as Bernard Rudofsky have ridiculed the evolution of jacket lapels into "vastly unnecessary flaps" and "decorative rudiments," while others have celebrated the transformation of lapels into "fetishes" as part and parcel of fashion as expression.

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