Gaston: A Costume study

Ah, Gaston.  A character we love to hate because he’s so hatable, and yet the character at Disney parks is hilarious.  He’s a frightening villain though, that man who claims to love someone, and shows it by trying to revoke her agency and force her into submission.  When you remove the comedic relief in the character, the full force of how horrifying he is starts to come out.  Unlike Maleficent or Ursula, he’s a human of the sort who actually exists.  And because he’s attractive, it’s all too easy to fall under a spell with him.

(On my Facebook page, in this Gaston album, all the photos below and many more that didn’t make the cut for this post.  Also see my posts on the yellow ballgown, and Beast’s Ball ensemble, and Gaston’s wardrobe as well as my post-seeing-the-movie costume thoughts.)

To people like me, who love the art of fine costume and tailoring, his clothing is enough to cause the drooling though.  Forget the face, forget the man.  Just look at that ensemble (and don’t overlook that magnificent ceiling!).

It is glorious in all its scarlet beauty.  At that time, wearing red was reserved for the wealthy.  Red dye came from the the cochineal insect in Mexico.  Getting that color was a difficult and very expensive task until synthetic dyes came into existence.  Even without the red, his ensemble indicates a man of wealth and privilege.

Let’s break it down a bit.

That shirt contains an easy to see, yet easy to miss bit of detail.  Those pintucks on the tops of his shoulders are a wonderful, period-correct touch, one not too often seen, yet not unknown.  The sewn jabot and ruffles at the sleeves are very nice, and, again, correct.  Gaston’s shirt looks a bit too smooth in the photos I’ve seen  so far to be linen, though might be a linen cotton blend.  The extant shirt shown on the dress form is linen.

Something I did spot on Gaston’s shirt is gussets under the sleeves.  Gussets are a square of fabric set in like a diamond that give more room to move.  The poofiness of the fabric make it hard to see though I can make out the seams.

 

Don’t roll your eyes at me, young man.  It’s my job to look for these things, and if I happen to need to look at your pits, then I do.

His vest is a bit difficult to make out.  It’s straight-cut across the bottom, buttons, and has a couple pockets.  Red, possibly wool, perhaps cotton.  I’d wager on wool.  It’s lined with a yellow and red cotton.  This is a really nice nod to his yellow collar in the animated film.  I’m curious to see the back of this vest, and will post an update on Friday with observations on this and other costumes from the movie.

His breeches are difficult to see in any great detail in the pub scene photos.  So I’ll jump to his breeches in another scene, which look to be the same pair.  A man’s breeches were like our jeans.  Wear ’em all the time, over and over again.

 

In the photo on his horse, the buttons are very centered.  At the time, breeches were usually what’s known as fall-front.  Scroll back to the photo at the top and check out the man on the table.  The front of his breeches have a flap that buttons up to the waistband.

Here is how fall-front breeches worked.

I’ve seen one pair of extant breeches from the era with buttons in the center.  So it was done, though really not too common.  These are definitely wool.  His breeches do get a check in the “period-correct” column, though in the “very unusual” column.

His leather boots are definitely period.  The width of the tan band is personal preference, but that two-tone was done.  I double I’ll get a chance to study the bottom of his shoes to see if they were nailed or glued, but that point is really moot.  There’s nothing more to say about his boots.

Let’s check out his scarlet coat some more.  

The same information goes here as it does for the Beast’s ball coat.  The buttons are certainly decorative.  This coat is lined in a cream and tan striped fabric, probably a cotton.  The back…

Nice, deep pleats, gold trimming at the edge of the split in the back (that split made it easier for a man to straddle his horse, and sometimes the flaps would be buttoned up), gold buttons at his waist.

I have not yet been able to find any close photos of his trimmings or buttons yet, though I may luck out in the theater.  *ssshhhhhh*

Not many photos or stills of his other ensembles have become available yet, and the lack of his costumes on display make it difficult to share much information aside from general observations.  His hunting coat looks to be a sort of sueded, perhaps chamois leather.  His hair, of course, is pulled back with a small ribbon, as is Emma’s.  (Rather than her large animated bow, they decided to show Belle as a not like other women by having her ribbon be more like the men’s.)

His hat…

  

I think that says it.  His tricorne hat is perfect aside from the direction of his velvet trim.  The photos and paintings I’ve seen show top-down to be the way it was done rather than bottom-up.  But not all of them had trim at all.  Some had just pins or buttons.  So.  No worries about that being inaccurate.  Also, this hat would have been called a cocked hat at the time, and it came to be known as a tricorne decades after it fell from fashion.  Beaver hair felt was common, though wool felt was also pretty typical.  I have no way to identify one fiber from the other.

There were actually two reasons for these hats to be pinned up, whether on one (such as LeFou’s), two, one all three sides.  Gentlemen were expected to remove their hats when indoors.  This practice had fallen by the wayside, but was alive and well into my own childhood.  It made a lot of sense for a man to carry his own hat instead of whacking people with it as he turned.  Ladies’ hats were often pinned on or worn at least partly for religious reasons having to do with covering one’s head, and so ladies kept theirs on.  (Look at their massive skirts, and their hats are small in comparison anyway!).

The other is a bit more fun.  In a time when gentlemen (and a great many ladies!) would very often wear elaborate wigs, this arrangement let them show off their faux-follicular (fauxllicular?) goods.  Two portraits that show this are Catherine the Great (left) and Marie Antoinette (right).

The coat Gaston wears in promotional images has a big problem.

Those stag buttons are pretty awesome, an a nice and subtle touch to using antlers in all of his decorating, but that outerwear coat is leather, and not a chamois leather.  I double-checked with a Georgian reproduction forum, and leather like this wasn’t used for outerwear.  The methods of tanning weren’t so great, and the wearer could become quite fragrant in a short time.  That flagrant fragrance would be fine when hunting or working on a ship, but would you really want to wander around town smelling like something the dogs dragged in?  In the words of some people who know better the history of leather and menswear of the era, “leather was worn more by labourers and poorer people so none of it has survived” (or very, very little–one extant garment is known to exist in the Kyoto Museum, but even that’s chamois leather), “Breeches widely used for working classes apparently. But coats no/-it’s not an outerwear thing,” and “The leather tanning process back in the day did not lend itself to large scale items of clothing due to the tendency to be quite “fragrant”. It wasn’t until later when they figured out how to eliminate the odors left over from the process.  It was also very difficult to split the hides into the thinner material needed for making clothing until the Industrial Revolution was further underway.”  So the red leather coat is a big nope on fabric, though the design is the overall same as the chamois leather hunting coat

The white shirt he wears looks to be the same as the first one I covered, which makes sense this this is basically his version of a t-shirt.  His waistcoat underneath also looks to be the same cut, though in chamois leather.

The color combination there is a fantastic nod to the ensemble he wears to propose to Belle.

It looks, to me, as if the costumer found or created a shirt, waistcoat, and breeches patterns that worked for him, and used them for each of these, and did the same with his hunting and mob jackets (very minor detail differences).  There’s nothing wrong with that.  It’s not like villagers would have been bothered with trying to obtain different patterns for every item of clothing they had.  If you have a pattern that works for you at a time when your wardrobe might contain two regular daily outfits and a Sunday best, variety of design isn’t going to be your big concern.  You’ll use the pattern you know works because fabric is too precious of a commodity to waste testing out new designs for each coat you have.  It’s not like you could jump I the car and head on down to the local Joann’s for some cheap fabric to try again.

All in all, I’m very pleased with Gaston’s costumes.  Unlike the yellow gown that is really only “Belle” in color, Gaston’s entire wardrobe so far is entirely in keeping with his character, the era, and the animated movie.  Like Belle’s Provincial ensembles and Beast’s Ball ensemble, Gaston’s wardrobe shows wonderfully how a designer can take the clothing from an animated movie that was necessarily rife with inaccuracies (the more detailing, no matter how period correct, meant more for the animators to draw by hand hundreds of thousands of times, and to paint hundreds of thousands of times, which mean costumes had to be simplified), put them in the historical era, and get something that is incredibly true to character, source designs, and the period and location that a story took place.

I’ll close this post with a photo I took at Disneyland last September of Gaston swaggering off after telling a group of giggly ladies that we could “admits his…assets as [he] walked off.”  I swear he’d be the most fun character to act at the park.

This may be the last bit of fun we see out of a character who looks to be the real beast in the upcoming movie.  I will post a follow-up on Friday with observations from the movie, which I will be seeing Thursday evening.

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