Luis Francisco de la Cerda (later Duke of Medinaceli) in a red justacorps with horizontal pockets and lavish decoration, c. 1684.

A justacorps or justaucorps (/ˈʒstəkɔːr/)[1] is a knee-length coat worn by men in the latter half of the 17th century and throughout the 18th century. The garment is of French origin, and was introduced in England as a component of a three-piece ensemble, which also included breeches and a long vest or waistcoat. This ensemble served as the prototype of the frock coat, which in turn evolved into the modern-day three-piece suit.[2]

The fabric selection and styling of the justacorps varied throughout time periods, as fashions frequently altered.


The justacorps evolved from the European "casaque", a garment that resembled a short cape reaching to the hips which became fashionable during Louis XIII's time for protection from the elements. The casaque was a travellers' or military cloak with separate front, back and shoulder pieces that could be worn as a semicircular cape or as a jacket.[3] Soldiers soon discovered that the casaque was unsuitable for handling muskets and swords. The military modified the garment to fit the torso and arranged it for buttoning. The short sleeves were retained, but they were lengthened by the addition of a piece which could be worn as a turned-back cuff. These mutations gave rise to a garment offering greater freedom of movement, which came to be known by the colorful name of "juste-au-corps".This garment with its warlike origins appealed to Louis XIV. The royal sanction ensured the justaucorps' dazzling success with the civilian population. From 1670, Furetière's jusfirmation states that the justaucorps "used to be worn only by people of war". In 1662, for example, the sergeant-major of the Montreal garrison, Lambert Closse, wore a "casaque de façon de juste au corps"[4][5]

The justaucorps, according to Susan Mokhberi, was modelled on a similar Persian coat, with similar floral embroidery and tight fitting body and sleeves. Like the Persian rulers did with the garment, King Louis XIV bestowed it onto key subjects as an emblem of his favour, and it came to be associated with French absolutism and the links and commonalities between the Safavid and Bourbon absolutist regimes.[6]

Under King Charles II of England a plainer "sober" take on the earlier but similarly-cut justaucorps, veste and culottes outfit which had been imposed by King Louis XIV in the French court was also introduced to England.[7] King Charles gradually became more closely influenced by French fashions by the 1670s, and French fashion spread to the English public.[8]

17th century

It replaced the doublet, a previously popular shorter style of coat. The justacorps was worn to the knee, covering an equal length vest and breeches underneath. It opened center front, typically having many buttons and buttonholes lining the entire length of the opening. The sleeves were fitted, and featured deep cuffs. Some styles of the justacorps remained fitted throughout the bodice, though other versions feature a more accentuated, flared skirt through the addition of gores and pleats.[9] Justacorps also featured decorative pockets, often placed too low for the wearer to take functional advantage. Worn primarily by aristocratic, wealthy men,[10] justacorps were very ornate in design and made of luxurious fabrics. Colourful silk, satin, brocade, damask, and wool were commonly used textiles. Justacorps often were accented with contrasting fabrics of different colours and patterns, displayed through turned back cuffs or a decorative sash worn across the shoulders. By the early 18th century, the silhouette of the justacorps had become wider, with a fuller skirt, and laid the foundation for men's fashion throughout the rest of the century.[9]

18th century

In the first half of the 18th century, the justacorps altered in appearance. The garment's opening remained at center front, however the buttons only extended to the waist area, allowing extra room for the extension of a fuller skirt. The cuffs became tighter and no longer folded back, and pockets were functional, located at a more accessible, hip-level region. The opening of the justacorps was rounded towards the mid chest, and flared away from the body.[2]

In the second half of the 18th century, the justacorps skirt decreased in fullness, becoming narrower. A straight edge, similar to 17th-century-style openings, replaced the rounded opening of the coat, and sleeves reverted to a deep, turned back cuff. Textiles for the justacorps varied by use. Durable fabrics, like wool, were used in ordinary, everyday situations, and typically had less ornamentation compared to ones worn in elegant, formal settings. These coats were made of ornate fabrics like silk and brocade, and decorated with elaborate embroidery and lace.[2]

The justacorps should be distinguished as different from the frock coat, which was less ornate, differed in cut and silhouette, and not worn popularly until the late 18th century.

See also



  1. ^ "justaucorps". Unabridged (Online). n.d. Retrieved 10 October 2020.
  2. ^ a b c Tortora, Phyllis G. (2010). Survey of Historic Costume. New York: Fairchild Book.
  3. ^ Heather Vaughan Lee, José Blanco F., Mary Doering, Patricia Kay Hunt-Hurst (2015). Clothing and Fashion [4 Volumes]. Bloomsbury Publishing. ISBN 9798216062158.((cite book)): CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  4. ^ Back, Francis (1998). "Un justaucorps du règne de Louis XIV". Cap-aux-Diamants: La revue d'histoire du Québec (in French) (55): 54–55. ISSN 0829-7983.
  5. ^ Carl Kohler (1930). A History of Costume. hst. G. Howard Watt.
  6. ^ Susan Mokhberi (2019). The Persian Mirror: French Reflections of the Safavid Empire from the Seventeenth to Early-Eighteenth Centuries. Oxford University Press. pp. 105–106, 132. ISBN 9780190884796.
  7. ^ Giovanna Motta (2018). Fashion through History: Costumes, Symbols, Communication (Volume II), Volume 2. Cambridge Scholars Publishing. pp. 39–40. ISBN 9781527511965.
  8. ^ Tony Claydon, Charles-Édouard Levillain (2016). Louis XIV Outside In: Images of the Sun King Beyond France, 1661-1715. Routledge. pp. 64–68. ISBN 9781317103240.
  9. ^ a b Condra, Jill (2008). The Greenwood Encyclopedia of Clothing Throughout World History: 1501-1800. Greenwood Publishing Group.
  10. ^ Ribeiro, Aileen (2005). Fashion and Fiction: Dress in Art and Literature in Stuart England. Yale.