Last update on: 9:21 am December 13, 2023 by fashionabc
If you thought Casinos have only been around since James Bond appeared in Casino Royale, you’d be very much mistaken. We’ll get back to Mr Bond in due course, but to say he’s a relatively new addition to the legacy of the casino is an understatement.
The first casino appeared in Venice in 1538. The Casino di Venezia (which is still open today) was initially a designated public space during Venice’s world-famous Carnival.
Soon, it became a place for games and from there, the casino establishment evolved before spreading across Europe. So, from the start, casino fashion would have been extravagant and in this instance probably featured elaborate masks.
Our first glimpse of casino fashion in history arguably comes courtesy of one of the most famous artists in the world, Caravaggio. His painting The Cardsharps, depicts a wealthy, smartly dressed young man falling foul to a pair of unscrupulous dandies.
The interior location, complete with an Anatolian carpeted table and dice and shaker, would suggest that this is a casino of sorts. Though not the sort that one would like to find themselves in.
Georges de La Tour’s ‘The Cheat with the Ace of Clubs’, shows just how glamorous casinos might have looked when they were in their relative infancy. The figures in the picture are smartly dressed in silks and satins, the pair on the right adorned with flamboyant hats.
It’s worth noting that the matter of cheating may have been employed for dramatic purposes not necessarily to represent the contemporary perception of a casino. If the clothing is anything to go by, it would appear that they were highly desirable places to be seen.
…The year that Dutch artist and Caravaggio fan, Gerard van Honthorst completed his vision of The Cardsharps. The painting depicts a group of card players gathered around a table illuminated by a lamp with a female figure presiding over the wager.
The men wear foppish headgear and waistcoats and all look relativity well-to-do. Unfortunately, as with the Caravaggio and de La Tour paintings, there is cheating taking place.
Hopefully, our next casino image will (literally) paint the casino in a more desirable light.
We’re jumping over 200 years to visit Das Casino, Monte Carlo by Christian L Bokelmann and probably the clearest indication of just how opulent the casino was at the end of the 19th century. This is a painting that presents unabashed wealth and privilege with the games playing second fiddle to the luxurious characters and opulent surroundings.
There are no obvious cheats in this painting, but there is tension. It’s not just the seated man who has noticed the woman leaving the gaming table with a less-than-cheery expression.
Edvard Munch’s ‘At the Roulette Table in Monte Carlo’ takes us into a more familiar casino setting. The photograph and movie reel will finish off our potted history of casino fashion, but this depiction of a glamorous Monte Carlo speaks for itself.
Despite its symbolism stylings, it’s obvious that the figures gathered around the table are well-heeled and well-to-do. Put another way, they don’t give the impression they’re playing bingo on a Saturday night.
For the record, if you are expecting Cezanne’s classic The Card Players to feature here, sorry to disappoint. There is no indication that the two players are in a casino.
Mid 20th Century
As we’ve seen in the fashions depicted in our five paintings, casinos were already stylish establishments way before the days of the Rat Pack. Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jr. helped to formularise the casino as sophisticated, yet cool, institutions for the 20th Century.
But it was Ian Fleming’s Fictious creation, James Bond, that took the prestige and exclusivity of the casino and put it into popular culture. And with it, the tuxedo became an almost inseparable item of clothing in our perception of casino gaming, one that has survived, despite everything.
And that includes the dressing down of punters as resort-style casinos began to pop up in Vegas in the 1980’s attracting a more diverse clientele. Still, the higher-end casinos required a more formal attire, and that tradition continues today.
These days casinos are far more relaxed about what you must wear when visiting. For example, the necktie -a staple of formal dresswear- is no longer mandatory outside a handful of high-end establishments.
However, many patrons choose to dress formally, even to the degree of black, even white, tie. Visiting a casino is so much more than playing games, it’s an occasion that, as we’ve seen, is best enjoyed in your finest clothes.
You’re welcome to play online casino games in your shorts, but when it comes to the real thing, be smart.