Jun 102012
 

 The Origins of the Modern Look Men’s Clothing

18th Century –  21st Century by Maggi Andersen

I don’t pretend to be an expert on fashion. I wanted to show some of the changes which have taken place over the last few hundred years to men’s clothing, as well as the styles which have remained constant.

I’ve added a few tidbits I thought might be of interest. I’ve had to be selective here –the military influence on fashion, for example, is for another blog.

GEORGIAN ERA

 THOMAS GAINSBOROUGH, 1780.

THOMAS GAINSBOROUGH, 1780.

 

The three piece suit was popular in the 18th Century.

Matching coat, waistcoat and breeches.

It was not in France, but Britain that the classic style of clothes worn by men today began to evolve.

 

 

George-Stubbs Portrait of Baron de Robeck, Riding a bay hunter 1791

George-Stubbs Portrait of Baron de Robeck, Riding a bay hunter 1791

 

During the Georgian period, upper-class Englishmen were busy running their country estates.  They needed fabrics which supported their sports, travel and life in the countryside.

Surprisingly, the French, who remained in court and dressed accordingly, came to admire the sensible dress of the English. And in the 1780s, France became obsessed with all things English. This frenzy was known as Anglomania.

Sensible dress adopted by French known as Anglomania.

Sensible dress known as Anglomania.

 

         Sir Walter Scott describes it well:

“France, who had so long dictated to all Europe in matters of fashion, seemed now herself disposed to borrow the more simple forms and fashions of her ancient rival.”

 

 

Aside from the adoption of English butlers, carriages, dogs and horses, the French began to use wool for jackets instead of the traditional silks and satins.

The French Revolution influenced this, with the turning away from aristocratic forms of dress for both men and women.

The result was a turning away from bright colors for men. The colors of jackets were limited to brown, grey, dark green, blue and black. Blue was acceptable for any occasion, and black reserved for morning (informal) or for evening wear.

ENGLAND 19th Century

1803 Men's Clothing

1803 Men's Clothing

                                                                           

  REGENCY

Pantaloons were skin tight and worn with gleaming hessians.  

The colors were predominantly light-colored: yellow, biscuit, buff and fawn.

 

 

 

Normally they were one plain color, but sometimes pin-striped.  Materials were wool, cashmere, corduroy, cotton, linen, leather and silk, with satin and velvet for formal occasions. Breeches were worn with Hessians or half boots, but never with top boots.

By the 1820s trousers of a knitted material, (inexpressibles) became the dominant item of clothing for men instead of breeches and pantaloons. Light colored, they were made of nankeen or jean fitting closely to the leg, but cut wide at the ankle. They could be worn with half-boots, boots or shoes.

Men's trousers

Waistcoats were the main item used for color and variety. Sometimes two waistcoats were worn simultaneously to show contrasting  colors.  They were made in a variety of fabrics and often exhibited expensive embroidery.  

 

 

 

Many wore white or flesh colored waistcoats to give the impression, should the man remove his coat, that he was naked.  Influenced by the Grecian Ideal, men were proud of their bodies and sought by fair means or foul (a little padding or corsetry) to display them at their best.

Waistcoats were the main item used for color and variety.

 

 

 

Boots became de rigueur.

Boots became de rigueur.

Boots became de rigueur.

There is a wide range of acceptable boots for daywear and riding with a low heel.   Regency men did not wear heels like their fathers and grandfathers did.

INFLUENCES

Lady Lyttelton writes of the Barouche Club gentry in a letter in 1810:

‘a set of hopeless young men who think of no earthly thing but how to make themselves like coachmen … have formed themselves into a club, inventing new slang words, adding new capes to their great-coats and learning to suck a quid of tobacco and chew a wisp of straw …

Gentleman’s Garrick greatcoat and hessian boots.

Gentleman’s Garrick greatcoat and hessian boots.

Under the influence of Beau Brummel, shirts were white linen and clothing for day wear was a tightly fitting, dark coloured tailcoat with non-matching usually pale) trousers, pale waistcoat, white shirt and cravat and tall boots.

A great symbol of flair and individuality was the cravat, which required several meters of expensive cotton. Tying it took a considerable amount of time and assistance.

Brummell’s morning toilette was a long drawn out affair, often taking upwards of two hours.  He often allowed his friends to sit in the room adjoining his dressing room as he tied his neckcloth, discarding cloth after cloth until he was satisfied.

These were predominantly white, although some striped fabrics were used, and colors were more prevalent after Beau Brummel’s death, similar to ties worn today.

The Beau

The Beau

 

Neckcloth

Neckcloth

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Beaver Hats

Men's Hats

Beaver hats were a fashionable item in 18th and 19th century Europe.

Shown are the cocked hats (top left to right), the Continental Hat, the Naval Cocked Hat and the Clerical Hat; the Paris Beau, the Wellington and the D’Orsay (second row); and the Regent and an army hat (third row) (courtesy “The Beaver”, Spring 1958).

The demands for beaver fur brought the animal to the brink of extinction.

 

Men often wore silk banyan’s while relaxing at home.

 

Lord Byron wearing Banyan

Lord Byron wearing Banyan

THE VICTORIAN ERA

 The frock coat was introduced during the Victorian Period and was popular for business and formal occasions (with the tailcoat showing up in evening dress).

There was a wider variety of coats for men to choose from, including the sack jacket which later became the tuxedo jacket.

Robert Pattinson wears the Victorian version of the three-piece-suit.

Robert Pattinson wears the Victorian version of the three-piece-suit.

Victorian wider variety of coats for men

Victorian wider variety of coats for men

Tall stiff-crowned Victorian hat with rolled-edge brim

Tall stiff-crowned Victorian hat with rolled-edge brim

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This tall, stiff-crowned Victorian hat has a rolled-edge brim; worn in black silk with white tie, also worn in gray felt with black band with morning dress. The bowler hat was popular too.

The early 20th Century to the 21st Century

 

Right: Formal:

The black frock coat popular during the Victorian and Edwardian eras with silk-faced lapels, light grey waistcoat, Cashmere striped trousers, button boots, gloves, Ascot-knotted cravat, and cravat pin; April 1904.  

Comparison modern to Victorian

Comparison modern to Victorian

Left: A contemporary three-piece-suit and bowler-style hat.

 

 

 

 

 

Three piece suit continued to be popular. Image from the wonderful BBC Series, Downton Abbey.

Three piece suit continued to be popular. Image from the wonderful BBC Series, Downton Abbey.

Contrast of styles. 21st Century and 1920s.

Contrast of styles. 21st Century and 1920s.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For formal occasions, the cutaway continues to be popular.

Modern pin stripe three-piece-suit.

Modern pin stripe three-piece-suit.

Groom wearing the 21st Century version of the Victorian frock coat

Groom wearing the 21st Century version of the Victorian frock coat

 

Groom wearing the 21st Century version of the Victorian frock coat, and looking very handsome in it!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Article written by Maggi Andersen, member of The Beau Monde chapter of Romance Writers of America and member of Romance Writers of Australia.

The Reluctant Marquess

Website: http://www.maggiandersenauthor.com

Blog http://www.maggiandersen.blogspot.com

Twitter: @maggiandersen

Facebook: Maggi Andersen Author

Sources:  Georgette Heyer’s Regency World, Jennifer Kloester.

Napoleon and the Empire of Fashion, Skira.

Fashion in the time of Jane Austen, Sarah Jane Downing, Shire Library.

Images: Wikipedia

  5 Responses to “The Origins of the Modern Look Men’s Clothing by Maggi Andersen”

  1. My thanks to Suzi Love for posting this.

  2. Good overview of everything here – enjoyed reading it 🙂

  3. Thanks for a wonderful post with great illustrations.

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