Victorian fashion comprises the various fashions and trends that emerged and grew in province throughout the Victorian era, a period which lasted from June 1837 to January 1901. Covering nearly two thirds of the 19th century, the 63-year reign would see numerous changes in fashion.
During the Victorian Age, doctors announced that they thought that sea water was very good for one's health. The doctors even recommended it for drinking, but they recommended it more for bathing, so began frequent trips to the beach. Up until the 1870's, men thoroughly enjoyed the feeling of bathing naked. [...] Two years later, however, it was no longer suitable for men to swim in the ocean naked. Men were now expected to wear at least some sort of drawers, but that soon became too immodest and bathing suits were adopted (Hibbert 98). A photograph from Antiques by Reflections of the Past, (19 October 1998 ) shows suits covering a good deal of the man's body. The sleeves cover to just below the elbow and the shorts cover to just above the knee.
A new addition to style would be the over coat. The most elegant man in Europe, Gabriel d'Orsay, got stuck in a rainstorm and had bought a paletot, (a rough popular jacket), from a sailor to keep from getting soaked. Before Gabriel knew it, there was a misunderstanding in the fashion magazines, and the garment was accepted by the Dandies, (elegant men who determined the fashion of the time).
A smoking cap or lounging cap was popular as informal gentleman’s wear from the late 1840s through the 1880s. They were originally worn to keep the head warm in drafty rooms but continued to be in style long after improvements in heating eliminated their necessity. The smoking cap was the perfect gift for a young lady to embroider for her fiancé or for a wife to create for her husband. This head gear for at home was brightly colored, ornate, and often bordering on gaudy. They were frequently made at home and were uncomplicated in construction, typically fashioned of wool, silk or velvet and topped with a multicolored tassel. Notably, the Victorian smoking cap showcased a multiplicity of Victorian needlework skills and techniques.
It was not until 1850 that the top hat really took off when Prince Albert starting wearing it in public and it became the fashion rage. The Victorian top hat was really making a statement, not merely being worn as part of a costume. Gentlemen were simply saying they were important and classy.
It was considered impolite society for a gentleman to appear in his shirt sleeves before a lady other than his wife, so Victorian men nearly always wore wore an informal "sack coat" during the day. The sack coat was a loose-fitting, single-breasted garment appropriate for travel or business, which was distinctive for its small collar, short lapels, a fastened top button close to the neck, moderately rounded hems, flap or welt pockets on the hips, a welt pocket on the chest and a slightly baggy appearance. Men's formal attire consisted of a top hat, dapper cutaway coat or frockcoat, waistcoat, cravat and trousers.
By the 1840's, the colors grew darker for coats and pants, and by the 60's the standard color would be black. Meanwhile, the dresscoat became less and less everyday wear. It moved to the evening and became today's white tie and tails. During the day, men now wore the frock coat, a long, almost to the knee garment of black that was cut to a uniform length all around. This was the coat which prime ministers and all sober folk appeared in until the end of the period. Games and cycling were the chief influences in modifying men's clothing of this period. In the late 1870's, knickers came into fashion. Men wore them with a Norfolk jacket of the same material first, but then adapted the costume to hunting, hiking and young boys. The process of standardization was helpful in promoting cheap, ready-made clothing, but the old 'occupational' garbs fell even more out of use as workmen of all kinds began to dress like shabbier clerks.
Because the era spans over sixty years there is no such thing as typical Victorian men's evening dress. Instead there are three fairly distinct phases: •the early period from about 1840 to 1860 is notable for the gradual disappearance of Regency flamboyance •the middle period from about 1860 to 1880 – also known as the beginning of the American Gilded Age – is notable for a strict codification of standards •the late period from about 1880 to 1900 – the second half of the Gilded Age – is notable for the introduction of the dinner jacket and the consequent two-tier evening dress code
Men’s styles did change during the Victorian period, but did not see the radical changes of the women’s fashions. Frock coats that fell to the knee were popular from the 1830’s onward and were replaced by suits in the latter part of the century. Casual wear became increasingly popular in the 1840’s, but this casual clothing did include wearing a necktie and scarf. Shirts were made of linen, mainly white, gray or black. Waistcoats and cummerbunds provided a touch of color to formal clothing and the dressing gowns and smoking jackets were heavily embroidered in oriental designs.
This is an important period in men’s dress because, during it, France definitely established herself as arbiter of the mode. Also, it was from this period on that the evolution of men’s costume as we know it today; the tunic, pour point or doublet phased into the vest or waistcoat, the justaucorps or jerkin into the jacket and the cloak into the topcoat! Although French refugee couturiers in England during the Victorian Era continued to create fashions for women, English tailors seized the ascendancy in taste and design and continued their hold to the present day.
…the tailor stumbles upon a curious oversight in Victorian texts. While nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century commentary on women's fashion is abandon, men's sartorial habits seem hardly to have been noticed. Victorian British fiction reflects an implicit disregard for men's dress, and novelists and their male protagonists regularly insist on an ignorance of, and a conscious distancing from, any deep understanding of fashion. The costume and physical appearance of male characters of the middle and upper classes are rarely described in detail, and many authors consistently rely on vague - albeit loaded - adjectives such as neat, clean, simple, understated, subtle, and effortless to characterize "proper" male dress.