Wednesday, May 31, 2006

What Victorian Gents Wore - Part III

Most Victorian gentlemen owned four different types of coat to fit every occasion. These consisted of the business coat, frock coat, dress coat and overcoat. The business suit, otherwise known as the sack suit, would be considered leisure wear for a gentleman, but farmers, laborers or cowboys would wear sack suits for dress occasions, such as church.
The sack coat was large and baggy in the 1850s, then became more fitted through the 1860s and beyond. This garment was popular with working class men because it was affordable.
The frock coat could be single or double breasted, usually black, and longer than the sack, coming to just above the knee. The frock coat was worn with contrasting pants and a top hat, although in the South and West low crowned hats were often worn instead.
Vests were worn with the frock coat. In the 1860s, colorful vests of Chinese silk were worn. After that, black, white or gray vests became the norm.
For evening wear, gentlemen wore a black tail coat, white bow tie, black or white vest, black trousers and a heavily starched white shirt.
In harsh winter weather, a greatcoat was a necessity. This was a full-length overcoat made of wool in dark or drab colors. The coat had an attached single or double cape over the shoulders.
Men also wore raincoats made of oilcloth and water-proofed wool; capes worn as formal wear by the well-to-do; and shawls, which for men were plain, functional garments. Lincoln kept his shawl with him all the time. Fur coats made from Buffalo or other animal hides were worn in coldest weather by those who could afford them. Sweaters were popular with farmers, homesteaders, and immigrants. These were knitted at home from wool.
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