Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Late Victorian Men's Clothing

As I indicated last month, my current book is set in Galveston, c. 1895. So far, I have researched settings, trolleys (streetcars), a Valentine's Day blizzard, and women's Victorian fashions. No, not cowgirls. Julia, my heroine is a big city gal, the daughter of a wealthy Houston businessman, so she dresses like a lady. Well, most of the time. She might end up riding a horse or sailing the ocean, not sure yet.
Corsario (Privateer) painting and photo by Mauricio GarcĂ­a Vega; wikipedia

Now I'm researching men's clothing in the late Victorian era. My hero, Raphael, is a time traveling privateer (a pirate commissioned by his country) from 200 years earlier. He's used to wearing knee breeches and loose shirts that tied at the throat. Seeing the strange attire worn in 1895 is shock enough; being stuffed into such a monkey suit threatens his masculinity, but he will have to get used to his new duds, like 'em or not.

So, what did Raphael end up wearing? A question I finally found the answer to today on a wonderful site, the Historical Emporium. This is a retail site selling authentic Victorian and Old West apparel, but it also offers terrific descriptions of individual articles of clothing. I would love to copy and paste what I found in the men's Victorian section, but I'd rather not be sued for plagiarism. So I'll summarize.
For more details, go here:

First, by the late Victorian era, clothing was being manufactured in factories and sold in stores and via mail-order catalogues. Men’s attire no longer had to be expensively tailored or sewn at home, although wealthy gentlemen still preferred custom tailored garments for better fit and exclusivity.
During Queen Victoria’s long reign, her son and heir Prince Edward, nicknamed “Bertie” and known as a playboy, was in modern terms a fashion icon. He traveled the world and popularized new styles. The newly rich middle classes, wishing to climb the social ladder, followed these styles, displaying wealth through clothing and possessions.
Frock coat, Victorian ers; public domain
Coats: Although the old-style frock coat gave way to the sack coat for informal day wear, the cutaway was revived in the 1880s, again becoming the choice for businessmen and gentlemen. For formal events, the tailcoat still dominated. The daring Tuxedo Coat was introduced in 1886, causing a shakeup in high society. (Raphael will likely wear a tailcoat to a formal ball.)
Cutaway coat, waistcoat, trousers & top hat; public domain
Vests: Usually called waistcoats, vests remained a staple for all classes. Shirts were basically considered undergarments and a man should not be seen in "bare shirtsleeves" by anyone other than his wife or close family.
Shirts: Since ready-to-wear clothes had become available to the public, a new shirt was quite affordable, but frequent laundering could be difficult. Detachable white collars and cuffs were vital. A proper gentleman stocked at least six collars and sets of cuffs to last a full year. They were the only part of a shirt that showed, thus hiding a dirty shirt from view. I keep thinking how nasty the man might smell. Eeuw!
Trousers: Black was the basic color for trousers, although other colors did appear. The zipper wasn't yet invented; pants featured button flies and suspender rivets. Belts did not become popular until the 1920s. For activities such as hunting, woolen breeches were worn, and knickers for sporting events. And as you western lovers know, Levi Strauss introduced denim jeans in 1873.
Hats: Tall black hats still prevailed for evening wear, but many different hat styles were available for other occasions. Derby hats remained popular; the stiff Homburg found favor during the 1880s among gentlemen and businessmen. Straw boaters might be worn during warm weather months.
Ties: Bow ties were popular during the late Victorian era, but the four-in-hand and ascot also gained popularity. Other types of ties were also mentioned in the article. Neckwear was a way to express individual style.
The article concludes: “As Victoria's reign ended and Edward ascended to the throne, men's fashion began to reflect his style even more. His preference for tweedy Norfolk jackets and Homburg hats figure prominently in men's fashion at the turn of the century.”

While we love our cowboys, it’s helpful to remember not all westerners lived on ranches, prospected for gold and silver or robbed banks and trains. A number lived in towns and cities, and they enjoyed keeping up with fashions just as we do today.
Lyn Horner is a multi-published, award-winning author of western historical romance and paranormal romantic suspense novels, all spiced with sensual romance. She is a former fashion illustrator and art instructor who resides in Fort Worth, Texas – “Where the West Begins” - with her husband and a very spoiled cat. As well as crafting passionate love stories, Lyn enjoys reading, gardening, genealogy, visiting with family and friends, and cuddling her furry, four-legged children.

Amazon Author Page: (universal link)
Newsletter:  Lyn’s Romance Gazette
Website:  Lyn Horner’s Corner 


  1. What a great piece, Lynn. I will have to go to the original article/resource to better know what Homburgs looked like or the difference between Knickers, breeches and britches. Thanks for a fun blog.

    1. Arletta, I'm delighted you enjoyed reading about Victorian men's fashions. Thanks for popping in.

  2. Lyn, you've taken on writing quite a story! Sounds fascinating. Thanks for the historical clothing Web site, good reference.

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