The Writer’s Guide to 1810s Men’s Fashion

While women’s Victorian fashions changed wildly between the decades, men’s styles had a more measured and lengthy progression. Each decade saw some changes from the previous one. It is easy to look at men’s fashions from this decade and see the influence they had on the modern suit.

A splendid example of this clothing in action is Zack Pinsent. I recommend looking him up on YouTube.

For an overview of fashion for the entire 19th century, please read my Writer’s Guide to 19th Century Fashion. Over the next couple of weeks I will look  into each decade with greater depth.

Influences

Beau Brummel still had an outsized influence on men’s fashions during this period, but his social standing had taken a big hit with his falling out with the Prince Regent in 1811. Despite the loss of his patron and the attending royal favor, he remained in society and stayed relevant, an unusual achievement. [1] He ended up racking up enormous debts trying to keep up with his aristocratic friends. In 1816, he fled to France, leaving behind a debt of thousands of pounds. He was committed to a debtor’s prison in 1835 and died broke and insane from syphilis in 1840 in Caen.

Underwear

A white shirt with a ruffled or pleated front and a standing collar was still the norm. [2] Some men discretely wore male corsets to achieve the svelte fashionable figure.

The Suit

The suit continued to be the staple of menswear. The silhouette changing slightly after 1811 with the waist dropping and padding added to the shoulders. [3] Impeccable fit was still of utmost importance. Color and embellishment continued to retreat. The primary form of adornment was that inspired by the military fashions of the day. [4] The ditto suit or a three-piece suit with all elements made of the same fabric was unusual. [5]

The dress coat and the riding coat continued to be the two dominate styles. Toward the end of the decade, darts were added to the riding coat to achieve a smoother fit and eliminate the unsightly crease at the waist. [6] Around 1815, the frock coat was introduced and was worn for informal daytime affairs. It had knee-length tails and a fitted waist, which eventually incorporated a waist seam. The frock coat likely evolved from the greatcoat or military uniforms and became the staple of the respectable Victorian gentleman’s wardrobe. [7]

Waistcoats continued to be cut straight across at the waist and were single or double breasted.

The 1810s was an overlap period, during which both breeches and pantaloons were worn. Breeches were almost unchanged from the 18th century. They were snug with a fall-front and closed below the knee with buttons and buckles, and were worn for evening events. Pantaloons were longer, usually extending to the calf or ankle. [8] They were cut on the fabric’s bias, providing some stretch that helped to achieve a figure-hugging fit. Trousers also existed and were growing in popularity. They differed from pantaloons in their fit since they were looser around the calf. Starting shorter, by 1817, trousers reached the shoe. The instep strap, used to keep a tight line, is attributed to Beau Brummell. [9] During the middle of the decade, a style of trousers known as “Cossacks” saw a brief popularity. They were inspired by the visit to London of the Russian Czar and his troops in 1814. “Cossacks” were voluminous and pleated into the waistband. [10]

An 1812 portrait of Daniel la Motte, a Baltimore, Maryland, merchant, and landowner. He is wearing a frilled shirt, white waistcoat, and fall-front breeches. Photo source.
A man wearing a double-breasted dress coat and a white waistcoat, shirt, and cravat. Portrait of an Artist by Michel Martin Drolling, 1819. Photo source.
Cossack trousers. Metropolitan Museum of Art. Photo source.

Hairstyles and Headwear

The hairstyles of the previous decade continued to be popular as well as the top hat, which was usually made of beaver felt. [10] The two-sided chapeau-bras was a stylish choice for evening. [11]

Accessories

The cravat continued to be a gentleman’s most important accessory. [12] This obsession was satirized in the publications of the day.

Watches on a fob continued to be stylish.

A cartoon satirizing tight pantaloons, short coats, and huge cravats. Les Modernes Incroyables, French, 1810. Photo source.

Shoes

Several styles of boots were immensely popular and show the influence that military uniforms had on civilian fashion. Hessian boots with tassels and heart-shaped tops were a favorite style, with the pantaloons tucked into them. They also showed off a man’s shapely calves. [13]

However, low shoes were a requirement for evening.

Formal evening dress. Fashion Plate: “Full dress of a Gentleman” for “The Repository of Arts”, 1810. Photo source.

I hope this was helpful. Let me know if you have questions or suggestions by using the Contact Me form on my website or writing a comment. I post every Friday and would be grateful if you would share my content.

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Let’s get writing!

Copyright © 2021 Rebecca Shedd. All rights reserved.

[1] Campbell, Kathleen (1948). Beau Brummell. London: Hammond.
[2] Tortora, Phyllis G. and Keith Eubank. Survey of Historic Costume, 5th ed. New York: Fairchild Books, 2010 page 319.
le Bourhis, Katell, ed. The Age of Napoleon: Costume from Revolution to Empire 1789-1815. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1989 page 112.
[3] le Bourhis, Katell, ed. The Age of Napoleon: Costume from Revolution to Empire 1789-1815. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1989 page 112.
[4] le Bourhis, Katell, ed. The Age of Napoleon: Costume from Revolution to Empire 1789-1815. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1989 page 112, 117.
[5] Tortora, Phyllis G. and Keith Eubank. Survey of Historic Costume, 5th ed. New York: Fairchild Books, 2010 page 319.
[6] Waugh, Norah. The Cut of Men’s Clothes: 1600-1900. New York and London: Routledge, Taylor and Francis Group, 2015 page 113.
[14] Waugh, Norah. The Cut of Men’s Clothes: 1600-1900. New York and London: Routledge, Taylor and Francis Group, 2015 page 114-115.
Byrde, Penelope. Nineteenth Century Fashion. London: Batsford, 1992 page 92-93.
Davidson, Hilary. Dress in the Age of Jane Austen: Regency Fashion. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2019 page 28.
[7] Byrde, Penelope. Nineteenth Century Fashion. London: Batsford, 1992 page 93.
Johnston, Lucy, Marion Kite, Helen Persson, Richard Davis, and Leonie Davis. Nineteenth Century Fashion in Detail. London: V&A Publications, 2005 page 14.
[8] Ashelford, Jane. The Art of Dress: Clothes and Society, 1500-1914. London: National Trust, 1996 page 186.
Byrde, Penelope. Nineteenth Century Fashion. London: Batsford, 1992 page 93-94.
[9] Davidson, Hilary. Dress in the Age of Jane Austen: Regency Fashion. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2019 page 232.
Waugh, Norah. The Cut of Men’s Clothes: 1600-1900. New York and London: Routledge, Taylor and Francis Group, 2015 page 116.
[10] Ginsburg, Madeliene. The Hat: Trends and Traditions. London: Studio Editions, 1990 page 85.
le Bourhis, Katell, ed. The Age of Napoleon: Costume from Revolution to Empire 1789-1815. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1989 page 112-113.
[11] Davidson, Hilary. Dress in the Age of Jane Austen: Regency Fashion. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2019 page 200, 226.
[12] Waugh, Norah. The Cut of Men’s Clothes: 1600-1900. New York and London: Routledge, Taylor and Francis Group, 2015 page 119.
[13] Ashelford, Jane. The Art of Dress: Clothes and Society, 1500-1914. London: National Trust, 1996 page 186.
Johnston, Lucy, Marion Kite, Helen Persson, Richard Davis, and Leonie Davis. Nineteenth Century Fashion in Detail. London: V&A Publications, 2005 page 14.

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