The Writer’s Guide to 1830s Men’s Fashion

Men’s fashions during the 1830s reflected the trends in women’s fashion but in a subtler way. Early in the decade, the stylish silhouette was one with wide shoulders, a nipped-in waist, and flaring coattails. Gradually, the shoulders slimmed, and the waistline lengthened.

For an overview of fashion for the entire 19th century, please read my Writer’s Guide to 19th Century Fashion.

The Prince of Dandies

Alfred Guillaume Gabriel, Count d’Orsay, also known as the “Prince of Dandies”, brought a French flair to the ascetic of the dandy. An aristocrat from France, he moved to London in 1830 with his wife and her mother, Lady Blessington, who was also his patron. He created quite a splash in London society with his extravagant and excessive style. He famously wore five pairs of gloves throughout a day, each one a different color and scented with perfume. He displayed his sumptuous waistcoats, accessorized with multiple gold chains, by throwing back the lapels of his coats. He ran in select social circles and his house was a sought-after gathering place for the elites of the artistic, literary, social, and political spheres. [1]

Alfred Guillaume Gabriel, Count d’Orsay. Photo source.

Underwear

White, high-collared shirts of cotton or linen were still the standard. Those worn during the day had tucks while evening shirts had frills down the front. [2]

The male corset was also discretely used to achieve the dramatic slim waist that was fashionable during this period. Padding was subtly added to coats and waistcoats to expand the chest and shoulders. [3] This padding disappeared after 1837 in favor of a slimmer silhouette. [4]

The Suit

The suit did not change much from the previous decade.

The dress coat, also known as the tailcoat, was standard for formal daytime and evening events while the frock coat was popular for casual daytime affairs. [5] The morning coat, a variation of the dress coat, was worn for early daytime occasions and for riding. [6] All coats were usually made of wool in dark colors such as black, navy, brown, and green.

Waistcoats switched from the standing collar to a shawl collar. Later, they would change again to a notched collar. Just like the previous decades, they were the most elaborate part of a man’s dress and more than one could be worn. [7]

Light-colored trousers were the standard for daytime and could be paired with any of the coats. [8] They were narrow with an in-step strap to keep the line straight. The fly-front began to replace the fall-front. Cossacks were a baggier style inspired by Russian dress that had wide legs that tapered to the ankle and a pleated front. The standard for evening was blank pantaloons, an older, more fitted style. [9] However, light-colored pantaloons could be paired with tall Hessian boots for riding. [10] Breeches were still required for court dress and would remain so throughout the century.

Two gentlemen wearing a dress coat (left) and frock coat (right). Photo source.
The man and boy on the left are wearing trousers with in-step straps. The man on the right is wearing pantaloons with Hessian boots. Photo source.

Outerwear

Greatcoats were worn during the day. They were long with wide sleeves. [11] Cloaks were the outwear of choice for evening.

A greatcoat being worn by the man on the right.
Photo source.

Hairstyles & Headwear

Curly hair with sideburns was still a popular style. Straight hair parted to the side was also trendy.

The top hat was still the standard for daytime and evening headwear. By the end of the decade, silk was overtaking beaver felt as the standard material. [12] The crown was straighter than the previous decades. The “gibus hat,” a collapsible top hat invented by Antione Gibus, was patented in 1835. [13]

Footwear

The low, slipper-like shoes and the boot styles of the previous decade were still the dominate footwear.

Accessories

Neckwear was an essential element with the choice being either a stock or a cravat. The “scarf cravat,” also known as the “waterfall” was a large cravat that filled in the entire neckline and was secured with a decorative pin. [14]

Gloves were an essential accessory.

Canes and walking sticks were also popular and commonly seen in fashion plates and paintings of the day.

The watch fobs were steadily being replaced by watch chains. One style was known as the Albert chain, after Prince Albert, the consort to Queen Victoria. It came in single and double variations.

A gentleman sporting a large cravat, gloves, top hat, gold watch chains, and a cane. Antoine Julien Meffre-Rouzan of New Orleans painted in Paris, 1833. Photo source.

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Copyright © 2021 Rebecca Shedd. All rights reserved.

[1] Foulkes, Nick. Last of the Dandies: The Scandalous Life and Escapades of Count d’Orsay. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2014 ch. 14.
[2] Tortora, Phyllis G. and Keith Eubank. Survey of Historic Costume, 5th ed. New York: Fairchild Books, 2010 p. 341.
[3] Laver, James. Costume and Fashion: A Concise History, 5th ed. London: Thames & Hudson, Ltd, 2012 p. 164.
Waugh, Norah. The Cut of Men’s Clothes: 1600-1900. New York and London: Routledge, Taylor and Francis Group, 2015 p. 113.
[4] Tortora, Phyllis G. and Keith Eubank. Survey of Historic Costume, 5th ed. New York: Fairchild Books, 2010 p. 287–89.
[5] Byrde, Penelope. Nineteenth Century Fashion. London: Batsford, 1992 p. 9595-96.
[6] Tortora, Phyllis G. and Keith Eubank. Survey of Historic Costume, 5th ed. New York: Fairchild Books, 2010 p. 341.
Waugh, Norah. The Cut of Men’s Clothes: 1600-1900. New York and London: Routledge, Taylor and Francis Group, 2015 p.113.
[7] Waugh, Norah. The Cut of Men’s Clothes: 1600-1900. New York and London: Routledge, Taylor and Francis Group, 2015 p. 115.
Byrde, Penelope. Nineteenth Century Fashion. London: Batsford, 1992 p 97.
[8] Byrde, Penelope. Nineteenth Century Fashion. London: Batsford, 1992 p 95.
[9] Waugh, Norah. The Cut of Men’s Clothes: 1600-1900. New York and London: Routledge, Taylor and Francis Group, 2015 p. 116.
[10] Byrde, Penelope. Nineteenth Century Fashion. London: Batsford, 1992 p 97-98.
[11] Tortora, Phyllis G. and Keith Eubank. Survey of Historic Costume, 5th ed. New York: Fairchild Books, 2010 p. 287–89
[12] Ginsburg, Madeliene. The Hat: Trends and Traditions. London: Studio Editions, 1990 p. 86.
[13] Byrde, Penelope. Nineteenth Century Fashion. London: Batsford, 1992 p 98.
[14] Byrde, Penelope. Nineteenth Century Fashion. London: Batsford, 1992 p 97.
Foster, Vanda. A Visual History of Costume: The Nineteenth Century. London: BT Batsford, 1984 p. 52.

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