The Writer’s Guide to 1880s Men’s Fashion

Many of the trends for men’s fashions from the 1870s continued into the 1880s. The overall silhouette continued to slim and there was an emphasis on reserved styles. This decade also saw the introduction of several new articles of clothing.

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

Silhouette

The fashionable silhouette of the decade was long and lean. [1] Coats were tailored close to the body, sleeves were narrow, and trousers were straight and slim.

A photograph showing the lean silhouette of the 1880s. Photo source.

Underwear

A cotton shirt was the standard first layer. Usually, the points of the collar were pressed down into wings although tall, stiffened collars came into fashion. Collars and cuffs were commonly removeable.

Cotton or linen drawers were worn under trousers and the “union suit,” also known as “long johns” were popular.

Daywear

The frock coat remained the most formal choice for daytime and featured a waist seam and full skirts. [2] The morning or cutaway coat was a step down in formality. It had a waist seam and the front gently sloped towards the back. Depending on the fabric used and the trousers it was paired with, the morning coat could range from formal in black to informal in tweed. [3] The most casual daytime option was the sack or lounge coat. It had a relaxed fit with no waist seam and could be single or double breasted. [4] All three styles buttoned quite high, usually hiding the waistcoat, if one was worn at all.

If a waistcoat was worn, it was commonly made of matching fabric to the coat.

Trousers were straight and lean. They could be made of the same fabric as the coat and waistcoat or a different complimenting color. Subtle patterns, such pinstripes, were worn.

An 1882 fashion plate showing, from left to right, a frock coat, morning coat, and lounge coat. Photo source.

Sportswear

Sports such as hunting, rowing, and tennis were widespread and a popular outfit for these activities was a blazer and light flannel trousers. [5] Bright colors and bold stripes on the blazer was fashionable.

Reefer jackets from the previous decade were still trendy for summer sports and picnics. The Norfolk jacket, with a pleated back and cloth belt, became popular for country pursuits such as hunting and shooting. It was frequently paired with knee-breeches and gaiters. [6]

Tennis players wearing bold striped blazers. Photo source.

Eveningwear

The uniform for evening was still the tailcoat, a double-breasted waistcoat, dark trousers, and a white tie. The notched collar was replaced by a rolled satin collar.

The tuxedo or dinner jacket was introduced during this decade as a less formal evening option. [7] It was a dressier version of the lounge jacket.

An 1883 portrait of a man in evening attire. Arrangement in Flesh Colour and Black: Portrait of Theodore Duret. Photo source.

Outer Garments

Knee-length topcoats and calf-length overcoats were the most common options for outerwear. They often had contrasting collars of velvet or fur.

By this decade, the working class had largely adopted corduroy jackets and trousers and had given up their smock frocks.

A topcoat with a velvet collar. Photo source.

Hairstyles & Headwear

Hairstyles barely changed from the 1870s with a short side-part and manicured facial hair being the norm.

The silk top hat was the standard for evening although it is seen during the day. The bowler was worn exclusively during the day. The crowns of bowlers became quite high during this period. [8]

A high-crowned bowler. Photo source.

Footwear

Low laced shoes in black and brown were common.

Accessories

The necktie and bow tie were one of the few spots of color remaining in men’s fashions. They were usually secured with a tie or stick pin. [9] Other accessories such as pocket watches and canes were still practical and popular. Gloves were worn but it was becoming more acceptable to go without them, especially for day.


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Copyright © 2021 Rebecca Shedd. All rights reserved.

[1] Shrimpton, Jayne. Victorian Fashion. Oxford: Shire Publications, 2016 p. 38.
[2] Cumming, Valerie ed., The Dictionary of Fashion History. New York: Berg, 2010 p. 87.
Laver, James. Costume and Fashion: A Concise History, 5th ed. London: Thames & Hudson, Ltd, 2012 p. 202.
[3] Shrimpton, Jayne. Victorian Fashion. Oxford: Shire Publications, 2016 p. 39.
[4] Tortora, Phyllis G. and Keith Eubank. Survey of Historic Costume, 5th ed. New York: Fairchild Books, 2010 p. 401.
[5] Shrimpton, Jayne. Victorian Fashion. Oxford: Shire Publications, 2016 p. 40.
[6] Tortora, Phyllis G. and Keith Eubank. Survey of Historic Costume, 5th ed. New York: Fairchild Books, 2010 p. 401.
Laver, James. Costume and Fashion: A Concise History, 5th ed. London: Thames & Hudson, Ltd, 2012 p. 202, 204.
[7] Tortora, Phyllis G. and Keith Eubank. Survey of Historic Costume, 5th ed. New York: Fairchild Books, 2010 p. 401-402.
Waugh, Norah. The Cut of Men’s Clothes: 1600-1900. New York and London: Routledge, Taylor and Francis Group, 2015 p. 115.
[8] Shrimpton, Jayne. Victorian Fashion. Oxford: Shire Publications, 2016 p. 38.
[9] Tortora, Phyllis G. and Keith Eubank. Survey of Historic Costume, 5th ed. New York: Fairchild Books, 2010 p. 401.
Shrimpton, Jayne. Victorian Fashion. Oxford: Shire Publications, 2016 p. 37-38.

5 Comments on “The Writer’s Guide to 1880s Men’s Fashion”

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    Liked by 1 person

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