The Writer’s Guide to 1890s Men’s Fashion

Many of the trends from the 1880s continued into the 1890s. The trendy silhouette was slim. Fashions were becoming more informal and styles that were considered informal just a few decades prior were now appropriate for formal evening occasions or the professional office. Sportswear became important with the popularity of pastimes such as tennis, rowing, and especially bicycling.

For an overview of fashion for the entire 19th century, please read my Writer’s Guide to 19th Century Fashion. Another example of the clothing from this period is HBO’s “The Nevers.” Although it’s a fantasy show, the costuming is quite accurate.

Silhouette & Trends

A long lean silhouette was the fashion. Standing collars and tall crowned hats were seen in this decade in keeping with the slender look. However, the cut of trousers became more relaxed. [1]

An 1890 portrait of painter John Singer Sargent showing the long lean silhouette of the decade. Photo source.

Underwear

Shirts were commonly cotton and were heavily starched during this period. Collars were as high as three inches (7.62 cms) although they usually still featured turned down wingtips. [2] Shirt studs were a popular decoration. For informal events, striped or colorful shirts became popular. [3]

Readymade underwear was now available in department stores.

Daywear

The frock coat was still the most formal daytime option. However, the less formal morning coat was gradually replacing it. [4] The level of formality was determined mainly by the fabric used, ranging from formal dark colors to casual tweed. The morning coat suit was becoming the standard wear of businessmen. The lounge or sack coat was the most casual daytime option. It was a favorite of the working class although it was also gaining popularity with the upper class as a casual daytime alternative. [5] Three-piece or ditto suits made of the same fabric were common.

Waistcoats or vests, as the Americans called them, began to be made in colorful fabrics again. They were generally single breasted and could come with or without lapels.

1899 American fashions showing the various daytime and evening coats. Photo source.

Sportswear

Just like the ladies, sports were popular with men, and they had wardrobes to accommodate them. [6]

The reefer jacket without a waistcoat was worn at the seaside or for sporting. [7]

The Norfolk jacket was popular for shooting since its vertical pleats provided range of motion. It was commonly paired with breeches, called knickerbockers by the Americans, and boots or shoes with gaiters.

Lounge or sack suits made of light or striped fabric were popular choices for yachting, tennis, and the seaside. They were often paired with a straw boater hat. [8] A variation of the lounge jacket was the blazer, which was commonly made in navy blue, bold stripes, or bright colors, and was popular for sailing and the seaside.

The cycling craze was also enjoyed by men and any of the above options were acceptable. [9] If a Norfolk jacket and breeches were worn, it was usually with stockings and low shoes.

A 1898 fashion plate showing sporting styles. Photo source.

Eveningwear

A dark tailcoat paired with a white tie was still the standard for evening. The dinner jacket, known as the tuxedo by the Americans, was becoming an acceptable option for more informal evening affairs such as a dinner at home or an outing to the gentleman’s club. [10] It was a gussied-up version of the sack or lounge coat that had been introduced in the previous decade. [11}

An 1890 painting of painter John Singer Sargent in formal evening dress. Photo source.

Outerwear

Knee-length topcoats and calf-length overcoats were still common. They often had collars of fur or velvet.

An 1895 painting showing a man wearing a tan topcoat over a gray suit. Photo source.

Hairstyles & Headwear

Hair was short and usually parted to the side. Pointed beards and full moustaches were also popular.

The top hat was still necessary for formal affairs. The bowler was a popular informal option. The crown become rather tall. [12] The fedora was introduced during this decade. [13] It had a soft structure and a low creased crown. The prince of Wales, Edward VII, popularized a variation of the fedora known as a homburg. [14]

Footwear

Short ankle boots were the common shoe. The lower portion was usually leather with a contrasting cloth upper. They could be laced, buttoned, or secured by an elastic section on the side. A pointed toe became the fashion during this decade. Shoes normally came in brown or black although white was introduced in the 1890s for summer. Socks were black, even with white shoes. Sock suspenders, also known as shirt stays, were introduced during this decade and were elastic bands that clipped to the top of the sock and the bottom of the shirt.

Rubber and canvas shoes were worn for sports and were the ancestor of the modern sneaker.

Low laced pumps were the standard for evening. [15]

Accessories

Ascots or neckties done in a four-in-hand knot were the standard neckwear. They were usually secured with a stick pin. The bowtie returned to popularity during this decade.

Other popular accessories included the pocket watch, the cane, and cufflinks. Gloves were worn for daytime and evening although it was increasingly becoming acceptable to forego them.

Spats became a popular accessory during this decade.


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Copyright © 2021 Rebecca Shedd. All rights reserved.

[1] Shrimpton, Jayne. Victorian Fashion. Oxford: Shire Publications, 2016 p. 38-40.
[2] Tortora, Phyllis G. and Keith Eubank. Survey of Historic Costume, 5th ed. New York: Fairchild Books, 2010 p. 401.
[3] Laver, James. Costume and Fashion: A Concise History, 5th ed. London: Thames & Hudson, Ltd, 2012 p. 206.
[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 39.
[6] Laver, James. Costume and Fashion: A Concise History, 5th ed. London: Thames & Hudson, Ltd, 2012 p. 202.
[7] Laver, James. Costume and Fashion: A Concise History, 5th ed. London: Thames & Hudson, Ltd, 2012 p. 202.
Shrimpton, Jayne. Victorian Fashion. Oxford: Shire Publications, 2016 p 40.
[8] Shrimpton, Jayne. Victorian Fashion. Oxford: Shire Publications, 2016 p 40.
[9] Laver, James. Costume and Fashion: A Concise History, 5th ed. London: Thames & Hudson, Ltd, 2012 p. 202-204.
Tortora, Phyllis G. and Keith Eubank. Survey of Historic Costume, 5th ed. New York: Fairchild Books, 2010 p. 401.
[10] Laver, James. Costume and Fashion: A Concise History, 5th ed. London: Thames & Hudson, Ltd, 2012 p. 205.
[11] Tortora, Phyllis G. and Keith Eubank. Survey of Historic Costume, 5th ed. New York: Fairchild Books, 2010 p. 401-402.
[12] Shrimpton, Jayne. Victorian Fashion. Oxford: Shire Publications, 2016 p 38-41.
[13] Tortora, Phyllis G. and Keith Eubank. Survey of Historic Costume, 5th ed. New York: Fairchild Books, 2010 p. 403.
[14] Hughes, Clair. Hats. London: Bloomsbury, 2017 p.44.
[15] https://victorianweb.org/art/costume/nunn23.html

7 Comments on “The Writer’s Guide to 1890s Men’s Fashion”

  1. Thank you for any other wonderful post. Where else may just anybody get that kind of information in such a perfect way of writing? I’ve a presentation subsequent week, and I am on the search for such information.

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