The Victorian Era spanned the years during which Queen Elizabeth was the monarch of England, which were between 1837 and 1901. During this time there was an increased emphasis on formality, etiquette, modesty and having proper morals. The clothing during that time was a reflection of those values. Men of higher social standing were not considered properly dressed unless they wore a waistcoat, outerwear and headwear.
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Men wore frock coats, tailcoats and morning coats during the Victorian Era. The button-down frock coat extended to the knee and had a full skirt in the front and back. A frock coat was appropriate for either the day or night. Tailcoats, originally designed to make the wearer more comfortable while horseback riding, were generally suited for formal events. A tailcoat was long in the back and only reached the waistline in the front. A morning coat was similar to a tailcoat, but it was single-breasted.
Waistcoats, or vests, came in a variety of colours and fabrics, such as silk, velvet, brocade and wool. A man had a choice as to how he wanted to express himself with the vest, as men today do with tie colours and fabrics. Men wore waistcoats as single or double breasted, and these garments featured a minimum of two pockets. They fell near the waistline and had a collar and lapel.
A hat was an important part of Victorian men's fashion. Men wore a hat at all times when outside. Top hats were fashionable for upper class men for both formal events and daytime wear. Top hats were available in a variety of heights and could be dressed up with a band of silk just above the brim. The derby hat was another style fashionable for men. Also known as a bowler, this hat was round at the crown and had a shorter brim than a top hat.
Men wore their trousers high on the waistline at the navel. The dominant style was a flat front and because there were no belt loops on the trousers men often wore suspenders. Early in the era trousers were tapered and had a strap under the boot. Over time men's wore their trousers looser with no strap, but the inseam still tapered to the ankle.
Men's shirts were mainly white with stiff, white banded collars. Men added collars and cuffs separately to the ensemble. Shirts had a removable bib front that men could change in the event that they soiled the shirt. This was functional for Victorian times because there were no modern washing machines.
Men's underwear consisted of two separate handmade pieces made of wool, flannel or linen. The bottom piece was knee-length and fastened with a button overlay and drawstring at the back. Men wore a wool, flannel or linen shirt underneath the flannel or linen overshirt.
Men wore several styles of footwear including boots, gaiters and spats. Leather boots came in several styles: a mid-calf leather boot and a lace-up style ankle boot. Gaiters were pullover ankle boots with an elastic piece over the instep. Men of higher social standing wore spats, ankle boots available in two tones with a removable piece of fabric held in place with a row of buttons. They replaced this fabric when it was dirty.
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