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Clothes Make the Man

Gail Cariou

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Introduction:

Gail Cariou, 2003

Frock coat, morning coat, waistcoat, tuxedo . . . All these garments were familiar to every fashionable man in the 1890s. Only the tuxedo (trendy 100 years ago) has endured as a classic symbol of the fashionable man. Today the latest fashion for some men means Versace or Parasuco. For others, it means a favourite motorcycle jacket or beloved Canadiens' hockey jersey. Still, despite evidence to the contrary, few men are willing to admit to more than a slight interest in fashion.

During the 18th century, men's interest in fashion flourished. Fashionable men displayed their wealth, taste and social class by wearing extravagant clothing in brilliant colours. Men's exquisitely decorated coats and waistcoats vied for attention with women's elaborate gowns.

In the early 19th century, fashion became associated with women's interests. Fashion was no longer considered an appropriate concern for men. Publicly, men claimed indifference to fashion, but continued to express power, class, wealth and individuality through their clothing. For the past two centuries, dark colours and severe styles, thought to be consistent with the serious "masculine" pursuits of business and politics, dominated men's wardrobes. Too keen an interest in fashion was considered unmanly, but men still found ways to express themselves through their clothing.

This tour looks at the clothing worn by fashionable, well-to-do Montreal men in the late 19th century. Their wardrobes reveal much about changing attitudes that influenced men's fashion choices.

Definitions of masculinity have evolved, and so have definitions of appropriate clothing for men. As the 21st century unfolds, the role of men continues to change. How will these changes be reflected in their wardrobes? How fashionable is too fashionable--for a man?


M972.51.1-2
© McCord Museum
Coat and waistcoat
About 1775, 18th century
121 cm
Gift of Mrs. Ludlow Haskell
M972.51.1-2
© McCord Museum

Keys to History:

In the 18th century, fashion was considered an entirely legitimate interest for men, consistent with prevailing notions of masculinity. Men of wealth and influence devoted their attention to fashion, just as women did.

Fashions worn by the nobility of the French court dominated Europe, and to a lesser degree, England. It was not only fashionable but de rigueur for wealthy men to advertise their status by wearing costly silks, laces and embroideries. Styles worn by élite men filtered downward through the social ranks. Fashionable Canadian men followed the lead of their European and English counterparts.

By the end of the 18th century, however, this elaborate style of dress for men was on the wane. Less than 100 years later, it was all but obsolete.

What:

Silk coats and waistcoats, with co-ordinating floral silk embroidery, were worn with plain silk breeches, usually in the same fabric as the coat.

Where:

Coats this elaborate were worn at court or to formal balls or dinners. This coat was probably of European origin.

When:

The cutaway front and shorter waistcoat date these garments to 1770-90.

Who:

Professional embroiderers produced floral masterpieces in silk thread on men's coats and waistcoats in the 18th century.

M2002X.6.1
© McCord Museum
Print
Journal des dames et des modes
1828, 19th century
Paper
19 x 13 cm
M2002X.6.1
© McCord Museum

Keys to History:

Over the course of the early 19th century, social pressures to keep the spheres of men and women separate gradually consigned fashion to women. A keen interest in fashion was considered unmanly.

The contrast between men and women's clothing became increasingly obvious. Dark shades and lack of ostentation, thought to be consistent with the serious and "manly" pursuits of business and politics, dominated men's wardrobes. Colours and fabrics once worn by both men and women became associated solely with femininity.

What:

This early-19th-century fashion plate contrasts the sombre yet elegant man's clothing with the exuberant frills of his female companions.

Where:

Men's fashion plates were usually found in specialized tailoring journals, but were rare in women's magazines. This one appeared in the Journal des Dames et des Modes.

When:

This fashion plate is dated November 1828.

Who:

A man's tailor would frequently draw his attention to fashion plates. This one, appearing in a woman's magazine, might have been brought to his notice at home.

I-27904.1
© McCord Museum
Photograph
Judge Monk's group, Montreal, QC, 1867
William Notman (1826-1891)
1867, 19th century
Silver salts on paper mounted on paper - Albumen process
10.2 x 14 cm
Purchase from Associated Screen News Ltd.
I-27904.1
© McCord Museum

Keys to History:

As definitions of masculinity evolved throughout the 19th century, men conformed to the increasingly dominant social belief that they should not be interested in fashion. The sombre colours and unobtrusive styles that had begun to dominate men's wardrobes earlier in the century became entrenched during the last half of the century.

An 1860s etiquette manual cautioned that: "The dress of a gentleman should be such as not to excite any special observation, unless it be for neatness and propriety. The utmost care should be exercised to avoid even the appearance of desiring to attract attention."

Counselled against even appearing to be interested in fashion, men were constrained to express their sense of style much more subtly than before.

References
Arthur Martine, Martine's Hand-Book of Etiquette, and Guide to True Politeness (New York: Dick and Fitzgerald, 1866), p. 48.

What:

The clothing worn by these men exemplifies the restraint that overtook men's fashions during the last half of the 19th century.

Where:

Posed formally in a professional photographer's studio, these men are dressed relatively casually.

When:

This photograph was taken in 1867, when men's clothing was much looser than in earlier decades.

Who:

This group of men, who vary widely in age, show a few stylish touches--the contrasting stripe on the trousers, the carefully knotted ties and the negligently posed walking stick.

M972.81.13
© McCord Museum
Print
La Vie de Jeune Homme
1840, 19th century
Lithograph on paper
Gift of Mr. Louis Mulligan
M972.81.13
© McCord Museum

Keys to History:

Despite inhibitions against involvement with fashion, men did not give up on it altogether. Their interest was, however, carefully balanced. Too great a preoccupation with fashion and personal appearance could be interpreted as not simply vain, but also unmanly. Too little interest was equally questionable. Either way, men risked ridicule and derision when their relationship to fashion conflicted with dominant cultural expectations.

This uneasy relationship with fashion that developed during the first half of the century continued, but men found ways of making peace with their mirrors. Despite the social prohibitions against overt participation in fashion, men continued to dress to express power, class, wealth and individuality. Men became increasingly preoccupied with the subtleties of dress--cut, fit, and fabric--and they paid more attention to physical fitness and personal grooming.

What:

This print of two fashionable young men, one putting the finishing touches to his toilette, is part of the series La Vie de Jeune Homme by French artist Paul Gavarni (1804-66).

Where:

The castoff slippers at his feet and discarded clothing heaped on a chair show that the young man is in his bedroom or dressing room.

When:

The print is dated 1840. The man at the mirror, in his daytime frock coat, has probably just dressed to go out for the day.

Who:

The young man carefully scrutinizing his appearance in the mirror and his studiously indifferent friend illustrate the uneasy relationship men have with fashion.

I-42589.1
© McCord Museum
Photograph
Dr. William Bell Malloch, photographer, Montreal, QC, 1869-70
William Notman (1826-1891)
About 1869-1870, 19th century
Silver salts on paper mounted on paper - Albumen process
17 x 12 cm
Purchase from Associated Screen News Ltd.
I-42589.1
© McCord Museum

Keys to History:

During the 19th century, increasing economic prosperity began to erode the obvious distinctions between men of different social and economic status.

Canadian men enthusiastically adopted the outward signs of prosperity, including clothing that marked them as affluent gentlemen rather than working men. Increasingly cheap and available ready-made clothing helped to erase obvious social distinctions. In 1865 one English visitor, George Tuthill Borrett, observed in some astonishment that in Canada: "Uniforms, liveries, and such-like frivolities of a bloated aristocracy, are alike discarded. The railway guard is dressed as yourself, the porters better; the captain and the coachmen and grooms as private gentlemen."

As men's clothing became increasingly restrained and homogeneous, it also became a less reliable indicator of social status and wealth. In an effort to preserve their social exclusivity, wealthy men distinguished themselves by adhering to complex rules of propriety in dress.

References
George Tuthill Borrett, Letters from Canada and the Colonies (London: J. E. Adlard, 1865).

What:

The clothing worn by William Bell Malloch gives little clue to his profession or social status. Wealthy industrialist? Politician? In fact, he was a medical doctor.

Where:

Montreal men were reputedly fashionable in the late 19th century and followed both English and American styles.

When:

This photograph of Dr. William Bell Malloch was taken around 1870, when rapid improvements to ready-to-wear clothes made them an attractive alternative to tailor-made garments.

Who:

William Bell Malloch was a medical doctor stationed at Moose Factory, a trading post on Hudson Bay. He was also an amateur photographer.

M973.49.7
© McCord Museum
Frock coat
1880-1890, 19th century
111.5 cm
Gift of the Estate of A. D. Savage
M973.49.7
© McCord Museum

Keys to History:

The rules dictated that certain styles of clothing were appropriate for different occasions, activities, degrees of formality and times of day. Wealthy men, who could afford to differentiate themselves this way, preserved their social exclusivity by adhering to these rules, which changed over time. Socially ambitious men, unsure of the rules, could refer to the many guides to correct dress that claimed to be authorities on the subject.

One English advice manual warned that if a man "goes to a garden party in a frock-coat and straw hat, he is condemned more universally than if had committed some crime."

Failure to abide by the rules exposed social interlopers at a glance. The frock coat, for example, once considered appropriate anywhere before six in the evening gradually became formal daytime attire by the 1880s. No fashionable man, however bold, would dare to attend an evening ball in his frock coat, even in fashionable grey.

References
Mrs. Madge Humphry, Manners for Men (London: James Bowden, 1897) [on line]
http://www.bibliomania.com/2/1/324/2401/frameset.html

A New York Clubman, Hints about Men's Dress (New York: D. Appleton and Co., 1888).

What:

This grey frock coat was worn by Mr. John George Savage of Montreal in the late 19th century.

Where:

The grey frock coat would have been considered correct dress for a promenade in the park. Black or navy was deemed appropriate for more formal activities.

When:

One authority on the rules of dress insisted in 1888 that: "There are only four occasions . . . when frock coats may be worn before noon. These are morning weddings, funerals, Sunday morning church services and before the bar of the higher courts."

Who:

Only a man with the requisite black or navy frock coat in his wardrobe would indulge in a grey one.

M973.49.11.1-3
© McCord Museum
Evening dress suit
George Dean
About 1911, 20th century
Gift of the Estate of A. D. Savage
M973.49.11.1-3
© McCord Museum

Keys to History:

The long-tailed evening dress suit and the rules that govern its wear have changed little over the past 150 years.

According to an 1880s guide to men's dress, the evening dress suit was: "one of the best investments in a social way that a young man with social aspirations can make. When he wants to go out in the evening, and has on a dress-suit, a nicely fitting shirt, with a white lawn tie and neat shoes he may enjoy the satisfaction of knowing that he is properly dressed for any society in the world."

The supremacy of the evening dress coat was challenged by the introduction of the dinner jacket (also known as the tuxedo or dress sack) in the 1890s. In recent years men have defied the accepted evening dress code, wearing tailcoats or dinner jackets with jeans and running shoes at formal events.

References
A New York Clubman, Hints about Men's Dress (New York: D. Appleton and Co., 1888).

What:

This early 20th century evening dress suit is almost indistinguishable from those worn throughout the last third of the 19th century

Where:

Full evening dress was considered essential for formal dinners, balls, concerts and receptions.

When:

Full evening dress was worn after six.

Who:

The evening dress suit was considered an absolute necessity by wealthy or fashionable men in the late 19th century, or by men who aspired to join the higher social stratum.

II-100033
© McCord Museum
Photograph
Edward Maxwell, architect, Montreal, QC, 1893
Wm. Notman & Son
1893, 19th century
Silver salts on glass - Gelatin dry plate process
17 x 12 cm
Purchase from Associated Screen News Ltd.
II-100033
© McCord Museum

Keys to History:

The sack coat, the forerunner of the modern suit jacket, was introduced in the 1860s. Originally a loose, knee-length coat meant for casual wear, the sack become close-fitting and hip-length by the 1880's. Unlike the frock or morning coat, the sack was commonly worn with matching trousers and waistcoat. The sack suit, or lounge suit, was often made in coarser wool fabrics and novelty weaves, or in linen for summer.

At the end of the 19th century, the sack was still considered a casual style appropriate only for leisure activities like golf, bicycling or lawn tennis. However, the sack soon supplanted the morning coat and frock coat. Young men, who had the audacity to challenge the dominance of the morning and frock coats, began to favour the sack for everyday business wear. In the 1890s, the sack coat, once the most casual of styles, was adopted for evening wear. Known as the dinner jacket or tuxedo, it was worn for informal, but elegant evening dinner parties.

What:

There were stylish variations on the basic sack suit, as worn in this late 19th-century photo, including the pleated and pocketed Norfolk jacket worn for bicycling and the striped blazer for tennis.

Where:

Though the sack was still casual in 1893, Edward Maxwell, then an aspiring young Montreal architect, found the suit stylish enough to be worn for a formal portrait taken in Montreal's fashionable Notman studio.

When:

This photo, taken in 1893, shows the sack suit worn in the casual manner popular at the time.

Who:

Young men who were introduced to the comfortable sack style as boys in the 1860s became its greatest proponents in the 1880s.

M963.4.1.1-3
© McCord Museum
Morning suit
About 1912, 20th century
Gift of Mrs. Clement M. Badgley
M963.4.1.1-3
© McCord Museum

Keys to History:

The morning coat, with its cutaway skirts, evolved from the sporting styles originally worn at the beginning of the 19th century for riding and shooting. Following the pattern set by the frock coat, the morning coat gradually lost its sporting associations and eventually became formal wear, rather than casual.

By the late 19th century, the once-casual morning coat was not only considered proper business attire, it was also an elegant daytime alternative to the frock coat, which was by this time considered very formal. A man in a morning suit was thought to be "well enough dressed for an afternoon wedding, reception, or tea or any other festive occasion where a dress suit must not be seen."

References
A New York Clubman, Hints about Men's Dress (New York: D. Appleton and Co., 1888).

What:

This morning suit was made for Mr. C. M. Badgley in 1912 by the St. Pierre tailoring firm in Montreal.

Where:

The versatile morning coat was as likely to be worn at the office as to a tea party in the 1890s. Bridegrooms still occasionally wear morning coats.

When:

As its name suggests, the morning coat was originally worn before noon, prior to embarking on the real business of the day. Eventually it became acceptable to wear it throughout the day, but never in the evening.

Who:

Fashionable men with extensive wardrobes considered the morning coat essential. Men on a budget in the late 1890s were advised to choose the morning coat in preference to the frock coat.

M978.32
© McCord Museum
Evening coat, Montreal Hunt Club
H. Young
About 1880, 19th century
Gift of Mrs. H. McEachran Young
M978.32
© McCord Museum

Keys to History:

The specialized clothing required for participation in élite activities presented barriers to social climbers and reinforced existing social hierarchies. Any man could buy a frock coat, either ready-made from a mail-order house or custom-made by the finest tailor, and thereby challenge the status quo, but only those men who already had access to the right social clubs wore the clothing associated with them.

Uniforms and ceremonial dress like this Montreal Hunt Club evening dress coat played a dual role. They not only reinforced hierarchy and group membership, they also provided élite men with opportunities for overt displays of fashion.

What:

The cutaway skirts of this Montreal Hunt Club coat identify it as an evening dress coat, as opposed to the full-skirted field coat.

Where:

This coat would have been worn to formal Hunt Club dinners, receptions and balls.

When:

The Montreal Hunt Club was founded in 1826. This coat was worn during the last quarter of the 19th century.

Who:

Prominent members of the Montreal Hunt Club in the 19th century included Hugh Montagu Allan (1860-1951), a Montreal business man, banker and avid amateur sportsman, and Hugh Paton, president of McGill University from 1896 to 1899.

II-109450
© McCord Museum
Photograph
F. J. Francis and friend, Montreal, QC, 1895
Wm. Notman & Son
1895, 19th century
Silver salts on glass - Gelatin dry plate process
21 x 16 cm
Purchase from Associated Screen News Ltd.
II-109450
© McCord Museum

Keys to History:

In the atmosphere of repressed masculine interest in fashion that dominated the 19th century, men turned to luxurious and colourful accessories for self-expression. Though men were generally apprehensive about appearing preoccupied with fashion, they were able to enjoy the pleasures of fashion by varying their waistcoats, ties, scarves, gloves and jewellery without being thought vain, frivolous or ridiculous.

Even so, men exercised caution in their choice of accessories. Too much colour or decoration left men open to accusations of foppery, bad taste or effeminacy. Elaborate waistcoats, for example, introduced a note of colour into otherwise sombre wardrobes. In a sea of black frock coats, accessories individualized men without attracting undue attention.

What:

Mr. F. J. Francis and his friend are dressed in the height of fashion for 1895, having paid particular attention to their glossy top hats, pristine collars and carefully tied neckties.

Where:

This photo was taken in the Montreal studio of William Notman and Son.

When:

This photo of Mr. F. J. Francis and his friend was taken in 1895. The trousers of the man on the left have creases deliberately pressed into them, still a novelty at the time.

Who:

Mr. Francis and his friend, posing indoors, have chosen to be photographed in their outdoor clothing, complete with top hats and elegant overcoats.

M987.48.1
© McCord Museum
Waistcoat
1860, 19th century
52 cm
Gift of Mr. I. M. Drum
M987.48.1
© McCord Museum

Keys to History:

The waistcoat was an essential element of men's wardrobes throughout the 19th century and often a fashion focal point. Fabrics, patterns and colours that had gradually become unacceptable elsewhere in a man's wardrobe were still used for waistcoats that contrasted dramatically with a black or navy wool coat. Showy silk-thread embroidery and silk brocade fabrics in brilliant colours, common in men's clothing throughout the 1800s, were used for waistcoats into the last half of the 19th century. Enthusiasm for flamboyant waistcoats declined toward the end of the century, when they were largely concealed by a buttoned coat.

What:

Many elaborate 19th century waistcoats survive in museum collections, probably because their beauty saved them from the ragbag.

Where:

Waistcoats were sometimes embroidered at home, then made up by a professional tailor.

When:

This waistcoat was worn around 1860, but elaborate embroidery was already on the wane. Fancy waistcoats came back in the 1890s.

Who:

Charles-Elzéar Mondelet of Trois Rivières and Montreal, a lawyer and supporter of Louis-Joseph Papineau, wore this waistcoat.

M18267
© McCord Museum
Tie
1890-1900, 19th century
5.3 cm
Gift of Miss J. F. Caverhill
M18267
© McCord Museum

Keys to History:

The necktie, one of the most powerful symbols of conformity to dominant masculine dress codes, has been worn for over 300 years. Throughout its long history, claims have rarely (if ever) been made for either the practicality of the necktie or its comfort.

By the 1860's, the long necktie, as we know it, was on the rise. The stock, a high constricting form of neckwear, was abandoned in favour of the narrow necktie worn with a fold-over collar and tied with a four-in-hand knot. Pre-tied ties, though convenient and popular, were scorned as being bogus. Gentlemen were urged to forego convenience on the principle that even a badly tied tie was always preferable to a pre-tied one.

Social pressures ensured that men wore ties despite their discomfort, but there was a vast range of colours, styles and fabrics to choose from. Some styles were named after celebrities or fashionable locations. The ascot, for example, took its name from the English horse-racing track patronized by English royalty.

What:

This necktie of heavily padded, figured silk is of the pre-tied variety.

Where:

Men could purchase their ties from the haberdasher, who specialized in the accessories of dress, including ties, and advised customers on the latest styles and colours.

When:

This tie dates from about 1890.

Who:

In the late 19th century, the necktie was an essential part of every man's wardrobe, no matter what his age or social status.

M980.37.2
© McCord Museum
Top hat
1892, 19th century
15.5 cm
Gift of Mrs. Mariette O'Shea and Mrs. Gabrielle O'Shea
M980.37.2
© McCord Museum

Keys to History:

Until well into the 20th century, almost all men wore some form of headgear outdoors, but not just for protection from the weather. No matter what the style, hats also conferred a degree of dignity, distinction and individuality.

The proper wearing of hats was governed by strict rules of etiquette and social convention. The silk top hat, for example, was considered indispensable with evening dress and a frock coat, correct with a morning coat and completely unacceptable with a sack suit. The wealthy industrialist in his top hat or the labourer in his flat cap tipped his hat or doffed it as a sign of deference or respect. Only a very rude man would wear his hat indoors.

Within these rules, hats, like other clothing, were subject to the whims of fashion. The curl of the brim, the height of the crown or the colourful band on a summer straw hat individualized men's headwear.

What:

This 1890s top hat, of delicate silk plush rather than fur felt, required careful upkeep to maintain its glossy appearance. Properly cared for, a top hat would last many years.

Where:

The label of the Montreal hatter, Lorge and Co., appears inside the hat on the inner headband.

When:

Although introduced a century earlier as a form of "crash helmet" for horseback riding, the top hat became the most common form of daytime headdress by the mid-1800s. After World War I, it was worn almost exclusively in the evening and on very formal daytime occasions.

Who:

For the well-dressed man of fashion, the top hat was indispensable. No other style of hat was acceptable with evening dress.

MP-1978.82.151
© McCord Museum
Photograph
Charles Cassils, Temple, and H. Haig-Sims on beach, Cushing's Island, Maine, 1901
Harold Haig-Sims
1901, 20th century
Silver salts on glass - Gelatin dry plate process
10 x 12 cm
Purchase from Mr. I. Erlich
MP-1978.82.151
© McCord Museum

Keys to History:

Over the centuries, evolving cultural norms of privacy, sexuality, modesty and vulgarity have motivated changes in men's fashions. Distinctions have evolved between what men wore in public and what was considered appropriate in private.

Men's shirts, for example, were still considered to be underwear in the late 19th century and were meant to be covered by a coat and waistcoat. No self-respecting gentleman would appear in public in his shirtsleeves. The same held true for the ubiquitous T-shirt until the late 20th century, when it became acceptable street wear.

Men's swimwear offers a concise lesson on the erosion of taboos related to public displays of sexuality. Men's dressing gowns bridged the gap between clothing demanded in the public sphere and that worn strictly in private.

What:

The young man in the short bathing suit is coyly self-conscious about the amount of leg he is revealing to the camera.

Where:

This photograph was taken at the beach on Cushing's Island, Maine, a posh summer resort area established in the 19th century.

When:

The photo was taken in 1901, when close-fitting, sleeved, knee-length, wool jersey swimsuits were still the most common style worn on public beaches.

Who:

Charles Cassils, Temple and H. Haig-Sims mug for the camera in their swimsuits.

M998.23.1
© McCord Museum
Bathing suit
1860-1870, 19th century
114 x 115 cm
Gift of Howard and Valerie Smith
M998.23.1
© McCord Museum

Keys to History:

Over the course of the 19th century, interest grew in vigorous sport swimming as opposed to leisurely, therapeutic bathing. Until the late 19th century, men commonly swam naked in the exclusive company of other men. The debate over appropriate swimwear revolved around the question of mixed bathing--men and women swimming together. Social prohibitions against public displays of sexuality meant that both sexes wore bulky swimsuits that revealed little.

In the 1860s, when swimsuits for men were first introduced, they were shapeless affairs of scratchy wool--modest, but neither comfortable nor practical for swimming.

Toward the end of the 19th century, it became acceptable for men to wear body-hugging jersey swimsuits that covered much, but left little to the imagination. The streamlined style was justified on the grounds of practicality for swimming, though women continued to wear more modest bathing costumes.

What:

In the 19th century, grey wool, trimmed with braid, was recommended for swimsuits. Men's swimsuits were closely styled on underwear.

Where:

This swimsuit was found in Georgeville, near Lake Memphramagog, a summer resort area in Quebec's Eastern Townships that became popular in the last century.

When:

The style of this swimsuit dates it to around 1860. Close-fitting swimsuits of stretch fabrics were not introduced until the late 19th century.

Who:

The wearer of this swimsuit is unknown. Could a family man who enjoyed his summer vacation at Lake Memphramagog have worn this suit?

M966.8.1
© McCord Museum
Dressing gown
About 1832, 19th century
51 x 131.5 cm
Purchase from Mrs. E. J. Matania
M966.8.1
© McCord Museum

Keys to History:

Discouraged from wearing brilliant and eye-catching colours and luxurious fabrics in public, men were unwilling to abandon these pleasures altogether. In private, colours and fabrics worn openly by men during the 18th century continued to be worn in private during the 19th century and into the 20th.

At home men enjoyed the luxury, beauty and comfort of dressing gowns and smoking jackets. These garments were made of exotic brocades and velvets and in brilliant colours that by the late 19th century would have been considered inappropriate in public, except in very small doses--a necktie, perhaps, or a waistcoat. Men could receive their male friends in a dressing gown, but would never be seen wearing one in public.

What:

This 1880s dressing gown was made from paisley-patterned fabric similar to shawls worn by women earlier in the century.

Where:

Men wore dressing gowns in their bedrooms, studies, breakfast rooms and other private areas of their homes.

When:

The dressing gown (not to be confused with the bathrobe) was worn in the morning before dressing, or over the shirt, waistcoat and trousers when lounging at home.

Who:

Middle- and upper-class men who had leisure time wore dressing gowns.

M978.113.1
© McCord Museum
Smoking cap
1860-1890, 19th century
10.4 cm
Gift of Mrs. Audrey Reekie
M978.113.1
© McCord Museum

Keys to History:

In the 19th century, exotic eastern styles, popular with men for hundreds of years, continued to excite the imaginations of fashionable men who wore black wool broadcloth and white linen on a daily basis.

For clothing worn in intimate settings, men could acceptably draw on other cultures for inspiration. The usual accompaniment to the dressing gown was the smoking cap, inspired by the Turkish fez. A smoking cap described as "Greek" or "Turkish," for example, might be worn with a "Persian"-style dressing gown of colourful paisley.

References
Gene Borio, "Tobacco Timeline: The Nineteenth Century--The Age of the Cigar" [on line]
http://www.tobacco.org (retrieved June 9, 2003).

What:

Smokers wore caps to prevent tobacco smoke from penetrating their hair.

Where:

The smoking cap was usually worn at home in special smoking rooms or studies, or in men's private clubs.

When:

Cigarette smoking became more common during the second half of the 19th century after the introduction of the safety match, manufactured cigarette papers and machine-made cigarettes.

Who:

Although cigarette makers targeted women as potential smokers as early as the 1880s, smoking was largely the preserve of men. The smoking cap was worn only by men.

M973.49.5.1-2
© McCord Museum
Frock coat and waistcoat
1875-1900, 19th century
Gift of the Estate of A. D. Savage
M973.49.5.1-2
© McCord Museum

Keys to History:

By the beginning of the 19th century, no one exerted more influence on a man's choice of clothing than his tailor. Tailors, whose business it was to clothe men appropriately, collaborated with their clients, guided their fashion choices, fitted them carefully and influenced styles.

Though garments like frock coats were their bread and butter, tailors encouraged repeat business by stimulating new styles and tastes. Canadian tailors kept abreast of the latest trends in London, Paris and New York and tempted clients with fashion plates published in illustrated tailors' magazines. They imported fine fabrics from England and were familiar with the newest pattern-making and fitting methods.

The tailor's influence waned over the course of the 19th century. Tailors increasingly competed for business with retail shops and mail-order companies selling fashionable, yet inexpensive, ready-made clothing.

What:

The knee-length, straight-fronted frock coat, usually in black or navy, was the mainstay of men's wardrobes for most of the 19th century. It was usually machine stitched and hand finished.

Where:

This coat and waistcoat were made by Gibb and Co., one of Montreal's most distinguished tailoring firms. The firm served Montreal's élite for almost 200 years, until 1968.

When:

This frock coat was custom-made in the late 19th century, when ready-made clothing was increasingly challenging the supremacy of the tailor.

Who:

This frock coat and waistcoat were made for J. G. Savage (1840-1922), a prominent Montreal businessman.

M1351
© McCord Museum
Waistcoat
Franklin
About 1850, 19th century
Gift of Mr. David Ross McCord
M1351
© McCord Museum

Keys to History:

During the 19th century, women of all social classes devoted countless hours at home to making men's clothing. The production of utilitarian items such as shirts was considered both a duty and a necessity. In middle-class homes, sewing highly decorative articles was as much a demonstration of virtuoso needlework skill as an expression of compliance with dominant social expectations of women.

Patterns for men's embroidered waistcoats, smoking caps, slippers and suspenders were published in women's magazines throughout the 19th century. Often incorporating needlework techniques, bright colours and floral designs commonly used for women's clothing, the finished garments may have reflected the maker's taste as much as the wearer's.

Domestic production became nearly obsolete once ready-made clothing could compete on quality, fit and price. As increasing numbers of women entered the workforce in the late 19th century, home sewing declined. By the 20th century, women still made clothes for men, but they were as likely to be sewing in a factory as at home.

What:

Berlin work, seen in this waistcoat, was a form of counted-thread wool embroidery on canvas.

Where:

Berlin work, as its name suggests, originated in Germany.

When:

Berlin work was introduced in the early 19th century as an alternative to more difficult needlework techniques and remained popular throughout the century. This waistcoat was made around midcentury.

Who:

This waistcoat is thought to have been made by Lady Jane Franklin, wife of Arctic explorer Sir John Franklin, as a gift for Sir George Simpson.

II-149897
© McCord Museum
Photograph
McGill Hockey Team, Montreal, QC, 1904
Wm. Notman & Son
1904, 20th century
Silver salts on glass - Gelatin dry plate process
20 x 25 cm
Purchase from Associated Screen News Ltd.
II-149897
© McCord Museum

Keys to History:

Sportswear has played an important role in the development of men's fashion. Frequently, clothing originally designed specifically as sportswear has crossed over into mainstream fashion and has edged out more formal styles.

In the 19th century, athletic activity and organized team sports were largely the preserve of the wealthy. The association with wealth and status lent increasing prestige to the clothing worn for sports.

The bold colours, comfort and casual styling of sportswear began to be seen in lively alternatives to regular dress. The sports jersey, for instance, was originally worn by hockey teams or tennis enthusiasts. As it was transformed into a casual, comfortable pullover sweater worn for everyday activities, its original association with sports was gradually lost.

References
"McGill University History" [on line]
http://www.athletics.mcgill.ca/articles, click on History, then McGill University History (retrieved June 10, 2003).

What:

The origins of the modern pullover are easily recognized in 19th-century sports jerseys.

Where:

Until indoor hockey rinks became more common, hockey was an outdoor game. The first indoor hockey game is thought to have been played in Montreal.

When:

This picture of the McGill hockey team was taken in 1904. The McGill team is featured in the first known photo of hockey players in uniform, taken in 1881.

Who:

The first McGill University hockey team was founded in 1877. McGill students are credited with helping to popularize the sport.

M20939
© McCord Museum
Boy's dress
About 1860, 19th century
67.2 cm
M20939
© McCord Museum

Keys to History:

Prior to the 20th century, gender in dress was considered irrelevant until the age of five or six, and young boys in well-to-do families often wore dresses that differed little from those of their sisters. Only simpler trimmings and a cap instead of bonnet distinguished boys' clothing from girls'.

The boys' fashion for unisex styles that strike us as girlish persisted into the 20th century, despite the lack of enthusiasm on the part of boys. In the 1880s, a brief fashion for lace-trimmed, velvet Fauntleroy suits, worn for special occasions, was the final manifestation of highly feminized clothing for young boys.

Feminized styles were finally abandoned in the early century when changing notions of childhood and gender development made long pants, the colour blue and miniature versions of men's clothing the rule for boys.

What:

This silk dress is likely a boy's dress, because of its relative simplicity and lack of trimmings. It would have been worn with petticoats.

Where:

Boys did not wear dresses once they were old enough to enter the public sphere on their own, generally when they started school.

When:

The styling and material of this dress indicate that it was made in the 1860s.

Who:

A boy under the age of five or six would have worn this dress.

M977.44.2.1-2
© McCord Museum
Woman's suit
About 1900, 19th century or 20th century
Gift of Miss Winnifred Marler
M977.44.2.1-2
© McCord Museum

Keys to History:

By the late 19th century, taboos against cross-gender dressing for women had eroded. Despite the long-standing social prohibition against wearing men's clothing, women frequently turned to men's fashions for inspiration, a tribute to the appeal of men's clothing styles and the power they represent. However, the masculine influences were sometimes so feminized that their manly origins were almost obscured. In the 1890s, "tailor-mades"--women's skirt suits like this one, modelled on the male version and made by men's tailors--became very fashionable. For many women entering the workplace outside their homes for the first time, the comfortable, practical and stylish tailor-made became a symbol of independence.

Like a riding habit, a tailor-made suit was usually of wool and incorporated obviously mannish details, though it fit like conventional women's clothing. It was worn with a shirtwaist blouse, modelled on a man's shirt, and a ribbon tie; the allusion to menswear was obvious.

What:

Despite the strict masculine tailoring of this woman's suit, it conforms to the shapely fashionable female silhouette of the late 19th century.

Where:

Women's tailor-made suits were not only worn in the workplace. The masculine styling was also adopted by fashionable women for walking suits and day wear.

When:

Miss Winifred Marler wore this tailor-made suit in 1898, the year she made her social début.

Who:

This suit was made by the notable Montreal tailoring firm of St. Pierre, "Ladies and Gentlemen's Tailor," for Miss Winnifred Marler.

II-111063.1
© McCord Museum
Photograph
E. Klingis, Montreal, QC, 1895
Wm. Notman & Son
1895, 19th century
Silver salts on paper mounted on paper
17 x 12 cm
Purchase from Associated Screen News Ltd.
II-111063.1
© McCord Museum

Keys to History:

Despite the prevailing belief during the late 19th century that men were (or, at least, should be) uninterested in fashion, there is ample documentary evidence to the contrary. And despite their apparent indifference to fashion, men immortalized themselves (and their wardrobes) in paintings and photographs. Dressed for the artist or the photographer, men chose their best clothes, leading us to wonder whether some portraits weren't as much a portrait of a favourite hat or tie as they were of the man himself. Self-conscious attention to fashion is evident in a man's choice of suit, the jaunty set of his hat, or his detailed attention to his accessories, grooming or facial hair.

Who says men aren't interested in fashion?

What:

From his straw boater to his carefully arranged watch chain and necktie, Mr. Klingis is undeniably and self-consciously fashionable. His crisply creased trousers were still a fashion novelty in the 1890s.

Where:

Mr. Klingis's picture was taken in the studio of William Notman, photographer of Montreal's élite.

When:

Mr. Klingis's photo was taken in 1895.

Who:

Men at all social levels had themselves immortalized by the camera in the 19th century, once photography became cheaper.

Conclusion:

The social pressures that discouraged men's interest in fashion in the late 19th century pitted the belief that fashion was not for men against the lure that fashion still held for them.

Despite a professed masculine indifference, men not only dabbled in fashion, but when they could afford do so, revelled in it. Men deflected social censure by indulging their fashionable impulses covertly in public. In private, the field was clear for men to wear colours and fabrics considered inappropriate in public.

Men's styles and fashion trends that came to the fore in the late 19th century are still with us today. Modern suits bear a remarkable resemblance to the sack suit so popular with young men in the 1890s. Casual men's clothes based on sportswear of the late 19th century have become so familiar that their original sporting associations are all but lost.

These late-19th-century influences on men's fashion linger with us. Are the tensions that plagued men's relationship to fashion still with us, too?


Bibliography



A New York Clubman. Hints about Men's Dress. New York: D. Appleton and Co., 1888.

Borrett, George Tuthill. Letters from Canada and the Colonies. London: J. E. Adlard, 1865.

Martine, Arthur. Martine's Hand-Book of Etiquette, and Guide to True Politeness. New York: Dick and Fitzgerald, 1866.

Web Pages

Borio, Gene. "Tobacco Timeline: The Nineteenth Century--The Age of the Cigar" [on line].
http://www.tobacco.org (retrieved June 9, 2003).

Bland, John. "Edward Maxwell Biography." [on line].
http://blackader.library.mcgill.ca/cac/Maxwells/edbio2.htm (retrieved June 9, 2003).

Humphry, Mrs. Madge. Manners for Men. London: James Bowden, 1897. [on line].
http://www.bibliomania.com/2/1/324/2401/frameset.html (retrieved June 9, 2003).

"McGill University First Hockey Team 1881" [photograph] [on line].
http://www.birthplaceofhockey.com/origin/pic-mcgill.html (retrieved June 9, 2003).

"McGill University History" [on line].
http://www.athletics.mcgill.ca/articles (click on History, then McGill University History) (retrieved June 9, 2003).

"William Bell Malloch" [on line].
http://www.archives.mcgill.ca/resources/guide/vol2_3/gen08.htm#MALLOCH,%20WILLIAM%20BELL (retrieved June 9, 2003).


© Musée McCord Museum