The Southern Census

Gentlemen's Attire

The fashionable gentleman in this period is wearing essentially the same garb as his father and grandfather. Like modern men's dress, the 19th century was a stagnant time for gentlemen's attire. But it makes creating historically accurate dress fairly simple for the savvy rper.
For those who are confused about just what a gentleman is, I humbly submit this link, entitled "What is a Gentleman", a piece from 1852.

Now on to the clothes....

Day Wear

The upper class gentleman has a wide variety of fashions to choose from for daytime, or non-formal, wear. To begin at the bottom again, the gentleman begins with either simple ankle boots of fine leather, black or brown or Wellington boots of the same leather, albeit highly shined. Beau Brummel, a fashion icon of the 19th century, reportedly shined his boots with two bottles of French champagne a boot. As one can see, the shine of a gentleman's boots is highly important, as these boots come up to the knee and are worn over the trousers. Now, if a gentleman has opted for the ankle boot, his trousers will be moderately loose fitting. At the bottom will be a loop to slide over his shoe and keep a smooth line. This is not unlike modern stirrup pants, and has the same mentality, only the stirrup, as you will, goes over the boot. A very important period detail. If the gentleman has opted for the Wellington boots, he will wear snug trousers, commonly referred to as breeches. Do not think George Washington! We are not referring to knee breeches as seen in the Georgian period. These resemble riding breeches as worn by horsemen. An important note about Wellingtons and breeches: only a gentleman who fancies himself a rider would wear this combination when not riding. For visiting, unless a gentleman has ridden to his destination, this attire would not be considered appropriate. On to shirts. A gentleman is defined by his shirt. It is of the whitest linen available, starched and pressed. The cuffs and collars are often detachable for middle class gentlemen to make life easier on the wife who is presumably still doing the laundry for her husband. For the upper classes, these collars and cuffs are starched and pressed more than the shirt. Ideally, a shirt's collar and cuffs should be able to literally stand on their own. The shirt is the foundation for the cravat and waistcoat (or vest in America). The cravat is a fashion staple for almost all of the 19th century. In the daytime, the cravat is dark, and generally non-descript. Common fabrics would be medium-weight silk, satin or high-quality linen. Common colours include dove grey, black, navy blue, beige, tan, or white. Occasionally, prints or stripes are used, but only by young men who are part of the "fast" set and fancy themselves dandies. The cravat itself is tied in a complicated fashion, often by the valet, and it is held in place by a stickpin, usually of gold or silver, whatever the gentleman's preference. The waistcoat generally is of the same fabric as the cravat. If the cravat is solid, it is acceptable to have a printed fabric for the waistcoat, and vice-versa. A note about the waistcoat: only the front portion of the waistcoat is of quality fabric. The back portion is cheap cotton, or other fabric, as it is hidden by a gentleman's coat, which he never removes. The coat itself is of broadcloth, and matches the trousers or is a corresponding colour. Some fine examples of matching colours:

  • Coat/Trousers
  • Black/Mustard
  • Black/Dove Grey
  • Black/Brown
  • Steel Blue/Black
  • Steel Blue/Tan
  • Forest Green/Brown
  • Forest Green/Dove Grey
  • Scarlet/Black
  • Scarlet/Tan
  • Scarlet/Dove Grey
  • Dove Grey/Black
  • Dove Grey/Tan
  • Dove Grey/Brown

Occasionally, this is topped off by a hat of some kind, either wide-brimmed and relatively flat-crowned, or a top hat. This is becoming more uncommon, however, and a trend-setting gentleman can go without. Also, accessories can include pocket watches and cufflinks, if the gentleman so desires, but they must match his stickpin in his cravat.

Formal/Evening Attire

Ah, yes, formal attire. Every fashion-savvy gentleman needs to have at least one such outfit in his closet. The upper classes, however, spend a good portion of their time dressing for dinners and balls and other such events where formal attire is expected. Now formal attire is one area where self-expression is severly limited, for colour and fabric choices are dictated by society. Again, this makes for ease of dress for the gentleman and an ease of creation for the player.

Again, we begin with the shoes. They are the same ankle boots as above, only black and highly polished. Beau Brummel recommended French white wine for shining his formal shoes. The dress trousers are jet black, as is the jacket. The waistcoat and cravat are the only areas that are allowed deivation from this mold. A cravat follows the same rules as daytime wear, only they must be made of silk without a pattern, and it is usually white, creme or black. Another alternative which is growing in popularity among the Beau Monde is the bow tie. Either white or black, it is acceptable for dinner only. A very fast gentleman might wear it to a ball, but it is frowned upon, and I am certain he would never dream of wearing it to a wedding or funeral. The waistcoat is either of silk or heavy brocade, and the colour matches the cravat. A fine example of this match would be, for example, a white cravat with a gold stickpin and a white waistcoat with gold brocade. It is rich, elegant and undersated, which is the point of gentleman's dress. Also imperative are white gloves and a top hat for true formal dress, as seen at a ball or the theatre and opera. If a gentleman is in mourning, his hat ought to have a white band about the crown. If not, the band should be black. A gentleman is expected to have cufflinks that match his stickpin, and these are often make of gold and mounted with a gem of some kind.

The only area I have not covered for a gentleman is the appropriate attire for the groom. Usually, this is the same as formal dress, but there is more leeway granted for the cravat and waistcoat. These ought to match the colour of the bridal attendants' dresses, and be of a similar fabric. But weddings are a highly personal affair for many couples, and it is best to let the bride decide how she wishes her groom to dress.

If there are any areas you feel ought to be covered and I have not, please email me, and I will see what I can do.

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