Which is it? Suits? or Trousers (with suspenders)?

Men’s “Suit of Clothing“, from a Merchant Tailor, advertised in Fort Scott Daily Monitor of Fort Scott, Kansas on May 13, 1883.

Just as Victorian women wore costumes (and occasionally, dresses), their male counterparts wore a “suit of clothes“. Yes, the term “suit” was used for short.

“Harris the Clothier’s $10.00 Outfit, consisting of Coat, Pants, Vest, Hat, Shirt, Shoes, Suspenders and Socks, all for ten dollars!” This advertisement ran in the Great Falls Tribune of Great Falls, Montana on April 27, 1889.

To be properly dressed, the majority of men wore a proper suit of clothes. As mentioned in my most recent post, Victorian Collars and Cuffs (for men), to wear the shirt exposed (without vest and coat) was deemed highly inappropriate for gentlemen. This etiquette rule seems to be confined to upper classes and “white collar” professions, and not to most laborers.

Log Chute with Ox Teams. Chutes had to be kept wet in dry weather to prevent fires. Notice the laborers working in shirts without vests or coats. Image: courtesy of Pinterest.

Men in the nineteenth century developed other clothing as demanded by their labor, for instance, the invention (1871) of durable, much longer-lasting, riveted blue jeans trousers for gold miners by the infamous Levi Strauss.

(Quoted directly from the image reference label): “One Hip-Pocket “201” Waist-Overalls Levi Strauss & Co., 1880s or 1890s. “201” used to be an economy version of “501XX.” These pants are a rare example with popular length & waist size. Note the original candle wax dripping from miners!” Image: courtesy of Pinterest.

Victorian Suits for Men

Men’s Fashion Plate, 1890.

White Tie Fashion Plate, 1890. Image originated with blacktieguide.com

Unless a manual laborer, men dressed “properly” in a full “set of clothes.”

Delegates at the Wyoming Constitutional Convention in the autumn of 1889 in Cheyenne, Wyoming Territory. Context of my new release, Isabella’s Calico Groom, contained within CALICO BALL: Timeless Western Collection.

Tailors advertise in the Sterling Standard of Sterling, Illinois, September 22, 1898. Services offered include finely tailored suits of clothing to fit the man for whom they were made, fine repairs, cleaning and pressing of clothing. (Who knew tailors did “cleaning” and pressing?)

Apparently so. Here’s another. Tailoring, Cleaning & Repairing:

J. D’Bois. Tailoring, Cleaning & Repairing. Santa Cruz Weekly Sentinel of Santa Cruz, California. March 20, 1872.

Men’s Suits Styles, “Sacrifice Sale” with steep discounts. Part 1 of 5. Advertised in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch of St. Louis, Missouri on March 6, 1891.

Men’s Suits Styles, “Sacrifice Sale” with steep discounts. Part 2 of 5. Advertised in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch of St. Louis, Missouri on March 6, 1891.

Men’s Suits Styles, “Sacrifice Sale” with steep discounts. Part 3 of 5. Advertised in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch of St. Louis, Missouri on March 6, 1891.

Men’s Suits Styles, “Sacrifice Sale” with steep discounts. Part 4 of 5. Advertised in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch of St. Louis, Missouri on March 6, 1891.

Men’s Suits Styles, “Sacrifice Sale” with steep discounts. Part 5 of 5. Advertised in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch of St. Louis, Missouri on March 6, 1891.

Gabel the Tailor, Suits made to order in 10 hours. Published in The Salt Lake Herald of Salt Lake City, Utah Territory on August 23, 1892.

Victorian Laborer’s Clothing

Not Levi’s riveted “201” Waist-Overalls? Maybe they’re Pepperell Jean Drawers.

Pepperell “Jean Drawers” advertised at 47-cents, alongside gauze undershirts and dress shirts and Balbriggan Half-Hose. Richmond Dispatch newspaper of Richmond, Virginia on August 1, 1886.

Men’s Jeans for sale, along with shirtings, tweeds, and Cottonades. Advertised in the Kansas Farmer of Topeka, Kansas on May 5, 1880. Part 1 of 3.

Men’s shirts and mens’ overalls for sale (ready-to-wear), along with many fabrics and accoutrements for women. Advertised in the Kansas Farmer of Topeka, Kansas on May 5, 1880. Part 2 of 3.

Conclusion of Bartholomew & Co’s advertisement, “Cheap Cash Store.” (Note: “cheap” was a highly positive term in the 19th century, meaning low-cost, affordable, and signifying a good deal. Additionally, ‘cash store’ meant the merchant did not deal with credit and only cash would be accepted, thus keeping the prices down). Advertised in the Kansas Farmer of Topeka, Kansas on May 5, 1880. Part 3 of 3.

Vests are an important part

“Fancy Vests for Fancy Swells”, Part 1 of 4. The Inter-Ocean of Chicago, Illinois. February 9, 1896.

“Fancy Vests for Fancy Swells”, Part 2 of 4. The Inter-Ocean of Chicago, Illinois. February 9, 1896.

“Fancy Vests for Fancy Swells”, Part 3 of 4. The Inter-Ocean of Chicago, Illinois. February 9, 1896.

“Fancy Vests for Fancy Swells”, Part 4 of 4. The Inter-Ocean of Chicago, Illinois. February 9, 1896.

It seems not all vests needed to match the coat or trousers.

“Red Vests are in vogue.” The Montgomery Adviser of Montgomery, Alabama on January 9, 1894.

Up Next!

Victorians Race: On Foot, On Bicycles, In Wheelbarrows

Related Blog Articles: Nineteenth Century Fashion for Men and Women ~


Copyright © 2018 Kristin Holt LC