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Mens Victorian Dress Code

Victorian gentlemen had to have a very full wardrobe to cover every social eventuality.

Men's fashion was always reported in full detail by Harper's Bazaar and fashionable young men followed the correct Victorian dress code most carefully.

Full dress in Victorian times required men to wear a black dress coat with a full collar and broad lapels which would be turned down low.

Frock Coat. Date: 1890
Frock Coat. Date: 1890 © Archivist - stock.adobe.com

Beneath the knee-length coat was a white vest, showing at the neck, and black pantaloon-style trousers which were generally made of doeskin.

Younger men wishing to wear something brighter than sombre black would lead the Victorian dress fashion by wearing a blue coat, white vest and lavender pants with matching gloves.

Walking Out

For walking out, the walking dress was a shorter frock coat which was double-breasted.

Generally they were made of diagonally ribbed heavy coat fabric or a plain cloth in a suitably dark colour.

A matching undervest would be worn with a broad collar rolled down to show above the front of the coat.

Trousers would have been in a dark colour with a side stripe in a toning shade, similar to dress trousers today.

Frock Coat. Date: late 1890s
Frock Coat. Date: late 1890s © Archivist - stock.adobe.com

Alternatively, diagonally striped trousers in grey would have been worn. These were close fitting on the leg with a wider boot cut at the ankle. Black cloth walking dress was considered appropriate for visiting.

In the autumn, an overcoat would have been an important part of Victorian dress for men.

A loose-fitting coat would have been worn in a tan or nondescript colour.

It would have had a dark lining which turned out in a roll to show as a contrast at the front of the coat.

For winter attire, a surtout would have been worn. It was longer than an overcoat and made of Elysian beaver.

This warm cloth had a rough surface but was soft inside and would have been dyed brown, blue or deep claret.


Victorian gentlemen were as keen on wearing hats as women.

The silk top hat had a slightly bell-shaped crown and a two-inch brim all around which was curved upwards at either side.

Cashmere was used to line the brim. For full dress, glossy silk beavers were worn.

Riding Dress. Date: 1856
Riding Dress. Date: 1856 © Archivist - stock.adobe.com

For travelling or theatre visits, Victorian dress required gentlemen to wear pocket hats, made of felt, ribbed silk or Scottish woven cloth to match the suit.

Handkerchiefs to match the wearer’s outfit and brown or maroon leather gloves completed the Victorian dress code. Glove powder was used to ease the wearing of new doeskin gloves.


Footwear for Victorian gentlemen was just as correct. Street wear required high buttoned or laced shoes which had strong soles and low, wide heels.

For evening, calf-skin gaiters were worn on the lower leg. They had elasticated sides. Boots with light soles completed the full dress.

At Home

Relaxed evenings at home required billiard or smoking jackets made of grey cloth.

They were trimmed to match the bright flannel lining.

Dressing gowns were made of dark coloured wool serge cloth and trimmed with diamond-stitched green or gold silk on the lapels. A tasselled silk cord was tied at the waist.

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