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Sunday, 16 October 2011

Character Design: Victorian Mens Fashion Research

Victorian Fashion

As my Characters that i am design come from a Victorian Era, I have been looking at Men Victorian Fashion.

In the Victorian era, daily dress was much more formal than it is today. Unless they were a workman or laborer, every gentleman was expected to wear a coat, vest, and hat.  To walk around in shirtsleeves without vest or coat would be the modern-day equivalent of traipsing about in one’s underwear.  Very unseemly, and most ungentlemanly!

Victorian Coats
The second half of the nineteenth century was dominated by the frock coat – a man’s coat with full skirt both front and back that reached just above the knee.  It was common for both day and evening wear through the 1880’s, making it the most versatile coat of the Victorian wardrobe
Tailcoats – coats with a knee length skirt in the back contrasted with a short front -  were popular for most of the century, often used for parties and formal events. In the 1870’s and beyond the sack suit grew in popularity.  The suit was originally cut as befits its name – with a large box like shape and no middle seam, which allowed the suit to hang loosely on the body.
By the 1880’s it became more common to see the coat with fitted styling and a middle seam directly above the coat pockets. 

Victorian Trousers
The most significant difference between the trousers of today and those of the mid 1800’s is the waistline. Men wore trousers that had stripes and sometimes checks which they often paired with different patterns, stripes or checks. Belts weren’t used, nor did pants even have belt loops.  Rather, suspenders or braces of leather or canvas were common.

Victorian Men's Shirts
Although similar in many ways, Victorian shirts were cut much more fully than modern shirts due to limitations in machining and tailoring techniques.  As a result men wore band collar shirts and for dress occasions added a separate collar and cuff.  Also, some shirts had a removable bib front, which was reversible to allow a man to hide any unsightly stains. This allowed them to keep a neat appearance without requiring the entire shirt to be laundered.

Here are just some of the reference images I have been looking at.

Clothing Influence Map for characters

Victorian Style Vests

Victorian fashion demanded that no gentleman be seen in public without a proper vest. An authentic Victorian vest is the centerpiece of any outfit.  Much like modern ties, vests were used to make a fashion statement either bold or conservative and gentlemen would own several vests to accessorize the same dark suit. Victorian gentlemen wore a wide variety of vests in almost every combination of cut, color and cloth imaginable. Many men even wore their coats buttoned only with the top button, thereby allowing more of their vest to be seen. Toward the turn of the century, wool and cotton vests in more conservative colors became more common for day wear as the three piece suit increased in popularity. 
Victorian Style Hats

Fashionable Victorian gentlemen understood that a proper hat signaled respectability and refinement. Like vests, hats were available in a wide variety of styles. Top Hats were wore for parties and formal events throughout the century, but were also worn as day wear by the established gentleman. A variety of other hat styles persisted, including the wide-brimmed “wide awake” style and the flat topped “pork pie” which were seen through the period. Derbies or bowlers, short-brimmed with rounded crowns, became more common as the century progressed and by the mid 1890's outnumbered most other hat styles.

Victorian Men's Accessories

Beyond a man’s clothing, the most basic accessory for every Victorian gentleman was the cravatCravats ranged in width and style, from the basic thin strip to frilly cravats with decorative prints and wide cut black. Also nearly universal was the pocket watch and fob, which were prominently displayed hanging from the front vest pockets, and no proper gentleman would be caught without a fashionable pocket watch in his vest pocket. Most men also carried walking sticks of various styles and often wore gloves when out for dress occasions. 

All this researching into the fashion off Victorian men, will hopefully help when it comes to designing my characters.


  1. Hey Sasha, it's been a while since I popped by, but I just wanted to say how much I like the blog template - it's cute. Hope all is well with you and you're feeling much better, If you want to discuss anything - Pomo, narrative, character etc - come and find me in the office. It would be nice to catch up and see how things are :)

  2. Hi Sasha,
    it would be good to see some basic construction drawings of your three characters by tomoro. The research is of course important for your project, but the basic characters proportions can be sketched out before the detail.

  3. Hi Sasha,

    I was wondering where that "Victorian Style Hats" illustration comes from. Is it in the public domain?


  4. Hiya, is any of this public domain? We're writing an article on victorian style men's fashion. Let me know!

    Thanks from us at