The seemingly rapid evolution of men's fashion in the 19th century?

Mar 2016
1,222
Australia
So this is something I've been wondering about recently. Is there any particular explanation as to why the fashion of upper class men changed so rapidly in the 19th century? I mean, this is the same century that had all of the pomp and grandeur of the Napoleonic Wars - brightly coloured garbs of red and blue and white and green - but then you look at photos from the American Civil War and all of the politicians are wearing modern suits, in mostly the same styles that we still wear today. What happened in these forty years between the end of the Napoleonic Wars and the American Civil War for politicians and leaders to completely and utterly change everything about the clothes they wore? Was there a particular guy that started this trend?
 

Recusant

Ad Honorem
Sep 2009
2,624
Sector N after curfew
So this is something I've been wondering about recently. Is there any particular explanation as to why the fashion of upper class men changed so rapidly in the 19th century? I mean, this is the same century that had all of the pomp and grandeur of the Napoleonic Wars - brightly coloured garbs of red and blue and white and green - but then you look at photos from the American Civil War and all of the politicians are wearing modern suits, in mostly the same styles that we still wear today. What happened in these forty years between the end of the Napoleonic Wars and the American Civil War for politicians and leaders to completely and utterly change everything about the clothes they wore? Was there a particular guy that started this trend?
In a word; yes. His name was Beau Brummell.
 

Shtajerc

Ad Honorem
Jul 2014
6,743
Lower Styria, Slovenia
In a word; yes. His name was Beau Brummell.
Mhm, the guy basically invented white tie and at the very end of the century black tie came to be as well. The 19th century brought a lot of thing that are still fashionable. The graduate evolution of both the bowtie and necktie from the cravatte, complete abandonment of those terrible poudered wigs, suits etc.

Even more than formal warderobe I find interesting the changes in style of casual wear, along with hairstyles and facial hair. That's how true gentlemen should dress, a marvelous time. :lol:
 

sculptingman

Ad Honorem
Oct 2009
3,664
San Diego
Mens fashion ( and women's ) began to rapidly take on a more utilitarian form with the advent of the industrial age and the growing middle class.

Manufacturing, both the income from those jobs, and the products it produced, were within reach of far more people. And it changed dramatically the luxury value of clothing in particular.
In prior centuries, clothing was the principal form of status symbol ( outside of having castle or manor house )


The jacquard loom and other industrial technologies made extremely richly textured and patterned clothing dirt cheap to make.

Whereas, before, people of upper classes would spend lavishly on clothing that LOOKED lavish and communicated their wealth... now, average folks could buy richly woven cloths at a fraction of the price and the elaborateness of clothing, of the brocades and damasks it was made from no longer indicated great wealth.


Concomitant with loss of status in fine cloths, was a dramatic increase in interior comfort in homes and in workplaces. Furnaces and Franklin style stoves began to replace fireplaces as the primary means of heating a home. as homes and workplaces became more comfortable- and public transit and coaches became enclosed against the weather, layers of undershirts, waistcoats, coats and overcoats became less necessary to keep people warm, and with less complicated dress, there was less opportunity for embellishment, detail and reveals. On women, Petticoats began to become fewer and fewer- and even when big hoop skirt still prevailed- there was less being worn underneath.

As the century progressed, clothing became ever more practical, and brand names began to emerge that were the means of conveying status, rather than just the appearance of clothing that was all custom made.

As more people began to have more leisure, and became more active- women in particular, gained greater freedom of movement and activity, requiring less constrictive clothing.

So the primary driving forces were a general liberalizing of society thanks to the enlightenment... the falling cost of fancy fabrics undercutting the exclusivity of fancy fabrics, and the increasing mobility and comfort of heated buildings and covered transports that argued for fewer layers of clothing that allowed a greater variety of activity.