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Romantic Review-Men

Romantic-Men (~1820-1850)

An elegant man of the upper class could feasibly change his clothing 3-4 times a day. Like their female counterparts, male attire was often specific to the time of day or activity for which it was worn.

The gentleman pictured here is wearing attire that was considered undress, which consisted of a dressing gown/banyan (shown here in blue) and slippers. The stocking cap upon his head was also common. This was a typical ensemble for the relaxing hours of early the morning and late evening.

He would change at some point before the mid-day meal into one of his day/half dress styles. This generally consisted of a shirt, neckwear of some sort, a waistcoat, pantaloons/trousers, a coat/jacket and a hat. This ensemble generally consisted of coordinating fabrics, but often coat and pants were of different fabrics. The components were the same for full dress attire. The formality of this attire was found in the vogue for dark (usually black) matching coat and trousers. A white waistcoat and black or white neckwear was the most formal ensemble.

The biggest clue signifying the Romantic Period in men's wear is the illusion of the "nipped" in waist. This reflects the feminine "tight-lacing" trend. For the first time, tailors begin to add a complex inner structure to coat construction. This included internal padding--especially in the shoulder area. Broad shoulders coupled with trouser fullness at the waist helped to create a male "hour glass" silhouette. Many men even went so far as to wear corsets themselves. This is most common early in the period (~1820-1830)

The new tailoring processes not only changed the male silhouette, but set new standards for suit construction. Outwardly, the male wardrobe was growing more conservative and aesthetically boring. Inwardly, however, the construction was becoming more and more complicated. Quality of construction, rather than decoration, distinguished fashionable gentleman from the lower classes.

Tail coats and cutaways still remain the most popular coat styles. However, the frock coat (pictured here) is gaining popularity. This style is cut with a full, often gored, skirt and there generally is a seam at the waist (the seam cannot be seen in this particular picture). He has a high collared shirt (collar points come up to the chin) with a printed cravat around his neck. He has a smartly tailored waistcoat and is wearing striped pantaloons with an instep strap passing underneath the foot. Previously, pantaloons could be rather tight fitting. As we move further away from the last period (Empire/Directoire) fullness is gradually added at the waist (similar to what is happening in the skirts of the female wardrobe). However, the fullness continues to taper into the ankle--creating a "pegged" look. The instep strap is still a common feature.

During the Romantic Period the terms "trousers" and "pantaloons" are used interchangably.


Top hats are the most common head covering for both half dress and full dress styles. They were most commonly made of beaver, bear, or silk (the latter being the most formal). A variation of the top hat was the gibus. Always a silk hat, this variation folded flat so that it could be carried under the arm. An internal spring allowed the hat to be snapped open--a dramatic and impressive gesture.

A greater number of outerwear options become available for Romantic men. Pictured here are two outergarments (left & center) and a caped, double-breasted frock coat (right).

Outergarments added to the drama of an ensemble. Cloaks make a strong comeback. This is example of the a throwback to the styles of the Middle Ages--a true "romantic" trend. They appear most often in formal evening attire, and thus are most often depicted in dark colors (most frequently black). Satin details (ie. collars) are also very common.

The gentleman at the left is wearing a paletot--a short greatcoat with a small flat collar. These are seen in single and double breasted versions and may or may not also have lapels. This coat would be worn as a half dress style rather than full dress.

This gentleman wears a long outergarment thrown backwards on his shoulders. The garment appears to have a wide caped collar. It is impossible to tell from this drawing whether or not the garment has sleeves or is a large sweeping cape. If the garment is sleeved it would be considered a garrick (a boxy, large greatcoat with one or more caped collars over the shoulders). If it is a cloak it would be considered an inverness (a cloak with one or more caped collars over the shoulders, in later periods plaid versions with matching caps--a la Sherlock Holmes--become popular).

Notice the shape of his top hat and how it differs from those pictured above. The above hats are considered to be of the stove-pipe style, while the one pictured here is belled. Both styles are seen throughout the period.


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