Saturday, March 15, 2014

History's Runway: A Boating Suit, 1890-1900

Gentleman's Boating Suit
The Victoria & Albert Museum

Light-colored suits such as the one pictured above became fashionable for gents from the 1890s. Matching coats, trousers and waistcoats (these were known as “dittos”) in pin-striped flannel were acceptable casual dress for summer sports and holidays. An outfit like this was often completed with a straw boater hat. I would like to dress this way, I think. But, people might stare.

Cricket, tennis and rowing were very fashionable seaside pursuits during the summer. Suits like this would have been perfect for these events. Since social conventions were relaxing a tad during the end of the Nineteenth Century, a gentleman only had to sweat through these light layers instead of the usual heavy, dark wool outfit he’d previously have been forced to wear. One gentlemen's etiquette book, “Manners for Men,” by Mrs. Humphry (known as “Madge of Truth”) was published in 1897. In it, Mrs. Humprhry writes that:

'There are special suits for all kinds of outdoor amusements, such as shooting, golfing, tennis, boating, driving, riding, bicycling, fishing, hunting, &c., but into the details of these it is unnecessary to enter. It may be remarked, however, that it is easy to stultify the whole effect of these, however perfectly they may be built 'by the tailor' by the addition of a single incongruous article of attire; such as a silk hat or patent boots with a shooting-suit.'

The example that we see here was made between 1890-1900 by an unknown English tailor and consists of cream wool with blue pinstripe. It is both hand- and machine-sewn.

No comments: