Saturday, May 10, 2014

History's Runway: A Double-Breasted Sporting Suit, 1904

Double-breasted Sporting Suit
England, 1904
The Victoria & Albert Museum

By the 1890s, light-colored suits such as this one were fashionable for men to wear for summer sports, boating, bicycling, and during visits to the seaside. These suits were comprised of a matching coat, trousers and waistcoat in pin-striped flannel (known as “dittos”) and the outfit was often completed with a straw boater.

The cut of the flannel jacket pictured above is derived from the earlier “reefer” coat—a style which was usually worn for sailing. However, by the end of the Nineteenth Century, fashions were relaxing a bit for men (certainly not to the extent that they are now) and this style was acceptable for social wear at informal, outdoor events.

A gentlemen's etiquette book wrote:

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. (Mrs Humphry, Manners for Men, London 1897)

This particular pinstripe suit is of exceptional quality with buttons made of mother-of-pearl and a fine cotton lining. It was made in London around 1904.

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