Open Access Graduate Research Paper
This research paper examines the attire of a well-dressed gentleman at the turn-of-the-century and the etiquette rules that influenced his dress. The divisions and categories that ruled his clothing selections are used for the paper's internal structure. Each section contains detailed descriptions of each garment and accessory, and discusses the propriety which prevailed over their use. Historical fashion illustrations from literary references and periodical literature, when possible, are included to illustrate the descriptions.
In America, the well-dressed man at the turn-of-the-century was subjected to a social dress code. This code dictated his clothing selection according to the time of day and the occasion. There were two divisions of day, and the occasions were classified as either formal or informal. From these divisions and classifications, his wardrobe was divided into informal day wear, formal day wear, informal evening wear, formal evening wear and outing wear. Each of these five categories was further divided into ten specific garment areas: coat, waistcoat, trousers, hat, shirt and cuffs, collars, cravat, gloves, boots and jewelry. By consulting the five categories and ten divisions, the well-dressed man was able to identify the proper clothing attire for the specified occasion at the designated time of day. By observing these stipulations, a gentleman would have few decisions to make when selecting his attire. He could choose a single-breasted waistcoat instead of a double-breasted waistcoat, a pair of gray gloves for formal day wear instead of a pair of white gloves, or a four-in-hand tie for business wear instead of a once-over Ascot. Each of these choices were within the confines of the designated categories. A well-dressed gentleman was not given the choice of wearing a tie or not, wearing a vest or not, wearing gloves or not, wearing a hat or not. His dress whether it be for formal occasions or outings was, in every sense of the word, a complete uniform.
With the assistance of etiquette books and articles of men's fashions, the turn-of-the-century gentleman was instructed on the fine points of clothing propriety. There was as much emphasis placed on what he should wear as there was on what he should not wear. Scrutiny was applied to a gentleman's appropriate clothing selection and combinations thereof. Improper dress could include wearing a bow tie with a frock coat, a silk high hat with a Tuxedo coat, a black bow tie with a tailcoat (white bow tie was proper), a cravat pin with a bow tie, cuffs that were detachable, and a cravat pin attached to the shirt front.
Year of Submission
Department of Communication and Theatre Arts
1 PDF file (73 pages)
©1998 Linda Grimm
Grimm, Linda, "American Gentlemen's Dress at the Turn-of-the-Century: Etiquette and Form" (1998). Graduate Research Papers. 3983.