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This article will help you date old family photos and identify ancestors by breaking down men’s Victorian era clothing style characteristics by decade. Men’s clothing of the 1860s featured single-breasted and semi-fitted coats and jackets that fell to the mid-thigh. And even though matching suits were still worn, men’s fashion began to shift toward mismatched separates. As the Victorian era neared its ending during the 1880s, fashionable men preferred lounge suits over more formal suit styles for daywear.
Keep in mind that the descriptions are generalities and you could end up coming across exceptions to these clothing clues during your research. Waistcoats during this decade came without collars. Very slim cravats with tiny bow ties were also popular. Lounge suits offered slim silhouettes and jackets were worn partially undone, showing off a more relaxed style and revealing high-buttoned waistcoats and watch chains.
Fur caps for winter were an addition to the 1870s wardrobe.
The images below depict popular hat styles from the 1860s and 1870s.
The men in the image below are all topped with fashionable 1870s hats.
The man on the left dons an Eton cap, the man in the middle wears the popular stiff, felt bowler-style hat, and a small straw hat with wide ribbon, called a Nattie, crowns the man on the right. Severa, Dressed for the Photographer: Ordinary Americans and Fashion, 1840-1900, 1995 The two men below wear typical 1870s work hats. Severa The two men below wear casual wide-brimmed hats.
If you’re hitting a brick wall when it comes to identifying family members in old photos from the Victorian era, you’re not alone. Collars were then worn down with long, knotted ties during the latter part of the decade.
In the Victorian era, men’s daily dress was more formal than it is today. Men also wore their collars highly-starched with neckties and elaborate cravats during the earlier part of the century, and by the late 1860s, string-style cravats that were more narrow emerged. What to look for: Lighter-colored trousers and black coats.
This was especially true in the 1840s when men’s clothing offered tightly tailored coats and trousers. What to look for: Single-breasted, semi-fitted coats falling to mid-thigh.
The silk top hat began to fade away during the 1870s, now worn only for evening dress.
Otherwise, the same hat styles of the 1860s remained popular.
In the early 1840s, shirts contained high straight collars with thin cravats worn in a bow tie style. 1850s men’s fashion was still considered formal, but clothing was looser, less tailored and made a statement with embellishments.