Dressing a man in the 1910’s, during the Edwardian fashion era, is not very different from today. There are, however a few details which separate historical from modern.
The Sack Suit
For starters, Men wore Sack suits. These were long, plain, loose fitting (some might say baggy) suit jackets with wide lapels and a one to three button closure. Modern suits are similar but usually shorter in length and fitted. Sacks suits were usually 30-32 inches long (down to mid thigh) and either single or double breasted. Color choices were dark Navy, Grey, Green and occasionally brown. Fabrics were all wool with hints of striping, checks and plaid. The jacket could hang with straight opening edges or rounded. The overall look was a box shape jacket with pants with roomy hips and legs that hung straight down to the ankles, tapered slightly and were cuffed at the bottom (a drastic change from pre- 1900’s very narrow, tapered legs.) A typical ankle opening was 16 inches.
When choosing a suit the editors of the Men’s Togs Catalog of 1910 warn buyers “In selecting a fashion, however, careful consideration should be given to the fact that extreme novelty styles are suitable only for young men, and that double-breasted styles look best on slender forms. Corpulent men should adhere strictly to stripe effects in fabrics.”
TIP: Some modern suits can double as Edwardian. If it is long, straight, plain and comes with a matching high cut vest and pants then it’s probably ok. Order one size up for a more Edwardian sack suit “baggy look.”
A matching waistcoat or vest, with or without lapels, was worn under the suit. The vest cut was mid chest, at the lowest, to be seen under the jacket.
Under the vest was a basic day shirt. These, like modern dress shirts, were light colors of whites, greys, and subtle striping. Shirt fronts have a “yoke” bib style (similar to a modern formal tux shirt.) Collars could be wing tip, pointed, or round club collar. Club collars are my favorite for this time period, even though they are difficult to find in the US.
TIP: You can turn a pointed collar shirt into a club collar by cutting off the points to a rounded edge. This works better on some shirts then others. I suggest picking up a few at thrift stores and trying to cut them. To prevent the cut edges from fraying use a “Fray Stop” available at fabric and craft stores or clear nail polish if your in a hurry.
Moving on we look at shoes. Here is where we start to see major differences in style. Men could choose between three types of shoes, largely depending on where the shoes were going to be worn.
Boots were designed for heavy walking and were usually worn for traveling, business and labor jobs. They were not ugly or bland. They were often two tone with the upper half white like a shoe spats, or a lighter color then the sole. Laces laced half way up and then switched to loop and hooks for the remainder of the height. The toes were pointed and the arches were high.
TIP: Stacy Adams make an Edwardian Style Cap Toe Spat Boot (pictures above in brown) and it is very close an original style. Two-toned with upper “spat” style. It doesn’t have the high arch- but that is next to impossible to find- so this is as close as you can get from a modern shoe.
The next option for business wear was the oxford. These are very similar to men’s dress shoes today. Single tone and a few two-tones were starting to enter the fashion scene. Arches were also quite high. Spats were worn over the shoe to bridge the gap between shoe and trouser.
Finally, formal attire might invite a man to wear “Pumps.” Ok you can stop laughing now. Yes men’s shoes were called “Pumps.” They look like a cross between a men’s oxford and a modern women’s low-heeled flats. They had the details of an oxford with a high arch and 1-2 inch thick heel. The uppercut was shaped low around the ankle.
To complete all Men’s Edwardian shoes you need laces. Thin string laces were not part of fashion yet. Instead, shoes and boots were laced with ½ wide silk ribbon and tied in a bow. Yes, bows by modern standards appear “feminine.” That was the style then and men felt dressed appropriately in them.
Gloves and Hats
Men always wore gloves. Common colors were white, grey or tan and they often matched the neck wear. Bow ties, neckties and cravat ties were worn depending on the time of day. Cravets made ideal day wear while thin bowties were required for formal evening wear. Dark neckties gradually became accepted after 1914.
Topping a man with a hat was the last bit of fashion a well-dressed Edwardian man needed. Derbies or bowlers and homburgs were acceptable day wear while silk top hats were worn for formal occasions. Sportsmen wore flat caps, also called Ivy, cab driver, or Newsboy hats. These were 8 panel styles that were more “floppy” then most modern flat caps. The summer months brought out straw boaters and skimmers and the pricey straw panama was for traveling.
For a really authentic looking Edwardian suit you may need to custom order one. However, you can also piece one together from thrift stores clothing with a little creativity. Here is how I came up with Oscar’s suit pictured on the right.
First was a basic brown tweed suit jacket probably made in the 1970’s. Since they didn’t come with matching pants we found these 1970’s brown wool pants. Next came another 1970’s vest with brown leather covered buttons. Under the vest is a basic white dress shirt with the pointed collar rounded out to look like a club collar. The tie is a western Victorian style thin black self tie tie. A black bowler tops his head and standard brown dress shoes cover his feet. Pretty easy, right?