1907 Formal Wear III: The Frock Coat

We continue our trip back in time to Edwardian America courtesy of The Blue Book of Men’s Tailoring with a look at formal day wear.

The frock coat, as worn in the twentieth century, is a heritage handed down to us by our ancestors.  It is a modification of the coat which has been worn by gentlemen for hundreds of years, and is today as much worn by all classes, which have always affected it, as ever.

The double-breasted frock, or Prince Albert, popularized by the late Prince Consort of England, has grown into the correct garment for formal day dress.

For day receptions, weddings, church wear, etc., it is the only correct garment.  As in other dress garments, there is little variation in general design from season to season, the changes in model which mark the necessary differences in fashion being mainly in the collars, lapels, facing, the number and placing of buttons, etc.

With the double-breasted frock, which is usually made from black or Oxford gray materials, trousers of gray striped worsted are worn, although if a fancy vest is part of the costume, the trousers should be of the same material as the coat.

The strict regulation as to what is proper in the cut and material of the double-breasted frock, extends also the accessories of the costume which are worn with it.

A standing, or poke collar, a white shirt, an Ascot or puff tie of cream or gray, silk hat, patent leather or varnished shoes, and white or gray gloves are regarded by well dressed men as correct, and the fashion is not likely to change for several years.

This period was to be the double-breasted frock coat’s swan song.  The less imposing single-breasted version – known as a cutaway in the US and a morning coat in the UK – had surpassed its popularity as business attire for professionals and by the start of the Great War would take its place as formal day wear, leaving the role of standard business attire to the increasingly popular lounge suit.

Next installment: U.S. Army Formal Dress

1 Comment

  1. Jon

    Not that politicians or statesman are fashion icons, but I have noted that US Presidents from Lincoln to McKinley wore some variation of the frock coat when photographed, thus it’s interesting (to me, at least) to see such little variation in Presidential daytime formal attire from 1861 to 1901. TR seems to have donned it with less frequency.

    Differences that I have noted, however, and which are at variance with the prescribed “poke” collar” are that most favoured a turn-down collar and that era’s equivalent of a bow-tie, and that the last to wear the coat regularly, William McKinley, always had a high wing collar, usually a bow-tie, but sometimes a necktie, and the latter was usually black.

    I wonder what the Blue Book would have said about that. I personally consider McKinley the most Presidential looking of our Presidents, which is some slight bias on my part.

    Thank you for such an informative article. I will admit that my own relatively recent foray into vintage/antique formal wear has been guided by your site, and that I am delighted to admit to admit, the more I learn, the more I realize there is to know.


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