The Victorian “dandy” style, the era of fashion ranging from 1837-1901, with many rules to makeup the qualities of the proper English gentleman.”The Gentleman’s Art of Dressing with Economy” by A Lounger At The Clubs, was written in 1876 is a men’s guide for dressing well with a limited budget. It’s more than fashion menswear book, it’s a historic document for fashion.The reader will realize that in the beginning of this book onwards, it’s expected that a man should constantly repair clothes of good quality, visit a tailor and have clothes hand sewn for assurance of the best quality.
The first order of business is to know how the author defines economy, “whereby the prices of all articles of consumption should be familiar in one’s mouths as household words all the year round… It means the art of getting things cheap”(16).
This book is divided into different sections for menswear and an added bonus of grooming! There’s even a section on umbrellas. Even UMBRELLAS were a vital part of a man’s outfit. Here is a summary of advice for every article of clothing:
- Coats- This chapter is organized with different coats and when it’s appropriate to wear each one, for example the Cutaway Coat is recommended for everyday wear and the Norfolk jacket is for general country wear. However for all coats there is a constant color recommendation of black and dark blue. No matter what the coat is, be prepared to spend money for proper quality, “[A] coat be of inferior quality, it gives the wearer a poverty-stricken look” (34). The most important factor to determine the appropriate coat is by looking at the length of it, “the regulation length of skirt of morning coat may be determined by letting the arm fall to the side, with fingers extended. Then the ordinary skirt is level with the tip of the middle finger” (36).
- Waistcoats- “Waistcoats should invariably be of the same material as the coat. Vests are best made without collar or with a dummy one- that is, the outline of it, designated either by braid or stitching. Take my advice, and have four pockets in every waistcoat” (51). This chapter discusses the occasions and difference in quality between a double breasted waistcoat, white vests and chamois leather for waistcoats.
- Trousers- To find the perfect pair of trousers is to visit a tailor and have them made to measure but to save extra money it is smarter to select fabric at a wholesale cloth shop. The recommended fabric is strong tweeds. The perfect fit is determined by cut, “trousers should be cut to fall straight from the knee with a slight spring over boot. The width over boot is invariably one inch and a half wider than knee measurement’ (60.) For extra care, it’s suggested not to wear the same pair of trousers for two consecutive days.
- Boots- The purpose of this chapter is to let a man know his boots should be made by a bootmaker, made to measure and hand stitched. It’s recommended for a man NOT to wear the same pair of boots within a two day period. “Materials for boots- for dress boots, patent leather; for dress morning boots, porpoise hide; for ordinary walking, calf skin” (67).
- Hats- “To wear a shabby black hat is a sign of poverty; to wear a shabby white one indicates proceedings in bankruptcy” (72). As always recommended by the author, a hat is an item to pay good money for and to take care of the brim the hat show always be placed face down. To save money, leather of the hat should be renewed.
- Shirts- When deciding to purchase a shirt, it is strongly advised not to purchase an already made shirt. Rather, one should have a shirt be properly cut, have a proper measurement of breast and neck for the perfect fit.
- Gloves- “To have gloves dyed any colour than black is a waste of money; then they should be two sizes too large for you, as they are safe to shrink in the process” (83).
- Ties- “No tie or scarf can be neater than plain black in silk or satin” (83).
- Jewelry- “Beyond a gold chain for watch, I do not see the necessity for any. In these days of aluminum and oroide, gold studs and links cease to be ornamental, and are better replaced by mother-o’- pearl” (88). The rest of this chapter talks about the beauty of quality jewelry for men, the author strongly advises against fake gold, jewels and low quality watches.
- Grooming “The Toilet”- “The hair should be shampooed every day in domestic bath… The best cosmetic for gentlemen is soap; and the best soap is plain unscented yellow or elder flower if you prefer it” (97).
- Umbrellas- “The best stuff for wear is Italian twilled silk; and I advise my readers to have two umbrellas, one for real work on confirmed wet days, the other for dress occasions; and both should be kept throughly clean, and all mud spots removed therefrom by the use of sponge” (91).
Although the author of this book remains anonymous, it is clearly written by a man who has vast knowledge by attending social events, studying fabrics and trends all over England during the Victorian era.