MEN'S OUTERWEAR RESEARCH 1880 -1900
Men's outerwear for this period seems to provide an infinite number of styles to choose from; there are ulsters, chesterfields, sacs, surtouts, and the inverness, with many variations given to each style. It is these variations to the basic styles that give the variety of garments seen during the 1880's and 90's. The ulster is a good example of this. Traditionally a long, loose, double breasted coat with a large collar, it could be found single breasted, not so long or loose in cut and so called a chester-ulster, or a cape added without sleeves became the Inverness ulster. And so all the styles went. Even the surtout, classically styled as a double breasted coat with a waistseam, was not immune to such changes."...it is made in several shapes, single and double breasted,and with and without a waist seam." [Clothier and Furnisher, 1883].
The varying ease allowances and lengths put into a garment combined with the styling details such as placement of seams, pockets, lapels, etc., are what differentiates one style from another. The surtout is a close fitting coat with back skirts, the chesterfield is a closely fitted sac, while the ulster is a longer, looser version of a sac. There are of course certain styling features that became synonymous with a garment, such as the velvet collar and fly front associated with the chesterfield but that is not to say you wouldn't find these in other styles as well. The types of garments worn through the 1880's and 90's did not vary enough to justify writing a section on each decade. The raglan was introduced in the 1890's and the popularity with which the various styles were worn did change from one year to the next, but the styles seen in the 1880's carried on into the turn of the century. Two styles of coats, the Macintosh and the fur coat, are not described in the style section as they are more in reference to the type of fabrics used rather than the style. Both of these types of garments would be found in many of the styles listed below, such as chesterfield Macintoshes, the Macintosh covert coat, the fur sac coat, fur ulster, etc.. There is no doubt that fur coats were widely worn in Canada, as photographic documentation depicts, but it is not likely to be a garment which the Canadian Parks Service can feasibly reproduce for it's interpreters.
STYLES The most common styles worn during this period were the chesterfield, sac overcoat, inverness, surtout, chester ulster and ulster,covert coat and the raglan coat. Again, it is important to emphasize that these were the basic styles, and variations in styling details were often added.
THE CHESTERFIELD " As usual the leading style of overcoat, either for Fall or Winter wear, will be the Chesterfield. This, as everyone should know, is a Fly Front Sack." The American Fashion Review, Aug. 1888. " The Fly front sack continues to be the predominant style. It is of medium length, and fits the form almost as closely as a frock." Clothier and Furnisher, Feb., 1882. " The Chesterfield still maintains its popularity as the favourite shape of overcoat for general use." Isaac Walton and Co.Catalogue, London, 1890.
STYLING Single or double breasted, fly front, lower flap pockets, breast pocket with either a welt or flap, with or without a center back seam , velvet collar, stitched edges and seams. The length may vary between 38 to 40 inches. (American Fashion Review, Aug. 1888)
SAC OVERCOAT When comparing English and American references to this garment, the terminology refers to two different styles. As mentioned in the chesterfield section, The American Fashion Review refers to the fly front sac as a chesterfield. The sac referred to in periodicals from England is a looser cut garment than the chesterfield and does not have the distinguishing features of the fly front or velvet collar of the chesterfield. The English sac is the equivalent of what would simply be called an overcoat in American terms.
STYLING Single or double breasted, whole back ( no center back seam), no shaping through waist, lower flap pockets, ticket pocket, and breast flap or welt pocket. The roll collar is faced with fur. Fur trimming along front edge and cuffs was also common in these garments. The length would be to just below the knee, as with the chesterfield.
THE INVERNESS " The Inverness Cape is always in demand at this season of the year, especially for evening wear. " Tailor and Cutter, December, 1900.
STYLING More often single breasted with 5 buttons,lower flap pockets, and of course the most standard feature, the cape. It is cut with a center back seam. "The average length is 39 to 40 ", cut 2 to 3 sizes larger than an ordinary overcoat, and the cape should reach to within 1 " of the bottom of the sleeves of the undercoat." American Fashion Review, Aug., 1888.
THE SURTOUT "...is a garment that is rapidly increasing in popularity; it is made in several shapes, single and double-breasted, and with and without a waist seam". Clothier and Furnisher, 1883. " For day dress the Surtout will be more or less worn, though for this purpose the Chesterfield is equally correct. The average waist length will be 19 with a full length of from 43 to44 inches." The American Fashion Review, Aug., 1888.
STYLING Single or double breasted, 5 button, with or without waist seam, breast welt, center back seam with vent.
THE CHESTER ULSTER " On all hands we learn that this garment is in great demand this season; one cutter last week took orders for fifteen in one morning." Tailor and Cutter, Oct., 1887.
STYLING Single-breasted, 5 button, with large patch pockets and a cape. This garment is cut to knee length as the chesterfield, while the patch pockets and cape belong to the ulster class.
ULSTER "...a long, loose, heavy overcoat for rough or cold weather, usually double breasted." From "A Dictionary of Men's Wear" by Mr. Baker. "The Ulster and cape is one of those standard styles which always receives a fair share of support. " Tailor and Cutter, N.v., 1900. "Ulsters are the most practical garments for the northern climate." Union Clothing Co., Albany, N.Y., 1890. The ulster is described in the Tailors' Art Journal, Aug. 1888. "The Cape Ulster will continue to have a fair share of popularity for certain purposes. It is admirably suited for stormy weather, and properly gotten up, is a very swell garment."
STYLING Usually double breasted, loose and long with two lower flap pockets, ticket pocket, breast flap or welt or no breast pocket at all, a long back vent with a fly to button, with or without a cape, and a wide collar to protect the ears when turned up. The wide belt commonly worn with the uslter in the 1870's did not seem to have the same popularity in the last decades of the century.
THE COVERT COAT "...though it should never be used for street wear,(it) will be worn for that purpose by a few who imagine that it is 'quite English' to do so" and "...it will, undoubtedly, be seen on the backs of a few who rank as good dressers,". American Fashion Review, Aug. 1888. "Of all the popular garments that continue to meet with a ready sale, there are few which can vie with the Covert coat. " Tailor and Cutter, 1900.
STYLING Single breasted, with or without fly, 4 button, flap pockets, breast welt, cut with or without a center back seam, The average length is 34" and opens 4" at side seams.
THE RAGLAN COAT "The most favoured overgarment for the last few seasons is undeniably the raglan." Cutters Practical Guide, W.D.F. Vincent, late 19th century. ( no date has been ascribed to this particular work.)
STYLING Single breasted with fly front, whole back, lapped seams with two rows of stitching. "...it's chief characteristic being the peculiar shape of the sleeve, which is extended to the neck." Tailor and Cutter, Jan., 1900.
SUMMARY All of the above mentioned garments were commonly worn in both Europe and North America with class, fashion and climate influencing what would be most appropriate. The lighter weight chesterfields , sacs and covert coats were illustrated more often in English fashion periodicals while sacs and ulsters made from heavier woollen goods were shown when referring to outerwear for colder climates. In Canadian photographs of this period, the heavier, longer overcoats, often fur trimmed, were the more common type of outerwear to be seen. The ulster is the garment chosen for the prototype as it was a style commonly illustrated when referring to outerwear suitable for colder climates. It is also a practical choice in that it can be easily modified to represent another common style of the period, the chesterfield.