Wool, cotton and silk lining
Frock coats appeared in fashion around 1816. In the early 19th century, fashionable men sported low, tightly-cinched waists with puffed-out ‘pigeon’ chests and flared skirts. This look emphasised the ideal hourglass figure, inspired by Prince Albert. By the 1830s, it was the most popular coat for day wear or ‘undress’ and this silhouette persisted into the 1840s.
In marked contrast to our modern aesthetics of tailoring, shoulder pads were rarely worn. Instead, the ideal male figure could be reinforced further with padding to round out the chest. The height of the waist and the length of the coat skirts changed according to fashion, although knee-length was generally considered most conservative.
The weight of the skirts made it difficult to cut the fronts in one piece, so a waist seam was introduced in the 1820s. The waist suppression is quite marked – the coat’s diameter here is less than around the chest, achieved by side panels of fabric above the waist which pull in the naturally cylindrical drape.
Throughout the Victorian era, all coats were individually cut to the exact measurements of the wearer. It was usual to cut the lapels separately and sew them on afterwards, to ensure an elegant lapel roll. Characteristically, frock coats of this time also had no outer pockets. This became a feature towards the end of the 19th century as pocket squares became fashionable.
Charles Philip Yorke, 5th Earl of Hardwicke image © National Portrait Gallery, London