What Gilded Youth Spends on Its Wardrobe: 1907


An Edwardian gentleman in morning suit.

An Edwardian gentleman in morning suit.

An ingenious engineer has been at some pains to discover what it costs the aristocratic young Englishman to protect himself against the elements. It must not, of course, be supposed that all aristocrats dress well in England any more than they do in America. Mr. Gladstone, for example, was notorious for his shabby clothes, while his great opponent Lord Salisbury was once excluded from the inclosure at Ascot by an over-zealous official, who very naturally mistook him for a tramp.

But the gilded youth, the male butterfly, certainly knows how to spend money on clothing, and he does it with a will. At any hour in the afternoon one may meet men in Bond Street or Piccadilly who spend far more for their dress than does the king, and who give the subject far more thought — if indeed that word may be so far profaned.

To begin with, the gilded British youth will spend $500 a year for his underclothing, and it must be remembered all the way through that these figures represent an amount nearly their double in America, where clothing is so much more expensive. His neckties and gloves will cost him about $150 a year, and his tailor’s bill will be a moderate one if it does not run to about $1500. This will include three riding suits, 1 at $40, six lounge suits at $35, six flannel suits at $25, twelve pairs of trousers at $6, six dress suits at $73, and a whole host of  odds and ends, such as fancy waistcoats, motorcoats, overcoats, and waterproofs. Hats, boots, and sundries will run away with S350 a year, and then there will be jewelry, to which of course there need be no limit at all. When we remember that the butterfly’s sister or sweetheart — if, indeed, he possesses anything quite so common as a sweetheart — will spend about twice as much for dress as he himself, it is easy to see where the money goes.

To do him justice, he does not spend very much on jewelry, as anything of a showy or a flashy nature is considered bad form. But in the matter of waistcoat buttons he allows himself a special extravagance. He will probably have three sets for white waistcoats and two for fancy waistcoats. Sometimes these sets are of turquoise, and they may cost $1,000 a set. Those worn by day are of a quieter kind and will cost perhaps from $5 to $10 a set. Studs are another expensive item, because they have so much of what has been called the innate cussedness of inanimate objects, and so frequently get lost. The well-dressed man favors pearls for his studs, and a set of these will run from $10 up to $500, according to size and quality. The Argonaut [San Francisco, CA] 20 July 1907

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: We have previously remarked on the “dudes” who wear corsets. While the ladies have been censured for their absorbing interest in costume and for those innocent deceptions used by fashion to heighten a woman’s beauty, they have also been praised for giving work to so many: milliners, modistes, boot-makers, jewellers, lace-makers, &c., &c. The same might be said for the gentlemen, as we observe in this article from 1916, which, as the vulgar might say, “ups the ante:”

How to Become a Gentleman.

It takes nine tailors to make a man, but fourteen or even twenty-four, if it be a rush job, to make a gentleman. The members of the National Association of Merchant Tailors of America are themselves authority for the computation. They arrived at it very simply, indeed. No gentleman, they say, can have less than fourteen suits and ten overcoats in his wardrobe. Should one decide to become a gentleman in a hurry, starting, say, from scratch or a state of nature, then each item of clothing mentioned would necessarily engage the attention of a different artificer, making twenty-four in all. But, of course, if a man start with a handicap, half a dozen suits and a couple of overcoats it may be or any other variation of fractional gentility why then, the number of tailors required to bring the product at once up to specifications differs according to the gap in the wardrobe.

It is needless to speculate on the uses and character of the two dozen units of dress prescribed. Every gentleman must know them by heart, and even an editor is too sensitive to risk displaying his ignorance in the matter. Suffice it to say that they should represent an outlay of $2,060, which very conveniently reduces gentility to the time honored basis of dollars and cents. Take the amount named to any first-class moulder of fashion or to several simultaneously, and he or they will guarantee the result, and no questions asked. New-York Tribune 13 February 1916: p. 2

The perfect 1907 gentleman of fashion. An Arrow Shirt ad by Joseph Christian Leyendecker.

The perfect 1907 gentleman of fashion. An Arrow Shirt ad by Joseph Christian Leyendecker.

Mrs Daffodil invites you to join her on the curiously named “Face-book,” where you will find a feast of fashion hints, fads and fancies, and historical anecdotes

You may read about a sentimental succubus, a vengeful seamstress’s ghost, Victorian mourning gone horribly wrong, and, of course, Mrs Daffodil’s efficient tidying up after a distasteful decapitation in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales.

3 thoughts on “What Gilded Youth Spends on Its Wardrobe: 1907

  1. Pingback: History A'la Carte 6-19-14 - Random Bits of Fascination

  2. Pingback: Young Mr Van Gilder’s Summer Outing Costumes: 1892 | Mrs Daffodil Digresses

  3. Pingback: Dressing on $50 to $200 a Year: 1898 | Mrs Daffodil Digresses

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