A Brief View Of Men’s Clothing- The Frock Coat

Frock Coats3

In a previous post, we gave an overview of the sack coat and sack suit during the late 19th Century from 1870 through 1900. While the sack suit was probably one of the most commonly worn outfit for men, there were other styles that bear mention, principly the frock and morning coats.

The frock coat got its start in the early 19th Century as an informal alternative to the dress coat (also referred to as the tailcoat or claw-hammer coat) and as such, was a coat with full skirts that extended to the knee and had a distinct waist seam that gave it a tailored appearance. In contrast to dress coats, the skirts on the frock coat was constructed of distinct upper and lower pieces rather than being cut as one piece.

In the examples below, the difference between the types of coats is readily apparent and especially in the skirt:

Dress Coat1

Note the distinct, fuller skirt pieces on the frock coat. Also, frock coats could be single or double-breasted:



Frock coats were primarily made from wool although other materials such as linen were also used. In terms of color, frocks coats came in a variety of colors with darker colors predominating. Also, frock coats were made in both single and double-breasted styles; the double-breasted style was considered to be more formal than the single-breasted version. Finally, the frock coat could be worn open or closed.


Here’s an example of a frock coat made from linen:


Frock Coat, c. 1860 – 1870; Augusta Auctions

Below is an early version of the frock coat. As the 19th Century progressed, the skirts gradually became less exaggerated:


Frock Coat, French c. 1816 – 1820, constructed of wool/silk twill; Los Angeles County Museum of Art (M.2010.33.7).

And now some from the 1870s:


From Gazette of Fashion, and Cutting-room Companion, 1870


Frock Coat, American, c. 1870s; Kansas State University Museum (1984.21.1 ab)

And the 1880s:


Frock Coat, c. 1880 – 1890; McCord Museum (M973.49.7)

And finally, the 1890s:

Frock Coat1

Frock Coat, c. 1890; Victoria Albert Museum T.624-1996)


As a general rule, frock coats became shorter and more tailored with a slimmer silhouette and were often worn with a pair of lighter-colored trousers as shown in some of the pictures above. Also, it’s interesting to note that during the 1880s and 90s, we increasingly see frock coats being worn open with wide lapels.

Frock Coats1

Frock Coats2

For people desiring to recreate period fashions of the late 19th Century, the frock coat offers one possibility for those desiring a more formal, conservative look. However, it must be noted that the frock coat is more representative of the period prior to the 1870s and as such, it was being supplanted by the morning coat for formal wear. In a future installment, we will be covering the morning coat so stay tuned! 🙂

(To Be Continued)

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