Discussion Before the Civil War how many times would a gentleman changed their clothes on a normal day??

major bill

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
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Aug 25, 2012
I am guessing a gentleman at the start of the Civil War would have needed to change their clothing 4 or more times each day. However, was this many changing of clothing all that common for the average gentleman?

Even today a gentleman needs to change clothing several times each day. For example breakfast with friends is informal, that requires a conservative business suit. After breakfast with friends gentlemen can change into casual attire such as sport jacket and tie. Lunch with friends requires a gentleman to change back in to casual attire (a conservative dark business suit). Post lunch clothing is based on what one is doing, a sports jacket or even a simple outfit is acceptable. If one is having dinner with friends after 6 PM a dinner jacket (i.e. a tuxedo) should be put on. Late night drinks would allow a gentleman to put on a smoking jacket. So by modern standards a gentleman might change thier clothing 4 to 6 times per day.

I am in societies, that until a few years ago, the above was expected. Yes dark conservative business suit was expectedly for breakfast. Gentlemen were expected to wear tuxedos for informal dinners that started after 6 PM. For casual dinners a dark business suit would have been acceptable. Learning this was a 6 hour class at Army officer school but the class included the three ways a gentleman needed to know how to use their silverware at a meal.
 

Fairfield

First Sergeant
Joined
Dec 5, 2019
I suspect that it would be variable depending on the social level of gentlemanliness, the activities of the individual and the amount of space available for a wardrobe. Ladies knew how to accessorize in order to make an outfit last through different functions--and I suspect that gentlemen did also.
 

Yankee Brooke

First Sergeant
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Jun 8, 2018
Location
PA
Major Bill, you run with a different crowd than I do.

My clothing choices:
Winter --blue jeans and a t-shirt
Summer-- shorts and t-shirt
The other two season, a combination of the above.
I was just about to say, I've never known a guy who dressed like that. Usually most of my guy friends dress like you do, plus maybe a shirt and tie if it's called for, like at work or a nicer function. Perhaps it's an age thing, or a geography thing? I live in rural PA, so plenty of rednecks, maybe it's a bit different in say, Manhattan?

Although I suppose it may have been similar then. I imagine the type of gentleman Major Bill refers to is an actual gentleman. Somewhat wealthy, connected, high up in society, etc. The average man, say, a farmer, factory worker, laborer, tradesman, etc probably changed twice per day, maybe. When his work was done, into something cleaner and in better condition than his work clothes.
 

major bill

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
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Aug 25, 2012
If you are at a club or society weekend meetings you would wear blue jeans to breakfast at the motel restaurant instead of a nice suit? If the agenda says dinner will be at 7 PM and dress will be informal. A gentleman wears a dinner jacket (tuxedo) to an evening informal dinner, right? That is why the society puts out an agenda for meals so you know what to wear. How would female members know if they are expected to wear a dinner dress, tea dress or cocktail dress?
 

jackt62

Captain
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Jul 28, 2015
Location
New York City
I never really thought about this subject, but having recently watched the "Downton Abbey" series, it seems that ladies and gentlemen of a certain class were constantly dressing (or being dressed) endlessly on a daily basis for every particular occasion (breakfast, hunting, tea, social gathering, dinner, strolling, etc., etc.) Seems very tiring.
 

Fairfield

First Sergeant
Joined
Dec 5, 2019
I never really thought about this subject, but having recently watched the "Downton Abbey" series, it seems that ladies and gentlemen of a certain class were constantly dressing (or being dressed) endlessly on a daily basis for every particular occasion (breakfast, hunting, tea, social gathering, dinner, strolling, etc., etc.) Seems very tiring.
Sort of gives meaning to the expression "clothes horse," doesn't it?
 

major bill

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
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Aug 25, 2012
My grandfather was born in the late 1870s and was a farmer most of his life. In his 70s he sold is farm and lived in the city. He would not have went anywhere or had guests over with out wearing a suit. He wore a suit when he worked in his garden, but usually took off his jacket and hoed in a white shirt and tie. A gentleman farmer could not be seen in their yard wearing "work clothes".
 

Dave DuBrucq

Corporal
Joined
Oct 28, 2020
Location
Tennessee
Learning this was a 6 hour class at Army officer school but the class included the three ways a gentleman needed to know how to use their silverware at a meal.
Hence the term knife and fork school.

My daily wear consists of blue jeans and a sweater in the winter months, Usually with a logo of one sort or another. In the warmer months, the sweater is replaced with a tee shirt emblazoned with some sort of commentary or commercial. This habit allows me to muddle through my morning ritual without having to make any monumental wardrobe decisions. A sport coat and tie is reserved for church and weddings while a dark grey suit is kept in the closet for funerals or other solemn occasions. In semi-formal settings, the tee shirt/sweater is replaced with a polo shirt.
 

Lusty Murfax

Sergeant
Joined
Feb 18, 2017
Location
Northwest Missouri
Major Bill, you run with a different crowd than I do.

My clothing choices:
Winter --blue jeans and a t-shirt
Summer-- shorts and t-shirt
The other two season, a combination of the above.
I change shirts when I soak them with sweat. During the summer months I keep extra tee-shirts in the tractor cabs and pickup trucks and might change shirts three to four times before noon. I'll also take extra seed corn ballcaps. Its rare that I sweat through my overalls, but might change into clean dry ones at noonl. As the weather cools, I'll change into a lighter jacket after the day warms. I've noticed that my cows don't care what I wear and my input suppliers only care that the checks clear.
 

Lusty Murfax

Sergeant
Joined
Feb 18, 2017
Location
Northwest Missouri
My grandfather was born in the late 1870s and was a farmer most of his life. In his 70s he sold is farm and lived in the city. He would not have went anywhere or had guests over with out wearing a suit. He wore a suit when he worked in his garden, but usually took off his jacket and hoed in a white shirt and tie. A gentleman farmer could not be seen in their yard wearing "work clothes".
I think you're BSing us. When anyone around here speaks of a 'gentleman farmer' it is with derision. The intention is to ridicule his work ethic and failure as a farmer.
 

Dave DuBrucq

Corporal
Joined
Oct 28, 2020
Location
Tennessee
My uncle ran the family farm until the 1990s. He wore work clothing to plow and such, but would change in to a suit if he went out to eat or visit friends. If he was invited to any thing he wore a suit. I grew up believing this is what farmers did.
My now deceased Father-in-Law was a farmer, having a successful 260 acre farm. He daily wore work clothes. Like your uncle, he would wear jacket and tie for church services and social events. I think it was a habit of the time and it showed respect to your hosts.
 
Joined
Mar 19, 2019
I think you're BSing us. When anyone around here speaks of a 'gentleman farmer' it is with derision. The intention is to ridicule his work ethic and failure as a farmer.

Really?

When I was in elementary school, I was taught that George Washington was a "gentleman farmer." I think that that's the term that I was supposed to use for the history test. That's how I was introduced to the term.

Now that I think about it, maybe the 4th grade history teacher WAS being sincere in the use of the term. Or, maybe the history teacher was "punking us" (or "trolling us," etc).
 

Lusty Murfax

Sergeant
Joined
Feb 18, 2017
Location
Northwest Missouri
George Washington did fit the description of a GF or Planter. Mt. Vernon originated as his Great Grandfather's (Nathaniel Pope) plantation on Pope's Creek.

Farming here in the western corn belt is a much different enterprise and the rural lifestyle is much less formal. The wealthiest men in our community wear their work clothes all day every day and most won't wear a suit unless its for a wedding or funeral.
 

major bill

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
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Joined
Aug 25, 2012
In the South the owner of a large plantation probably changed clothes 2 or more times per day. A morning coat, a ridding coat if he went ridding or if he looked over the plantation by horse back, a day coat, perhaps a dinner jacket if he was entertaining friends or simply felt dinner required a bit more style than a day coat provided, and then perhaps a smoking jacket if he went to his library/office after dinner.

I am not sure what a Northern gentleman would have worn, but a day jacket, dinner jacket, and smoking jacket would seem possible. I am not sure a gentleman would wear a dinner jacket if dinning only with his spouse and children. Then again what would the house staff think of gentleman not properly dressing for dinner.
 

lupaglupa

2nd Lieutenant
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Joined
Apr 18, 2019
I'm with @Fairfield - this entirely depends on the "class" of the person. Rich people in the 19th century had standards of dress that required multiple changes each day. Every activity had its own clothing. You would never, for instance, drive a carriage in the same clothes you wore to go hunting. A dinner at the club required different clothes than a dinner at a private home which was different than a dinner at a party or ball. This is why men had valets and women had maids - organizing all these clothes was a full time job.

My one grandfather owned a business in a small Southern town. He wore a suit every day. He had clothes specifically for golf and for other leisure activities. He didn't have clothes for working in the yard because he didn't do that. He wore a hat when he went out. That was how he was raised.

As to the phrase "gentleman farmer" - I've always heard it used for people who own a farm but don't work it. I'm sure Washington never pushed a plow or pulled a weed. He owned a farm but he wasn't the man who farmed it.
 
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