Chesterfield Coat

AKA: None, it is only called the Chesterfield

How to say it: As it looks

Traditional Features: 

body template

  • velvet collar
  • short, notched lapel
  • no waist seam or darts
  • can be single or double-breasted
  • fly front closure on single-breasted styles
  • knee length
  • semi-fitted through the body
  • can have pockets

Origins…

…of the style: The Chesterfield coat appeared in 1840 and was the first true overcoat for men. Previously men wore fitted coats that stayed on inside and outside – no gentlemen would ever remove his coat in company; however the looser fit of the Chesterfield meant that it could be worn over other clothes when outdoors and removed once inside. Traditionally made from heavier wool fabrics in grey or black, the Chesterfield had a velvet collar, no waist seams or darts and fell to the knee.

The Chesterfield crossed into women’s wear in the early 20th century as the looser fit was perfect for the more active lifestyle that women of the time were beginning to have. The style was adapted to better fit women’s bodies at this time, but retained the basic overcoat look.

While the Chesterfield coat saw the height of its popularity in the 1920s-40s, they are still seen as a wardrobe staple by many men and women of the 21st century. Just like any garment, there have been lots of stylistic changes to the coat over the years, but many of the traditional features have lasted the test of time.

…of the name: Many sources say that the Chesterfield coat was named for Phillip Dormer Stanhope, the 4th Earl of Chesterfield; however this particular Earl lived and died in the 16th century, nearly 70 years before the first overcoat was known to exist, so it seems unlikely that he was the true inventor. More recent sources state that the 6th Earl of Chesterfield, George Stanhope, was the first to wear the coat and given that he lived in the mid-19th century and was a known dandy, he seems like a better candidate.

For more in depth histories of the Chesterfield, try these sites… The Gentlemens Gazette,   The Dreamstress

21st Century Chesterfield Coats

These days the velvet collar is often missing from the Chesterfield, and women’s styles tend to be more fitted than the original design, but a true Chesterfield Coat should definitely not have a waist seam.

brooks brothers michonmarigot uniqlo burberry chesterfield

Top row – Brooks Brothers, Michonmarigot on Etsy

Bottom row – UNIQLO, Burberry

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