A Man and His Suit

A short story about Walther von Hallwyl's "tropical suit".

A Portrait of Walther (1905/1910) by unknownHallwyl Museum

The Man

Walther von Hallwyl was a man of “economical nature” (as his butler put it) and a normal stature: approximately 176 to 178 cm tall, a chest circumference of c. 90 cm, waist measure c. 80 cm, trouser inner length 82 cm. He was conservative in most ways and certainly when it came to his own clothes. On this picture from c. 1910 he is wearing a redingote, or frockcoat, which was more or less obligatory for a serious man at the beginning of the century. His starched cuffs and collar and plastron/Ascot tie were also a part of the outfit. In the Hallwyl collection there are 109 inventory numbers relating to his wardrobe. This is the story about one of them: "the tropical suit".

EgyptHallwyl Museum

The Party

In the 1890’s Walther and Wilhelmina von Hallwyl planned a trip to Egypt in the season of 1900-1901. They might have been influenced by Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden, who had travelled to Egypt in 1890-1891 and published a book about the journey. This photograph shows the Hallwyl party on mules at Benihasan. Left to right (not including the indigenous guides): Wilhelm von Geijer, Walther von Hallwyl, Wilhelmina von Hallwyl, Henrik de Maré and Ida Uhse.

Henric de Maré on board the SS Columbia (1900/1901) by Wilhelm von GeijerOriginal Source: Image number: DIG 7998

European visitors to Egypt invariably dressed in light-coloured clothes and a pith-helmet. Henrik de Maré is wearing three-piece suit with breaches and a British colonial pattern helmet.

A Tropical Suit (1899/1900) by Zittorin & LundvikHallwyl Museum

Walther von Hallwyl’s suit is made of cream-white cheviot wool and consists of a single-breasted jacket with four buttons, a vest and a pair of trousers.

Two pairs of shoes were bought in Cairo when they arrived in November 1900.

The fly whisk was also bought in Egypt from a local dealer.

The shirt is of black and white striped cotton with a matching bowtie.

His helmet, manufactured by Davis Bryan & Co in Alexandria, was bought in Cairo, as well.

The Lining (1899/1900) by Zittorin & LundvikHallwyl Museum

Like all of Walther von Hallwyl’s trousers this pair has a waist lining of red Morocco leather. Another trait is the slanted pocket. (Lower right corner.)

The Collar (1899/1900) by Zittorin & LundvikHallwyl Museum

All suits in Walther von Hallwyl’s wardrobe are predominantly sewn with a sewing machine. The stiches are quite visible from both sides of the garment.

Walther and His Brother (1900/1909) by LauterwasserHallwyl Museum

Man and Suit Together

The “tropical suit” remained in Walther’s wardrobe and was used many times. This photograph of him together with his brother and sister-in-law shows him wearing the suit and shoes with a straw hat and white shirt. The suit is a casual garment, sometimes called a sack-coat because of its loose fit. The chances of seeing Count von Hallwyl wearing it in the city was slim, very slim indeed. For that purpose, he owned frockcoats, morning coats, a formal dress, a uniform and such. But that is, yet again, another story.

Credits: Story

Text: G. Sandell, National Historical Museums.

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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