1920s Mens Evening Wear Step By Step

1920s mens formal wearEvening wear for men previously consisted of a black fitted jacket with long tails in the back- a “swallow tail” jacket-, white vest, trousers with stripes, and white bow tie.  While tails continued to be worn for very formal occasions like a wedding, opera or a ball, they were considered very old-fashioned by the younger stylish set. You can read about formal attire of the Edwardian era here.

The new trend for men’s semi-formal wear was the tuxedo jacket, also called a dinner jacket at the time, instead of the traditional tails. The tuxedo jacket of the ‘20s was still fairly long, falling below the hips. Thin notched or peaked lapels were the most fashionable, but got wider as the decade progressed. They were often cuffed at the wrists too, sometimes with contrasting material, such as  satin or faille.  They were mostly single-breasted, but a double-breasted version became popular in the late ‘20s that was considered very uncouth by the upper and older classes. Two flap pockets were usually found on the front, and a slit breast pocket was a newer addition. Men’s fashions were inspired by WWI army jackets and tuxedos were worn buttoned up high, military style.

1920’s Formal Trousers

Matching pants were  worn with the tuxedo jacket. They were very high-waisted, coming above the natural waistline, and held up with suspenders. Satin stripes down the side legs were still popular. A narrow, straight cut was the way to go, with a turned up cuff at the bottom. Evening pants were also worn very short – men’s socks often showed, even while standing up – something that would get you made fun of now, but you’d be looking good in the ‘20s! A sharp crease down the center gave a polished look to the new relative informality of evening wear.

1920's wide leg pants trousers

Oxford Bags Wide Leg Pants

A wacky trend in pants during the ‘20s that eventually carried over into evening wear was ‘Oxford Baggies.’ These pants were huge! They were straight-legged but were ridiculously wide, some reaching up to 36 inches at the leg opening. They were usually worn for casual occasions, but seeped into the nightlife scene done in fabrics that matched tuxedo jackets.

Formal suits were almost always black, but dark navy blue saw a resurgence too. The dark blue suit cut down on the appearance of dust, fibers and pilling that are problematic with black suits. They were made of different types of wool and wool blends. Summer suits could be made from lighter fabrics.

1920s Formal Shirts and Waistcoats

mens evening wear shirt

Wingtip Shirt with French Cuffs

Underneath the suit jacket and trousers was a crisp white collared shirt that buttoned up the front. A white dress shirt with bib front and detachable wingtip collar was even more formal. Shirt studs fastened the shirt and cufflinks on the french cuffs.  A trend in cuff links during the 20’s was to show off your initials on the link face. Formal shirts were made from cotton or silk.

On top of that, a vest or waistcoat, was worn. These were often silk, satin or brocade and were always white for formal occasions. The exception in the mid to late 20’s was an ivory waistcoat for warmer, tropical climates.  Waistcoats were usually single breasted with a straight edge on the bottom which showed off the taller trousers of 20’s.  A novel double-breasted version became extremely popular towards the end of the decade as well as a backless vest for warmer climates.

1920’s Formal Accessories

A silk tie or bow tie was worn over the shirt collar in white. A matching silk scarf was tucked into the breast pocket of the tuxedo jacket and a boutonniere for the lapel. White kid leather gloves were worn for evening occasions, being taken off during dinner.

Black patent leather slip-on pumps were the evening shoe of choice, with a small stacked heel and a slightly pointed round toe. Lace-up versions (oxfords) were becoming more and more popular throughout the decade. Shoes were often worn with white or grey spats – shoe covers that were first used to protect shoes from the elements but became a fashion statement for well-dressed men during the ‘20s. They were made from cotton canvas or linen and buttoned up the side – for evening, the buttons had to be elegant in silver, gold, or shiny black. They fit over the shoes, covering just the top, and were several inches high, fastening underneath the shoe.

The only thing to top off this dandy outfit was, of course, the top hat – black silk or satin with a small brim an inch or two wide and tall, tall, tall! Whew! After putting all that on, you’re finally ready to head to your after 6 affair.

Shopping Help

I have had a very difficult time finding good formal wear online. Most modern tuxedo wear is not quite the right style for the 20’s. I have assembled some available jackets, shirts and accessories here:

 

 

Traditional 1920's Style Black 3-Button Tuxedo Jacket
 

Traditional 1920's Style Black 3-Button Tuxedo Jacket

$73.50

Buy at: Jos. A. Bank

Best 1920's Tuxedo Shirt- Art Pique Bib Wing Collar Formal dress shirt
 

Best 1920's Tuxedo Shirt- Art Pique Bib Wing Collar Formal dress shirt

$54.00

Buy at: Jos. A. Bank

1920's Style Non-pleated Dinner pants.-Black Plain Front Tuxedo Trousers
 

1920's Style Non-pleated Dinner pants.-Black Plain Front Tuxedo Trousers

$175.00

Buy at: Jos. A. Bank

Classic Tuxedo-Black Notch Collar Tuxedo Jacket
 

Classic Tuxedo-Black Notch Collar Tuxedo Jacket

$475.00

Buy at: Jos. A. Bank

1920s style Mens Wing Collar Formal Dress Shirt
 

1920s style Mens Wing Collar Formal Dress Shirt

$54.00

Buy at: Jos. A. Bank

Marcella classic collar tuxedo slim fit shirt
 

Marcella classic collar tuxedo slim fit shirt

$99.00

Buy at: Charles Tyrwhitt

Thomas Pink marcella wing collar evening shirt - double cuff White
 

Thomas Pink marcella wing collar evening shirt - double cuff White

$195.00

Buy at: Thomas Pink

1920s Style Mens Signature Notch Lapel Tuxedo
 

1920s Style Mens Signature Notch Lapel Tuxedo

$895.00

Buy at: Jos. A. Bank

Formal White Pique Vest
 

Formal White Pique Vest

$115.00

Buy at: Jos. A. Bank

Hickey Freeman Classic Fit Worsted Wool Tuxedo (Free Next Day Shipping)
 

Hickey Freeman Classic Fit Worsted Wool Tuxedo (Free Next Day Shipping)

$1,495.00

Buy at: NORDSTROM.com

1920s Style Flat Front Tuxedo Pants -Signature Black Tuxedo Plain Front Trousers JoS. A. Bank
 

1920s Style Flat Front Tuxedo Pants -Signature Black Tuxedo Plain Front Trousers JoS. A. Bank

$225.00

Buy at: Jos. A. Bank

Black Notch Collar Tuxedo Jacket JoS. A. Bank
 

Black Notch Collar Tuxedo Jacket JoS. A. Bank

$475.00

Buy at: Jos. A. Bank

Art Pique Bib Wing Collar Formal Big/Tall Dress Shirt
 

Art Pique Bib Wing Collar Formal Big/Tall Dress Shirt

$56.00

Buy at: Jos. A. Bank

Pre 1920s Top Hat- 1880s Bollman Collection Topper
 

Pre 1920s Top Hat- 1880s Bollman Collection Topper

$100.00

Buy at: Hats.com

David Donahue Pique Bib Front Regular Fit Tuxedo Shirt (Online Only)
 

David Donahue Pique Bib Front Regular Fit Tuxedo Shirt (Online Only)

$165.00

Buy at: NORDSTROM.com

Michelsons of London Slim Chevron Textured French Cuff Tuxedo Shirt
 

Michelsons of London Slim Chevron Textured French Cuff Tuxedo Shirt

$42.99

Buy at: macys.com

Informal Mens 1920s Style Vest - Slim fit tuxedo suit vest
 

Informal Mens 1920s Style Vest - Slim fit tuxedo suit vest

$120.00

Buy at: Charles Tyrwhitt

Ealry 1920s Style Slim fit tuxedo suit pants
 

Ealry 1920s Style Slim fit tuxedo suit pants

$149.00

Buy at: Charles Tyrwhitt

Marcella bib front wing collar Classic fit tuxedo shirt
 

Marcella bib front wing collar Classic fit tuxedo shirt

$99.00

Buy at: Charles Tyrwhitt

Lake florsheim lake 17044 Mens leather moc toe slip on tuxedo shoe
 

Lake florsheim lake 17044 Mens leather moc toe slip on tuxedo shoe

$120.00

Buy at: Florsheim

White Cotton and Viscose French Cuff Tuxedo Shirt
 

White Cotton and Viscose French Cuff Tuxedo Shirt

$118.80

Buy at: FORZIERI.com

Traveler Tailored Fit Tuxedo with Plain Front Trousers
 

Traveler Tailored Fit Tuxedo with Plain Front Trousers

$795.00

Buy at: Jos. A. Bank

3 PC.Formal Tailcoat  Tuxedo by Vinci Suits
 

3 PC.Formal Tailcoat Tuxedo by Vinci Suits

$299.00

Buy at: Womensuits.com

Alessandro Dell'acqua Men's Black Leather Tuxedo-style Oxford Shoes
 

Alessandro Dell'acqua Men's Black Leather Tuxedo-style Oxford Shoes

$299.99

Buy at: Overstock.com

Rangewear by Scully Kirksey Scroll Vest
 

Rangewear by Scully Kirksey Scroll Vest

$50.00

Buy at: WesternWear.com by Sheplers

Rangewear by Scully Paisley Print Double Breasted Vest
 

Rangewear by Scully Paisley Print Double Breasted Vest

$50.00

Buy at: WesternWear.com by Sheplers

Men's Ox & Bull Trading Co. Silver and Mother of Pearl Cufflinks Pearl/Silver
 

Men's Ox & Bull Trading Co. Silver and Mother of Pearl Cufflinks Pearl/Silver

$49.95

Buy at: Overstock.com

Men's Ravi Ratan JFK Presidential Cufflinks Rose Gold/Mother of Pearl
 

Men's Ravi Ratan JFK Presidential Cufflinks Rose Gold/Mother of Pearl

$104.95

Buy at: Overstock.com

John Lewis Semi Precious Round Cufflinks, Mother of Pearl
 

John Lewis Semi Precious Round Cufflinks, Mother of Pearl

£30.00

Buy at:

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About Debbie Sessions

Debbie Sessions is passionate about wearing history through fashion. She and her husband, Oscar, have turned their hobby into a career by teaching others how to re-create vintage style with affordable new vintage inspired clothing and accessories. We connect shoppers to the best vintage inspired clothing, shoes and accessories and teach fashion history as it was worn by everyday people. Need more help? Contact us anytime.

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