1920s Mens Formal Wear: Tuxedos and Dinner Jackets

1920s Mens Formal Wear: Tuxedos and Dinner Jackets

1920’s Mens White Tie Formal Wear

For a evening out to the opera, getting married, dancing at a formal ball, or attending a lavish dinner party meant it was time for men to dress in their finest. 1920’s  men’s formal wear kept the traditional top hat and tailcoat as well as added a option for a dinner jacket called a Tuxedo coat today.

1910’s men’s formal wear consisted of a black fitted jacket with long ‘swallow’ tails in the back, a white vest, trousers with silk stripes on the sides, and a white bow tie.  While this “white tie” look continued to be in fashionable in the 1920’s it was gradually losing favor.

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.

1920’s Tuxedo Jacket

1920s Mens Formal Wear: Tuxedos and Dinner Jackets

Downton Abbey- Tuxedo Jacket

The dinner jacket or tuxedo jacket replaced the tail coat as a more casual and comfortable attire for many formal occasions. The exceptions were traditional weddings and the most formal of wealthy parties.

The tuxedo jacket of the 1920s was still fairly long, falling below the hips. Thin notched or peaked lapels were the most fashionable, but even they got wider as the decade progressed. Some jackets were cuffed at the wrists too, sometimes with contrasting material, such as shiny satin or faille.  They were mostly single-breasted with two button holes on either side of the jacket held together by a coat link. The coat link is similar in appearance to cuff-links.

A double-breasted dinner jacket became popular in America in the late ‘20s. It was worn without a vest and eventually in the 1930s with an early form of a cummerbund. Two flap pockets were usually found on the front, and a slit breast pocket made room for a white pocket square.

1920’s Formal Trousers

1920s Mens Formal Wear: Tuxedos and Dinner Jackets

Two Dinner Jackets/Tuxedos and a Tailcoat

Matching pants were worn with the both tailcoats and tuxedo jackets. They were very high-waisted, coming above the natural waistline, and held up with suspenders. The trim on the side legs varied with the dress. For  tailcoats the trim was either two slim single or one wide double strip of silk braid. With dinner jackets a single narrow braid was the only trim. Satin strips were the slightly less formal and more affordable trim.

Trousers had thin legs and cuffs turned up at the high ankle.  Formal pants were worn very short – men’s black silk socks were visable, even while standing up.  A sharp crease down the center gave a polished look to the new relative informality of evening wear.

1920s Formal Shirts and Vests

1920s Mens Formal Wear: Tuxedos and Dinner Jackets

Nucky Thompson, Boardwalk Empire, Tuxedo Jacket, Vest and Shirt

The formal dress shirt traditionally was a white cotton or silk bib front button up shirt with detachable wingtip collar. Bib front shirts were starched stiff and smooth. Dress shirts button up with shirt links made of white mother of pearl or black onyx. On the double cuffs (french cuffs) were a pair of initialed cuff links.

By the end of the 1920’s some young men (mostly American’s) tossed out the stiff bib front shirt in favor of a silk night shirt! These soft shirts with smooth or pleated fronts certainly were more comfortable and casual. They were only considered acceptable for summer time semi formal occasions although plenty of young men worn them to formal events too.

1920s Mens Formal Wear: Tuxedos and Dinner Jackets

White Tie Tuxedo with white vest

Over the shirt came a single or double breasted white or ivory waistcoat (vest) that hung over the top of the pants. The double breasted waistcoats were rounded along the bottom. A single breasted vest usually came to two points over the trousers.

White waistcoats were for the most formal occasions whereas ivory was the most common for everything else. Less prone to showing dirt they were the more economical option and especially popular with a dinner jacket.

The prince of wales made the backless vest very popular in the late 20’s. It attached around the back with just two straps. The lack of back fabric made it cooler to wear in warmer climates. Fred Astaire copied the prince’s new fashion who also found the backless vest to be cooler while dancing.

1920’s Formal Accessories

1920s Mens Formal Wear: Tuxedos and Dinner JacketsA silk tie or bow tie was worn over the shirt collar in white. The bow tie went from narrow to fat during the decade. Wingtip collars followed suit to accommodate the chunkier look.

White kid leather gloves were worn with formal suits but they were always removed 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. Patent leather lace-up versions (oxfords) were becoming more and more popular throughout the decade. Shoes were often worn with white or grey spats – shoe covers. 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 onyx.

A black silk or satin top hat completed the formal wear look. The hat was quite tall and narrow with an inch or two thick brim.

Dressing in 1920s Formal Wear Today

If you are attending a formal 1920s evening then you will need a 1920s style tuxedo. Here are some tips to help you use readily available clothing for your  20’s look.

1920s Mens Formal Wear: Tuxedos and Dinner Jackets

Tailcoat1920s Mens Formal Wear: Tuxedos and Dinner JacketsDinner Jacket/Tuxedo

1. You can get either a modern a tailcoat or tuxedo jacket. Tuxedos should have notch or peak lapels with a single button closure.  Avoid shawl collar and peak lapel tuxedo’s.

1920s Mens Formal Wear: Tuxedos and Dinner Jackets

Wingtip Shirt with French Cuffs

2. Bib front dress shirts are hard to find. A plain white wingtip collar dress shirt will be a bit easier to find and look just as well. Avoid pleated tuxedo shirts.

1920s Mens Formal Wear: Tuxedos and Dinner Jackets

Ivory Vest

3. White or ivory waistcoats are also hard to find, especially double breasted. A single breasted backless vest will be the most comfortable, just don’t remove your jacket while wearing it.

4. Tuxedo pants with braids are impossible to find. Flat front tuxedo pants with satin stripes on the sides will work well. Order one size up if you want a higher waist line and hold them up with black suspenders. Avoid pleated tuxedo pants and very stretchy elastic suspenders (they stretch too much and your pants will fall down.)

5. Go the extra mile and add a white bow tie, pocket square, patent leather shoes, white gloves and a top hat to your look.

You can find all of these formal clothes for sale here. 

1920s Mens Formal Wear: Tuxedos and Dinner Jackets

 

1920s Mens Formal Wear: Tuxedos and Dinner Jackets

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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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