Just the other week, we welcomed the fall season with our essential tweed guide, and while you now know what some great fall fabric looks like, you may still be looking for a new silhouette for a jacket or suit. Therefore, I went way back in our menswear archive and dug up some illustrated suit styles from 1934 that you will certainly enjoy. Let’s focus on the elevated waistline, then double breasted vests and last but not least, highlight some stylish overcoats.
The Rising Waistline
A several years ago, jackets started to come with an elevated waistline, followed by skinnier lapels and most importantly, jackets got shorter with the elevation of the waistline. As a consequence, most hip ready to wear garments are considerably shorter than jackets used to be throughout the 20th century. In light of this development, connoisseurs of classic men’s clothing like to refer to the elegant thirties when suits had a certain timeless elegance. Now, while it is certainly true that the 1930s were the heyday of classic men’s clothing, things were changing back then as well. The suit silhouettes of the early 1920s are radically different from the 1930s, and if you take a closer look, even the pieces from the early thirties look different from those at the end of the decade.
In 1934, it had just become popular to elevate the waistline as well as the buttoning point. In order to maintain proportions, the pockets were elevated and the buttons moved a bit closer together. Nevertheless, the buttoning point was above the natural waist and so the lapels looked rather short compared to today. This effect was emphasized by the width of the lapels lapels, which was at least 3.5″ / 9 cm or more. The shoulders were tailored wide but the sleevehead looked soft and natural. The chest featured some drape and the V-shape of the wearer was accentuated by the trim waistline. The front quarters were rather round and distinctly different from today.
The suit to the left had very similar features to the notched lapels suit above. However, the peaked wide corners make the lapels look even shorter and the button distance seems too compact for my taste. Formally, the garments back then were all correct, meaning the peaked lapels were paired with jetted pockets rather than less formal flap pockets and the height was in line with the lowest button. The jackets Lino wears would have been frowned upon. Just like all suits back then, the trousers were cut quite full with plenty of room to move. While I like the two tone chalk stripe cloth in red, grey and white with the red striped shirt and red green tie, I think the button distance in combination with the lapels and waist suppression are distinctly thirties. If you don’t want to your suit to look like that, I suggest to lower the buttoning point lightly and to increase the distance between the buttons. If you like longer lapels, go with a two button jacket but otherwise, no need to change things if you want a classic, yet not period specific look. The soft shoulders are just fine, as is the tight waist paired with drape.
The double breasted suit features the same stripe, just in brown, yet it looks completely different. The silhouette of the 1934 double breasted is not too dissimilar from the DB jacket we wear today. The gorge is a lower, the jacket a bit longer and the waistline a bit high, but otherwise you could certainly wear it today. Although some might consider this to be a generous overlap for a DB suit, back in 1934 this was slim. Sometimes you’d see people wearing jackets with a much wider button stance, lending the wearer a bold look. Even though a double breasted suit is generally more formal than a single breasted notch lapel suit, this fabric is rather casual and hence it features flap pockets and just 3 cuff buttons. Back in the day, the degree of a garment’s formality was often reflected in the number of cuff buttons. Four buttons were reserved for dark formal suits and evening wear, 3 buttons for slightly more casual ensembles and 1 or 2 buttons for country garments. Today, it’s more of a fashion choice. Labels like Tom Ford always go with 5 buttons and while 3 used to be popular in the 80s and 90s, nowadays 4 seem to be the golden standard. While that’s fine for suits, make sure to opt for one or two cuff buttons with your odd tweed jacket or sport coat because anything else would be classically incorrect.
The Double Breasted Waistcoat
For a while, double breasted waistcoats were near extinction and only very elegant gentleman with a large wardrobe would wear them. With the boom in online made to measure clothing, you can see more double breasted waistcoats. While this is a positive trend, many providers of MTM clothing simply lack stylistic knowledge and so it isn’t uncommon to see these vests in odd silhouettes with low rise trousers, belts and high lapels. Unfortunately, this looks amateurish and anything but elegant. Take a look at the gentleman on the right: he wears a detachable wing collar with his bow tie, and while soft turndown collars are the standard today, everything looks marvelously elegant in this ensemble.
- The double breasted waistcoat should always cover the waistband
- Don’t wear belts because it looks bulky; opt for suspenders instead
- Ensure that the buttoning point of your jacket and the lapels of your double breasted waistcoat are aligned so that you will never see the lapel hemline of your waistcoat, because this looks crowded. The the graphic below, you can see the bad example on the left and the correct way to wear it on the right.
In the past, we have created an extensive article series on overcoats. So, if you haven’t read those articles yet or simply need a refresher course, now is a good time!
On the left, you can see a stunning Ulster overcoat with big turn-back cuffs, patch pockets a rounded lapel and similarly curved collar corners. If you want to have a special overcoat that you won’t find anywhere else, an Ulster in dark blue – not navy – is certainly the way to go. It is classic, bold yet very unique and you can wear it with most outfits today. Of course, most people today wear black gloves but that’s simply boring and often incorrect. Back in the day, no gentleman would wear black gloves. Instead they’d go for grey, buff or chamois gloves with buttons.
On the right, you see two gentlemen who also wear ulsters. The chap on the left pulls off a bold triple windowpane overcheck, while the gent on the right wears a more subtle, even faded, brown flannel check. Personally, I much prefer the coat on the right because it pairs well with almost all day suits, yet it is distinctly different from anything else you can find, without being too intense. The combination with the orange rust scarf is simply great, and a color combination that works with almost any fall outfit.
What is your favorite outfit in this article? Let us know in the comments!