The stock market crash, the invention of the zipper, cheaper fabrics and the creation of ready-to-wear designs all influenced men's evening wear in the 1930s. Iconic figures of the time such as Edward the VIII and Al Capone were a major influence on suits -- the mainstay for evening and work. Suits were tailored to create the appearance of a large torso, wide shoulders and narrow hips. The double-breasted suit became popular in patterns like herringbone, pin stripes and plaids. The period is remembered as one of elegance.
Depression Era Innovations and Men's Evening Wear
People had far less disposable income so clothing choices had to be strategic, including suits that could be worn from day into evening. Manufacturers began researching and developing inexpensive fabrics such as nylon and polyester. Zippers also became more common.
The Duke of Windsor and Evening Wear
One of the decade's trend setters was Edward VIII, the Duke of Windsor, who married a fashionable American, Wallis Simpson. His iconic look included plus fours and round-necked sweaters -- the plus fours made looser trousers more popular for evening. He developed the Windsor knot, popularised the tab collar, with buttons to fasten down collar points. He favoured double-breasted jackets with stubby lapels over jackets with tails for evening. His influential look included four instead of six buttons, lapels sloping down to the bottom buttons, and a longer hem. This version was known as the Windsor double-breasted. He also made midnight blue a popular colour for evening wear.
Evening Wear for Winter
Lapels were longer, trousers fuller and shoulders were padded to make the torso look broader. The suit projected a commanding image. Men favoured evening suits in black and midnight blue in flannel wool or gaberdine. With the New Deal and the slight improvement in the economy, the London cut or London drape became a sign of affluence. The London cut incorporated shoulder pads that lined up with the triceps, allowing extra fabric beneath the arm to drape. A high-waist cut and high pockets and buttons and pointed lapels completed the look. High-rise dress trousers and single-breasted coats with tails, white shirt and bow tie gave the formal tuxedo a sartorial elegance. Double-breasted suits were considered semi-formal and often worn with a wide necktie and angled fedora.
Suits for Spring and Summer
The Palm Beach suit in single or double-breasted seersucker, shantung silk or linen was extremely popular for evening in warm climates. This white dinner jacket look was also worn by men on Wall Street in summer. The suit typically consisted of a white mess jacket -- influenced by British military formal wear -- and a matching waist coat. High-rise dress trousers in either midnight blue or black, a wing collar formal shirt and bow tie completed the look. Men added colour with cummerbunds, though they were also popular in the classic black silk.
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