“Do you dress for dinner every night, Bertie?”
“Jeeves,” I said coldly. The man was still standing like a statue by the door. “How many suits of evening clothes have I?”
“We have three suits full of evening dress, sir; two dinner jackets—-“
“For practical purposes two only, sir. If you remember we cannot wear the third. We have also seven white waistcoats.”
“Four dozen, sir.”
“And white ties?”
“The first two shallow shelves in the chest of drawers are completely filled with our white ties, sir.”
I turned to Rocky.
One could write tomes about men’s evening dress. There’s one of those website thingummies devoted solely to the subject, in fact, and much of our information is gleaned from that source. A link can be found below, so we won’t bother to rewrite the whole thing. Rather, we’ll present some options from virtual clothiers that would be suitable for our interwar period evening rambles.
The gentleman’s tuxedo, really a 20th century invention, comes in a seemingly limited range of options that wouldn’t have appeared to have changed radically over the decades. But the devil is in the details, as they say. The cuts, fingertip or shorter; the lapels, peaked or shawl; the issue of waistcoat vs. cummerbund; double breasted waistcoat or single; U-shaped waistcoat front or V; straight-bottomed waistcoat or angular (pointed or curved); black tie or white; midnight blue or black; white dinner jacket or solid black; military dress mess style jacket, lounge or reefer … Yes, we could write tomes.
Some of these things one would be more likely to encounter in photographs and fashion illustrations of the era than others. The white mess, for example, had a moment in the sun — quite literally, as it was considered only suitable for summer or warm-weather resort wear — for a relatively brief period. Perhaps that it why it is impossible to find in world. Fashion illustrations also indicate fairly narrow ankles on trousers; you can spot a tuxedo of the 1920s quite readily by the tapered, almost peg-leg silhouette of the trouser, which may be surprising given the penchant for a wider leg trouser through the interwar period, in general.
But, before we end up writing tomes by way of an introduction, let’s just get down to our sampling, shall we?
LYZ, Getz Men’s Evening Suit
What we like: the U-shaped waistcoat, a rare find in world and out. The suit comes in combinations of black with one other color, but we recommend choosing the black/blue option, as midnight blue evening clothes are period appropriate. The blue is a little too vivid to be “midnight,” but there it is. We are not mad about the striped waistcoat, and would have been happier with solid black or white, and we are very unhappy, indeed, with the gap between waistcoat and trouser waist, but we are sufficiently appreciative of the rarity of the U-shaped front to recommend this option. It is also relatively affordable.
Hoorenbeek, Tailcoat Suit
What we like: A white waistcoat and white tie, to say nothing of the fact the the waistcoat and trouser fully cover the shirt front. We should point out that the waistcoat coming below the bottom of the jacket is a problem, and the trouser leg is far too wide at the ankle, but there we are. White waistcoats can be and are worn with black tie in period appropriate dress, but in world it is difficult to find white waistcoats with interchangeable tie options. This ensemble with tails is for rather more formal evening occasions. We know that you’re thinking — all evening dress is “formal,” but there you would be wrong. Evening occasions at which the tuxedo or other evening dress might be worn ranged from a raucous night with the boys at the club, to a ball in season with presentations to royalty involved. One does not dress the same at the one as the other. This suit is suitable for only the most formal occasions.
What we like: The nicely peaked lapel. So many lapels we see in world are essentially shawl cut, but with notches. We say one or the other, please. Either make it shawled, or give the notched collar a substantial peak. We also appreciate that the waistcoat, though not deeply enough cut in the V, does cover the waist of the trouser.
SF Design, Godfather Suit
What we like: The longer cut on the jacket, the waistcoat covers the top of the trouser, the black studs for buttons. The shawl lapel on the waistcoat is quite period appropriate, too, and we appreciate the color-change buttonnier included in the ensemble. There is, however, very little flexibility with this suit. None, in fact. It is all of one piece.
Kauna, Tuxedo, Classic Black
What we like: We like most things by Kauna, even if we have some quibbles with the overall tight cut. The quality is top drawer, however. We would wish for a suitable waistcoat option in black and white. There is a black waistcoat one could purchase and wear with this, but it looks like a daywear waistcoat and is somewhat jarring when paired with the tuxedo. Instead, one is left with the cummerbund option, and that was fairly exclusively worn in summer or as part of warm weather resort dress and/or more informal evening occasions. One would not see cummerbunds and white tie and tails at the same event.
Kauna, Tuxedo, Classic Cream
What we like: The white dinner jacket option. It should be noted that one can purchase the Classic Black version, and supplement it with a separately purchased cream or white dinner jacket, rather than buying two full sets of evening dress. We should note that stark white is not something one would see in a natural fiber, wool or silk taking on a yellowish tinge over time, therefore a cream jacket is more period appropriate and considered today a mark of higher quality and refined taste over one in white. The white dinner jacket is reserved for less formal occasions, and at the time, was considered summer or resort wear.
L$896 — or the jacket on its own to supplement the classic black is L$329
Other things to consider — in period fashion illustrations, particularly from the 1930s, ’40s and ’50s, we’ve seen quite colorful options for the jacket in velvet “housecoat” or silk “smoking jacket” variations. These would have been appropriate for informal dinners at home, not for a night out on the tiles.
Location: The Outer Garden, Calm Beach
The Black Tie Guide
Carry On, Jeeves — “The Aunt and the Sluggard”