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Waist covering with 1930's double breasted black tie?

Discussion in 'Suits' started by Anthony_Eden, Dec 1, 2017.

  1. Dear fellow Fedora lounge members,

    I have a question, for which I wasn't able to find a proper sartorial answer in my beloved Apparel Arts or Esquire drawings :)

    When wearing a classic double breasted dinner jacket during autumn/winter time, what is the proper waist covering? I dislike the cummerbund, and otherwise have a classic 1930 barathea waistcoat but can I wear it with a double breasted suit?

    Or some of you would say that the double breasted is meant to remain buttoned at all times, and that the question is irrelevant? And so nothing under the jacket?

    Waiting for your suggestions/reactions... Thanks for your pieces of advice.
  2. Hap Hapablap

    Hap Hapablap One of the Regulars

    Having just had the opportunity to wear my DB dinner jacket, I guess I've never thought about it. I always go with no waist covering, and just never open the jacket. The ensemble is classic 30s, so the rise of the trousers is nice and high, giving the illusion of coverage.
    M Hatman likes this.
  3. DB jackets =, when fastened,cover the waist; the 'rule' with these is that the jacket goes unopened, and no other waist covering is necessary. You could, I suppose ear something underneath if you like to open the jacket at the table, but personally I strongly dislike the look of a DB worn open. In any case, if it fits correctly, it shouldn't need to be unfastened when seated.
    Benny Holiday and M Hatman like this.
  4. Adding to Edward's point a bit, the whole point of DB dinner jackets is that waist a covering is not required, and thus are more comfortable, relaxed, require less fuss, etc. Hence their comparative lack of formality on the hierarchical scale of evening wear.
    Benny Holiday, M Hatman and Edward like this.
  5. Thank you all very much for the replies. Actually the point is indeed what to do when seated (and I have to unbuton the lower (2x4) fastening otherwise it is a bit tight or the back is then crumpled) but opening it looks a bit weird I confess. Or at a late time when some gents remove their jackets to play cards or get a brandy (and they usually have a cummerbund, or the awful pseudo cummerbund on top their trousers, rarely a waistcoat).

    So I would go ahead with the no coverage now I guess !
  6. The late night, cards and brandy sxcenario is, of course, why God invented the smoking jacket....
  7. F. J.

    F. J. One of the Regulars

    In the early 1930’s, it was still common for gentlemen to wear a waistcoat or cummerbund under their double-breasted dinner jackets, presumably so the waist would still be covered if the jacket ever had to be opened.

    A good example of this is Paul Muni in 1932’s Scarface. He wears a white waistcoat under his double-breasted dinner jacket that’s never seen until after he’s in a car wreck.


    Last edited: Dec 4, 2017
  8. I would suggest there's a subtext to Paul Muni's wardrobe in Scarface. Namely, the costume designers are trying to communicate that Tony Camonte is an uncouth, uncultured, antisocial hoodlum who is incapable of caring about or understanding social mores. Note how throughout, the movie, he's dressed in very bold, clashing patterns and wears his hats oddly. Similarity, the waistcoat worn above is a little "too flashy" formal wear. In Little Caesar, the costume designers did the same thing with Edward G. Robinson's character.


    Last edited: Dec 4, 2017
  9. F. J.

    F. J. One of the Regulars

    Taken on its own, I believe the waistcoat is a pretty good example of wearing a waist covering with a double-breasted dinner jacket, but perhaps I should have chosen a better example than something from a gangster film.

    I believe you to be right about everything else in Tony Camonte’s wardrobe being over-the-top, but I have to respectfully disagree vis-à-vis the waistcoat itself being too flashly. One could perhaps even argue that it’s the only conservative thing he wears.

    Firstly, it is a fairly standard model of evening waistcoat, perhaps even a a little old-fashioned by 1932 as you could find identically-cut waistcoats in 1922 or 1912. Its colour also would have been quite ordinary in 1932, as it was then still common to wear white waistcoats with informal evening wear.

    Secondly, as it is never even seen until he is en déshabille, I fail to see how it could be “too flashy.”

    Just my two-cents worth.
  10. The other thing, of course, is that in the early 30s the "rules" of black tie were just beginning to solidify, so I'd imagine there was still uite a lot of variance in the conventions.
  11. Mean Eyed Matt

    Mean Eyed Matt One of the Regulars

    I'm quite sure, there are even bespoke black tie DBs with corresponding black waistcoats.
    It's not a real black tie dress but: I own a black DB evening suit from the second half of the 30s with matching waistcoat.
    Even if you shouldn't open the jacket there are often 3 piece DB suits in that time - I think it's also common for black tie...
  12. Isn't the waistcoat on the left brocaded? Or is that just the lighting?
  13. Patrick Hall

    Patrick Hall Practically Family

    I have a number of these vintage three piece double breasted suits. I have no doubt that the practice was common with dinner suits as well during the early days of black tie. I really love having a waistcoat with a double breasted coat, because not all double breasted coats look good buttoned when you sit - it depends on where the buttons are placed, and sometimes the lapels bulge in an unsightly way around the chest. A waistcoat allows you to unbutton your coat when you sit, and still look neat and clean.
  14. MondoFW

    MondoFW One of the Regulars

    With 1930's DB black tie ensembles, I've often seen a waistcoat commonly worn with it.
    Appears to just be the lighting. Though, I can sort of see why it can be confused for a brocaded garment.
  15. Wow, what a great debate! If I understand well, it was therefore quite usual to don a waistcoat in the 1930's with a DB dinner jacket, be it white or black, as it was more flexible then... However, contrary to a 3-pieces-business-suit, where the top of the waistcoat slightly protrudes, here, the waistcoat remains quite invisible until you get machine-gunned by mobsters, or getting to the late night at your card table, am I right? Ans so the type of the evening waistcoat with a DB dinner suit remains of the same standards as with a single breasted one... If someone has a picture of an original add or garment, that would be even clearer! I am looking in my Esquire/AA pictures but can't find any...
  16. Wolf99

    Wolf99 New in Town

    Yes, that's my understanding. When worn it would be a typical evening waistcoat, so low fastening and normally not or barely visible. As a consequence, you rarely see it illustrated. I found an old American 1913 advert which mentions it but you cannot see any waistcoat on The Black Tie Guide. It also has this however:
    [​IMG]White evening waistcoat just visible above the lapels (mid-1920s).

    It also says this about the whole issue of double breasted jackets worn (as they were initially) as warm weather wear
    "The jacket was not only constructed of lightweight material (as were the trousers) but also featured a narrow overlap of the fronts which allowed for a larger opening above the buttons and less layered material below them. Initially worn with a waistcoat and favored only by young trendsetters, by Christmas 1931 Apparel Arts was reporting that “The double-breasted dinner coat, because of its elimination of a vest, replacing it with the all-comfortable Kummerbund, has become a practical, permanent necessity in all southern wardrobes.” The waist covering was soon dispensed with altogether allowing the jacket’s practicality to win over its relative informality and making it popular for summer yachting or tropical winter resorts."
    Last edited: Dec 10, 2017

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