Help steer me with 1940s pants? (Reproductions or approximations)

Discussion in 'General Attire & Accoutrements' started by BigBrother, Nov 30, 2020.

  1. BigBrother

    BigBrother Familiar Face

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    Hey all! Well, despite literally decades of going out dancing in jeans, since I always found vintage-style apparel too stuffy and constricting for dance, I've found a look I really like and want to start wearing that will make me look sharper, allow me to move better, and just all in all has me very, very, very excited!

    The unknown component for me is the pants. Despite knowing a bit about WWII uniforms, men's shoes from this era, overall men's vintage suit designs, women's apparel, and the like, I don't know much about menswear in general. I know I want pants that read right, but I'm not sure if I want them tapered, looser ala the Oxford style (which I suppose was more late 20s-early 30s), etc. For reference, Connie Wydell in this clip is more or less wearing what I think I want (he's the guy doing collegiate shag- left arm way up in the air):



    More close I think are the ones worn by Wally Albright here from 0:14-0:16:



    (For all I know these are quite different and I'm comparing apples to oranges!)

    I was looking for your help on two fronts:

    1. Any good primers or sources you can point me to to get me up to speed on general types of pants in the late 30s to wartime 40s?

    2. Purveyors? Now this is key- I explicitly do *not* want real vintage for a number of reasons. If I can get something that's made close enough, that will certainly work. I don't even need authentic styles of fabric (in fact I kind of want to eschew them based on the weight I've experienced with vintage pants in the past. The lighter and airier, the better! (Think of the intended use. :)) And if they're affordable on account of not being perfect down to the button (like Dickie's serving as a stand in for WWII khaki), that would be fine for me for now. I am happy to spend, but probably after I know what's what, and cheaper would probably be better for me now as I get started.

    Help me with all this?

    Thanks so much all!!!
     
    Last edited: Nov 30, 2020
  2. Flanderian

    Flanderian Practically Family

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    I have some thoughts that relate to your questions, though little to no current information as to sources, and I'm sure you'll get better responses from other more knowledgeable members.

    I've long preferred more loosely fitted, higher rise trousers worn at the natural waste with pleats, and ideally, they're worn with braces/suspenders (Which I notice one of the dancers in the top video is wearing.) to provide optimum hang. Such trousers drape, and when you move, they flow, and if you swing, they swing with you! And that is what characterizes what I think you're referring to in the videos.

    Unfortunately, the current fashion for pants is the generally the total opposite in every regard, with a very low rise, and an almost skin tight fit that fits more like leggings than trousers.

    The fellows in the video are all very fit, slender guys and likely could wear almost any cut, but the drape cut is what gives the movement.

    Pleats on properly tailored and fitted trousers are flattering to everyone. But on men who are as slender, flat bellied and narrow hipped, they are less essential. This is relevant because historically inexpensive casual/work trousers often didn't have them even once they had become common in the '30's; and during WWII they disappeared on trousers in the U.S. as they were frowned upon by the WPB, but appeared again after the war and were the norm for most men up until the the late '50's or early 60's. I only explain all this because you'll note some the guys appear to wear pleats, and some don't, but because they're uniformly slender and are wearing well fitted trousers, it isn't detrimental, as it would be if those weren't true.

    Also, some are wearing belted trousers, others braces/suspenders. For best fit, trousers with belts are worn more snuggly on the waist with no extra room, whereas those with suspenders should have an extra 1/2" to 1" of room in the waist so they "float" and the trousers hang fully suspended.

    The other essential characteristic to my eye is that all of the trousers have been tailored very well to fit the specific individual. It used to be common for a skilled alterations tailor to make several minor, or major, adjustments to RTW trouser fit so the trousers would fit perfectly. And in trousers of this sort that is particularly important because it is what allows a smooth line through the body without any bunching or pinching, but also without excessive fullness that would destroy the line.

    Good luck!

    I very much admire those skilled at swing dancing and think it a beautiful and fun pastime.

    Commercial fodder, but mildly entertaining with some pretty good dance numbers -


     
    Last edited: Dec 1, 2020
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  3. Old_Gold

    Old_Gold New in Town

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    I love a good pair of high rise, double pleated, full cut, cuffed pants. I don't know of any good reproductions other than if you got them made bespoke. If you don't have the money to go bespoke, try thrifting for the pants you want and see if you can pay a little extra for some alterations. For sources of information on men's 30's-40's style in general, try gentlemansgazette.com or vintagedancer.com.
     
  4. BigBrother

    BigBrother Familiar Face

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    What’s funny is, Swing Kids, of all the recreation films I’ve seen, probably has the closest/most impressive examples of the pants I’m looking for and it didn’t occur to me to reference it. So kudos!! :)
     
  5. BigBrother

    BigBrother Familiar Face

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    Re: reproductions, I’m getting up to speed on things. I think my largest question right now is about materials. I really like the wool look (the rougher tweed or flannel, I think, I’m not sure of the terminology. Basically the non-smooth textures) and am wondering what modern fabrics are used, if any, to approximate that. Actual wool is disgusting to dance in :), hence my interest and one of the reasons I didn’t want to go true vintage.
     
  6. Blackadder

    Blackadder Call Me a Cab

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    Last edited: Dec 1, 2020
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  7. Flanderian

    Flanderian Practically Family

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    Flanders, NJ, USA
    Our ancestors were made of sterner stuff, as they even used wool for swimsuits! :eek: But I take your point as I wouldn't find wool very comfortable for a serious work out.

    And unfortunately, with drape, weight is one of the factors that matter, and both heavier weight wool tweed and flannel do so quite well, with the edge a bit to tweed, as flannel tends to be more tightly woven.

    But the cloth that is the champion of drape and swing is twill, where more weight also tends to offer more drape. A favorite of mine is wool gabardine in heavier weights, though any finer more tightly spun twills in heavier weights will also serve well. But as you acknowledge, wool is the fiber used for most better cloth. But I've sometimes seen twills of other fibers and filaments; for example, there's cotton gabardine, though it won't give you the same kind of movement wool will. If you can find synthetic twills that incorporate rayon, of which modal is one contemporary variety, it tends to have similar weight, and much of the movement of wool.

    I didn't discuss cuffs, but it would be near travesty not to have cuffs on trousers for swing dancing. Anything else just won't look right, but equally important, 1 1/2" or 2" cuffs will give some weight to help with drape and swing. But make sure not to wear them too long so they catch the ground. And another trick you can employ, one that used to be standard on many bespoke trousers, is to sew two small weights into each cuff. Tailoring supply houses actually used to sell them for this purpose, and may still do. They will really help amp up the flow and movement as you dance!
     
  8. Old_Gold

    Old_Gold New in Town

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    Found these trousers on Simon James Cathcart.These are 10/10 stylistically. If money weren't so tight I'd get a pair now! [​IMG]
     
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  9. BigBrother

    BigBrother Familiar Face

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    YES!!! These look like what I’m after. I haven’t even clicked into the site yet, just browsing updates to the thread on my phone and had to respond. That flaring out at the hip/below the belt line is what I wanted, and the material seems spot on. Will be checking all this out now!
     
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  10. Flanderian

    Flanderian Practically Family

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    Superb!
     
  11. Cocker

    Cocker Practically Family

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    SJC does some amazing pieces of clothing! I think this is what happens when a true passionate goes to town.

    Regarding the wool trousers, I also often wear a repro M1937 US Army trousers from What Price Glory. Very high waisted, wide legs, nice wool, it's got everything to please except pleats and suspender buttons. But now that I know how they fit, I think I'll measure them and go to Luxire for a pair of trousers with above details in heavy cotton. They have some interesting material and color choices.

    I also love the look of Bronson's Ivy trousers. If only I could fit in them, but they are way too short for me: https://bronsonshop.com/collections...ts/1930s-ivy-style-two-pleated-chino-trousers
     
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  12. BigBrother

    BigBrother Familiar Face

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    Great stuff everyone. Leads on American manufacturers (for quicker turnaround, easier returns, likely more affordable prices, etc.) would be great. Thanks!!
     
  13. BigBrother

    BigBrother Familiar Face

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    So yeah, after more inspection it seems like almost everything worthy of note is overseas :). I think I may be hitting up my local vintage stores a lot more now!
     
  14. Tommy-VF51

    Tommy-VF51 One of the Regulars

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    285
    I'd go with either vintage or Chester Cordite if you want proper waist and wool. For cotton Buzz Rickson Chinos are very good and hold a crease.

    You might be able to find some early USAF Airforce Blues and there are some decent Officer Pink repro's out there. I'd love to find a decent repro of the OD51 'Chocolates', I know Buzz do one but it's a little too much at over £200.

    Where are you based, people might be able to recommend a good vintage store?
     
  15. BigBrother

    BigBrother Familiar Face

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    Southern California. Have car, will travel ;)
     
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  16. Tommy-VF51

    Tommy-VF51 One of the Regulars

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    There's bound to be some good places for vintage then.

    Paper Moon have closed their bricks and mortor and don't have much on their Etsy right now, but I suspect have a lot of unlisted stock they might be able to offer. Over Attired sell a lot of gorgeous stock, but often ask quite a bit. Sneaky Tiki seem good for shirts and jackets, but don't seem to have a lot in terms of legwear? All California sellers.

    Scott Fraser will customise his trousers a little more, but they're not cheap even if your over here. I wish I'd got a pair when they were about £100 cheaper. I know people who really rate these and do dance in them too?
     
  17. Edward

    Edward Bartender

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    I'd have suggested SJC too. Not cheap, but the quality is excellent, and I am aware that a number of hardcore dancers are already wearing Simon's stuff.

    Definitely worth a look. For something a little cheaper, also try Darcyclothing.com - their generic 'mid 20th century' cut works well for a 40s look imo. They mostly do cotton rathe than wool, though designed to look more like wool. A lighter drape good for dancing in, breathable, but not too light - they don't make the mistake of so many places which do "repro" for the non-vintage enthusiast where they get the cuts right but the cloth is far too light and hangs wrong. A cloth that will hold its shape becomes particularly important with wider trousers.

    My issue with Bronson is more width than length.... they stop at a 36w, which I'll never be again. WPG and other military repro is a good shout. I've found a lot of great military trews over the years that really work well for a civilian look. It *does* put a certain limit on you for the colour palette (the Axis forces didn't help, some very nice cuts and colours, but far too much of tendency to put buckles and straps at the ankles!) That said, it's not hard to pick up a basic pair of US Army tan cotton chinos and set about them with a Dylon in almost any colour....

    Another option is Aero's CC41 trousers. Those are simply gorgeous - the tweeds might be too heavy for you, but the cotton drills will be superb. Made to a CC41 wartime pattern, but - copying the original pair they used for patterning - they have cuffs. (Cuffs were theoretically banned in Britain in wartime in order to save cloth, but it was not unknown for a compliant tailor to be persuaded to put an incorrect inside leg measurement on paper so that there was enough cloth in the trews to create a cuff.)

    They do some nice stuff. Early on, it was all poly-wool blend which many folks don't care for, but I gather they have significantly improved the materials since them. They seem to ave come al ong way with the patterns too, I like what I see on the website.
     
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  18. Tommy-VF51

    Tommy-VF51 One of the Regulars

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    I think Chester Cordite have come on massively as a company. The only issue is their runs are often very small (say 5-10 on each shirt size in certain patterns). However Stuart is very helpful and I suspect he would sort you out, say if you wanted a second pair of trousers to go with a suit. The only change (other than more fabrics) I would make to the trousers is more of a dropped belt loop/ hollywood waist?

    I like the Aero trousers a lot, but they are braces only. But I've heard they are VERY well made, possibly better than other accessories, such as the knitwear.

    I live relatively near to Darcy, when it's safe to, I really should go in person to check their stuff out, especially the trousers. Are the trousers heavier weight than most cotton then Edward?

    I'm also interested in their slightly spearpointed spread collar shirt!
     
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  19. Edward

    Edward Bartender

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    Darcy shirts are great. Not cheap, but that's the killer with small runs... (For day to day type spear-collars, the Angels Wardrobe people do a very nice option, though do buy a half to a full size up as they can shrink a little.)

    The work trousers from Darcy are a good, hefty drill - about 12-14oz I'd guess, similar to jeans. Their denim are def around 12 ounces; lighter than my Wranglers, great for Summer wear. (And, of course, historically an accurate weight: the original "13MWZ" Wranglers actually were 11MWZ on introduction in 1947 as they were 11oz. This idea of really heavy denim is a very modern trend.) The wool-imitation ones are I think somewhere are the same mark - not close to feeling quite the thickness of my Aero tweed trews, but still heavy enough to hang right and hold their shape. A distinct jump up in quality from the likes of the poly trews HeyDay used to do for men, which just weren't heavy enough to look at all right, especially the wider ones.

    Aero's are unbeatable; it's be fantastic if they did a pegged Mid-50s cut in a Hollywood waist as well - nice to wear a belt sometimes rather than braces. I very much have my eye on one of their three-piece tweed suits in future.
     
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