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How many suits do you own?

Eddie Derbyshire

Practically Family
Messages
849
Location
Riddings, Derbyshire, UK
Also, imagine yourself a current fashion follower with some cash, in the upper circles of society. Clothes come and go with the seasons. Can't possibly wear last season's stuff! Really, he was ahead of his time!

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Rabbit

Call Me a Cab
Messages
2,561
Location
Germany
Reminds me of that practical joke in the Astaire/Rogers movie Swing Time (1936).

troupe dancer: I guess it doesn't really matter, just a hick town.

Lucky: What doesn't matter?

troupe dancer: Last year's trousers.

Lucky: Last year's trousers?

troupe dancer: No cuffs.

Lucky: No cuffs?

troupe dancer: No cuffs.
 
Messages
17,014
Location
New York City
Reminds me of that practical joke in the Astaire/Rogers movie Swing Time (1936).

troupe dancer: I guess it doesn't really matter, just a hick town.

Lucky: What doesn't matter?

troupe dancer: Last year's trousers.

Lucky: Last year's trousers?

troupe dancer: No cuffs.

Lucky: No cuffs?

troupe dancer: No cuffs.

It's amazing how much of the movie's plot turns on that detail.
 

PeterB

One of the Regulars
Messages
183
Location
Abu Dhabi
Hope folks don't mind me coming late to this thread. Here's my stats:

Suits: 15+. All British and all in a pre-1965 style if not actually made then. Highlights include a 3-piece DB in green, charcoal chalk-stripe SB peak lapel 3-piece (made for me), grey belt-back tweed 3-piece (made for me), 1960s deadstock thornproof 2-piece, London-tailored 3-piece in grey, and a very nice 2-piece POW recently acquired.
Overcoats: about 10, including a Burtons DB belted overcoat from 1951, a 'Burleigh' DB overcoat from 1930s/40s with that fantastic high button-stance, and a couple of belted Harris Tweed numbers.
Shirts: About 50, and then about ten tunic shirts for collars. Have about 30+ collars and around 30+ collar clips and pins.
Odd jackets: around 20, including a Welsh Tweed Norfolk from the 50s, a 1950s navy DB blazer by Alexandre, loads of tweed, and not enough summer-weight ones!
Pullovers: about 20 - nothing really special or vintage though, apart from one my Grandma knitted me ;)
Shoes: about half a dozen that I wear on a regular basis.
Ties: approx 200, including about 10 bow ties.
Dinner Suits: 2, one SB peaked lapel from 1931 (lacking waistcoat if anyone has one going), another DB article from 1960
Formal Wear: 2 Tailcoats, one from 1929, another from 1959. One pair of striped morning trousers, and a couple of DB waistcoats in grey.
Hats: About 6 flat caps, 4 felt hats (bowler, homburg, grey trilby and brown trilby) and a couple of straw ones. Plus a modest collection of military caps/hats/berets.
Slacks/Trousers: About a dozen or so, not including rough ones

Recently had a large clear-out of the suits, overcoats and ties that weren't the right 'look' for me, so there's room for more!

Wow Eddie. That's amazing. Sounds like you need an extra house to store all of them
 

PeterB

One of the Regulars
Messages
183
Location
Abu Dhabi
Hah no I'm only in a two-up, two-down terraced! I just cram them in! I have some rails in the spare room that are great.

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Eddie, like you all my suits, about 12, are made in a vintage style, a kind of blend of 40s and 50s. My old tailor made them using a sort of 80s does 40s cut, which I didn't mind. I keep some of my clothes at my office. I am self employed, so nobody objects. Compared to your 200 ties, I have about 50, of which only about 15 get worn regularly. Most are gathering dust, but I can't bear to throw them away. Have about five other old suits that I got in the early 80s, and are now too small to wear. I weighted about 9.5 stone at the time, compared to about 12 stone now, 30 years later. But I keep them, just in case.
 

APP Adrian

A-List Customer
Messages
364
Location
Toronto
1 vintage suit (medium grey, small white pinstripes, 1950s)
1 pair of black cap toe oxfords (vintage, German made)
1 white dress shirt (point collar Brooks Brothers, modern)
1 navy tie (3.5 inches in width, light baby blue pattern on it.)
 

Eddie Derbyshire

Practically Family
Messages
849
Location
Riddings, Derbyshire, UK
Eddie, like you all my suits, about 12, are made in a vintage style, a kind of blend of 40s and 50s. My old tailor made them using a sort of 80s does 40s cut, which I didn't mind. I keep some of my clothes at my office. I am self employed, so nobody objects. Compared to your 200 ties, I have about 50, of which only about 15 get worn regularly. Most are gathering dust, but I can't bear to throw them away. Have about five other old suits that I got in the early 80s, and are now too small to wear. I weighted about 9.5 stone at the time, compared to about 12 stone now, 30 years later. But I keep them, just in case.

That sounds like a good collection. :) You should post photos in the suits and ties threads!
 

PeterB

One of the Regulars
Messages
183
Location
Abu Dhabi
That sounds like a good collection. :) You should post photos in the suits and ties threads!

Eddie, I would, but can't get around to it. Would have to ask the better half to take the pictures, and one would need a couple of days for her to finish laughing at the idea.
 

Seb Lucas

I'll Lock Up
Messages
7,562
Location
Australia
A belated addition to the above:

I've come across numerous references to the sizes of 1920s-40s wardrobes, and without wanting to make this appear as a survey, I got the impression that a wardrobe of 20-24 suits at a time was generally considered to be a full wardrobe for any man who could afford it, with no need for further expansion, just replacement. Wardrobes considerably larger than that would have been rather unusual.
As a matter of fact, I found plenty of references for wardrobes of wealthy men who owned far less than that - including members of the English nobility. Wardrobes of 10-12 suits, even down to 6-7 suits, were quite common. Wardrobes of 3 suits at a time would have been considered extremely frugal.
Some of the best dressed men of their time owned no more than 7-10 suits, although it's usually left open how many odd jackets there were to supplement the suits.

Of course, the frequency of replacement kind of blurs the picture. For instance, Marcello Mastroianni, the post-war Italian actor, was known to order 12 suits each year from his tailor, replacing his old ones.

Also, I've found more references to very large wardrobes (much more than two dozen suits) in the 1950s-60s than before the war. The nuttiest wardrobe I ever heard of is that of Jerry Lewis in 1965 (mentioned in his 1965 interview with David Susskind), which he roughly estimated to be around 400 suits, 200 pairs of shoes, 200 shirts at the time.

It also depends so much on how you do the counting. Take Astaire's inventory, for instance - he casually mentions 12 odd jackets plus odd trousers. The above quoted interview is from 1957 when he had firmly established the sporty look of his older days (he preferred sports jackets, knit waistcoats etc. by then).

Not sure about that. My grandfather who enjoyed the 1920's greatly and was a prosperous, well dressed lord mayor of his town never owned more than 5 suits and 3 hats at once. I remember talking to him about this in the 1980's. He couldn't believe how many clothes people owned today (today being 1983). By his reckoning, the average middle class person had 2-3 suits. I suspect it was the super rich, showbiz types, eccentrics and coxcombs that would have owned multiples. Owning multiple items was frequently considered somewhat vulgar except amongst the newly wealthy (like Jay Gatsby, whose desperate and shallow materialism is so heartbreakingly satirized in the novel).
 
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PeterB

One of the Regulars
Messages
183
Location
Abu Dhabi
Seb, that's interesting. If you consider what prosperity meant in the 20s, it was quite different from what prosperity means today, or even what it meant in the 80s. My mother's father, who was born in 91, had about three suits and a few jackets, which he wore for about 30 years when I remember him. And people did not have so much in the way of casual clothes -- my grandfather used to wear his suits to the beach, and I have a picture of him in his shirtsleeves, braces on, trousers rolled up, standing in the sea. He wore spats into the 1930s, so was considered old fashioned, but I imagine he got the habit of wearing his suits to the beach back around the time of WW1, when it was, I believe, quite common. My father's father only had about five suits, and he was considered dashing, at the time (pre WW2). Clothing, like most things, was built to last. Thus, when a man died, his suits could be passed on to his nephews, brothers, etc., and frequently were. Figure in the 20s, a top of the line suit probably cost 20 guineas, and a young beginning bank clerk earned about three or four pounds a week, so five weeks wages, at least. So I would agree with you. They probably had fewer shirts, and washed them less often (in England it is common still to wear them a few times before washing them).
 

Seb Lucas

I'll Lock Up
Messages
7,562
Location
Australia
Seb, that's interesting. If you consider what prosperity meant in the 20s, it was quite different from what prosperity means today, or even what it meant in the 80s. My mother's father, who was born in 91, had about three suits and a few jackets, which he wore for about 30 years when I remember him. And people did not have so much in the way of casual clothes -- my grandfather used to wear his suits to the beach, and I have a picture of him in his shirtsleeves, braces on, trousers rolled up, standing in the sea. He wore spats into the 1930s, so was considered old fashioned, but I imagine he got the habit of wearing his suits to the beach back around the time of WW1, when it was, I believe, quite common. My father's father only had about five suits, and he was considered dashing, at the time (pre WW2). Clothing, like most things, was built to last. Thus, when a man died, his suits could be passed on to his nephews, brothers, etc., and frequently were. Figure in the 20s, a top of the line suit probably cost 20 guineas, and a young beginning bank clerk earned about three or four pounds a week, so five weeks wages, at least. So I would agree with you. They probably had fewer shirts, and washed them less often (in England it is common still to wear them a few times before washing them).

Those vignettes sound right for the period. It's very interesting how the function of clothing has changed. My dad wore suits post-war that were so well made you could wear them all week and still get years of wear out of them.
 

PeterB

One of the Regulars
Messages
183
Location
Abu Dhabi
Seb, I think it is something to do with the way purchases are made. If you get suits made by a tailor, as many used to, you have to think about it, plan the purchase, the purchase itself takes time, and you are less likely to buy something on impulse. Also, those well made suits such as you describe, did not look worse as time went on, whereas most modern RTW suits, except for the very expensive suits, look pretty bad after a year or two. Dry cleaning doesn't help either. I have an old suit of my father's that he handed on to me, made in about 1948, I think, and probably second hand when he bought it. It is still perfectly wearable, just the wrong size for me. The cloth would probably have another 50 years of wear in it, and the stitching is very tight. The trouser cuffs have been repaired a couple of times already, but the cloth is so thick that you don't notice. It just keeps on going.
 

PeterB

One of the Regulars
Messages
183
Location
Abu Dhabi
Guys, the question of how many suits one should own, as opposed to how many one does own, is for most of us a question of economics. That said, owning more than about 20 suits brings challenges, e.g., storage. FWIW, I would recommend enough suits so that one does not have to wear the same one all the time, and so that suits do not get worn out. If you have a favourite, it is sad to see it fall to pieces, though that can take years, if not decades. Enough jackets to have a small choice -- say 10 suits and about five jacket combinations, that is if you have to wear a suit to work. I have about 10 winter / autumn suits, five summer suits, and am building up the jackets for weekends. Have about four now, and plan getting a couple more. That will do me for about the next 20 years, all being well, during which time I will concentrate on shirts and ties. Ties can last decades as well.

A young man starting out in his mid-20s could expect to own about 25 suits by the time he is 50, assuming buying one per year, and looking after them. Provided his weight does not change much. Buy seldom, and buy carefully, and he would have a fantastic collection within 25 years. But where to store them? 25 suits take up a lot of space. He would do better to alternate between suits and jackets / trousers, to have a useful set.
 

KILO NOVEMBER

One Too Many
Messages
1,048
Location
Hurricane Coast Florida
Yesterday I was leaving work. I got on the elevator and the other occupant remarked that this was the second time that day we had shared an elevator. I smiled at him and replied, "This must be your lucky day!"

He said something to the effect that he was glad to share the elevator with a "fashion plate", and asked, "How many suits do you own?"

I said, still smiling, "Summer or Winter?"

He laughed.
 

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