W I D E shoulder pads of the late 40s

Discussion in 'Suits' started by Wesslyn, Jan 28, 2018.

  1. Wesslyn

    Wesslyn Practically Family

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    Jimmy Stewart is my favorite style icon. I've got a similar tall, lanky physique, and broad shoulders.
    Something I've noticed about him, and others, too, of course, are the insanely wide shoulder pads his suits had. I know it was the style post war, but many of these suits wouldn't pass the "lean against a wall" test.
    I've got some suits with similar cuts, but I'm always a bit self conscious to wear them, as I know they would be construed as ill fitting by today's standards.
    So, if you're going for a post war look, would it be reasonably safe to wear a suit with extra wide shoulders? Was it a product of the time, or did folks like Jimmy just wear suits that were too big?

    stewart17a-4-web.jpg
     
  2. MondoFW

    MondoFW Practically Family

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    I think the boxy cut with wide shoulder pads was a post-war fad that fell out of fashion quickly, so it wasn't just Jimmy Stewart. I have a DB sports coat that follows this cut, and I'm not particularly against it, but combining it with the wrong accessories makes me end up looking like an 80's sports caster. I can't believe DB jackets came back in the 80's and early 90's, and I have to say that their new wave of them looked terrible. Definitely more of a fan of the more elegant wartime/pre-war look.
     
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  3. GHT

    GHT I'll Lock Up

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    Insanely wide shoulder pads? It was the style of the day, but that doesn't mean that it was de rigueur.
    Wear what you feel comfortable in, don't worry about how your clothes can be construed, by doing so, you are putting self imposed pressure on yourself.
    It was the fashion style of the day, but that doesn't mean it has to be copied, unless you really like the look.

    In the photos that you have previously posted, you clearly demonstrate someone who takes care and pride in your appearance, it's a good trait. Don't worry about how you think you should look, trust your own judgement, you haven't failed yet.
     
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  4. Wesslyn

    Wesslyn Practically Family

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    Thank you!
     
  5. Patrick Hall

    Patrick Hall Practically Family

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    For me, there are two things to consider when thinking about suit shoulders - the proportions of your body and the formality of the coat in question.

    I find that my head is large relative to my body (figuratively AND literally!). I weigh a scant 155 and my shoulder-to-shoulder measurement is less than 17 inches, but you'd never know it if you tried to estimate my body type by looking at my head alone. For this reason, I have come to appreciate the way that extended shoulders (with a slightly padded sleevehead that extends my shoulder-to-shoulder measurement) harmonize that particular quirk of my anatomy. On the flip side, I have a shorter neck for someone of my size, and carry a slight double chin. Shoulders that are vertically built up, so that they eradicate the slope of my shoulders, accentuate my short neck and substantial chin, in an unflattering way. So, I choose suits with shoulders that are extended but still soft, and follow the slope of my natural shoulder line. I don't do well with Bold Look shoulder pads, in other words, because they both extend AND stack. These are the kinds of discernments you need to make about your own physique when deciding whether you can successfully pull off a Bold Look coat. Jimmy Stewart was particularly lucky in this regard - he was tall and rail thin, but proportionally so, with a vulture-long pencil-neck and sloped shoulders. His physique benefited from the added heft and extension. I expect he chose the shoulders you mention, less out of a concern for being fashionable, and more because he knew what worked best for his body. I suspect this in part, because even the suits he wore in the 30's had more shoulder than was fashionable then.

    In terms of formality, I think that more constructed garments are more formal. Despite my anatomical quirks, I favor sport coats with completely unpadded natural shoulders. It telegraphs the leisurely aim of the coat. One of the irritating aspects of late 40's tailoring is the way that fashionability so clearly trumps occasion in pieces from this era. You end up with patch pocket sport-coats that are trying to accentuate your physique like a body coat or a uniform. So, if you did decide you wanted to try out the late 40's, built up shoulder look, I'd stick to dark worsteds, like the venerable Mr. Stewart has done in the photo above.
     
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  6. Mathematicus

    Mathematicus A-List Customer

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    It is not necessarily true that an extended and padded shoulder will look bad and sloppy. Apart from having the right shape for this features, I think that the key element is the cut of the coat itself.

    I have to say that, while I'm not a fan of extra-wide shoulders in general, there were some elegant results even in the 90s aestethics. However, these examples were almost invariably belonging to bespoke garments. Cutting a wide and padded shoulder that doesn't look like you're carrying two bags on each side is not easy at all.

    While I prefer a closer cut shoulder, I feel that the modern ones are cut too close to the body. In particular, the back part is too tight and restricts forward movement. This applies even with garments from well known "in fashion" bespoke tailors who cut jackets so tight that you worry about breaking them when breathing. The reason is that nowadays having some ease across the shoulder blades is considered sign of "poor fitting" and "droopy shoulders". Instead, one can well have close cut shoulders with normal padding but a lot of ease in the back that won't restrict movement.

    This also explains why the average suit from the 80s and early 90s was not restricting the forward movement, despite having enormous armholes: even with not overextended shoulders the back was cut much roomier than today, so that there was a bit of obvious drape at the back, but no restriction when leaning forward.
     
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  7. Fading Fast

    Fading Fast

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    IMHO (emphasis on this is just opinion), Jimmy Stewart looked better in natural shoulder (minimal / no padding in the shoulder suit jackets) in part because he had broad shoulders so his proportions were good and did not need enhancement.

    Also, as the OP implies with his "lean..." comment, a lot of padding leads to some odd looks and behavior in the suit jacket.

    For me, Stewart looks much better in this ⇩ natural shoulder suit from "Anatomy of a Murder," than he does in his '40s padded-shoulder suits.

    d0b5b37d8c900012e7a50e78cdd66c87.jpg
     
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  8. Wesslyn

    Wesslyn Practically Family

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    Its definitely a good look as well.
    His style seems on point regardless of what he has on, I think.
     
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  9. Wolf99

    Wolf99 New in Town

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    The Philadelphia Story (1940) is worth watching for more than its tailoring but the contrast between Cary Grant’s suits and Jimmy Stewart’s is noticeable. Grant’s suits and jackets are classic and with the sort of padded shoulders he always wore (being of the view he needed to balance his head size in proportion to his shoulders); Stewart has noticeable wider and more extreme shoulders and a more closely nipped waist. Presumably Stewart’s suits were more fashionably cut - and in terms of character it makes sense that Grant’s old money character would be more traditionally clothed than Stewart’s writer/journalist - but Grant’s suits look better for their more timeless cut, imo.
     
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