Do I know any size 42 gents? If I did or if I remembered you would have received a message from me about this amazing 1930’s suit, labeled “Paramount Wardrobe” as in this suit was made for the movies! I’m just going to copy/paste the seller’s description because this suit is so rad:
“Original Men’s 1930’s two piece BACK BELT SUIT in Size 42” chest in a nice medium cocoa brown wool flannel suiting. The jacket is single breasted with two lower patch pockets and decorative seams down the front. The back is pleated into a half belt and has a “Bi-Swing” action back with two long vertical pleats. The pants have a pleated front and two side and two back pockets. The only markings are an ink stamp on the trouser waistband: “Paramount Wardrobe”
The suit measures:
Across the shoulders: 19″
Down back from collar seam to hem: 31″
Sleeve from shoulder seam to cuff: 24 1/2″
Pants waist: 36″ (can be let out to 38 1/2″
Pants inseam: 31″ (can be let out to 33 1/2″)
There are no rips, tears, stains or mothing, etc on this suit. It’s in excellent condition.” (Emphasis added.)
42 gentlemen, it is your imperative and your directive that you acquire this suit – go forth and conquer!
Every once in a while I will come across an eBay seller that I can’t quite figure out – does the seller make the clothes? Hand-knit the sweaters? Is this small batch, but manufactured? How can they sell these garments at such good prices?
I came across eBay seller qbiffa’s store when one of their lovely reproduction 1940’s sweaters popped up in one of my searches. I saw that the sweater, which was not in my size, could be ordered in other sizes and, to my delight, there were many other colors and styles of these little short sleeved sweaters available. Then I saw wide leg pants for men and women, men’s button down short sleeved shirts, and 40’s repro jackets, with nothing costing over $120.00. Even better, the seller posted a photo of the original pattern for the sweaters and men’s items, so you can see the origin and maybe get some ideas about what to pair each garment with and how it would have been worn.
The items show can be made in different sizes and colors, simply contact the seller if the item you like is not in your size or colors. 🙂 I wonder why this particular seller picked eBay, it seems like Etsy might be a better forum for this kind of transaction…
I considered this find so good, I almost waited to post until after I bought what I wanted from the store…but there were too many things I wanted and I was too excited! Here are my faves:
In these warmer days, a Palm Beach linen suit is the perfect way to dress up without sacrificing too much comfort. Right now, eBay has just such a suit from the 20’s/30’s, with a starting bid of $100.00. Check out the action back on that jacket!
This suit is not without issues, but it’s such a rare find that, for the right price, I’d be willing to take a chance. The main issue is that the jacket and pants are slightly different in colors, which the seller attributes to the jacket being worn separately and more often. This suit would be just as fantastic as separates, even if a dry cleaning didn’t work out the color differences.
In light of recent online discussions about gender roles in Lindy Hop and the recent Amendment/abomination passed this month in my home state, I decided to take up a suggestion made by Sam Carroll that I do a post on women dressing in menswear or dandy garb for dancing. Specifically,
“For my own sake, I’m interested in outfits which cater to the curvy woman’s body, but which are using traditionally ‘male’ items – eg jackets, waistcoats, trousers, hats, cravats, etc. Not women’s clothes, but men’s clothes for women. Or men’s clothes tailored for a woman’s body. Most of the ‘female dandy’ stuff I see about features ridiculously skinny, flat-chested women without hips. That’s not me, I’m not interested in that stuff. But it’s hard to find alternatives.”
I think this is a really cool concept, one that could be practical for dancing socially, traveling, or in performance where a female could be leading and/or want to fit into a particular role in the ensemble.
When Sam posed this question, a few things popped into my head:
– Like vintage clothing for men, the actual vintage options will be limited, but with ladies’ narrower shoulders it could open up more jacket options.
– Accessories are the key. Like many gents I know who dress in vintage or in vintage style, many of the main pieces they wear are regular menswear or reproductions and the accessories, which have usually survived and are more plentiful, take their outfit to the next level. It’s all in the details.
– Finding pants is going to be really hard. As someone who has pretty much given up on finding pants, it could be even harder for me to make a recommendation.
– Like any good dandy, you will need a tailor.
– Women’s clothing retailers offer some dandified options, if you know where to look.
So let’s break this down into the man uniform. Menswear is generally comprised of pants, shirt, jacket and/or vest, socks, shoes, belt or suspenders (but not both). Accessories could be a tie, a cravat, a tie clip, cufflinks, hat, cap, watch, lapel pin, etc. I’ll try to hit on most of these pieces and recommend ideas for sources (because that’s what we’re all about here – where the @#&* do I find it?):
Gonna get this one out of the way. Men’s pants are not made for women’s bodies and vice versa, but this doesn’t mean that men and women are made of one shape, or that men’s pants won’t ever fit. One of my favorite pairs of pants in college was a pair of men’s pants and I purchased a tuxedo for myself last year and didn’t have much trouble with the pants (although they cut a wee bit tight across the hips, more so than I am used to feeling). They fit me a hell of a lot better than these skinny jeans that are in style right now (which make me look like a linebacker) and give the illusion and drape of a proper pair of men’s trousers, in spite of the hip area.
My next suggestion is to find men’s pants that fit in the hips and have them tailored to fit your shape. This may not work for all men’s pants, but I believe it’s a viable option. Most nice men’s pants are cut to be tailored and taken in or let out.
There is always the option to have them made, which is my favorite because they are guaranteed to be made for your shape, in the fabric you like, and can be tailored to look like men’s pants. You can also have more options, like a higher waist to give it a more vintage look. Also, with the higher waist pant, it’s more likely to be a flattering cut for the female figure. I’m thinking specifically about the 13 button sailor pants the U.S. Navy used to issue as part of a uniform – those pants are universally flattering on just about every human I’ve seen wear them.
Finally, in rare instances (so rare that I can’t really point to a consistent source), I have come across wide or straight leg trousers in women’s stores that do sort of have a nod to menswear. The cut will be most important in this case, because womenswear is so squirrely and the cut may not be tailored enough to be truly dandy. Then, there is this sort of hybrid that is golf knickers, which are definitely more traditionally male, but also sporting female, and are made in women’s sizes at golfknickers.com (I would rock the Stewart plaid pair in a hot minute!).
I think most men’s shirts have comparable women’s shirts (tees, polos, button-downs). Sadly, I think a lot of modifications that retailers have made to women’s dress shirts to make them more…girly (?) have not worked out for the best. I am a lawyer IRL, so I deal with a lot of button-down shirts to wear under suits for court. I get miffed when I see that retailers have modified the neckline to show more cleavage – with that silly angle exposing more of the upper chest and removing the buttons so you no longer get to decide where your top button is located. Forget about wearing a neck scarf or a tie with it. And is it too much trouble to put a button across the peak of the bosom, instead of spanning it and causing a gap that must be safety pinned, lest your co-workers catch a glimpse of your bra? But I digress.
I have found a few good basics for button-down shirts. My favorite is Banana Republic because the fit is usually really good (efficient, professional) and they have nice variations on classic menswear for women, without sacrificing buttons or adding excess cleavage. It’s also one of the few places I’ve found women’s shirts with French cuffs for cufflinks – bliss! They even have a line of non-iron shirts, which is the only kind of shirts my husband will buy, but that I haven’t seen made available that often for comparable women’s shirts. A scan of the BR line shows some great dandy options for summer – long sleeve basics, a safari shirt with rolled up sleeves, and a fantastic long sleeve button-down in blue or pink with contrast white collar and cuffs!
I think it is important to buy shirts made for women, if at all possible. Generally, our shoulders are narrower and we need darts to highlight our feminine shape and streamline our look. Being a dandy is about looking tailored, not frumpy, and I think men’s shirts are just too much of an adjustment in shape when there are options available that do not require alterations or custom-made garments.
I am also not above shopping in the little boy’s section for shirts…which sometimes works out well. 🙂
Things start to get easier here. I’ve seen more women’s vests in recent history and there are always menswear-inspired jackets available. The key here is to mind your colors and materials – obviously, a pink boucle jacket is going to scream femme, but a linen, stripe, or tweed would be more along the lines of a dandy. I’d also experiment with vintage menswear and men’s vests, as there may be potential for tailoring them to fit, or with vests, cinching them if they are adjustable in the back. Again, the key is tailoring, keeping lines clean, and sticking to menswear basics.
This becomes a wee bit more difficult because Dancestore.com isn’t making men’s Aris Allens in smaller sizes anymore – finding menswear-inspired shoes is fairly simple, but finding leather soles is not. This is where the ladies with the larger feet have an advantage. I went through great difficulty to find boy’s size 5 black patent leather oxford ballroom shoes to go with my tuxedo (and the size chart was so off that I had to send them back 3 times for an exchange). That said, there are some boy’s ballroom shoes out there in basic black oxfords.
While I can’t vouch for the danceability of all the soles (there’s always the option of having things sueded), G. H. Bass has some great shoes right now for women that are a sort of twist on classic men’s shoes. I’m loving the Rachel Antonoff collection, which has things like clear/black patent wingtips, saddles shoes in lots of two tone color combos, and loafers with complimentary plaid panels. The Bass American Classics line for women almost looks like a collection of men’s shoes, with basic colors in loafers (tassled and penny; BONUS: leather sole) and saddle shoes.
This is where the fun starts. You could go with the traditional conception of matching your socks to your trousers, but one of the things I love about our male Lindy Hop counterparts is their fearless socks. So long as it matches your ensemble, feel free to experiment with stripes, argyle, prints, and color. This might be a good place to inject your femininity or sense of humor…
Belt, suspenders, tie, cravat, tie clip, cufflinks, hat, cap, watch, lapel pin…this is where there are comparable women’s products (belt, watch), or adjustable (suspenders), or we have unisex sizing (hats, caps), or it’s one size fits all (tie, cravat, cufflinks, pins, etc. I’m actually thinking vintage 30’s and 40’s ties might work even better on women because they are shorter than modern ties. This is where you have very few limits – go forth to the men’s section and conquer!
As with creating any look or ensemble, it’s important to do your research – look for inspirational photographs of men and women in menswear, or women in pants from the swing era. Pants were definitely not the norm and I think you will find that women took a lot of inspiration from the men when they embraced pants.
I hope this was helpful in some small way – please let me know if you have any follow-up questions or product recommendations for other burgeoning lady dandies!
I do love a man in seersucker – there is something so refreshing about abandoning the typical dark male color scheme in favor of bright white, a touch of color, and some usually bright male accessories. It is such a stark contrast that I am afraid it has been relegated to dandies, preppy frat guys, and Southern lawyers (in my experience – if you go to the courthouse in July, you will be in the minority if you are not wearing seersucker, at least in my jurisdiction!) – which is a shame, because it’s a really versatile fabric.
One of the big complaints I hear from the gents is that jackets are so heavy and cumbersome to dance in – here’s a lightweight, time-tested alternative, so maybe give it a whirl? Seersucker is also fairly easy to care for and is usually wash and wear, no ironing necessary, due to the fabric’s puckered texture.
You don’t have to don wingtips and a boater to pull off seersucker – here are some ideas from eBay for seersucker garments to try to work into your wardrobe:
I know we’re reaching the end of tweed season, but when something rare pops up the season of acquisition simply doesn’t matter – here, we’ve got two jackets that popped up on eBay this week. First, we have a J. Peterman reproduction Edwardian style tweed Norfolk jacket, size 38, with the classic belted back, square front pockets, and a nice feature where you can actually button up the jacket all the way (those lapels are not just for show!). Second, a nice Pendleton wool tweed Norfolk jacket, size 40, with elbow patches and a nice rainbow fleck to the tweed. Prices: $20.00 starting bid and $39.99 Buy It Now, respectively – steals, I say!
I’ve been following Allure Original Styles for a while, from her initial offerings through eBay as seller buddhaboogie (which is still used to sell what appears to be samples), to a full-fledged Etsy store where you can purchase custom made reproduction swing era garments. Allure Original Styles distinguishes itself from other reproduction sellers by creating an extensive line of pants and complimentary blouses. The fabrics range from wool gabardine to light-medium weight denim, to cover both dressy and casual pants needs. I am probably most excited about having wide leg denim options – while I love to dress up, sometimes you have you wear jeans for more casual occasions and shopping for jeans is only a step above shopping for a swimsuit on the loathsome activity scale. What could be more comfortable for everyday wear than a pair of flattering wide leg lightweight denim jeans?
There are also some great dresses and other separates from the store. So much to love here…I might learn to love wearing pants again:
While reading my mom’s copy of the January 2012 issue of Town and Country, I ran across a comic strip detailing the history of the tuxedo – not normal comic book fare, so I was intrigued. Here’s your history lesson for the week: according to the strip and Wikipedia, the word tuxedo comes from the Lenni-Lenape Native American tribe (also known as the Delaware Indians), who were allegedly called Tuxedo (meaning “he has a round foot” (which may be in reference to the wolf), “place of the bear” or “clear flowing water”) by their enemies the Algonquins. The Lenni-Lenape lived near a lake which they named “Tucseto,” which later became known as Tuxedo Lake, and the area where they lived was called Tuxedo.
How does a tribe of Native Americans and a lake relate to the modern formal suit? In 1885, Pierre Lorillard IV developed a piece of land his grandfather owned in Tuxedo for a summer resort for the wealthy and well-to-do, naming it Tuxedo Park. He then “organized the Tuxedo Club and the Tuxedo Park Association, as hunting and fishing preserve (and society), and surrounded the property with a high game fence. In 1886, he built a club house, which saw the debut of the short dinner jacket, which soon became known as the Tuxedo jacket. Eventually, the Tuxedo ensemble, featuring the short dinner jacket, became the accepted dress for formal affairs. To give you some perspective on the class of people who frequented the Tuxedo Club, the “Blue Book of Etiquette,” written by Emily Post, was “based on what she observed inside the great stone gates of Tuxedo.”
I am amazed that the basis for modern formal menswear originated as far back as the 1880’s, but this demonstrates how the tuxedo has withstood the test of time.
As the modern Lindy Hop community matures, I see more dancers donning a tuxedo (or part of a tuxedo) for New Year’s Eve, specifically at Lindy Focus (alas, I will miss my first Lindy Focus in six years!). Just adding a bow tie to a black suit can elevate your look, or wear a vest/bow tie combo for maximum mobility.
Tuxedos are more attainable, thanks to the advent of eBay, but even thrift stores have tuxedos, sometimes castoffs from formal wear stores or a donation that simply doesn’t fit or isn’t used (and is usually rarely worn, so it good condition). You can often acquire a vintage tuxedo for less than the cost of a vintage suit because they are the garment that was worn least and survived the decades. It amazes me that people spend money to rent tuxedos when for the same price or less you could buy one.
Here are some lovelies on eBay and Etsy to make your New Year’s Eve classic and well-dressed:
This Norfolk work jacket, which the seller labels 1920’s/30’s, was made by Shenandoah Tailoring Company of Mt. Sidney, Virginia, and has some interesting bits of tailoring going on. From the front it looks like a work jacket, with pretty plain front, pockets, collar, and a big metal zipper. From the back, it looks like an elegant belt-back jacket, with tucks that look like they could be ironed out for definition. The jacket is also unlined, which I find odd, and the seams are piped with a trim so the fabric doesn’t unravel. There was a spot with threads (which can be pulled out) where the coat had a patch at some point…it would be interesting to know what was on the patch.
The jacket is labeled a 34, but the seller says he fit into it snugly at a 38, so it could fit a 36, with some fabric in the cuff of the sleeves to let out for tailoring. Starting price is $24.99, which is a great price for a coat, period; however, I don’t know what delusions of grandeur the seller had listing the Buy It Now at $1,200. I think I’d take my chances in the auction!
It was another wonderful year at Richmond, Virginia’s Jammin’ on the James, both the dancing and the shopping. Some of my favorite vintage shoppers – Lily Matini, Elizabeth Aldrich, Bill Speidel, and, a new addition to my vintage cavalry, Josephine Stewart – made cameos at the event this year and it made Saturday an exciting and bustling day at the vintage shops in Richmond. I reported on my trips to Richmond’s two best vintage shops, Halcyon and Bygones, after last year’s Jammin’ on the James, but there’s always new inventory to scout.
Halcyon is my favorite Richmond store because it is so inviting – beautifully decorated, not too large/too small/too crowded, with a carefully chosen selection of garments that leaves you with the feeling that the entire store is filled with the “good stuff,” no filler. This year was no exception and I left with one beautiful 1930’s dress, but there were several other things I probably could have taken home if the budget had allowed. After we expressed interest in ties, Angelica from Halcyon pulled out the hidden rack of beautiful 1930’s ties, including one with circles and butterflies that Bill and I both claimed, but, ultimately, Bill won out because my husband wouldn’t answer his phone to tell me if he would wear the tie. Bill also scored a vintage Alexander Calder inspired tie by Carnival Jones, Elizabeth left with a lovely black faux fur jacket, and I left with a 1930’s silk dress. There were some really lovely pieces from a Richmond estate, including a 1920’s dress that must have had over 100 green bakelite buttons down the front and both sides.
Next stop was Bygones, which is famous for its window display and top of rack displays. This season’s display did not disappoint, with an Egyptian revival-themed window-dressing and an inside display of furs and faux animals that just begged for some taxidermy or, as Bill said, the barrel of a shotgun peeking out from between the furs. Josephine had great luck here, asking for tiny sized clothing and they definitely delivered. Favorite pieces included two 1940’s suits, one in light aqua velvet with quilting detail on the jacket and another in green silk velvet with amazing trim detail on the jacket.
While the Gentleman’s Emporium boasts primarily reproductions of Victorian and Edwardian garb for men and women, there are some things that remain timeless and, thus, useful to swing dancers aspiring for a vintage look from just beyond Edwardian times or for those who aspire to the high style of Mr. Bobby White. Gentleman’s Emporium makes it easy for buyers – if you aren’t sure what pieces go together, you can view the items by “Outfit” for a head to toe ensemble, grouped in clever characters like “Toby Greenwell – Newsboy,” “Professor Babcock – Man of Science,” “Dickerson Potts – Sportsman,” and numerous other rogues and gentlemen. The ladies also have characters and ensembles, but are, for the most part, not period-appropriate and not dance-able.
In the alternative to the ensemble approach, the Gentleman’s Emporium lists their stock individually in categories, so if you are looking for a vest, you need only click on the proper category. This is probably going to be the most effective way to buy pieces to re-create 1920’s and 1930’s looks via this website. I’m treading lightly here, as menswear is not my forte, so if I’ve listed something that is just not in the realm of comprehension during the jazz age, I apologize.
Here’s what I think might be useful from the Gentleman’s Emporium:
It’s been a while since I checked on Heyday!, my favorite UK retailer of heavenly high waisted trousers, but I see that they have been busy. They have expanded their line of women’s and men’s clothing and have some pretty impressive and hard-to-find pieces at not unreasonable prices. Men can pick up some more casual style jackets, like the gab jacket or the Hollywood jacket, or some elegant 1940’s trousers. Women who are looking for separates will find several styles of adorable reproduction blouses, 1940’s style suits, dresses that are great for dances and work, as well as those famous trousers that make everyone’s bum look like a million bucks.
The eBay gods have offered up this wonderful reproduction specimen by American designer Ralph Lauren, who has created one of the holy grails of male swing dancer shopping, his version of the linen Norfolk jacket. In white, breathable, summer weight linen, this Norfolk jacket has oodles of details, like the square pockets in the front, full belting, and what looks like pintuck detailing in the front. Made in a size 40L, it’s a wearable size for a taller gent. At $375, this grail comes with a price tag I’d not normally post on Lindy Shopper, but it was too good not to share and it’s new, with the tags still attached. I always have hope that, if I watch the item long enough, the price will go down or the seller will entertain other offers.
Two interesting specimens popped up in my eBay searches this week. First, herringbone knickers/plus fours and a matching jacket, which the seller is dating 1930’s or 1940’s, but someone who knows menswear better than me might have a better handle on their decade of origin. In any case, knickers are awesome and here’s a whole suit for your day on the links, night on the dance floor, or the next tweed ride – 39 jacket and 31 waist.