June is the month for weddings, so it is no surprise I have been asked for help dressing groom and groomsmen for a 1920s themed wedding (or gangster, Art Deco, prohibition, The Great Gatsby, Downton Abbey, and other 1920s wedding themes). Vintage inspired 1920s weddings are very popular this year as well vintage attire in general. From browsing 1920s wedding pics online, the groom and groomsmen attire has tended to be more casual, working class, vintage inspired style rather than very formal (tuxedo), however even that trend is shifting.
I see classic weddings with groomsmen in ’20s style striped “gangster” suits or semi casual ’20s weddings with men in pants and vests and suspenders. For summer weddings, a white suit is a classic look, while a beach-side wedding may have groomsmen dressed in casual linen shirts and pants. For the snazzy dresser and the most accurate 1920s wedding attire, men are wearing a morning suit or white tie tuxedo. For more ideas on 1920s groom’s clothing, look at my Pinterest board.
Casual Vintage 1920s Groomsmen
To get the casual vintage look. you will need high waist pants, vest, shirt, suspenders, shoes and a hat, all in the style of the 1920s.
Pants – A pair of 1920s style pants for summer can include white, ivory, or tan. Year-round colors look best with striped brown, grey or dark blue patterns. Peaky Blinders characters are often seen in a grey-blue tweed, which is another fine option. Choose flat front pants (not pleated.) Pants should be high waisted with the band sitting around your natural waist (at or above the belly button), so you will need to measure yourself there, not at your normal low rise pants fit. For most men, that’s about a 2 or more inch difference. Once your pants arrive and they fit well, take them to alterations or a men’s tailor shop and have them hemmed. I prefer a rolled cuff for the 1920s, but no cuff is accurate as well. They should hit just below the ankle (not bag over the shoes). The fit of the pants can be slim or classic or an early 20s style or wide leg for a mid to late 20s look. The current trend to go for the skinny fit. Shop 1920s men’s pants in both slim and wide leg.
Vest – Ideally the vest should match your pants, however it’s not required. Especially when choosing not to wear a suit coat, the vest often stands out more if it is not matching. In this case, a vest in the same color family is optimal. For example, a navy pant can have a lighter blue shade vest or brown pants with a light tan vest. With white pants, you can’t go lighter, but you can choose a tan or gold colored vest. It looks really sharp. For that extra bit of ’20s style, choose a vest with notch lapels. Most modern vests don’t have lapels, which will make you look a little less vintage. Shop vintage 1920s style vests.
Suspenders or belt – Both are accurate for the 1920s. Because they’re uncommon, however, suspenders look more vintage. Choose button-on suspenders for the most authentic style. This may mean you need to add buttons to the inside of your pants (again alternations can do this for you). Suspenders in the ’20s were either brown leather or striped silk. If wearing a vest, they won’t show underneath but if you choose not to wear a vest then by all means go for something fun. Shop suspenders.
*Please don’t wear a belt AND suspenders. Or suspenders over a vest. That’s just all sorts of wrong. *
Tie or bow tie – Here is another choice for you. A standard necktie or quirky bow tie? Both are authentic. The current causal trend favors a bow tie (stripes or polka dots are classic!) while more formal 3 piece suits usually choose a necktie (paisley or stripes). The tie is the one place where you can add a pop of color, perhaps one of your wedding colors. It can coordinate, but doesn’t have to match with a hat band, suspenders, and cuff links. Shop 1920s ties and bow ties.
Shoes – Two tone shoes are a must for 1920s groom’s attire. They look very vintage. Some grooms choose to wear two tone shoes but have the groomsmen in solid color lace up shoes (which they probably already own). Brown and white is the most ’20s vintage color combination, but black and white and even grey on grey is also an option. Shop 1920s men’s shoes.
Hats – You have a few choices for hats. The most casual is a floppy newsboy cap. For summer, it looks great in a white or ivory linen. A light tan or tweed in checks or plaid is nice too. A dark grey goes well with dark blue or grey stripe pants. Shop 1920s men’s hats.
For a semi formal hat in summer, a straw boater, gambler, or panama hat is a sharp looking option. You can change out the band of the hat to match one of your accessories if you wish. For fall/winter, a felt homburg or fedora hat should coordinate with your pants. Authentic ’20s hats had wide brims. The more modern vintage inspired styles embrace the narrow brim (stingy brim) hat. The choice is yours.
1920s Groomsmen in Suits
I ran across this picture of a 1920s wedding part of groomsmen in all different shades of 1920s inspired suits. It is amazing because it is quite accurate to the 1920s, yet everyone looks “normal” and not like they’re wearing a costume. Both grooms and groomsmen can opt for a 1920s style suit instead of a tuxedo or casual style.
1920s suits had a classic or wide fit in the 1920s. Skinny suits were out of fashion, although they are in fashion now. To make any suit look more 1920s, choose suits with big patterns such as stripes, plaid, windowpane, tweed or checks. Colors of blue, grey, and brown all fit well into a 1920s theme. In summer, striped seersucker suits look very dapper. Shop men’s 1920s style suits here.
The only color suit I would avoid is black. There is a myth that 1920s Gangsters wore a black suit. Umm no. Black was for formalwear, not daily suits. Besides, black is very difficult to photograph well, especially inside. Be nice to your photographer and choose a colored suit.
Pair your suit with a nice button down shirt. Stripes were very popular as well as light pastels. Avoid dark colors and white. White is too plain. Colored shirts with contrasting white collars look especially ’20s. Round collars, called club collars, are even more 1920s, although very difficult to find. I have some 1920s style shirts and collars here.
For shoes, you can wear two-tone Oxfords or solid color Oxfords such as brown or black. Typically, dark colors need black shoes and lighter grey, brown and blue suits pair best with brown shoes. Shop men’s shoes.
Hats. If you want to wear a hat outside (inside is taboo) consider a Homburg, wide brim fedora, or derby/bowler hat. Dark grey suits look best with a black, dark grey, or light grey hats. Brown and light grey suits look good with brown or dark blue hats. For summer wear a straw or ivory felt hat.
The Morning Suit
What did men in the 1920s really wear to their weddings? Morning suits. Most weddings were held in the mornings or early afternoon, almost never the evenings. Men who had means to buy or borrow a morning suit would wear it on their wedding day. The weddings in Downton Abbey each show grooms and groomsmen wearing morning suits. So what is a morning suit? A pair of high waisted grey and black striped pants were worn with a wingtip collar white dress shirt, cravat tie and vest (grey or black), morning coat, white or grey gloves, white pocket square, black patent leather shoes, white spats (optional), black top hat, and cane. It is a very fancy outfit, very regal, and quite unique. It is not surprising that men are opting to wear this traditional wedding attire over a tuxedo.
To get this look you might be able to rent a complete look, otherwise there are a few choices online. The best selection is in the UK, where the morning suit is still worn to high fashion events like the Royal Ascot and royal affairs. Shop morning suits here.
For a formal looks read up on men’s 1920s formal wear here.
Debbie Sessions has been teaching fashion history and helping people dress for vintage themed events since 2009. She has turned a hobby into VintageDancer.com with hundreds of well researched articles and hand picked links to vintage inspired clothing online. She aims to make dressing accurately (or not) an affordable option for all. Oh, and she dances too.