After a casual turn in the 1920s, men’s evening formalwear took a turn back to the elegance of the Edwardian Era (1900s). Old money remained after the stock market and with it a respect for traditional formality. From formal morning attire to evening full dress and tuxedos, the silhouettes followed those of day suits, adding some color to the sea of black and white by the end of the decade.
The most formal daywear was a men’s morning suit. It was a traditional look passed down over the past few decades with its peak heyday in the early 1900s. Very few men continued to wear morning clothes in the 1930s. It was reserved for formal mornings, weddings, or afternoon events before 6pm by the wealthy classes. Horse races, as pictured above, were one such event. They were also more common in Europe than in America.
The 1930s morning suit coat was updated with draped cut shoulders, wide peaked lapels, padded shoulders, one or two buttons, a chest pocket, and slightly tapered sleeves. It featured the traditional cutaway shape that almost touched the back of the knee. The wide and pleated top trousers were made up in black and grey stripes or herringbone patterns, as well as occasionally solid grey or shades of tan/brown. They were accessorized with the following:
- A white wingtip or turn down shirt collar.
- A top hat in black silk or grey felt.
- Black patent leather shoes.
- A necktie in any neutral color or a striped / patterned ascot.
- A white pocket square in the chest pocket.
- White, fawn, or grey dress gloves.
- (Optionally) A flower boutonniere, walking stick, and/or tie pin.
Full Dress Eveningwear
Men’s evening formalwear was very diverse. Instead of one look worn by every man, as was in the 1920s, the 1930s had several looks.
Full Dress (White tie)
A swallowtail coat (or just tail coat) with wide rolled peak lapels had dull silk grosgrain facings in America, but not Britain. The tails were shorter and wider than the previous decades to match the width of the trousers. Shoulders were wide and padded with a high and tight waist. A black cloth covered button replaced a bone button for the finest dressers.
Black was the most traditional color, but deep dark “midnight blue” became trendy in the second half of the decade.
Full dress tail coats were worn with:
- Full leg black trousers, four pleats at the top, with optional satin or 2 row braided stripe on outside leg.
- Wide wingtip collar, bosom front (bib) shirts with white or black pearl studs and cufflinks.
- White butterfly bow ties.
- White single or double breasted pique waistcoat (vest) with deep V or semi- V opening and rolled lapels. Three or four buttons fastened. The points were moderate in length, covering the top of the high waisted trousers. Could be full back or backless.
- Black patent leather pumps with bow or lace-up patent shoes (no cap toe).
- White kid leather or buckskin gloves in slip-on or snap wrist styles.
- White pocket square.
- Optional red carnation boutineer for the young man or white carnation or white gardenia for older man.
- Black silk top hat or collapsible opera hat in dull grosgrain.
- Long gold watch chain draped from waistcoat to back.
Dinner Jackets, Tuxedos
The next step down was the dinner jacket, which by this point was called a tuxedo. Worn with black trousers, a black vest, a white button-down shirt, a black bow tie, and white pocket square, it is and was the most traditional formalwear style.
Young men favored the double breasted tuxedo jacket with four buttons and dull silk or grosgrain facing lapels. Peak lapels were also favored over the older notch lapels. Shoulders were wide and padded and the waistline was high and tapered in only to fill out over the hips. The opening or lap of the tuxedo coat was quite wide in America, revealing more shirt underneath. In Britain, the lap was narrow.
Tuxedo jackets with two buttons had only the lower button fastened in the American models but the top button fasted in the English models, which had a higher button placement.
Trousers had black textured stripes on the outer legs but only on black trousers. Midnight blue was not striped. It was also worn with:
- White or black waistcoat. If black, the waistcoat should match the jacket facing material. Wearing a jacquard or pattern vest was seen as gaudy by some and trendy by others.
- Butterfly bow ties or straight club necktie (stripes). Color should match the vest (usually black for both).
- White or black pearl studs and cufflinks. Dark jewels or black onyx can also be worn.
- Black patent or polish black pumps or lace up Oxford shoes.
- Black silk top hat or black homburg hat (even for midnight blue).
- White silk crepe scarf with fringe ends draped around the neck or wrapped like a muffler (optional).
- Pocket square (any neutral color such as maroon).
White and Color Dinner Jackets
Tropical weight white gabardine, linen, mohair, and sometimes duck cloth dinner jackets (tuxedos) were made for hot weather at resort destinations. They could be single or double breasted with peak or shawl lapels paired with black tuxedo trousers. By 1936 they became so popular in non tropical climates that the dinner/dance gathering was a full mix of black, white, and midnight blue suits.
Other colors quickly followed such as wine, dark green, bright blue, light navy, and grey. Instead of waistcoats, the colorful cummerbund was worn in matching colors as well as bow ties. Dark red was the favorite color along with either a red or cornflower blue boutineer. Pocket squares could be red silk foulard, or blue polka dots could be worn with white or midnight blue dinner jackets. Additionally:
- A white soft shirt with turn down collar with white or black studs.
- Black bow ties paired well with any color of dinner jacket. Either wide butterfly or narrow bow ties.
- Trousers were usually black, but it wasn’t wrong to wear matching colored trousers.
- Black Oxford shoes.
- Red or white carnation boutineer.
- White pocket square.
1930s Men’s Tuxedos and Accessories
Renting tuxedos in the 1930s style will be difficult, but check your local options anyways. The white jacket with black tuxedo pants should be rentable as well as classic tuxedos (avoid the skinny fit). The Men’s Warehouse has cutaways, tailcoats and other traditional tuxedos to rent in the USA.
It may be better to purchase a new tuxedo, shirt and accessories. Here are some options: