Spring time means wedding time, not just for brides but for grooms, father of the bride/groom and wedding guests. Over the past few weeks I have been asked for help dressing in a 1920s or 1930s style for an upcoming wedding. Most of these weddings are semi-formal to very casual beach side destinations. How do you dress for a vintage wedding that is informal, comfortable and not too expensive? Let me show you some options from my favorite online menswear brand, Paul Fredrick. Thank you Paul Fredrick for the paid sponsorship of this article. Links within are affiliate links meaning at no cost to you we may receive commission for purchases made after clicking. Thank you readers for your support.
What I like about Paul Fredrick is that the clothing is cut in a traditional fit (no modern supper skinny suits) with high waist pants, shirts with exact neck sizes, big and tall sizes and accessories that exude classic vintage style. They can be paired with modern accessories for a contemporary look that blends vintage and modern or traditional mixing for a genuine vintage vibe.
Here I have five wedding appropriate (or anytime) fashion ideas starting with the most formal and moving to casual:
Summer Formal Wear
In the 1930s there was a trend for men to forgo the all black tuxedo and instead pair a white or ivory dinner jacket over black tuxedo pants. The look is sharp and less formal than all black clothing. This is a great style for a summer wedding for grooms, groomsmen and fathers wanting to stand out from the guest’s attire.
To complete this look:
- White or Ivory dinner jacket, single or double breasted, with a shawl collar (rounded lapels)
- Black tuxedo pants with a satin stripe down the side of the leg. You could also just wear black dress pants.
- White dress shirt (not a pleated tuxedo shirt)
- Bow tie (black is traditional) but feel free to wear the wedding color instead.
- Pocket square or boutineer – Black or white pocket square is traditional. A colored flower boutineer was also a snazzy accessory, in a wedding color is special.
Vintage Men’s Suits- Summer Seersucker or Linen
The go to look for most vintage men attending a wedding is a suit. Most men today don’t like to wear a suit, especially in summer, because they can be hot and restrictive. Fortunately men in the golden era knew exactly how to dress dapper in the heat. A white or ivory linen suit or striped seersucker suit provided the look of a tailored suit with the comfort of breathable materials.
Paul Fredrick has the best summer suits for vintage styling. They have a blue seersucker suit in single or double breasted style as well as an ivory linen blend suit that wont turn into a wrinkled mess within minutes. Here on the right is my husband and our friend Mark wearing these suits to a summer 1920s party. Don’t they look dapper?
Add to the suits:
- Dress shirt in a colorful stripe or pattern. This was the Art Deco time period- bring on bold, clashing colors! Stripes, dots, windowpane, and chevron were all popular patterns.
- Bow tie or necktie. Choose a contrasting color from your shirt. Jewel tones, paisley, thick stripes, polka dots, and deco prints make great choices. You can add a matching pocket square if you wish.
- Summer straw hat such as the round boater or skimmer hat, straw panama, or a straw wide brim fedora is stylish and cool.
- Shoes- White nubuck shoes were the summer shoes to wear. A brown and ivory two tone oxford is also snazzy.
Vintage Sport Coats
Another fashion look for the 1930s to 1950s is the sport coat suit. It offers a more casual look than a matching suit set and also allows for more personality. Colors and patterns were unlimited in the 1930s to the 1960s. Single or double breasted sportcoats could be solid colors- deep blue, maroon, green, navy, brown, or tan but usually they had big patterns such as windowpane, wide stripes, plaid, or checks. The 1930s -1940s fit was loose with wide padded shoulders, wide lapels and a slightly nipped in waist and a longer length (down to thigh.)
Most modern spor tcoats are slim fitting with narrow lapels and a shorter length. You can fudge a modern sport coat into a more vintage look buy buying one or two sizes up and adding a layer of padding to the shoulders. With Paul Fredrick the sport coats are already on the looser side so we only ordered one size up for our 1930s look on the right.
For pants choose dress slacks in a light color such as ivory, light grey, tan or white. If the sport coat has a pattern, choose pants in a solid color. If the sport coat is solid, choose a pattern pant. When ordering pants be sure to measure around you mid waist at the widest point. These will fit like vintage pants instead of a modern low rise. You may also want a leather belt or pair or suspenders to hold them up.
Men’s Vintage Vests
If the heat is going to be too much for a suit or sport coat or if you want a very casual look then all you need is a snazzy vest. This no suit coat look is VERY popular for men’s casual vintage inspired wedding attire.
A button up vest looks the most vintage if it has lapels. Double breasted vests are also very dapper or single vests with a big pattern. You can choose to match your vest to your pants or not. Matching looks were more ideal in the 1920s and 1930s while contrasting pants were popular in the 1940s and 1950s.
You could go for a pullover sweater vest for sportier look. This look became popular in the 1920s with golfers but was quickly adopted by all men for a comfortable casual style. You could have a lot of fun with an argyle vest or keep in neutral with a cable knit solid vest over a pattern shirt. Since it is easier to find a pullover vest in a variety of colors than a button up vest, this is yet another item that can coordinate a wedding party.
Wear suspenders to hold up your pants. A belt with a vest looks wrong. Really wrong. Just don’t do it, ok?
A solid color, french cuff, light shirt will help make the vest stand out. The shirt should have long sleeves. If you must stay cool, roll up your sleeves. A nice tie or bow tie adds a bit more formality to the look but isn’t necessary for a vintage inspired style.
A hat is a must. Felt or straw fedoras just ooze vintage class. A pair of two tone shoes would be great but don’t be afraid to try other vintage classics such as shoes with weave (they breath too), moc toe, boat shoes, penny loafers (no tassels) or even leather sandals for a beach wedding. Have fun with your socks too. Wild patterns? Yes!
Linen Shirts / Guayabera Shirt
The final look is the most casual style for the ultimate summer wedding. For beach weddings in tropical climate settings you will appreciate the coolness of a linen shirt. A Guayabera shirt is a 4 pocket linen or cotton short sleeve shirt with pintucks and embroidery down the front. It is a traditional look in Latin American countries. In the 1930s the bush shirt was a style inspired by the Guayabera and it has remained popular ever since.
For a wedding, a white Guayabera or similar 2-4 pocket linen sport shirt is a classic. Pair with white, ivory or tan pants. You can also get these shirts in an array of colors. A bright coral, Caribbean blue, or sunny yellow were new colors seen in the 1950s.
Do you need help with you vintage themed wedding attire? Contact us anytime.