Can you imagine yourself wearing a mens clothing style that your ancestors were wearing before 200 years and still rocking the look? If you think its impossible, think again. One of the staple garments of every men's wardrobe, suits is what I am taking about.
Suits is a mens clothing have a long history that traces back to the 18th century. The outfit has since then withstood the tests of time and has still stayed to be one of the major part of every mens lifestyle. Though the suits that they had in the 1800s differ from what we have now in 2020 they are only subtle changes while the overall structure of the suit remains constant.
The suits have had an exciting and interesting journey as a mens clothing with changing time and people and it is important to know this since many styles that were popular then are making a comeback even at these times. These styles are still preferred by a certain group of people who love vintage styles and for a good reason. Some of the vintage suits look rich and fashionable even more than the latest styles. So knowing the history and some famous styles helps a lot especially if you like old fashion.
A suit is an ensemble of jacket with a pair of pants that are made of matching fabric and a dress shirt. The term suit comes from the French word suivre which means “to follow”. This is to indicate that the jacket follows the pants or vice versa. The origin of this classic mens clothing traces back to late 17th century where the foundation for the garment was made. England struck by repeated unfortunate events like plague and the Great fire of London was struggling to come back to its old glory. Charles II of England ordered his courtiers to change to simple tunics from the heavily embroidered luxurious fabrics with velvet, knee breaches and stockings that they wore at that time. The mens clothing changed from flamboyant styles to simple tunic, shirt and pant combinations and soon this simple style gained traction among merchants and aristocrats. The brighter shiny fabrics also were replaced by soft earth toned color palette that were adopted by the typical English countryside attire for men.
But by the start of 18th century this simple style of mens clothing saw another transformation which can be attributed to a single man called Beau Brummell. This man is undoubtedly the godfather of most of the mens clothing especially the mens dress suit. He was a friend of the prince regent and was working with the prince at that time to develop new military uniforms for one of their regiments. It was the neoclassical period and everyone was trying to mimic the Greek culture. Brummell was no exception and preferred tight fitting clothes. Successfully mimicking the Greek style the new dress uniform was close fitting which showed the wearers lines and contours. This style of mens clothing soon caught on style with the local mass of people who thought that the new look was fashionable. In Brummell' s style the outfits didn't exactly match, but he was the one responsible for the popularization of the new, less ornamental style. His style of silhouette and the muted color scheme laid the groundwork for the modern suit that we have now. Though this was the first base of the suit that you are wearing today but nothing close to the type of fit we have now. Brummell's design of mens clothing still went through years of changes some of which are even available now.
The Victorian era of mens clothing which lasted from 1837 to 1901 saw major changes in the suit style. The tails were lost from the jacket and frock coat became famous. Frock coats are basically black coats that is largely similar to our modern overcoats. They were either single breasted or double breasted and usually had a single vent in the back. They were little shorter than the overcoats we have now and ended a few inches above the knees. Single breasted frock coats were famous among men of that time while the double breasted style were considered to be formal and were worn by businessmen and aristocrats. This frock coat at the end of Victorian era split into two different styles one which retained the tails and another without them. The morning suit that was with the tails had the same length and had open quarters with single button and was single breasted. This style is still available now but is considered to be on the top of formality and is appropriate to be worn to Royal wedding or high society weddings. This mens clothing style is still prevalent in England but other than that it is rare and only seen among people who really appreciate classic mens clothing. The frock coats available now must be worn with matching trousers than with contrasting colors. The classic color is black and other darker colors also work.
The lounge suits style of mens clothing came into style around 1850s to 1860s in Scotland. They were designed originally for casual outdoor occasions and to combat the cold they were made from heavier fabrics. In Victorian era unlike now where suits are seen as a formal wear they were considered a casual outdoor garment never to be worn for formal events.
And also the matching colors of the top and bottom were considered to be casual style of mens clothing since at that time contrasting colors were considered as formals. The lounge suits were much shorter than the morning suits and was cut more sack like without front darts. They were worn for casual gatherings and outdoor activities especially in the British countryside. Also, they were worn with vests or waistcoats as a full three piece suit since the weather tends to be cold.
Then came the Edwardian era of mens clothing that is the early 1900s. The lounge suits still persisted in style and still rose in popularity. The morning suits were still worn but only by older men which later dwindled too. The Edwardian suits are also available as vintage mens clothing style nowadays. You can see that the fabric used was very heavy and coarse. The fabric finishing was also not that much clean but were expensive at that time. At that time they did not have the sophisticated heating systems we have now and most heating were from coal. Therefore, suits were worn inside the houses and thus made from heavy and coarse fabrics. These mens clothing also were mostly of darker colors since the suits tend to get dirty with all the manual labor. On the contrary the suits made for countryside people had patterns and lighter tones to them.
As said before slim fit of mens clothing style with fuller end was the prevalent style at that time in mens clothing. The v shaped torso was due to the Greek influence while other details of the suits had a lot of military influence from the World War I. The button holes were provided for the ease of which the surgeons can work on the wounded and the padded shoulders came from the style of military uniforms which looked best when a person is standing. The center and side vents were provided such that the gentlemen could ride horses without much hassle. The jackets were cut trim and the trousers relatively short with cuffs. By 1930s drape suits came into style which had more fabric near the chest area and the pants were cut a little wider. This soon became a very popular style in England and U.S. By 1930s the tight fit of the jackets slowly began to loosen with it becoming wider along the shoulders and suppressed along the waist. This hour glass fit was paired with high rise pants that created an illusion of longer legs and a pronounced waistline.
The jazz age of mens clothing gave rise to adaptation of materials that were more stylish, more colors and everything became brighter and flashy than the previous generation of dark suits. Accessorizing the suits started at this time while the pocket squares and collar pins became prevalent. This era saw more rebellious styles of mens clothing like double breasted waistcoats worn under single breasted jackets.
After the Victorian and Edwardian era of mens clothing the suits did not see much difference in their build and all the changes that came were small. The cuts became fuller and just tapered slightly towards the shoes. One major change was after the World War II after which the suits style again turned to minimal. The large cut suits were no more and single breasted style became popular. Saving of the fabric was the main aim and every details like trim cut trousers without cuffs and narrow lapels were introduced for that. This was the era when the vests and waistcoats lost their popularity to minimalism. The suit structure we have now is very similar to this time of style. The only exception to this is the zoot suits which had baggy pants and long jacket but wearing them was considered unpatriotic and apathetic.
After the war by 1950s wide lapels and pleated pants made a comeback in mens clothing mostly due to teenagers who rebelled against the old style and t-shirts, jeans and leather jackets came out during this period. The jackets still remained single breasted and with no padding.
By the end of the 19th century the suit fashion of mens clothing has spread all around the world thanks to Britains ambitious colonial endeavors. The new millennium mostly adopted the slim fit style and went back to minimalist style. The fit got slimmer and also shorter. The black suits were at the height of popularity since they were considered simple and minimal style.
By the end of the decade the need for suits in mens clothing slowly diminished with the rise in need for the casuals. While in another extreme some people simply wore suits without any proper need for it and simply because they felt like wearing one. The cut was still slim with peak lapel on suits but the length got shorter to the point that some didn't even cover the behind. The internet saw the boom and online shopping became a popular norm. With this came the customization of the suit according to the purchaser's taste and need by the online measure services which eliminated the need to take it to the tailor. This service has only refined with ages and nowadays the online shopping have seen great heights from where it started.
Now knowing all the timeless styles in mens clothing it is time to know how to rock the vintage styles. Buying vintage styles means owning pieces only some people have which can add a whole new twist to your wardrobe. The best places to buy vintage suits are the local vintage stores and online vintage shops. In the stores the merchandise mostly gets renewed once a week so knowing the time the new styles arrive will ensure more choices to choose from. Donning vintage suits means that you will need good dress shirts that work well with the suits. So try browsing the styles to get the right pick.
These vintage styles of mens clothing are mostly of heavier sturdy fabrics and quality materials that may drain your pockets if bought new but vintage styles are available at lower prices. When you purchase in a store make sure that the fit is right for you since the heavier fabrics makes it harder for the tailors to alter. So don't hesitate to try the garments on so that you get the right fit.
One of the thing on which the people complain about the vintage garments if left unworn it develops a funky smell. But if you know a few tricks you can maintain the second hands as brand new. Make a small pocket of activated charcoal or cat litter and put it with the same place as the garment. Both of these absorbs smells and after 24 hours the garments becomes wearable without the stinky smell. Another trick is to fill an empty spray bottle with a little vodka and spray the contents on the affected garment and leave it to dry for some time. This kills the odor causing bacteria making your garment smell as new as it was bought.
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