Tag Archives: dressing for dinner 1930s cruise ship

A Gentleman’s White Dinner Jacket, 1934

An off-white, double-breasted dinner jacket worn with tuxedo trousers. Esquire, July 1934.

An off-white, double-breasted dinner jacket worn with tuxedo trousers. Esquire, July 1934.

In 1934, Esquire magazine reminded readers that for summer and resort wear, the tuxedo was not the only option for “black tie” evening dress.

"A Few Suggestions for Saturday Night;" Black tie options for August, 1934, from Esquire magazine.

“A Few Suggestions for Saturday Night;” Black Tie options for August, 1934, from Esquire magazine.

“White Tie” describes the most formal evening dress for men; “Black Tie” is less formal, and less uncomfortable, since a starched bib-front shirt, white vest, and scratchy, rigid collar were not necessary with a tuxedo.

The Tuxedo was named after a resort called Tuxedo Park, but according to one club member, “I was brought up believing that no one called it a tuxedo. It was always called a dinner jacket.” From a history of the tuxedo in Wall Street Journal.

In the late 1800’s, the outfit we now call a tuxedo was worn only when ladies were not present, or at family dinners in the era when men and women “dressed” for dinner. But, by the 1920’s, many men wore “black tie” to dances, nightclubs, and fine restaurants. This illustration shows three black tie variations from 1934:

Left, a double-breasted tuxedo in dark navy blue,; center, and single-breasted black tuxedo worn with a cream vest (a black vest was more common, but this was for summer.) Right, an double-breasted "white" dinner jacket, also double-breasted. Esquire, August 1934.

Left, a double-breasted tuxedo in midnight blue; center, a single-breasted black tuxedo worn with a light colored vest (a black vest was more common, but this was for summer.) Right, a white dinner jacket, also double-breasted. Esquire, August 1934. Both peaked lapels and shawl collars were acceptable.

The wider bow tie, called a bat tie, went with a soft-collared shirt.

500 text top three1934 aug saturday night p 122

“Palm Beach” was a brand name; it indicated a summer fabric that was washable, and could refer to the cloth or to a suit made from it.

Ad for a Palm Beach suit, Esquire, July 1934.

Ad for a Palm Beach suit, Esquire, July 1934.

Palm Beach label, July 1934 ad.

Palm Beach label, July 1934 ad.

White double breasted dinner jacket, Esquire Aug. 1934.

White double-breasted dinner jacket, Esquire Aug. 1934. There are four buttons, but only the bottom buttons are fastened.

The white dinner jacket was illustrated as an essential part of a wardrobe for a weekend in the country, Esquire, Aug. 1934.

The white dinner jacket was illustrated as an essential part of his wardrobe for a weekend in the country, Esquire, Aug. 1934. Also essential: black patent shoes or pumps for “dress-up time.”

A single-breasted white dinner jacket shown in an ad for Skinner Linings. Skinner made suit linings and, in this case, the cummerbund worn with the dinner jacket. Ad, Esquire, July 1934.

A single-breasted white dinner jacket shown in an ad for Skinner Linings. Skinner made suit linings and, in this case, the cummerbund worn with the single-button dinner jacket. Ad, Esquire, July 1934.

The white or off-white “dinner jacket” was usually worn with black tuxedo trousers.  Often the dinner jacket was a warm-weather choice because it might be unlined, or half-lined (rather than fully lined) in back, and because it was not worn over a vest. [Esquire recommended double-breasted business suits for summer in 1934, because they could be worn without a vest, unlike single-breasted suits, which were usually three-piece.] The cummerbund, in black or in maroon, was coming into fashion, perhaps left over from the brief craze for wearing a waist-length mess jacket for evenings on cruises or at resorts.

White dinner jacket from an illustration on cruise or resort wear, February 1934. Esquire.

White dinner jacket from an illustration of cruise or resort wear, February 1934. Esquire, Upper left. This double-breasted jacket only has buttons at the waist.

Mess jacket from an illustration of cruise and resort wear, Esquire, Feb. 1934.

Mess jacket with starched shirt and a black cummerbund, from an illustration of cruise and resort wear; Esquire, Top center, Feb. 1934.

Text for illustrations of cruise and resort wear, Esquire, Feb. 1934.

Text for illustrations of cruise and resort wear, Esquire, Feb. 1934.

There had been an early thirties’ fashion for wearing a white “Mess jacket,” which was cropped at the waist like a military evening uniform (hence its name — as in “Officers’ Mess,” or dining room.) As explained at the excellent  Black Tie Guide site, the white mess jacket was soon relegated to servants, barmen, and waiters.

The cummerbund, however, has been with us as a “black tie” accessory ever since; originally only worn as resort wear, in the 1930’s it slowly replaced the tuxedo vests worn in the 1920’s and was acceptable in town by the 1940’s.

Black tie worn with a vest or with a cummerbund, Esquire, August 1934.

Black tie worn with a vest or with a cummerbund, Esquire, August 1934.

500 text btm 1934 aug saturday night p 122

Black patent evening pumps or lace up evening shoes for men Aug 1934 Esquire

Black patent evening pumps or lace up evening shoes for men; sheer black stockings with stripes or red clocks. Aug. 1934, Esquire.

The “white” dinner jacket was not necessarily stark white; natural linen colors were also chic, as can be seen in this ad for Arrow dress shirts.

Ad for Arrow dress shirts, shown with an off-white dinner jacket. Esquire, Sept. 1934. The shirt on the right has a "regular", i.e., stiff, detachable collar. The one on the left has a new, attached collar.

Ad for Arrow pleated dress shirts, shown with an off-white dinner jacket. Esquire, Sept. 1934. One shirt has a “regular neck band” worn with a stiff, detachable collar. The other shirt has a new, attached collar.

The pleated fronts distinguished “dress shirts” from business shirts.

Esquire ran a regular series of illustrations which used actual fabric cut into the shapes of coats, shirts, etc. This one shows the off-white color and linen-like texture used in some “white” dinner jackets.

A creamy white dinner jacket worn with a pure white shirt, plus blue bachelor button in the lapel. Esquire, July 1934.

A creamy white dinner jacket worn with a pure white shirt, plus blue bachelor button in the lapel. Esquire, July 1934.

The off-white tone of the classic dinner jacket — darker than the shirt  — can be seen in this amusing clip from the movie The Lady Eve (1941.) Henry Fonda plays a wealthy but awkward herpetologist who hasn’t been in close proximity to a glamorous woman for quite some time — a situation that fortune-hunter Barbara Stanwyck corrects in this shipboard scene. Her bare-midriff dress and high heels are wonderful, too.

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Filed under 1920s-1930s, 1930s, 1930s-1940s, Men's Formalwear & Evening, Men's Haberdashery & Accessories, Menswear, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, Shirts for men, Shoes for Men, Uniforms and Work Clothes

Very Bare Backs, 1930s

I happened across this Ladies’ Home Journal cover for February, 1936, and thought it was worth sharing.

Cover, Ladies' Home Journal, February 1936.

Cover, Ladies’ Home Journal, February 1936.

This low-backed dress from 1933 has similar fabric flower trim:

Butterick 5424, a low backed evening dress trimmed with flowers. Delineator Dec. 1922.

Butterick 5424, a low backed evening dress trimmed with flowers. Delineator Dec. 1933.

Like the magazine cover, this bare backed evening gown was featured in the February, 1933, Ladies’ Home Journal: [CORRECTION: Both are from February 1936.]

Dinner suit and evening dress for a cruise, LHJ, Feb. 1936.

Dinner suit and evening dress for a cruise, LHJ, Feb. 1936.

The nearly backless gown is made of “a vivid flower print on black silk.”

This low-backed gown was featured in a “Wardrobe for the Young Married Woman,”

Butterick 5321, a low backed gown suitable for the young married woman. Delineator, Oct. 1933.

Butterick 5321, a low-backed evening gown suitable for the young married woman. Delineator, Oct. 1933. “Slithery, slinky white satin with a deep, deep decolletage in back.”

However, the college girl might also wear a low-backed gown:

A low backed evening gown for an

A low-backed evening gown for an “undergraduate.” Butterick pattern 6011, Delineator, January 1935.

They were not just for evening wear:

Butterick sundress pattern 5766, Delineator, July 1934.

Butterick sundress pattern 5766, Delineator, July 1934. Yes, she’s playing tennis.

Low-backed gowns were used to get the reader’s attention in advertisements, too.

A backless gown in an ad for mouthwash, Delineator, April 1934.

A backless gown in an ad for mouthwash or toothpaste, Delineator, April 1934.

Low-backed, sequinned gown in an ad for Listerine mouthwash. Woman's Home Companion, April, 1936.

Low-backed, sequinned gown in an ad for Listerine mouthwash. Woman’s Home Companion, April, 1936.

This ad is selling hand lotion:

Ad for lotion, low-backed evening gown. Woman;s Home Companion, April 1936.

Ad for lotion, featuring a low-backed evening gown. Woman’s Home Companion, April 1936.

Shelvador refrigerator ad, with a party guest visiting the kitchen in her back-less evening gown.

Shelvador refrigerator ad, with a party guest visiting the kitchen in her backless evening gown. July, 1936. Delineator.

This was from a series of ads where elegantly dressed guests visited the kitchen to “ooooh and ahhhhh” over the refrigerator. (To be fair, refrigerators were not that common; on the other hand, this seems like “bad form” — bragging.) The men are in white tie.

Low-backed evening gowns also sold Kellogg’s Bran flakes:

Constance Cummings in an ad for Kellogg's Bran. June, 1934. Delineator.

Actress Constance Cummings in an ad for Kellogg’s All-Bran. June, 1934. Delineator.

Kellogg's bran ad, June 1934.

Kellogg’s All-Bran ad, June 1934. “To look well in the new gowns, many of us must reduce.”

This lovely green [velvet?] dress is selling (green) Palmolive soap:

Evening gown in a Palmolive soap ad, Delineator, February 1933.

Evening gown in a Palmolive soap ad, Delineator, February 1933.

It’s less surprising that bare-backed ladies in evening dress were also used to sell Fashion classes . . .

An Ad for Woodbury College, Woman's Home Companion, Dec. 1937.

An Ad for Woodbury College, Woman’s Home Companion, Dec. 1937. “Earn Good Money as a Costume Designer.”

And pattern catalogs:

Butterick catalog cover, Oct. 1933.

Butterick catalog cover, Oct. 1933.

Of course, there were also ads for undergarments that would allow you to wear backless evening gowns. This Gossard foundation really does allow the wearer’s back to be bare all the way to the waist:

Ad for a backless foundation garment. Delineator, April 1932.

Ad for a Gossard backless foundation garment. Delineator, April 1932.

Gossard backless and boneless foundation garment. Advertisement, in Delineator. April 1932.

Gossard backless and boneless foundation garment. Advertisement in Delineator; April 1932.

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Filed under 1930s, Foundation Garments, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, Underthings, Underthings, Hosiery, Corsets, etc, Vintage patterns, vintage photographs