In the Spring and Summer of 1934, Esquire magazine ran several articles about wearing the morning coat. The morning coat, or “cutaway” had long been a correct choice for formal daytime events, but in 1936, by royal decree, it officially replaced the “frock coat” as formal daytime clothing in the English court. (I found this date in Diana de Marly’s book, Fashion for Men. )
In the early 20th century, in spite of the acceptance of sack suits for most business purposes. . .
. . . the frock coat was still correct formal daytime wear for diplomats and other men for whom a casual appearance was not acceptable.
A little background on the frock coat:
The frock coat — and the man’s three piece suit — can be said to have originated with Charles II of England, who abolished the clothing worn at the French court . . .
and commanded, in 1666, that the more manly “Persian” suit of clothes be worn in his presence. Eventually, the combination of knee length coat, breeches, and vest evolved into normal business wear for men. The 19th century frock coat really did resemble the full-skirted dresses of the 1820’s and 30s….
The photo below, from the early 20th century, shows the King of England, George V (at left), wearing a frock coat, which he favored for official daytime menswear. It was worn by lawyers, bankers, and other successful men, not just at court. He is with his son, Prince Edward (b. 1894, later the Duke of Windsor), who is wearing a formal black or dark gray cutaway.
During the few months when he was king — before abdicating — Edward, who really preferred to wear a sack suit, abolished the frock coat at court in favor of the cutaway, or morning coat. By the 1930s, the bands of braid on the cutaway had disappeared. (Around the turn of the century a cutaway could be part of a casual three piece suit.)
During the early 1930’s, Esquire treated its readers to at least two articles about the morning coat — timed for the Summer wedding season. (On June 3, 1937, Edward, now the Duke of Windsor, was married — appropriately, in a morning suit.)
This ad from men’s clothier Rogers Peet shows attire for a wedding:
Esquire felt obliged to explain that — even though classy store employees wore them — there really was justification for a gentleman to buy a set of morning clothes.
In June, Esquire spelled out the groom’s obligations regarding gifts to the ushers, flowers, and how to avoid blunders when dressing for a formal daytime wedding — with many choices of gray, white, or natural linen waistcoat, and a variety of collars and ties.
I believe that the man with a mustache, standing left of the bride, and wearing a white vest and stiff wing-collar shirt, is the groom, partly because his boutonniere is lily of the valley, rather than a white carnation or gardenia.
The wedding party wears spats, too:
For the man whose social schedule did not include participating in the Easter Parade, attending Royal Ascot or signing treaties, there was another occasion, besides weddings, when a morning coat could be worn:
Even in the thirties, when many men owned a tuxedo to wear to dances, nightclubs, dinners, concerts, and the theatre, morning dress was more likely to be rented than purchased, in spite of Esquire‘s advice.
P.S. What would costumers do without Stacy Adams shoes? This company still sells black shoes with white tops, although they have snaps, rather than buttons…. The Gentleman’s Emporium has a surprisingly wide selection of spats.