Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Sartorial Questions - 1 (suspenders + evening dress etiquette)

Maybe it’s as a result of the Eccentric Club award (This Blog: 6th April 2009) or possibly from the interview/profile I did for the site (ditto: 7th August 2009 ), but recently I’ve started to receive questions about fashion and style. I reprint two of them here (with their permission):-

: I was watching a western movie today, probably set in the 1870s, 1880s, they are just trying to plan for the railroad lines.

The men were wearing suspenders [uk = braces], but they had the metal slides on their suspenders like we have today to adjust the fit. Would they have had those in that time period? [Pape G, USA]

A: I contacted my friend Chris at the Historical Emporium who suggested:
“Adjusting buckles were common, even back to the civil war period.
Here's a picture with a variety of suspenders styles from the civil war period.

“As to the specific metal buckle styles, I can't answer your question whether the specific style that we carry was common or uncommon.” [ ].

May I also suggest, Pape, this would make an ideal discussion topic for the website - there is a wealth of Western re-enactors here who might have a definitive answer for you. Try my profile [ ], go into my Friends list and search out a chap called Staggers - he seems to know his stuff.

“I’m writing this letter to explain you what is just happened to me, to be advised and to be elucidated by a Dandy as you.

“A couple of days ago I received an invitation for a Gala Dinner, for Dandies only, in which there was specified that wearing a tuxedo would be requested. I immediately wrote back about the coarseness of wearing that kind of suit compared to a Frac [ie. tailcoat] and the answer was: ‘We all love masquerades, but this is a modern event and smoking is binding‘.

“I can’t explain the sense of astonishment I felt and doubts arose in me after reading something that seemed so bourgeois And written by a presumed Dandy.

“What do you think about it? Am i guilty of inappropriateness?” [Gianfilippo, Italy]

A:Well, Gianfilippo, I do feel rather honoured advising on style to an ever-stylish Italian, but I accept the compliment.

Their response does seem rather odd. I would have thought, if the event was “for Dandies only” the mode of dress expected would demand flamboyance and extravagance. Personally, I would wear white tie and tails or possibly a frock coat.

Perhaps you might consider a compromise: perhaps a black tuxedo suit (normally worn with a black bow tie) but with an extravagant Regency-type bow tie or a cravat / ascot with stickpin.

I’ve also found in my archive a few other variations you might consider [click on the pics for the full version]:

(I am not sure how the smoking reference comes into it - unless you mean Smoking Jacket? - but I would recommend a good cigar or pipe).

Finally…I have a couple more questions ready to run with (including a fascinating one about Spats), but if anyone out there has a question they wish to ask me about clothes and style please just send it to me (e-mail: ). I can’t promise a definitive answer, but I will Always have an opinion, and might be able to point you in the right direction.


Charles said...

Q2: very odd indeed. Do they think white tie is old fashioned and yet they call themselves 'dandies?' I assume they must be American given the use of the term 'tuxedo' so no surprise there I guess...

Ray Frensham said...

From Lance Holt (USA), via FaceBook:

Great reference pics. Thanks for the link.

Matt Volatile said...

"Un Smoking" is French for a tuxedo, FYI.