Elements Of Formal Clothing - Part 4
December 14th, 2010
Waistcoats (often called vests in the USA) were almost always worn with suits prior to the 1940s. They were revived in the 1970s and remained popular throughout that decade in some parts of the world, and remain popular, for example, in Germany. Waistcoats can be either single-breasted or double-breasted. A style that was quite popular among fashionable young men in the 1920s was to wear a single-breasted coat with a high-waisted double-breasted waistcoat. High-waisted single-breasted waistcoats were popular in both the 1920s–1930s and in the 1970s, and were often made with either five or six buttons. Today, many suit makers sell suits with waistcoats, although they often cost much more than a simple two-piece suit. A suit with a matching waistcoat is often called a three-piece suit. They are much more popular in continental Europe than in the USA, Britain, or Japan.
Suit trousers are always made of the same material as the jacket. Even from the 1910s to 1920s, before the invention of sports jackets specifically to be worn with odd trousers, wearing a suit jacket with odd trousers was as an alternative to a full suit. However, with the modern advent of sports jackets, suit jackets are always worn with matching trousers, and the trousers have always been worn with the appropriate jacket.
Trouser width has varied considerably throughout the decades. In the 1920s, trousers were straight-legged and wide-legged, with a standard width at the cuff of 23 inches. After 1935, trousers began to be tapered in at the bottom half of the leg. Trousers remained wide at the top of the leg throughout the 1940s. By the 1950s and 1960s, a more slim look had become popular. In the 1970s, suit makers offered a variety of styles of trousers, including flared, bell bottomed, wide-legged, and more traditional tapered trousers. In the 1980s these styles disappeared in favor of tapered, slim-legged trousers.
One variation in the design of trousers is the use or not of pleats. The most classic style of trouser is to have two pleats, usually forward, since this gives more comfort sitting and better hang standing.This is still a common style, and for these reasons of utility has been worn throughout the twentieth century. The style originally descended from the exaggeratedly widened Oxford bags worn in the 1930s in Oxford, which, though themselves short-lived, began a trend for fuller fronts.The style is still seen as the smartest, featuring on dress trousers with black and white tie. However, at various periods throughout the last century, flat fronted trousers with no pleats have been worn, and the swing in fashions has been marked enough that the more fashion-oriented ready-to-wear brands have not produced both types continuously.
Turn-ups on the bottom of trousers, or cuffs, were initially popularised in the 1890s by Edward VII, and were popular with suits throughout the 1920s and 1930s. After falling out of style in World War II, they were not generally popular again, despite serving the useful purpose of adding weight to straighten the hang of the trousers. They have always been an informal option, being inappropriate on all formalwear.
Other variations in trouser style include the rise of the trouser. This was very high in the early half of the century, particularly with formalwear, with rises above the natural waist, to allow the waistcoat covering the waistband to come down just below the narrowest point of the chest. Though serving less purpose, this high height was duplicated in the daywear of the period. Since then, fashions have changed, and have rarely been that high again with styles returning more to low-rise trousers, even dropping down have waistbands resting on the hips. Other changing aspects of the cut include the length, which determines the break, the bunching of fabric just above the shoe when the front seam is marginally longer than height to the shoe's top. Some parts of the world, such as Europe, traditionally opt for shorter trousers with little or no break, while Americans often choose to wear a slight break.
A final major distinction is made in whether the trousers take a belt or braces (suspenders). While a belt was originally never worn with a suit, the forced wearing of belts during wartime years (caused by restrictions on use of elastic caused by wartime shortages) contributed to their rise in popularity, with braces now much less popular than belts. When braces were common, the buttons for attaching them were placed on the outside of the waistband, because they would be covered by a waistcoat or cardigan, but now it is more frequent to button on the inside of the trouser. Trousers taking braces are rather different in cut at the waist, employing inches of extra girth and also height at the back. The split in the waistband at the back is in the fishtail shape.