In succinct terms, I guess the easiest way to describe what Sophie wore for both looks is Classic Americana, though, I have a few problems with leaving the description at just that.
When designing for this period, a big thing is to hit enough of the conventions as to capture emotionally, the feeling of what someone inspired by fashion at the time in America would be influenced by. The Prince of Wales (VIII) and Hollywood dominated a lot of what young kids would be wearing — and the idea for designing this Classic Americana for Sophie is to note if she were given the same breadth during that time. Those conventions include a kind of cut, a type of feeling of fabric, particular style details but…. Notably, there are very few women that are wearing trousers as the whole during that time. I mean, in 1923 America has JUST allowed the practice for women to legally wear trousers.. then again, France barely overturned their antiquated trousers banning law in 2013 (https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-21329269).
Trousers in America became a little more accepted during interwar period following WW1, so it is possible this isn’t as subversive as I would want it to be. To say that Sophie would be made this garment during the time, depending on the tailor it could require someone willing to subvert the cultural narrative — so to me, this outfit embodies that kind of power. A power to stand up to the hegemonic structure by using the same tools it does to dismantle it. Her being made suits like this for the time would be empowering to women around her regardless, so I particularly love this set of looks.
Fred Astaire in a flannel 3 piece
So — for Sophie’s first look, I love capturing that Hollywood flannel kind of feeling. Fox Brothers has been making woolens since 1772, and the characteristic old feeling style of their heritage collection was a prime motivator for choosing a fabric from this collection. Americana, in my mind, for classic has always hit the greys. This beautiful herringbone in 18 oz lambswool is delightfully full bodied and soft yet commands such a presence when made into a garment. The coat used a single vent, notably for the time, single vents and no vent coats were most common. I just love how the ticket pocket gives character to the coat.
A details shot of the fabrics all together, I love how the texture of the vest is a subtle but clear change no matter the lighting
The trousers are designed with a fishtail waistband, though that is unseen for the most part with this look — it functionally makes it very easy and flattering by form to use suspenders to create a clear and CLEAN high waist. It allows for the vest to really create a flattering shape as well — not needing to follow the fullness of the seat. The silhouette is incredibly sleek while being very relaxed — by some definitions baggy even. Further detailed with double pleats, and standard width cuffs, she cuts the form of someone wearing a beautiful Hollywood inspired suit.
The capture of movement as well as the gravitas of the flannel here is just fantastic
A fully body attitude, look at how the fabric carves an impression — she is absolutely statuesque here
The vest is special to me in that it really could be made into a sweater or make the impression of a knit. Dormeuil has done it again in Naturals Attitude, and this vest is a blend of wool, silk, polyamide, cashmere and elastane! If you look close enough, you can see an almost corduroy like structure of weave with loose loops of differing colored fabrics and this beautiful hand of fabric that sings green, blue and grey in the light. Like a knit though, it has an incredible amount of give — stretching more than many knits that I am aware of.
Keen eyes will see the chest darts we had to do the work for in the shop, look how smoothly the vest follows her body
For the tie, I am pretty particular to more organic feeling paisleys and we have a fantastic tie maker in Silvio Fiorello that we work with.
Shirt wise, this fabric is a striped jacquard from Alumo — a real shame we can’t see the detail too closely here. More of a satin weave feeling. We made for a collar bar shirt, to keep with that Classic Americana look. I might have preferred for the four-in-hand knot be tied a bit tighter and with a dimple, but that is neither here or there.
The buttons on the suit and vest are made of horn, and I opted for something more dark — especially considering that I wanted to keep for the black oxfords from Allen Edmonds that both models would be wearing for both looks. SPEAKING OF
The second look:
Cab Calloway is an American legend for style in my book, in a double breasted white coat here
You can see from this 1935 Esquire magazine, the advertisement for the WASHABLE single breasted shawl collar tux coat
I wanted a tuxedo that screamed classic to me in the same way that the Cambridge and Oxford students shirked the starched collars of their time. I wanted relaxed, done to 1930s convention YET inimitable. That, to me, says white dinner coat. Now, did I play within the lapel shape convention — maybe — but the fabrics very much speak for the style. I’m skeptical about it but I’ve read from sources that 1930s is when the white dinner coat came into mainstream use (https://www.gentlemansgazette.com/tuxedo-black-tie-guide/classic/off-white-dinner-jacket/). I have yet to do a deep dive on the history but my skepticism stems from the use of the white vest in a black tuxedo tailcoat — to say someone wouldn’t have played with the idea of a white dinner coat before seems outlandish. So just take that by 1936 (according to esquire) the white dinner coat was so popular that they started making self facing dinner coats in midnight blue and black as well.
The fabric is from Schofield & Smith and for a barathea (typical in black tuxedos)– this fabric is classic in the sense of both how heavy it is but also the way that it is fulled and finished. This barathea has an incredibly dignified but casual feeling about it and for a white dinner coat — that was a lot of the kind of feeling that people wanted to capture. Tropical evening wear.
Notably here — our experience of white fabrics has been hit and miss with customers due to one factor… that being transparency. There is a certain level that you just have to accept within the confines of a white fabric but the density of the fabric can help immensely.
I love being able to see the off-white jacket with the white tuxedo comb of the shirt. Delightful!
With the lapels and buttons, I opted for something that felt like it wasn’t trying too hard. No white silk satin, no white grosgrain — just covered by the same barathea. I think that positively complemented the fabric itself and let more of the cut of the tuxedo talk. It helps that white dinner coats SHOULD be self facing unless you are making something like Cab Calloway’s white tailcoat tuxedo… but that isn’t a white dinner coat.
I love how the buttons here don’t try to steal the show. They hit the convention and this coat feels like visual high quality vanilla ice cream because of it
The trousers are a simple kid mohair blend from holland & sherry, and the satin stripe is polyester — but the silks I have available don’t have the kind of high shine that I was looking for that matching feeling I wanted for most of the silk satin bowties we have available. This trouser was made with a fishtail waistband but we very much opted to keep the hem clean. Double pleated again.
Mohair is another incredibly prolific fabric in the world of tuxedos but I must note that mainstream use of mohair for tuxedos is not part of American fashion until at least the 50s or 60s noted with the mod movement in London. Mohair has a beautiful dull lustre, clear visual texture and a long history of use before being well known but I do want to note if Sophie got a mohair tuxedo trouser in the 30s, she would have been trend setting.
Capturing the emotion of a fishtail waistband — well, I should let Sophie speak.
The silk suspenders and bowtie are made both by Silvio Fiorello, that silk satin sheen is delightful. The shirt is another alumo but of course this is a beautiful tuxedo comb — that high texture and density of fabric helps bring this air of gravitas that I just love. The shape of the smoke mother of pearl buttons gives me life, it makes the ensemble feel so regal. I opted for the closed/folded collar as opposed to the wing collar, it feels more intentional to me. Even with the jacket off, the shirt doesn’t give the impression of being a waiter… maybe a high end sommelier, can’t escape that with evening dress.
Seeing the full body ensemble is delightful — that dull lustre of the mohair for the trouser and the full body of the barathea in the coat really cut this established image for Sophie. What a delightful outfit.
Overall — the only thing I would change is detailing the fishtail waistband with the satin as a means of referencing the traditional cummerbund that would be used. This is pretty fantastic and intentional but keen on history readers would know that cummerbund is missing — but they have to admit this looks fantastic.
I am excited to design something for next year, and I wonder what inspiration I will find to influence what I would play with through my reading and experience of fabrics. We’ll see! Thanks for reading!