Sunday, November 14, 2010

WIW: Penney's Overcoat

The recent cool weather called for wearing an overcoat today. While it was fairly cold, it wasn't cold enough yet for my heavy overcoats.

Therefore, I broke out and for the first time wore my light-weight 1930s belted overcoat.

click images to enlarge

I've had this for roughly a year but it needed some alterations, including the replacement of the buttons. Even so, the arms are still a tad short but I'm not too worried about that, it's a normal situation for me.

Belted overcoats were pretty common over in Europe during the 1930s but was not as common over in the states. It's interesting that while a majority of American trench coats (both vintage and modern) are fully belted, very few American overcoats (both vintage and modern) have belts. Who really knows why, perhaps just different societies favoring different styles: a geographic and cultural thing. A plain buttoned belt-less front was enough for most American men, though you can see a belted overcoat in the 1936 New York City photograph below:

My overcoat is somewhat lightweight and unconstructed, almost like a robe. It has lazy peaked lapels that slightly slope downward along with patch pockets but lacks a breast pocket.

The back of the coat is as interesting as the front: a full-length center gusset runs down the back ending with pleats in the skirt. This helps the well-fitted overcoat move with the wearer.

The pleated 'vent' (though not a true vent) is very similar to the Paddock Coat in the 1935 Apparel Arts illustration below:

Despite the short arms I'm happy with this piece. Vintage American belted overcoats are difficult to find and this is a fine example of one.

Saturday, November 6, 2010


The 1930s was a decade of sartorial oddities, at least in our eyes. Belted backs, bi-swing backs, pleated pockets, back gussets. Very unique and complex treatments that are rarely if ever seen today. But it was the norm back then.

Several months ago during some of my travels I stumbled upon the late 1930s sports coat below.

click images to enlarge

This jacket has a couple odd characteristics. First, it has two breast pockets. While this was not unheard of on leisure jackets, it was a little less common on regular sports coats.

Another example of a dual breast-pocketed jacket is shown below. These images are from the classic movie "It's a Wonderful Life" and show Jimmy Stewart's fantastic jacket with lazy peaked lapels to go with the dual breast pockets.

It should be noted that Stewart provided his own wardrobe for "Wonderful Life". The dual breast pocket feature was more of a Hollywood/dandy/higher class trend and most likely would not have been picked up by the lowly and poor small town clerk character that Stewart played in the movie.

Secondly and most unusually: all of the patch pockets are pleated with vertical 'shark gills'.

Definitely an unusual and sophisticated tailoring feature that added another layer of character to an already unique jacket. The material is also interesting, kind of a smooth yet slightly nubby tweed:

With such unusual treatments on the front of the jacket you'd expect even more craziness on the backside: a belted back at least, maybe with pleats if we're lucky. But you'd be wrong.

Just a plain, ventless back. It's a party up front, all business in back. What a combo.

This unusual jacket is a perfect example of the oddities spawned during the 1930s and has a well deserved place in my personal collection.


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