Thursday, September 29, 2011

On the Drape Suit, Part 1: Style

It was the most influential suit style of the Golden Era yet it is perhaps the least understood. Today it is (usually badly) imitated in what is known as "Neapolitan Tailoring" which is just as difficult to understand, is highly controversial and something I will not go into here.

The Drape Suit, quite simply, is a soft tailored style of suit that was first introduced in England during the 1930s, hence the name so often used to describe the style: English Drape. Other names for the Drape Suit include the "Blade Suit" or "Lounge Suit".

The Drape Suit has a few specific characteristics that seperates it from the other styles of the time. These characteristics include a full, soft chest often with vertical wrinkles or puckers; a gathered sleevehead; a well-tapered waist and padded shoulders. While a jacket may have some or all of these characteristics, the full chest is a must. Take a look at the late-1930s Drape sports coat below:

click images to enlarge

Although the above jacket lacks the 1gathered sleevehead, notice that it does have the 2well padded shoulders; the 3 full, soft chest with a vertical 'wave' and the 4highly suppressed waist. These are the vital characteristics of the vintage Drape Suit.
To quote "Esquire's Encyclopedia of 20th Century Men's Fashion" from 1973, the Drape Suit had a "...soft front, full across the chest and shoulder blades. Tapered sleeves with full sleevehead finished with tiny tucks at the shoulder. A decided suppression at the waist and close fitted at the hips...American interpretations eliminate the tiny tucks or pleats found at the top of the sleeveheads of the British models."

Trousers, though not as vital to the Drape Suit as the jacket, were cut very full and straight-legged, usually with pleats and generous cuffs.

Now remember that these are rules of thumb and may not apply to every Drape Suit. Just as the above Drape sports coat lacks the gathered sleevehead, another jacket may lack a different characteristic. The important thing is that the jacket has a full-cut chest and a fitted waist, giving the wearer an athletic appearance.

Here are some more examples of Drape Suits, all dating from the very early 1940s.

This is a 1941-dated tweed American suit. Notice, again, the full, soft-tailored chest with vertical waves in it. The jacket also has a small number of tucks at the sleevehead:

A 1940-dated American example of a Drape Suit. While difficult to see, the full-cut chest does have vertical waves.

This suit has well defined sleevehead tucks along with a lot of 'pooching' where the chest meets the armhole (indicating a full-cut chest) as the below image shows. Again, while the sleevehead tucks are not necessary, they often will be present.

Here is another example of a Drape Suit, this time from an ad found in an April, 1936 edition of the "New York Times". Take a look at the suit on the left and notice how the chest bows out: a full-cut chest.
The top of the sleeve just below the sleevehead also has vertical waves, indicating tucks at the sleevehead. While these waves may appear to be a flaw to the untrained eye, they have been carefully and purposefully placed there by the tailor.
"...our new 'Contour' model, emphasizing the broader-shoulder effect, fuller chest and slenderized hips."

Compared to the previous close-cut, body-hugging, well-structured suits of the 1920s, the Drape Suit is a more casual, soft-tailored style that was born out of the rough times of the 1930s and influenced men's suit styles through to the 1950s and even today. Because of this fact the Drape Suit needs to be better examined under the microscope of sartorial history.

The next time we look at the Drape Suit we'll do just that.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Autumn Inspiration

If you live in the northern hemisphere, Fall has officially fallen upon you. While our cousins in the lower half of the globe are gearing up for summer with linen, panama hats and spectators, we lucky folks are putting those things away and pulling out the big guns.

click images to enlarge

Not that there's anything wrong with those summer articles. But Autumn is my favorite season, though every season has its own special characteristics and holidays to offer. It's just that after a long, hot summer it's nice to be able to snuggle up under a blanket and just relax with a cup of hot chocolate while watching a movie. Sure you're wasting the day but it's not like it's warm enough outside to do anything anyways...

And there's nothing like donning a suit that weighs 8 pounds, has great colors/textures and drapes so wonderfully.

This Autumn and winter take a cue from nature and use not only colors but also textures found out of doors. Pretty much every color imaginable can be found once the air starts turning cold but the warm burnt colors like orange, yellow red and brown are most prevelant. Use them to your advantage.

You can do this by either complimenting those natural colors, which is easiest and most popular, or contrasting them with cooler colors.

Take a few minutes to look over the following illustrations from the 1930s. Notice the color combinations and textures and be inspired to experiment with your wardrobe as the air turns cold.

A corduroy suit? Yes, please.

The fur lapels are a nice touch.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

WIW: Engaged!

Saturday I took my lovely new fiancée Cassie on a special date. We dressed to the nines, had dinner, I popped the question during a walk around town (she said yes) and then I took her to a surprise concert featuring Andre Rieu and his orchestra before heading to the Cheesecake Factory with some friends. I highly recommend going to Andre Rieu's concert, btw.

Enjoy the following photos with the WIW rundown towards the bottom.

click images to enlarge

Heading out on the town:

At the Cheesecake Factory:

Cassie's new accessory:

On to the WIW portion of this post. I don't have any good full length shots of Cassie because of the surprise nature of the date but here's what she was wearing:
-modern elegant, silky striped dress
-vintage pearl earrings
-modern cream-colored high heels
-vintage long gloves
-retro navy handbag
-modern cashmere shawl
-new diamond ring

Simple rundown of my outfit:
-1940s dinner suit
-1930s 5th Avenue homburg
-modern Allen Edmond patent leather shoes
-modern formal shirt (with a collar that's a tad large)
-modern gloves

Cassie and I had a great time and are looking forward to a life together.


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