Need some fresh inspiration for your wardrobe? Look no further than Princeton in the 1930s.
This passage is from the spring 1934 issue of Apparel Arts, and was alerted to us by Dan Flores of the blog An Uptown Dandy, a fine fellow I’ve met on occasion around town.
Assuming the report is accurate (and not what the fashion writer simply wanted to see), Princeton was loaded with two-button and double-breasted suits mixed among the perennial grey flannels and oxford-cloth buttondowns. Ignore the Hollywood lapels on the guy in the image above.
The article is entitled “Maytime House Parties: Fashion Notes from the Annual Maytime House Party Gala Week-end at Princeton University.” Here’s the text:
Any question as to the natural popularity of gabardine can be conclusively quashed — its tremendous acceptance at Princeton makes its subsequent mass popularity all over the country a bankable certainty. The light tan shade is still in the lead, which is natural, since it was first to appear, with the following colors next in order of their preference: Havana brown, stone gray, and the newest (which was the only color not seen in suits — odd jackets only) gray-green. The most popular model is the two-button notch lapel, with fancy belted back.
The gray-green odd jackets were seen in both two and three-button notch-lapel models. Second in importance, and of outstanding significance because of its apparent daily gain in popularity at the eastern universities, is the small black-and-white clear shepherd’s check in a two-button notch-lapel single-breasted model. Some of these were seen with fancy backs. A few brown-and-white checks were also seen in this model. Glen Urquhart plaids are still extremely popular at Princeton, but are most often noted in a new type which is a somewhat subdued Glen. Many of these have overplaids, in fact, the smarter and better-cut coats practically all featured colored overplaids. In odd jackets, however, the opposite trend is noted — the Glen becoming bolder and more pronounced. A few tweed suits, especially in brown shades. Also Shetlands in brown. Both in the two-button notch-lapel model.
Sunday morning at chapel (attendance is compulsory) an amazing number of three-button peak-lapel single-breasted suits were observed, a considerable number of them being worn with double-breasted waistcoats. The materials favored for this model were blue and brown neatly patterned worsteds. The double-breasted suit is most important at Princeton and is unquestionably destined to spread nationally in no indefinite manner. The coats in general have wider shoulders, with a fullness across the waist. Waistlines suggested. Vents are numerous. Cash pockets are definitely noticeable. Love green seems to be a suiting color with a pronounced future importance.
ODD JACKETS: Gabardine by all odds the most popular, in light tan and gray-green; brown Harris Tweed, brown herringbone Shetlands, blue flannel, and white linen were seen in two or three-button single-breasted notch-lapel models with belted or plain backs. A few Norfolk jackets seen in Harris Tweed and Shetland. Small black-and-white houndstooth Shetland jackets also popular.
SLACKS: Small black-and-white and brown-and-white flannel houndstooth-checked slacks are very popular, although the dark stone gray flannel is still in the lead. A few slacks of tan gabardine. Beige flannels surprisingly important. Some brown Shetlands. White flannel slacks worn by many. The newest note was a blue-gray flannel slack with white overplaid.
SHIRTS: The leading shirt at Princeton is an oxford with 2 3/4″ pointed collar, invariably worn pinned, in blue, white and tan, as well as in striped madras with white grounds. Second in importance is the tab collar attached shirt, seen in all types of British stripings, with blue and tan predominant. Tab collar models also seen in Glen plaids and small check effects. The buttondown collar attached, in solid color oxford of blue and white, is a perennial favorite, although the found collar attached shirt, worn pinned….
And at that the page ends. Small edits made to bring text up to date. — CC
Historical note: 90% of 1930s clothing purchases at the thriving J.Press Princeton store 5 Palmer Square West were bespoke tailored to individual order. Ready made wasn’t yet part of the game.
When did ready made take off in earnest?
After World War II.
The specifics are mindboggling. Style must have been keyed heavily to certain “acceptable” colors and details, as well as to location.
Pwlsax, that’s because college-aged youths are highly susceptible to peer pressure, and have a strong desire to fit in with their group.
Ameriican natural shoulders sack were one of many models back then.
In the same closet you could find sacks,double breasted lounge suits,two buttons,three buttons with peak lapels.
wear one or another depends on the occasions.
Bespoke was quite common,MTM even more,and ready to wear was of top quality.
Compared with 30s the American post war wadrobe is less various and more boring.
Also the British influence was much stronger before the war. These lads would have noted the fashions of Oxford students and touring royals. But still plenty of mention given to OCBD shirts, herringbone tweed jackets, and “blue flannel” odd jackets e.g., blazers. I think “love green” was supposed to read “lovat green” though.