Sack Suits Of A Century Ago

Ivy Style’s Facebook group recently reached the dubious milestone of 5,000 members. I say dubious because social media is about as health-neutral as alcohol. I’ve cut back considerably, but if you can partake and still keep your wits about you, then do consider joining the fun. You’ll get to see the variety of outfits your buttondowned brethren wear, and also photos of the past, such as these shots. They feature Yale’s Whiffenpoofs and are from a hundred years ago. From a silhouette point of view, they’ve aged pretty darn well.

You’ll spy some other curiosities in the photos, such as the saddle shoes above. Apparently they go back at least to 1915, as this Brooks Brothers ad attests:

You’ll also note that white the suit blueprint was largely already set, shirts were in a state of transition. In this photo, a chap with a high starched detachable collar stands right next to another fellow in a soft buttondown — polar opposites, as far as collars go.

And as for all the three-pieces, I’ve currently got one on order so as to break out grandpa’s pocket watch. Now that I think about it, it’s in a simple grey flannel, which means I’ll end up looking just like these guys. Save, of course, for the saddle shoes. — CC

23 Comments on "Sack Suits Of A Century Ago"

  1. Fantastic photos, thanks for sharing.

    I always thought, that natural shoulder meant minimal shoulder padding and structure, but a lot of the jackets above seem to have zero padding?

  2. The observation has been made many times, but I am always struck
    how little tailored clothing has changed in a century. Any of these
    suits if worn without a high stiff collar shirt would not draw attention
    if seen on the street. Compare 1815 with 1915, or 1715 to 1815. Styles
    had changed radically.

  3. Evan Everhart | December 26, 2018 at 10:23 pm |

    I wore a J. Press 3 piece navy flannel pinstripe suit with cordovan short wing wingtips, and orange and blue ancient madder tie, white Brooks club collar shirt and white pocket linen. I was dressed almost identically to these fellows. Gold wind up pocket watch and chain as well. I love these photographs!

  4. When I got married in 1978, I was wearing a three-piece BB navy blue wool flannel suit which could have been worn by any of these fellows. I don’t recall the shirt or tie (would have to look at wedding photos. I think it was a pinned collar and foulard tie) but I do recall wearing Bally loafers (they were popular with the financial crowd, which I was part of then). Point being, like Evan posted, I was dressed far more similarly to these fellows than not.

  5. The 16K23 shoes in the ad above are amazing. Saddle shoes are pretty basic, that variant I’ve never seen before. I’d buy them in a second if they were available.

  6. The above came from the StyleForum Japanese Bespoke and RTW Super thread.
    I remember seeing a similar pair in black and white from a leading continental bespoke
    maker like R. Scheer in Vienna, but I couldn’t find them online.

  7. Isn’t it a miracle, that despite all the political and cultural changes of the past century, classic suits, ties, and shoes have survived, virtually unchanged? Some styles from the 1970’s or the 1980’s may look way more dated than these 100yo suits.

  8. Vern Trotter | December 27, 2018 at 9:56 am |

    Well, we were just better dressed back then. And perfectly fitted. Each one of the young men, no exceptions. Wish it were still this way. A desideratum for today.

  9. frederick johnson | December 27, 2018 at 12:01 pm |

    Aside from the slightly wider lapel widths, on some of the suits, all of these suits would work nicely today. A few observations:
    all of the trousers appear to be non-pleated, all of the jacket cuffs appear to be wider than today’s, all of the vests appear to have the last button buttoned, only one winsor knot, I think.

  10. I cut out social media but retained alcohol.

  11. In the last photo the seated man in the center appears to have the bottom button of his waistcoat unbuttoned.

    Perhaps he was following a convention of unbuttoning the bottom waistcoat button when seated.

  12. Eric, good choice.

  13. The FB page is 90% Marc posts, 9% pics of guys trying, and 1% executing.

  14. Great post. Thank you for the pics. Stubborn dedication to a dartless sack (redundant), normal length sack coat may very well be the one characteristic that distinguished the uber traditionalist from the rest of the crowd. “Dartless is very turn of the century—very old school.” —F. Shattuck

  15. continues to distinguish.

  16. Ivy Style is one of the few worthwhile things I lost when I deactivated my Facebook account. Otherwise the changes have all been positive.

  17. The bottom button on a vest should never be buttoned

  18. Vern Trotter | December 28, 2018 at 2:11 pm |

    Now we like to say the bottom button should be unbuttoned as I have since I bought my first Brooks vested suit in 1959 but here it appears to be the exception to the rule. Maybe they had other things on their mind, like the Great War and the impending draft.

  19. Vern Trotter | December 28, 2018 at 2:31 pm |

    Mandatory Selective Service Registration took place on 5 June 1917 for all men between the ages of 21-31 and again for all men who were 21 after 5 June 1917 on 5 June 1918. Yet again on 24 August 1918 for those who became 21 after 5 June 1918.

  20. I’ve often wondered if the “notched-bottom” vest wasn’t meant to imitate a straight-bottomed vest unbuttoned? In that case unbuttoning the bottom would be redundant. Factoid: Edward VII, the originator of the custom, was called “Tum-Tum” behind his back. One inebriated friend used the term to his face and was packed and gone in an hour.

    As to the totally vested style of the gents pictured, if you see a lot of pix of men from here up to the start of WWII, a man in a 2P suit will appear rather undressed.

  21. Longwings&Loafers | December 29, 2018 at 1:03 am |

    The heck’s a shortwing

  22. I once tried to talk about about this on a certain forum and got banned and called “Jim” for my efforts.
    But look at the proof – Pre-1950s Ivy and the wearing of even Oxford plain toe cap shoes WAS once a reality of the style.
    Whatever point it was that I wanted to make Ivy Style has proved.
    My thanks.

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