The Completely Unstructured 1960’s Summer Suit

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I am always on the search for “softly tailored” garments:  little/no shoulder padding, unstructured and barely any lining.   In fact, it is this detail that gives contemporary tailoring a slight edge over vintage pieces for me.  When the two are combined however, you best know that I’ll be all over it.  I think I just found the perfect casual vintage suit!

As far as I know, there are barely any unstructured 1930-1940’s pieces out there.  Yes, most of those Golden Era suits are half/quarter lined and can be made for warm weather  but heavy drape and shoulder padding is the norm for the time period.  You can’t blame vintage; that was simply the intended look for the period. Luckily 1930’s Palm Beach suits were usually unstructured with no lining which made them the go to casual suit.  I wore them with ties and with aloha shirts!

That seemed to be the end of soft tailoring in the 1930s-1940s.  There were a few 1930’s belted-back jackets that I had very minimal shoulder padding (which I like) but they were way out of price range. The use of shoulder padding grew in the 1940s-1950s before leaving again in the 1960s.  Ivy sack suits were pretty soft, with their natural shoulders and and lack of darts in the body and were available in different fabrics and colors; the olive one I thrifted is a great example.  Unfortunately, the  “masculine” era of the 1970’s brought back the broad shoulders and nipped waist look on suits, echoing the looks of the 1930s/40s in a different way.

This is why I tend to prefer 1930’s summer clothing and 1960s ivy stuff for most of my vintage acquisitions.  Both of these things can be slightly rare, simply due to the fact that fall/winter fabrics are much more common across all eras.  While I definitely have a favorite suit, the weight and texture of the fabric leaves much to be desired during the warmer months.  I’ve been getting along with chinos and sportcoats but I’ve wanted a full summer suit that I can wear almost all the time.  Thank to Roxy’s Vintage Deluxe, I finally got one.

I’m definitely going to do a full feature on Roxy’s at some point in the future, but all you need to know now is that it’s a vintage menswear mecca.  The warehouse in Hollywood houses a massive collection of men’s and women’s clothing from the 1800s-1990s (or today!), which is available for purchase and renting.  Since Roxy’s is mainly open for film costuming, the inventory changes everyday, but there’s something for everyone.  If you ever get a chance to go, make sure you spend all day to look at everything.  

During my last visit to the warehouse, I came across a fantastic 1960’s summer weight suit.  To my surprise, the fit was nearly spot on so I bought it! Just look at the details…

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Unstructured and barely any lining!

 

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Pockets.

 

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Tiny lapels (characteristic of the 1960s) with some expertly done pick stitching.

 

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The two button cuffs with a lot of space.

As you can see, it is a beauty.  The slate blue color of the fabric is wonderful, with the micro check pattern a definite bonus to keep things interesting.  It’s cut from a lightweight, tropical wool that is extremely breathable, comfortable, and soft.  It almost feels like you’re wearing a suit made out of a shirting material.

Overall, it reminded me of my Brooks Brothers 1960’s lightweight suit I bought on eBay,  just made from 100% wool and in a plain color.  With that said, I’ve never found a suit like this in all my years of collecting.  Yes, some suits were lightly canvassed  and some suits had natural shoulders but none were as lightweight, soft, and unstructured as this one.  It literally feels like you’re wearing a shell of a suit.

The lack of canvassing and structure does make it very wrinkly and “slouchy” but that’s the allure of this suit.  I knew that I just had to make some looks with it right away.

Fully Suited

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We had a heatwave in SoCal recently, so this suit came right on time.  Here it is as it was worn to work: white OCBD, brown 1930’s summer tie, linen pocket square, and sockless tassel loafers.  Since the suit is very 60s, I thought it best to keep it within styling cues of that era. Hence the choice of button down collar and striped tie! It’s pretty ivy, but the look is certainly relevant today.

The suit features a 3-roll-2 stance with ample spacing between the buttons, characteristic of the 1960s.  The length is slightly long, but I’m probably not going to alter it for both money and time’s sake.  It’s not too bad, I think!  There are also flapped pockets, but I keep them tucked in (the lack of use has the flaps faded to a slightly different shade).

Unfortunately, the lapels are very narrow and is probably one of the main things I dislike about the suit.  I prefer something much wider in order to blend the distinct eras together; this is the only place where the 50% polyester Brooks Brothers suit wins.   The tiny lapels make the suit look very 1960’s and that’s a bad thing for me since it restricts the versatility of the garment. I prefer a classic 1930s Apparel Arts/1960’s ivy look, instead of the Rat Pack look .  Basically, I just want larger lapels. Larger/wider lapels work with a variety of tie widths and simply help make a person’s frame appear broader.   You can see that it interacts oddly with me tie (which isn’t wide) and makes my torso appear bigger but without pointing attention to my shoulders.  That’s a bad thing.

These tiny ass lapels don’t cut it, but since they’re on a very comfy, informal suit, I’ll let it pass.


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The suit is very, very unstructured (it’s basically a shell) with the most minimal lining (only on the upper back) which works well for comfort but presents issues when looking “clean”. The jacket does get caught on the rougher texture of the OCBD which leads to wrinkling and rippling across different areas on the torso.  It also might be due to the fact that my shoulders are slightly larger than the jacket, but unless I go bespoke, I can’t change that!  In general, the way the fabric sits lends are huge hair of informality to the suit even though it can still be dressed up.

Honestly, I like the wrinkles because it makes the suit looked “lived in”, which is a vibe I’m always trying to achieve in my outfits.  Remember that sprezzatura doesn’t mean to be a Pitti Peacock; it means to be effortless and natural.  Looking comfortable and a little slouchy is key here, and the unstructured nature of this suit gets it done. I will admit that it might be too much for it to be used in a strictly formal sense.

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Can you tell that I love wearing blue and brown?  It’s basically been the theme for the past few blog posts!  I’m definitely digging the color palette in this one, simply because of how muted everything is. The suit isn’t navy blue, but it can work for a business appropriate outfit in the same vein as the way I’m currently wearing it.  The brown stripe tie (which has the cool 1930’s way of doing stripes that isn’t really done anymore) adds some personality, while the linen pocket square finishes it off with some needed fun.  As you can see, even a super unstructured suit can be worn to the office if you style it properly (your boss might comment on the wrinkles though).

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The trousers are probably the best part of the suit, especially since I’ve wanted lightweight blue trousers for a long time.  They have a delightfully high rise and a flat front, which makes them perfect to be used with the suit or with an odd jacket.  The wrinkling/puckering in the fly is probably due to the seams for the zipper, which is still a testament to the lightweightedness of the fabric.

You can see that there is a slight tapere in the leg, which leads to an opening of 8″.  I’ve gone back and forth on leg openings before and I think that 8″ is the perfect one for me.  There’s enough room to be comfortable while it still provides a figure to the leg.  I’m definitely going to get the length increased though; these are too short to keep them as they are!
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1960’s suit from Roxy’s Vintage Deluxe, 1970’s Brooks Brothers OCBD (thrifted),

1930’s tie (eBay), Allen Edmonds Loafers (eBay)

Casually Tailored

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Since I’m probably not going to wear a tie with the suit, I thought I’d explore dressing the garment down.  I kept the sockless loafers as a nod to contemporary menswear, but I decided to wear my “new” 1940’s seersucker sport shirt.  To hide the stingy lapels, I wore it true to 1940’s style: with the collar resting on the lapels.  I’ve done this a few times before, whether its with my aloha shirts or my 1930’s polos.  Again, I don’t think that it screams disco so much as it has 1940’s man on vacation vibes.  I think it looked great on Chad Park this past Pitti (though I am unsure of the use of a floral sport shirt).

This outfit is probably more in line with how I’d wear the suit: something open collar (like an unbuttoned spearpoint/OCBD, sportshirt, or a striped tee).  It’ll be a way for me to relax and be comfortable while still keeping within the (insert: thin) bounds of tailoring.  I’m just missing my panama hat and some kick-ass shades.

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Isn’t that a dope shirt??  I’ve never really owned anything seersucker before, so this shirt was a definite buy for me.  Honestly, a sport shirt in anything other than rayon or gaberdine is super rare, so I’m glad that I own one.  I’m digging the pale yellow/brown shade of the shirt, which blends nicely with the subdued slate blue of the suit.  I think it’s a great summer combination that isn’t too flashy, as most fashion blogs seem to suggest.

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The two pieces look great together even without the jacket! If you’ve been looking at my Instagram, you’ll notice that I’ve been wearing sport shirts more and more.  I think I’ve talked numerous times that my wardrobe has been getting more casual, so great ready to see these featured in a lot more outfits.  Like I said here , vintage loop collar sport shirts hold a very dear place in my wardrobe because of how inherently vintage they are. They’re fuller cut with a cropped length (for high rise trousers) and an amazing collar that no one really makes anymore (you can get those wimpy modern versions outta my face).  Wearing them with jeans, trousers, or even a suit will give you that vintage 1940s/50s vibe to set yourself apart from the other guys.

And if you follow Male Fashion Advice, you’ll note that these “camp/Cuban collars” are coming back.

1960’s unstructured suit and seersucker loop collar sport shirt from Roxy’s Vintage Deluxe

Conclusion

This 1960’s suit is a beast.  While it has skimpy “Rat Pack” lapels, it is completely unstructured with the most minimal lining possible, cut from extremely lightweight tropical wool fabric.  The result is one of the most comfortable and soft suits that I’ve ever owned.  It may not work for strict business environments (though you can style it as such), but it can definitely be dressed down for some “sartorial casual” outfits.

This garment is such a stark contrast to almost everything in my wardrobe due to how softly tailored it is.  It beats out my other ivy suits due to its lightweight fabric and also beats out the Palm Beach pieces for color.  You can’t find a suit like this in the mall; you may have to specifically request this type of construction if you go bespoke.  In terms of vintage, I haven’t found a suit like this in all my years of collecting (other than Spencer’s chore coat and the Palm Beach suits), I’m probably going to wear this suit with more sportshirts and tee shirts, so get ready for that as we move forward.

If there’s enough interest, I may organize an event where I take some of you guys to Roxy’s Vintage Deluxe!  It’s quite an experience to peruse her collection and I’m sure it would be great to meet some of you gents.  Maybe you’ll get lucky and find a great one-of-a-kind vintage piece like this one. Let me know by commenting below or DM me on Instagram if you’re interested in this!

Always a pleasure,

Ethan W.

@ethanmwong 

Street x Sprezza

Photography by David W. 

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