A Brief History of the Modern Day Suit

Nowadays you can buy anything from cheaply made or very nice “off the rack” suits, and designer suits, made to measure suits, and bespoke tailored suits.

There has not always been such variety and suit fashions have certainly evolved. In fact, the modern suit, now often called the lounge suit, in Britain, has only been around since the 19th century. However, history reflects that men’s suits, although very different from now, first came into fashion in the 17th century, when the King of England, following the King of France’s example, ruled that, at court, men must dress in a long coat, with a cravat (now a tie), waistcoat, trousers, a wig, and a hat.

In the early 1800’s European men began wearing less formal coats, but still with fancy neckwear. In the mid 19th century, the suit was put aside for business, in favor of frock coats that didn’t match the pants. At the end of the 19th century the modern suit began being worn as informal wear at sporting events, seashore visits, for going to the country.

Suits then became so popular almost every man owned at least one, depending on their income level and social status.

In the 20th century ready to wear clothing, including men’s suits sold in department stores, became available in The United States. Throughout the 20th century there was an ever changing popularity of different kinds of suits for men.

At the end of World War I, long coats mostly disappeared and men began wearing suits with shorter coats, except for formal occasions. At first the pants were straight, but wide and cuffed, sometimes creased, and quite high waisted. In the 1920’s, suits fit snugly and the pant legs showed the socks. In 1935, came looser fitting suit coats with tapered arms and pant bottoms. In the 1930’s, especially in the United States New York City Harlem area, the Zoot suit was the rage. Sometimes you still see them.

Double breasted suits from the 1940 were double breasted which would stay the main fashion of coats for about twenty more years. In the 1960’s the double breasted coat was on its way out and lapels shrank and coats were cut so there was not a waistline.

From England, the era of the Beatles brought back the collarless jacket suits, such as from the era of frocks. Then came the mod suit and the Mandarin suit. There was the safari suit in the 1970’s that replicated military clothing and the leisure suit, of which we will say no more!! The Disco suit, a 3 piece vested suit, was very popular in the 1970’s with its flared or bell bottomed pants. The 1980’s showed a return of more tapered pants.

Present day suit tailoring varies depending on where made or designed. British suits have very tapered coats usually with two vents at the back and almost no shoulder padding. Italian suits do not have vents usually, and are minimally tapered with more heavily padded shoulders. American suits are more casual with moderate shoulder pads, tapered sides and a single vent. Sometimes they have side vents or two vents at the back

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