The Prototype Men’s Waistcoat of 1937

Taking a break from the travel posts, here is the first garment finished in 2017; a men’s double-breasted waistcoat circa 1937. This has been made on a sewing machine of no fixed abode, from Auckland to Algies Bay to Napier – the trusty domestic sewing machine has come into its own while we holiday and attempt to move cities.

Once more the Napier Art Deco Festival is on the horizon, this will be my fifth Deco Festival but the first with a dapper gentleman at my side – so the focus in this year’s lead up is on his wardrobe! (For posts on my previous years see Discovering Deco  and Art Deco 2016 .) We had grand plans for a full three piece suit; unfortunately this seems less and less possible as we have not found a suitable summer weight suiting. However, in the remnants bin we found just enough for a waistcoat.

1937 Men’s Suits for Spring

The original inspiration image for the suit (above left) is of unknown origin, google has attributed it to 1937. The cut and colour of the left hand suit caught my eye, but the main attraction really was the waistcoat – despite very little of it being visible.

Further research turned up another image showing a variety of waistcoats and this helped fill in some detail to the design.

Plate from 1927 J.L. Taylor men’s fashion catalogue, style #839

Although these waistcoat designs are from 10 years earlier (1927) the style of #839 was still fashionable  in 1937, although according to The Vintage Dancer by the 1930s “Most [waistcoats] were single breasted … but a few still choose the more formal double breasted waistcoat.  They were not required to be worn and typically only were worn by older gentlemen or savvy dressers.”

Well we’re aiming for the savvy dresser rather than an older gentleman!

I started with a very basic Simplicity pattern (#2077) and adapted it, adding the collar and revere, four pockets (all real!) and reshaping the lower edge to the angled cut of the inspiration image.

It was a squeeze cutting the pieces from the 1 metre remnant, but despite this I was just able to pattern match the main seams and the result when pinned on the mannequin was quite fetching!

First test on Manny

The fabric has a subtle check which made the fob pockets a challenge, and is a wee bit lightweight despite the multiple layers of interfacing applied, so there are definite improvements in mind for the next waistcoat – but nothing too major.

Pattern matched pocket (well almost…)

The first outing was today, tested on the dance floor at The Lindy Tops, and I managed a wee photo-shoot afterwards. The waistcoat certainly needs a bit more length when worn with modern trousers, but I’m looking forward to making a pair of super high-waisted 1930’s trousers and seeing the silhouette they create.

The dapper chap

So, watch this space for more Art Deco era men’s wear!


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