A Timeless Journey Through the History of the Suit: From Aristocracy to Avant-Garde
The suit, a staple of modern fashion, has a rich and intriguing history that spans centuries and continents. It’s a garment that has evolved in style and significance, reflecting the ever-changing tastes, cultural influences, and societal norms of its time. In this blog post, we’ll take you on a journey through the history of the suit, from its aristocratic beginnings to its avant-garde iterations in contemporary fashion.
Our story begins in Europe during the early 17th century when the modern suit emerged as a unified and tailored ensemble for men. Before this, men’s clothing typically consisted of separate garments like doublets and breeches, but the suit represented a significant departure from this tradition.
The late 17th century and early 18th century saw the dawn of the three-piece suit. It featured a long tailcoat, waistcoat, and breeches and was favored by the European aristocracy. These suits were often adorned with elaborate embroidery and lace, symbolizing status and wealth.
As we move into the 19th century, the frock coat became fashionable. It was a knee-length coat with a distinctive shorter front and a long, rounded tail. Paired with matching trousers, the frock coat was considered the standard formalwear for men during this era.
The 19th century also witnessed the emergence of the lounge suit, the closest precursor to the modern suit. With a shorter jacket and long trousers, often made from coordinating fabrics, this style was practical and versatile for everyday wear.
The iconic Savile Row in London played a pivotal role in refining the design and fit of suits, making them more comfortable and stylish. This sartorial hub remains synonymous with bespoke tailoring to this day.
In the United States, the sack suit became the go-to choice for business attire. Its looser, less structured fit provided comfort for daily wear, marking a shift towards practicality.
In the late 19th century, the tuxedo or dinner jacket emerged as a formal alternative to the tailcoat. This distinction between formal evening wear and daytime business attire was a significant development.
The 1930s saw the rise of double-breasted suits with wide lapels, while the 1940s introduced the flamboyant zoot suits, characterized by exaggeratedly wide-legged trousers and long jackets, making a statement in urban fashion.
The post-World War II era witnessed a return to simpler and more practical clothing. Two-piece suits with single-breasted jackets and straight-leg trousers became the norm, using fabrics like wool and synthetic blends.
The 1960s brought slim-fitting suits and bold patterns, while the 1970s saw wider lapels and flared trousers, reflecting the “mod” and “disco” styles of these decades.
The 1980s ushered in a resurgence of classic, conservative suit styles, often characterized by padded shoulders and double-breasted jackets. This trend continued into the 1990s.
In the late 20th century and early 21st century, we’ve seen a diverse range of suit styles, from slim-fitting, single-breasted suits to more relaxed, traditional fits. There’s also a growing trend towards sustainable and eco-friendly materials in suit production.