There are a lot of places to look for inspiration for your new suit, so why not look to the past? Fully dressing as you’ve just stepped out of a bygone era isn’t the only way to incorporate vintage style into your suit, so read on for our favourite ways to dip into classic style elements while keeping your look in the here and now.
A three-piece suit is always a classic look, but you can lean in by tweaking the vest. Back when three-piece suits were the norm, the height of the vest neckline was a clue to how formal your look was, so vests which came quite high up on the shirt were much more common. Nowadays, vests aren’t usually seen outside formal occasions, so the more typical silhouette is lower to show more of the tie—also largely relegated to special occasions. A V-shaped vest with more buttons on the front raises the neckline and gives you a subtle vintage flair! There’s no need to worry about looking dressed down, either, as a vest today elevates your outfit’s formality just by being there.
If you’d like to show more of your tie—or are looking for a lower neckline to showcase your hard work at the gym—there are other style changes you can consider for vests. Lapels are a bold way to bring classic inspiration to the vest, as well as giving the outfit more detail without the jacket. We’d recommend notch lapels for a more subtle look, though you can of course opt for peak lapels if you’re looking for more of a statement.
You can also have the back of the vest made in a different fabric, usually a lining. Back when jackets were almost always worn, the back of the vest was seldom on display. In a tradition dating back centuries, the parts of the garment that were hidden in most settings were often made from less expensive fabrics. Nowadays, a contrast lining can be added to the back of a vest simply because it looks attractive and adds a bit of visual interest, but the echo of history is a great bonus.
Ties, bow ties, and pocket squares are all familiar accessories. While they’ve all been around a while, they’ve endured as staples of formal attire to this very day. Lapel pins and cufflinks, too, are part of the modern idea of formal attire, if very put together. Dress shoes, too, haven’t changed in their silhouette for over a century.
One option with accessories is to opt for styles with more vintage vibes. Opt for a wider tie, and try a fancier knot! Go for a self-tie bow tie over the pre-tied ones. Choose brogues over plain leather dress shoes, or a two-tone style. These are all more subtle ways to give your look an old-school twist without going overboard.
Some bolder accessory choices are things more rarely seen with modern attire, such as collar clips, stick pins, and even pocket watches! You can also mix up the neckwear with an ascot or cravat in place of a tie, though we’d recommend treading carefully with this one as you’re sure to be noticed. These more obscure items are a little harder to find but can be a great way to make your outfit memorable.
Of course, if they appeal to you, you can always take up wearing hats!
Classic Fabric Choices
One of the best ways to take a design cue from vintage suiting is in your fabric choice. For patterns, nothing beats a chalk stripe for a classic look, though other pinstripes are also a good bet. Keep the tailoring sleek and modern for these to avoid looking dated, as they’re a louder choice that’s a little more out of left field from a modern perspective.
Houndstooth and hunter’s check are both timeless options with a vintage lean and are especially versatile in a sport coat or an odd vest of any style. The more subtle colourways—like shades of blues or browns—can look great in a full suit, but we recommend keeping fabrics with two-tone patterns and contrasting colours to the top half of your body to make sure you’re not being stared at for the wrong reasons!
We’ve saved the best option for last—tweed! This naturally textured fabric makes for fantastic sports coats and great suits and naturally tends to be a little heavier than classic worsted wool suitings, which gives it a beautiful drape. It has visual interest and fits beautifully into a lot of settings, though it won’t get you to a black-tie event. Tweed has a vintage charm, which is steadily making its way back into the spotlight; so, going for a tweed suit is a great way to be fashion-forward and classic at the same time.
The key to these tips is to limit yourself to one or two for your modern-day look. The more historical elements you bring into the look, the closer you stray to re-enactor territory! You can combine two of the more subtle options we’ve listed here, but we recommend keeping to one if you go for a bolder choice. Of course, you can always consult one of our stylists for tips.
At Briggins, we offer custom suits in a huge variety of styles, including all of the ones described here. Have a vest with lapels or a tweed blazer tailor-made just for you in as little as 6 weeks. Have a question? Reach out by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or call us on 1300 452 251 to get in touch with a stylist today.