Easy and Elegant Life

The Search for Everyday Elegance and the Art of Living Well.

Use or Lose: Summer Suits

There are two wardrobe philosophies. The first is to set aside anything that you haven’t worn in a year and get rid of it. I’ve done some of that. The second is to never get rid of anything since all fashions are cyclical and your clothing, if well made from good material, will once again be au courant.

Tan gabardine suits were once a staple of the Palm Beach set. By 1935, they were considered “a campus uniform”.

Sometime in the last five years or so, the fashion press decided that the only tan suit you should own should be made of cotton or linen. Fine choices both, although I find a cotton drill suit a bit heavy here in the South and poplin versions are thin on the ground.

Linen is comfortable enough, although most of it is fully lined when you buy off the rack. It’s cheaper and easier to line a suit than it is to finish the seams nicely and the lining will help stave off wrinkles. At least to a certain extent. You are wearing linen, after all.

(Tan linen, three-piece slim cut suit by J. Crew)

The slimmer fit of today’s clothes makes summer suiting not as comfortable as the fuller cuts of days gone by. Cut that close to the body, the slim suit doesn’t allow for a lot of air to circulate.

There are some days when you just want that kind of loose comfort that the drape cut lounge suit affords. But these things are cyclical. The slim cut celebrates youth, the drape, maturity. Gabardine is a very forgiving material that drapes very well. Full cuts call for the trouser and the coat to both be on the roomy side.

I think of this as a Ronald Reagan suit. Perhaps because it has something of the 40’s or 50’s silhouette. Or I might have purchased it during that administration. Regardless, I think I’ll keep it. My guess is that fuller cut suits will be back .

Greenish-tan gabardine suit, two button, notch lapel, ventless jacket with double pleated trousers, tailored with a full break. I feel like I’m wearing a robe and pyjamas. Just right for late summer and a lazy day. Circa 1988. Some things have to wait a bit more. I’m not sure this will ever be fashionable again.

7 thoughts on “Use or Lose: Summer Suits

  1. My husband has a vintage linen suit, that was his Fathers and it looks wonderful today. I think quality stands the test of time.
    You look dashing in both suits.

  2. “It’s easier to line a suit than to finish seams”, that’s something I never thought about until I read
    on E&E today.

  3. This is why the best time to buy ties and suits is when lapel width is between wide and narrow, which will also be proportionate with pant width and tie width. I have mid width classic neckties that are 30+ years old, still wear them, and they look perfect for today. I dislike the extremes…the tight, narrow suits look like Pee Wee Herman (and they are hotter to wear as you’ve mentioned), and the overly draped, full ones look draggy, heavy and lack grace.

    You recently posted a photo of Cary Grant in a medium grey suit, late 1950s. I think that is the most classic, flattering, and enduring look and proportion of all.

  4. You look fantastic–but the small Med. fishing boat/harbor paintings are superb; the one on the left reminds me of Edgar Payne’s French works.

  5. SwF, you are perfectly correct. Lest you think I’ve lost my mind, the drape doesn’t have to have the exaggerated shoulders and extremely full cut trouser. Think of Fred Astaire who was a great proponent of the London Cut/drape. The difficulty with buying things in fashion is that they fall out of fashion. Extremes are just that. As you say, the middle way is the best route to take. I have my custom clothing cut along those lines. Still I was comfortable lounging about the house in that rig.

    Mary, the paintings are by a fellow named George Lambert. If you search the blog, you’ll find my post on him.

  6. The fuller drape is not only more comfortable, but looks so much better. I am hoping the slim cut fashion leaves us soon.

  7. Gabardine…at least a fine-high quality-buttery cloth is nirvana…to me at least. And, it’s the hardest material for a tailor to work with. It’s the shell cordovan of tight twist-hard finish materials and offers no forgiveness when a needle is misplaced thus requiring a stitch removed. And when white-light cream gabardine is machine-sewn, the sewing machines have to be thoroughly cleaned of remnant thread colors and fabric “dust”…or the delicate and expensive fabric becomes irreparably soiled.

    Sorry…I think I just had a gabardine proving ground moment.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.