Retro Evening Wear

The Peacock Revolution: Late '60s - Early '70s

The formal wear aberrations of this era – particularly the late 1960s – were limited only by designers' hallucinations.  The following examples are not only an amusing look at the past but also a pertinent caution about the present.  Unlike the powder-blue tuxedo and its mainstream ilk, these were not the products of a rental industry looking to make a buck off of naïve youngsters.  Instead they were the creations of respected menswear designers championed by leading fashion magazines.  Keep that in mind the next time GQ announces the latest, greatest thing in modern formal wear.  

The era began relatively tastefully by simply adding color to jackets . . . . . . then came subdued patterns . . . . . and eventually it was "anything goes".

This ad encouraged men to stop  deferring to the more striking appearance of their female companions.

Pirate-like formal shirts in an ad from 1968.

A 1970 GQ pictorial promoting Ralph Lauren's contemporary evening wear. 
This 1970 GQ formal outfit was inspired by the new acceptance of open-collared shirts with business suits.  1971 After Six denim tuxedo trimmed with midnight blue velvet lapels, collar and trouser stripes. 1972 After Six ad featuring a formal shirt rainbow. 

Alternative Formal Wear


In the counterculture of the 1960s “formal” was a four letter word.  As a result, menswear magazines began to favor “evening” and “host” as a more innocuous descriptor for the decidedly informal alternatives being offered by manufacturers.  Here are some examples.

A "contemporary host outfit" aka "evening jump suit" with velvet embellishments in brown, blue, gold and red. This shirt could be worn tucked into the trousers with a dinner jacket or, at swanky resorts, untucked and without a jacket. "The evening suit, cardigan style."  Mohair jacket with deep center vent but without buttons or chest pocket. 
1961 champagne colored moiré "evening suit."
This designer "host suit" had a horizontally pleated white moiré shirt and black moiré trousers with a white floral lace stripe. The 1961"host coat" was a "refreshingly new black tie concept . . . for those 'relaxed' formal occasions".