Indiana Jones and the Tuxedo of Doom

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Every now and then I’m asked about the legitimacy of the silk facing on the white dinner jacket featured in Indiana Jones and The Temple of Doom.  My answer is that while it might be legitimate for the 1980s production timeline it certainly wasn’t for the 1930s narrative. Of the dozens of Depression-era white DJ references I have on file from leading menswear periodicals, none of them suggest anything but self facings.  Of course it’s always possible that some tailor somewhere constructed such a model but it would be the exception that proves the rule.

On a related note, the black waistcoat would have been equally unorthodox back in the day.  It would appear that the film’s costume designer is on par with  when it comes to being clueless about period formal attire.

12 Comments

  1. Hal

    Whilst I love Indiana Jones and this scene, I’m not a fan of the silk facings on the lapels here. It seems like a look more suited to a villain than the hero – just a little too flash. Robbie Coltrane wears an off white dinner jacket with silk facings as a Russian gangster in the James Bond movie ‘The World is Not Enough’, where it seems much more in keeping with the character.

    The inappropriateness of the black waistcoat seems slightly more surprising. Whilst a cummerbund or white waistcoat might be more obvious choices, given that wearing coloured waistcoats appears to have been acceptable and wearing a black cummerbund was obviously kosher, its surprising that pairing a black evening waistcoat with the white jacket wasn’t an option.

    Reply
    1. Fletcher Warren

      Part of the logic may be purely practical (beyond the comfort factor). Period jackets were often very thin and seldom fully lined. A black waistcoat would have actually shown through the jacket, much as black braces would have done (hence the usual call for white braces with the tropical dinner jacket). A black cummerbund wouldn’t have had this issue. A cummerbund also largely confines itself to the level of the pants’ waistline – pants which are, of course, already black.

      Reply
      1. wdwright77

        I’ll agree about the thinness of some jackets. That’s why I do wear whit embraces pretty much exclusively when wearing either the black tuxedo or the white dinner jacket. It’s also why I’ll predominantly wear black accessories especially the black cummerbund, which one should wear anyway, since a proper waist covering is important when dressing for evening, even in summer.

        Reply
      2. wdwright77

        I wrote a reply done below, but I will agree with you re: the white and black

        Reply
  2. Reggie

    The purpose of the white jacket was to stay cooler while wearing all the clothing that was required at the time. A waist coat added warmth so switching it out for a cummerbund in the same situations you would wear a white jacket was the logical thing to do.

    Reply
  3. wdwright77

    When I bought my white Dinner Jacket about five years ago, I noticed that it was not self-facing and then I remembered that I had also purchased a set of white tux pants; while I will sometimes wear them with the jacket, the majority of the time, I wear the jacket as it’s intended to be worn-with black tux trousers, black bow tie and cummerbund and a tux shirt with French Cuffs. While the lapel is not self=faced, it actually is not shiny so it isn’t set apart and does not stand out as it would otherwise. Frankly, I like the look of the white DJ for summer as well as for Symphony Pops Concerts, but I actually wonder if it violates the ‘white after Labor Day, Before Memorial Day guidelines some fashion purists use. I do think though, that if you can get away with wearing a black cummerbund with the ensemble-after all, a black bow tie is being worn with it-then you should be able to wear a black tuxedo vest with it as well.

    Reply
    1. Duncan Pike

      As random trivia, just thought I’d point out that Memorial Day is only the date for allowing white clothing in the US. Elsewhere, one may wear white after Easter.

      Reply
  4. Cajetan

    This post actually motivated me to view parts of this movie again for the first time in over a decade. And it might well have been the last time in my live as the “formal” dress is one of the least disgusting and offending aspects of it!
    A few thoughts of me are the following:

    1. Improper evening dress might not necessarily be improper for the character of Dr, Jones. This guy is a rather shady character, not so much different from his adversaries in the club Obi Wan (where he is taking a woman as hostage!!).
    He is definitively no gentleman and should not be disguised as such.

    2. I am not so sure about the purpose of this specific white jacket to provide coolness in the hot summer. Not only the waiters but also most of the male guests in club Obi Wan are wearing (black) waistcoats. Jones’ “business partners” are wearing waistcovering and Lao’s henchmen as well as many of the people on the streets during the following car chase. are dressed for cooler weather, too.
    Overall, it does not seem to be summer in Shanghai and Indy has probably chosen a white jacket for different reasons…

    And finally,

    3. Even at that time western dress code was not copied 1:1 in the Far East. While I lack historical evidence of the existence of a white dinner with silk facings, too, there was a few month ago a Korean-made morning coat with silk-facing lapels on savvy row (black, though). The garment seems to have found an interested buyer, so it is no longer possible to demonstrate its existence, but it might still provide a (very small) indication that the white silk facing might not have been completely unreasonable at that time in that part of the world…

    Reply
  5. Jovan

    So glad I’m not the only one who isn’t enthralled with this outfit. A lot of people are, however, and think it’s totally period accurate. Yikes.

    Reply
    1. wdwright77

      I think you’re right on this one, Jovan. I’ve often thought that movie costumers are not always the proper persons to seek sartorial advice from. They often are doing everything at the behest of a director or producer who has this image in their heads about what they remember the period or what they think the period looks like.
      I basically sounded off on the idea that a GQ fashionista can tell a normal person like you or I what will work in everyday settings, yet they are sometimes so far off, you ask if purchasing the item is a good idea, let alone wearing it. In this case, I think the customer got his/her idea about the 30’s idea of a dinner jacket from a rental shop-hence the satin accented lapels-rather than doing some hard research as to what things actually looked like. Granted, I like Harrison Ford, but I think someone took advantage of him, gave him the first thing they thought was correct and then took off from there. If they had researched, I think Ford would have been wearing more period styles of clothing and his formal dinner jacket would have been more true to the actual item worn back then. I do believe this happens all the time in movies as well as TV and I believe it’s because costumers pay more attention to what GQ says then about what researching the period would say. Breaking them of the habit is not likely to happen, but I think they need to slow down and really think through their decisions. Many a high school male has been led down the garden path of fashion thinking it’s cool and hip, but what it really is is totally wrong. It not only happens in Formal wear, but everyday stuff as well. I think the only answer is we have to ask if it will work five years from now, or are we wasting time and money on it. Basically, we just need to stop being so dependent on others for our direction fashion wise or any other areas. We need to remember that all the advice is merely a guide to helping us forma decision, guide and that’s all. When we do, we’ll be coming out on top and looking like a million dollar winner in all we do.

      Reply
  6. Anonymous

    It is not absolute gospel that a white dinner jacket must be worn with black trousers. It is often recommended to wear it with midnight blue trousers instead. Sean Connery did so in “Goldfinger.” I think that black trousers create too harsh of a contrast against a white dinner jacket, but that may have been the more common combination in the 1930s.

    Incidentally, JC Penney currently has flat-front dark blue tuxedo trousers with a thin black stripe going down each leg, on sale for about $20. I don’t wear pleats, even with formal wear…so sue me. I have been searching for just such dark blue trousers ever since I purchased a Hugo Boss peak-lapel white dinner jacket a few years ago, but the closest that I could ever find were by Gucci and cost way too much for me. My jacket does have silk facings, and in my opinion it looks just fine that way. But to each his own. I was specifically looking for a jacket with peak lapels instead of a shawl collar, to somewhat resembled Connery’s in Goldfinger, and it was the most affordable one that I could find that actually looked decent.

    -Anon.

    Reply

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