In the second half of our review of the Costume Institute’s incredible collection of digitized Sartorial Art Journal fashion plates, we look at the eveningwear illustrations that supplemented various summer issues. While evening tailcoats were regularly featured in November and December plates, they were very rarely worn in the hot summer months. Thus, the only evening wear featured in June and July plates was the newly invented – and much less formal – dinner jacket.
The description accompanying one such illustration in 1901 neatly encapsulates the jacket’s early status. Referring to the depicted garb as “Summer Dress Negligee Costumes”, the magazine reported that such kits had become more acceptable for formal occasions and were grudgingly acknowledged to be allowable for “stag parties, at the theatre and even at dinner parties and dances in summer resorts except when these are of the most formal character.”
It is the latter use of the jacket that is featured in all of the following illustrations, reinforcing my recent discovery of how closely Americans associated the early dinner jacket with summertime attire.
Some details to note about the turn-of-the-century tuxedo:
- the jacket was originally an informal replacement for the tailcoat which meant it was worn with the standard tailcoat accompaniments of the time including either black or white bow ties and waistcoats
- there was some early experimentation with all-white dinner suits that sometimes even included white socks and white formal shoes
- evenings at yacht clubs were a common scenario for warm-weather formal attire
Click the thumbnails for versions twice as big or click the hyperlinked Costume Institute references within the picture captions for the original scans. (Note that there are multiple copies available for some plates.)
If you’re interested, the Costume Institute’s fashion plate collection also includes period waistcoat styles published by Sartorial Art Journal as well as a rival magazine called The Tailors’ Review.
March 1892: 1890-1895, Plate 016
February 1897: 1894-1899, Plate 029
February 1899: 1894-1899, Plate 033
February 1899: 1900-1901, Plate 048 (misfiled)
February 1900: 1900-1901, Plate 021
February 1900 : 1900-1901, Plate 018
August 1900: 1900-1901, Plate 020
February 1901: 1900-1901, Plate 023
February 1902: 1902-1903, Plate 027