White Tie & Tails: Men’s Formal Wear for 1936

Another 1930s guide to getting white tie right (similar to this one from Esquire). I also really like the blogger’s story of how essential a tuxedo was for her father back in the day.


If you’re wondering why a site devoted to everyday fashion is featuring “white tie, top hat and tails,” it’s not just because I love old Fred Astaire movies.

The 20th century was often a more formal place than the 21st century. Many middle class men owned — and needed – formalwear.

In the 1960s, my father and I were cleaning out the attic when we found his old tuxedo. My father was ‘blue collar;’  he did manual labor. He wore carpenter’s overalls to work. But, when he took my mother dancing in the 1920s and 1930s, he wore his own tuxedo. I doubt that he owned a business suit, but the tux was essential wear for nightclubs and dances. Once, when his brother secretly borrowed my father’s dress shirt, my parents couldn’t go to the dance, because he…

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  1. Hal

    An interesting article and, I agree, interesting to note just how commonplace owning a dinner jacket must have been in the interwar years.

  2. Max

    My father used to wear his tails on a monthly basis in the 60s and 70s but they have stayed in the attic for the past 35years. We decided to attend a ball where we will both be wearing tails. While I wear my dinner jacket quite often, it is the first time I’ll be wearing tails.

    As we were comparing our attire, my father made the remark: “your tails are more elegant than mine since they fall lower.” I had never really given the length of the tails much thought and then I came across Fairchild’s Pictured Chart of Formal Evening Dress from 1922 which mentions: “The noticeable thing about the big majority of the best dressed men in New York is the fact that the tail of the coat (from the back buttons to the bottom of the tail) is several inches longer than the body of the coat (or from said buttons to the top of the collar).”

    Has anyone come across a similar rule of how long the tail should be and heard whether (reasonably) longer is indeed more elegant?

    Here’s the chart: https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/736x/d8/89/9d/d8899d13b16444fc44c7ae410678bab6.jpg

  3. Anna

    Very nice guide to formal wear!
    I you would like to “practice” your White tie skills you could always come to Sweden. At the two classic universitys (Lund and Uppsala) there are lots of semiformal studentballs and more formal university balls and dinners where Frack (as it is known in Sweden) is the dresscode. As a university student I went to about 20 balls/frack-dinners. I still attend one now and then…
    White tie is also popular for weddings in Sweden as people are more likely to own a Frack than a tuxedo. Morning Dress is almost nonexistant.

    1. Peter Marshall

      (Post author)

      I’m envious!


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