Planning Your Vintage Wedding; Dressing the Groom
Written by Amanda Porter   

Vintage Bridegroom, circa 1948Okay, so the bride and her ladies are now perfectly dressed and ready to dazzle come the wedding day. What's left to complete the stunning vintage picture? Why, the groom of course, for he and his boys deserve to be dressed just dashingly as you! (Besides, why should the bride have all the fun?) And so, with that thought in mind, let's begin!

At first glance, it is easy to overlook the many subtleties of men's formalwear. "Honestly, how many styles of tuxedos can there be?" you think to yourself. But wait! The many styles of mens finery can actually be quite daunting when you line them up (and just when you finally got ladies fashions all figured out!)

For starters, the now popular tuxedo can be thought of as a much more modern wedding choice. In fact, during the 1920s and 1930s, the morning suit was the usual choice for weddings. It wasn't until the 1930s that the tuxedo began to work its way into acceptable wedding attire—and even then, it was the choice of a very fashion forward groom.

Cary GrantNow it is important to remember that menswear is not as prone to trendiness as women's clothing. The motto here is "If refined elegance works for all occasions, then why mess with success?" There are of course slight differences in each era's stylish clothing, but when selecting attire for today's vintage groom, think timeless rather than unusual. When out shopping, visualize a prominent figure that you admire (Cary Grant and Fred Astaire are great examples of the eternally stylish man) and you won't go wrong.

A basic guide to dressing the groom, according to Vintage Wedding is as follows: for an informal wedding, select a business or sack suit; semiformal affairs call for a dark suit or tuxedo; formal daytime weddings require a morning/cutaway coat; and formal evening weddings necessitate a tuxedo or tailcoat.

Don't know a sack suit from a potato sack? Well, the sack suit was a popular style of the 1930s; it consisted of jacket and slacks in matching fabrics and was a favorite choice for everyday wear and less formal weddings.

Vintage Sack SuitIf the groom chooses to wear such a suit, then his groomsmen can follow suit as well (no pun intended!) You say they don't own their own suits? (I understand these are more casual times, but tsk, tsk nonetheless!) It is possible to rent a simple, single breasted suit through a company such as Jim's Formalwear (

Coordinate the party with vintage ties, which make an excellent gift besides (and may even inspire your suit-less men to take a step up in the world of attire!) The groom may also select a vintage tuxedo, and if the groomsmen are not as "vintage-inclined", they shouldn't have too much trouble finding complementary modern attire.

For example, let's imagine that the groom has chosen a sharp, 1930s double-breasted tuxedo with peak lapels. The groomsmen can wear a similar version, either double or single breasted. The groom shall then accessorize with white or ivory (bow tie and waistcoat) and the groomsmen will be suitably coordinated in black.

Mitch and Amy of Vintage Swank ( definitely recommend searching for vintage attire for the entire wedding party. "Of course you should wear vintage! The groom's party should be looked at much like the bride's," they remarked. "There doesn't have to be a uniform for all the men in the wedding party. The groom can stand apart from the wedding party and you can create uniformity through accessories and use of color."

Bridegroom in Morning CoatIf the groom does end up deciding upon a nice suit, he'll have a bit more to think about than had he worn a tuxedo. In particular, it is necessary not to forget the importance of color selection—many a man is oblivious to the impact of wearing flattering colors. Unlike women, who spend much time analyzing the hues that make their complexions appear the brightest (perhaps not as much as in the days of past, but still something to consider), men often stick with safe basics.

If that's the case here, then Dressing the Man: Mastering the Art of Permanent Fashion will quickly clear up any confusion. In addition to chronicling famous debonair men, this novel provides an excellent guide for color matching, and even offers a few vintage color charts as well.

Yesterday's man was well aware of the importance of colors, and didn't always shy away from so-called 'less masculine' shades! The color and the accessories worn with a suit can either work with or against each person's natural coloring. Choose wisely, and you'll stand out in a sea of neutrals. Choose blindly, and your complexion might take on the same shade of grey as your jacket!

A More Formal GroomAlso, keep in mind that the groom's attire must match the formality of the bride's gown, as it is her dress that sets the tone of the wedding (nope, it's not the time of day or location that determines this factor!) If her dress has a long train, the wedding is considered formal; a train-less gown indicates a less formal wedding. Your bride will be a willing guide in this department!

Formal attire calls for a stark contrast—in other words, proper wedding attire should be black and white. Ideally, this means a black coat and white bow tie (if the bride wears ivory or cream, the groom will then wear black and off-white.) There is one exception to this guideline, and that is the cutaway coat with its striped trousers (the combination now becomes black, white and gray.)

The groomsmen should be similarity attired; stick with same style of tuxedo, and set the men apart from the groom with their boutonnieres. Here's the traditional guideline, according to the seventh edition of Vogue in Flowers: the groom wears stephanotis or lily of the valley; the best man sports a gardenia; and the ushers and fathers wear carnations. At a military ceremony, boutonnieres of carnations, gardenias or other flowers can be arranged in red, white and blue for civilians.

StephanotisInterested in learning more about the history of the special suit you decide upon? Well,according to Vintage Swank, you can usually date the suit just by checking the right hand pocket—most suits are stamped with the date they were made.

Although today's society feels that all rules were made just to be broken, there is nothing wrong with listening to the fashion sense of yesteryear. There is a time and a place for everything, and a wedding is one occasion where tradition fits in well!

The Look: 1920s Debonair
Try a morning suit for your daytime wedding; you'll be tried and true for this decade, but stand out in today's crowd. Getting married in the evening? A grey or dark blue suit will be just as sharp.

Morning CoatThe Look: 1930s Classic
Go trendy and pick up a tuxedo; they may be commonplace today but you'll know just how trendy you are! The suits of this era are truly spectacular as well; if you can find one in your size, snap it up!

The Look: 1940s War Groom
In support of the war effort, why not wear the finest suit already in your closet? We suggest the always-fashionable double breasted look (single breasted if you need to buy a suit—gotta save that fabric!), in black, navy or deep brown. In the military, or an avid reenactor? Then break out your dress uniform in honor of the rushed and impromptu weddings that abounded during WWII.

The Look: 1950s Trendsetter
According to Vintage Swank, the 1950s groom broke away from stylish tradition with colored tuxedos that sported thinner lapels. If you're going rockabilly, have a little fun with color, or break out that white dinner jacket! If you are aiming for traditional, stick with basics and you'll come out sharp.

Fred and Ginger, elegance incarnate!In summary, Vintage Swank leaves us with one last bit of advice: An investment in a vintage tuxedo is one you can relive forever—unlike a wedding gown, you can get many uses out of a great tuxedo. Do plan on getting it professionally tailored to fit you perfectly, and make sure to accent your tuxedo with all the right accessories. You can always get vintage cufflinks, tie bars, neckties, suspenders, and so forth if you want to add more vintage flair!

Stay tuned for next month's article, where I'll delve into the exciting and sweet smelling world of wedding flowers!



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