January 13th, 2021

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Suit Silhouettes Over the Years

What happened to all the mill’s fabric?

Geographically the fabrics went far and wide.  Made into a vast array of suit designs. The suit industry boomed until the end of the seventies.  Suits were worn daily.   With different styles for different occasions. This blog post focuses on the evolution of the suit in the United Kingdom.

Victorian era (1837-1901)

This take’s us from the original group of founders here at Sunny Bank Mills to the leadership of Edwin Woodhouse. The silhouette was simple, resembling todays overcoats. Featuring a single breast for the everyday and a double breast for formal occasions. This style would reach down to the knees and have a single vent in the back.

In the Victorian era this overcoat style evolved.  Into the morning coat and lounge coat.

The 1910’s saw the lounge suit persist as the more popular coat for the younger generation. The lounge suit saw use of heavy fabrics and a dark or earthy colour palette

 The 1920’s saw a shift in fashion inspiration to military styles, the focus of the mill (under the management of William C Gaunt) would have gone from producing khaki cloth for the war effort, to producing the fabrics for these new silhouettes. The silhouette cut tight to the body and the trousers featured a high rise to elongate the body.

A wide shoulder, waist suppression and a high rise trouser, the 1930’s was a pinnacle of classic men’s wear. The jacket was long, reaching mid-thigh without back vents, made from heavy fabric with a good drape.

The 1940’s and 1950’s produced opposing styles of suits.  Rationing in the 1940’s during the Second World War meant that the suit was a slim fit suit worn for everyday business.  Corners were cut, the suits were single breasted with narrow lapels, and trousers without cuffs. The 1950’s were a time for rebellion.  Using large amounts of fabric, featuring large lapels and a pleated pant allowing for comfort.

Suit silhouettes by this point had developed into the designs we know well today.  Over time these different styles would come in and out of fashion with different material qualities. With the ‘60s and ‘70s suits featuring checks and fancy fabrics, termed ‘disco suits’.

Today practically no one wears a suit.  Unless worn at a wedding or funeral.  The decline of the suit has happened gradually.  Fashion movements rejecting authority (like punk) will have had a role in pushing suits out of the scene.

Blog post written by Kirstie Payne, Placement student from the University of Leeds


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