Help a large man get his 1920s Parisian Fashion on!
May 11, 2011 3:27 AM   Subscribe

I'm hosting a Murder Mystery night in a few weeks. I think I have a handle on most of the host duties, but I'm struggling with the costume. I'm a large man, and the venue is a Charity Auction in 1920's-ish France. How would a large Parisian man dress back then, and look relatively not horrible?

The murder mystery is Casino Fatale, for those knowledgeable about those things. I'm a big guy 3X, with a long torso. I'd like to keep the clothes budget somewhat low, so more looking for general guidelines, not "go get fitted for a tux".
posted by JonnyRotten to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (13 answers total)
Unfortunately formal evening wear is exactly what such a person would have worn. Can't you borrow one from somebody?
posted by koahiatamadl at 3:42 AM on May 11, 2011

I'm guessing secondhand shops are too much of a hassle re time and sizing... So how about finding/renting/buying a white suit and a fez - and your backstory could be you'd just returned from a trip to Morocco (protectorate of France 1912-1956)? Further props could include a long cigarette holder + case, monocle, pocket watch or maybe even a hookah - complete with boy to tend it. ;)

Or maybe you even went totally native as an affectation or just because you're an eccentric. Then you could wear a djellabah.
posted by likeso at 3:44 AM on May 11, 2011 [2 favorites]

Oh, here's an idea: what about a white dress shirt (which you either have or can probably acquire cheap), dress pants, dress shoes....and a smoking jacket/banyan? You could use a chinese jacket in silk or acetate (probably can get on eBay, but check the shipping time), an indian jacket or even a nice kimono. You probably won't be able to ebay a vintage smoking jacket, since there's sort of a vogue for them right now, but a nice heavyweight silk bathrobe or something would do in a pinch. Do an image search for "smoking jacket men" and you'll see what I mean. I know a large tall dapper fellow who has worked the chinese jacket/dress shirt thing in the past. (Okay, yes, this is kind of a legacy of colonialism, now that I think about it. But maybe you could think of yourself as someone like Auden or Isherwood, who traveled through the east as part of their anti-imperialist project.)
posted by Frowner at 5:02 AM on May 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

Not sure of the theme/plot of your evening, but I agree that you should think "arty and eccentric" vs. "formal".
posted by JoanArkham at 6:35 AM on May 11, 2011

I think you could pull this off easily with accessories. The base of your outfit is a white dress shirt, dress pants (would be great in an unconventional color like dove grey or aubergine, or with a pin stripe, but whatever you have is fine), and the most dapper shoes you can manage. Then you add accessories.

A fez would be a great touch. Or maybe a homburg or a bowler? A panama hat, if it is a real/classic panama and not one of the imitations you can get at Urban Outfitters these days - those have the wrong shape. Some kind of weird hat that is NOT a fedora or trilby.

I'm also envisioning a vest. Ideally something a little flamboyant, and not too modern looking. And maybe some sort of cravat? A real (not clip-on) bow tie would also do.

Any sort of Man Jewelry you have access to would also be great - think cufflinks, tie pins, monocles, etc.

Assuming you have short typical dude hair - slick down tight with a sharp part. If you can rock facial hair, this might be the moment for some sort of absurd mustache situation.
posted by Sara C. at 8:38 AM on May 11, 2011

Oh, I forgot about a jacket.

A suit jacket that matches the pants could work - men's suits looked much the same as they do now, and most guests at this sort of event are not going to nitpick about cut and details like lapel width or number of buttons.

If you have anything tweed, that would definitely be the way to go (though I'm not sure how it would look with the rest of what I suggested above).

The only issue I can see with suit vs. any other sort of jacket is what sort of character you're playing. Landed gentry would be wearing a tux, it's true (though tuxedos then looked different from tuxedos now). A businessman would be more likely to be wearing the sharp dark suit we now think of as a Proper Suit for job interviews and such. An academic or bohemian type would be more tweedy, or perhaps "Orientalist" as described above. And a poor man either wouldn't have a full matching suit or would be wearing something else entirely.

This is a good style guide with some photos for inspiration - scroll down for the menswear. And don't get too tied up in pants width, vest style, etc, in my experience nobody ever notices that stuff.
posted by Sara C. at 8:47 AM on May 11, 2011

I'll be playing the host / Casino Events Manager.
The Theme / Plot of the evening is a Charity auction in a Casino on France. There is a rather famous diamond being auctioned off, and there are various Rouges, Thieves, Agents, and gadabouts attending.
The setting is 1930's France.

I like the eccentric idea. I will be locating a fez, and hopefully a smoking jacket.

Were pipes in fashion? I would certainly break out one of mine.

For additional information, I typically wear suspenders, though I usually hide them with a second layer of under shirt.
posted by JonnyRotten at 8:51 AM on May 11, 2011

Errr 1920s. I typo'd there.
posted by JonnyRotten at 8:53 AM on May 11, 2011

Oh, yeah, pipes and suspenders are all great. Though if you're in management, you'll be wearing a vest and jacket - the suspenders shouldn't be visible unless there is a male stripper segment of the evening.
posted by Sara C. at 8:54 AM on May 11, 2011

Oh, and I'd avoid the smoking jacket unless you really don't have access to any suit jacket or sportcoat at all. Your character is at work, no? A smoking jacket is for relaxing at home.
posted by Sara C. at 8:56 AM on May 11, 2011

Tons of great info so far!

Any tips for the Ladies of the group? I'll re-post them to the event page, or link them here.
posted by JonnyRotten at 8:58 AM on May 11, 2011

I typically wear suspenders, though I usually hide them with a second layer of under shirt.

Be sure to wear your pants actually at your waist, not lower (ie: under the belly) as many men do these days. Google up some images of Alfred Hitchcock or Sydney Greenstreet to get an idea of the look. Your vest should completely cover the waistband of your pants.
posted by anastasiav at 9:29 AM on May 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

Has no one recommended Googling Peter Ustinov as Hercule Poirot before now?
posted by Fiat124 at 7:40 PM on May 14, 2011

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