Film Fashion Friday 22. Lew Ayres’s Cutaway Coat in “Holiday” from 1938

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Today is Friday, the day on which we have published Film Fashion Friday articles here at PEPS. I suspended this series late last fall, and I haven’t been able to get it going again so far in the new year. However, today that is all going to change. I am going to restart this fashion series with film inspiration, since it is an important part of our movement. Classic films are more than just entertainment. They can be a model for a glamorous, vintage, and more refined life than we see in our current world. By selecting outfits in Code films and recommending products on Amazon which are similar, I try to help my readers copy these vintage looks. It can be very enjoyable to have a special style, especially when it’s inspired by your favorite films.

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Holiday from 1938 is a great film for showing 1938 fashion of the upper-class. I have used this film to illustrate fashion concepts before. Today, I am going to explain a vital part of male fashion, the cutaway coat, which is also known as the morning coat. It is the daytime equivalent of the full dress suit in the fact that it is very formal, but it is used for daytime functions, such as church and weddings. Ned Seton (Lew Ayres), the drunken heir to a banking fortune, wears a cutaway coat the first time we see him, which is Christmas morning. Both he and his father, Mr. Seton (Henry Kolker), wear cutaway coats to church.

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Doris Nolan, Katharine Hepburn, Cary Grant, and Lew Ayres in Holiday, 1938.

The main feature of this ensemble is the cutaway coat itself. It is always black. It has tails, but, unlike the tailcoat of a full dress suit, this coat is not short in the front. It has a collar like a normal suit coat. It usually has two buttons, but only the top one is typically buttoned. Below the buttons, the coat swoops down to reach almost to the knee on the sides, making tails in the back. It has a small pocket on the left side. Let’s see what similar options Amazon offers.

The above coat from Amazon is a very traditional cutaway coat. As you can see, the gentleman in the thumbnail picture is wearing a Victorian ensemble, since this coat is made by the Historical Emporium. It is black. It has long sleeves and tails with two buttons. The material is 70% polyester, 18% wool, and 12% rayon. It costs $177.95. That is rather expensive, but not unreasonable for a coat of this quality. After all, it is a formal outfit, and you would only need one for all your formal daytime occasions.

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Katharine Hepburn, Henry Kolker, and Doris Nolan in Holiday.

The cutaway coat is not worn with solid black pants, like tuxedos or full dress suits. They are worn with striped pants. They often are black with gray stripes, although the stripes are often the same size as the base color, so it is difficult to tell which is the base color. The black and gray stripes often look like they are exactly the same size. These pants are always worn at a proper looseness, and they often have a noticeable pleat down the front.

The above pants from Amazon are pinstriped, pleated trousers. They come in grey, taupe, charcoal, chocolate, and black. I recommend grey, which is pictured. They have black stripes and look very much like those worn by the gentlemen in this film. They are 65% polyester and 35% rayon. They cost $31.78-$32.78, depending on which size and color you order.

The above pants from Amazon are another option for this outfit. They only come in black pinstripe, which has gray stripes. They too have a noticeable pleat down the front. They are 65% cotton, 28% nylon, and 7% elastane. They cost $98.00.

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Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn in Woman of the Year, 1942.

Another key element of the cutaway ensemble is the gray double-breasted vest, which is also called a double-breasted waistcoat. As you can see in his picture, Mr. Seton wears a single-breasted black vest instead, but the double-breasted gray vest is the more standard look. Although Lew Ayres wears such a vest, you can’t see it well in any of the pictures I found. Thus, I included a picture of another gentleman from a Katharine Hepburn film who is wearing this ensemble well, Spencer Tracy in Woman of the Year from 1942. This vest is always light gray, a shade which I would call dove gray. It crosses over in the front and has either two or three buttons in each of its two rows. Instead of coming down at points in the front, it is straight across the bottom, ending right below the waist. Let’s see what options Amazon has.

The above vest from Amazon is the best option for this sort of garment. It has two rows of buttons with three buttons in each row. It has two small pockets. It comes in grey, navy blue, black, light khaki, dark gray, and deep blue. It is made of 70% polyester, 20% cotton, and 10% viscose. It costs $13.99-$24.99, depending on which size and color you buy.

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Cary Grant, Doris Nolan, and Lew Ayres.

Although Mr. Seton wears a wingtip collar, Ned wears a plain white shirt with a regular stand collar. Any standard white dress shirt is appropriate with this outfit. I recommend the below shirt from Amazon. It comes in white and twenty other solid colors, plus a set of two shirts and a set of three shirts. It is made of 65% polyester and 35% cotton. The white shirt costs $21.99, but the other colors, sizes, and sets range from $13.99-$70.50.

 

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Lew Ayres in Holiday.

The tie is an important aspect of any suit. Unlike the full dress suit, which must always be worn with a white bowtie, or the tuxedo, which must always be worn with a black bowtie, the cutaway coat has several options. The most standard look is a light gray tie or cravat. Ned wears a solid, shiny gray tie which matches his vest. Mr. Seton wears a gray striped tie, and Spencer Tracy in Woman of the Year wears a black tie with small white stripes. It seems that many styles and patterns for ties are acceptable with this type of outfit. However, for our suggestions, we will copy Ned’s style.

The above tie from Amazon is an excellent option. It is very sleek and thus looks formal. It comes in gray and twenty-seven other colors. It is 57″ long and 3.35″ wide. It is woven microfiber with a satin finish. It costs only $9.95 and comes with a gift box.

 Another important accessory is the pocket square. A white silk pocket square should be worn with this outfit. I recommend the below item from Amazon. It is white, 100% silk, and 16″ x 16″. At only $10.00,it is a bargain.

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Lew Ayres, Henry Kolker, and Doris Nolan.

An optional accessory which Ned sports, perhaps as a sign of his wealth, is a jewel stickpin in his tie. It is a small, round crystal, which is stuck in the middle of his tie. The below product from Amazon is quite similar. It is copper and plated with gold coloring. The crystal comes clear, as pictures, and in nine other colors. It costs $9.99.

 

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Lew Ayres, Katharine Hepburn, Doris Nolan, and Henry Kolker.

Shoes are an important part of any outfit. With this particular ensemble, you would wear plain black oxfords. Ned’s shoes appear to have a shine, and they have a rounded toe, so we will copy that style with our suggestions. I recommend the below shoe from Amazon. The pictured style is black with a cap toe. The same shoe comes in black in two other styles, and the same style is offered in cognac, brown, and Bordeaux. It is synthetic, faux leather. It costs $32.97-$110.93, depending on which style, color, and size you order.


One of the classiest and most stylish aspects of this outfit is the fact that spats can be worn on the shoes. Since gentlemen usually wore very dark, conservative shoes at this time, spats were the only flamboyant accessory they could have for their feet! Like many men who wore cutaway coats, Ned wears dove gray spats to match his gray vest. The below spats from Amazon are the best item of this kind which I could find on Amazon. They are grey, with small silver buttons up the outer sides. They come from third-party sellers. They only cost $6.48, since they are costume items, but they give a good vintage touch!

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That concludes my description of this outfit! This is a really classic type of outfit. As you can see from the above illustration of a 1930s wedding, there are several different ways to wear a cutaway coat. The coat and striped pants can be worn with several different vest and tie combinations. It can be confusing when trying to choose which pieces to wear together. Thus, it is helpful to base your outfit of a specific outfit from a film, such as Lew Ayres’s in Holiday. Ned may not be the happiest character, but he does know about formal fashion for a gentleman!

If you want to observe Mr. Ayres’s style for yourself, I suggest that you purchase the movie and study his outfit firsthand! Click the above image to buy Holiday on DVD at Amazon and support PEPS through the Amazon Affiliate program.

Remember, take pictures of yourself in vintage style and send them to me to be featured in a future Film Fashion Fridays article! I will gladly republish your pictures, advice, and experiences in vintage clothing for others to see and read. Let’s make Friday a day for film fashion!

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2 thoughts on “Film Fashion Friday 22. Lew Ayres’s Cutaway Coat in “Holiday” from 1938

    • Dear Victoria,

      Thank you so much! It is so nice to get compliments on my Fashion Friday articles, which get very few comments in general. I’m glad that you enjoyed it. I love this movie and actor, too!

      Yours Hopefully,

      Tiffany Brannan

      Like

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