Monday, July 01, 2013

A Night on the Town

How do you get ready for a night on the town?  Do you wear a silk dressing gown while making up? Or do you sit in front of the mirror in your underwear?  Do you spritz yourself with fragrance from Hermès? Or Chanel? And do you indulge in a little nip while getting ready? Or do you wait until you arrive at your destination to imbibe?

You may not give your going-out preparation much thought, but one who did was writer Beverley Nichols.  In his book, All I Could Never Be, he described in detail how he dressed for a night out in 1920s London.  This was a man who obviously thought highly of his Boucheron cuff links as well as his Fortnum & Mason shoes.  And while the label-dropping might come across as a tad bit pretentious, the vivid description, brand names and all, paints a very stylish picture of a time when going out meant tails and top hat, not dirty jeans and dirtier flip-flops.

"tails by Lesley and Roberts in Hanover Square, waistcoat by Hawes and Curtis of the Piccadilly Arcade, silk hat by Lock in St. James's Street, monk shoes by Fortnum and Mason of Piccadilly, crystal and diamond links by Boucheron of the Rue de la Paix, gold cigarette case by Asprey of Bond Street, a drop of rose geranium on my handkerchief from the ancient shop of Floris in Jermyn Street. And on the dressing-table, waiting to be sipped, an ice-cold "sidecar," complete with its crimson cherry."
-excerpt from All I Could Never Be by Beverley Nichols (1949)

A 1926 tailcoat, not by Lesley and Roberts but rather Anderson & Sheppard. (via Savvy Row website.)

A vintage Silk Top Hat from Lock & Co.

Rock crystal, diamond, and black enamel cuff links from Boucheron, Paris, c. 1920. Available through Wartski.

Circa 1927 gold cigarette case (left) from Asprey, sold with a silver gilt case (right) at Christie's

Rose Geranium bath essence from the venerable Floris.

Photo of Nichols, at top, from "Bright Young People" by D. J. Taylor. Sidecar recipe from Vogue Cocktails by Henry McNulty


  1. Perhaps you were not aware, but the blog-o-sphere has plenty of men and women who write about what they wore where - down to the belt buckle and scent. Amusing? Once or twice, for me. But these Bloggers claim to have masses of followers.

    1. I am aware of those blogs. I just found it interesting to read one man's account of getting ready back in the 1920s, which is why I included it here.

    2. There is nothing I love more than the glamor and formality of earlier eras. I wish I could go back in time! I am holding out hope that the world might become more refined and glamorous again! So tired of seeing other peoples dirty feet all summer!


    3. Yes JT, those sartorial blogs can be obsessive, but in this case we are reading about Beverley Nichols, not just
      any old fashion plate!

  2. Marvelous! Like watching a Fred Astaire/ Ginger Rogers Film! Romantic, uber stylish, inspiring in today's super casual world!

  3. Just the other night, I dined at a nice restaurant with my parents. A man walked in with ratty jeans, flip-flops, and a t-shirt that read "Scrappy" on the back. Scrappy indeed.

  4. I think that if one complained, the management of the better restaurants would be forced to enforce a dress code. If I am at a celebratory dinner, I do not want to see some dirty feet in ratty flip-flops; the person isn't just "being him or herself" but is being rude to all around them. NYC has a health code rating for restaurants and a lady friend is now complaining to management and city officials about dirty, slovenly patrons being more a menace to health than a knife that has been used twice in the kitchen without a rinsing in between uses. Doubt it will go anywhere, but she is dogged about the subject :)

    I thought the naming of all the sources of the sartorial accoutrements a bit precious, but I will take that over the t-shirt crowd any day...

  5. I found this so

  6. maven3:31 PM

    A college-educated, wealthy, 40ish man wore overalls to my daddy's funeral several years ago. I am still reeling. How COULD he?

  7. Anonymous6:58 PM

    Thanks for this post. I am devoted to Mr. Nichols, can't get enough of his books, to the point of reading them about once a year, actually his books are probably the only ones I read over and over.


  8. Anonymous7:09 AM

    I love this. What a treat of a post. It wafted me back to another world, the one which P.G. Wodehouse described with so much wit.

  9. I think nostalgia for a more elegant era goes hand-in-hand with nostalgia for the days when good manners, decorum and social prudence were the norm.

    My husband and I live in Atlanta and go frequently to the High Museum, the Carlos, Symphony Hall, the aquarium, ATL Botanical gardens and other venues and see people dressed as though going to a sporting in which they'll participate! (I'd better not go into the sexual misconduct that seems the norm nowadays at Chastain Park concerts.)

    We also travel around the country to visit far-away children in other major cities and go to concerts, museums, fine restaurants in Austin, San Francisco, Minneapolis, Winston-Salem, Greenville, SC. Same thing: Sloppy attire, poor manners, no decorum. (Quaint word, yes?)

    Travel outside the US, Europe and England, for example, and you can always spot the Americans: vastly overweight and dressed in sloppy attire. I know this sounds like I'm generalizing. But sadly, I'm not. If there are properly dressed Americans abroad, you can't spot them because they blend in so well with the local population!

    But, being of a 'certain age', I remember when everything in society wasn't quite as lovely as we'd like to remember, especially for the underclass, most of them minorities. And it wasn't all that great for women, either. It's easy to think of a by-gone era as being better, somehow. But nostalgia needs to be tempered with reality. Don't know why our nation couldn't have moved ahead socially while keeping things like good manners, respect for others, the idea of dressing for special occasions and other attitudes still retained by much of the world. But it seems we didn't...or couldn't?

    But maybe all is not lost. My 21 year old grandson now dresses like an adult instead of a perpetual teen-ager, holds out my chair when we're ready to sit down at the dinner table and puts his cell phone on mute. This is no small feat in this country, in this era!

    April, Just Verte Style

  10. Thomas12:40 PM

    The trick here is he talks about at home but the effect appears effortless - While I don't talk about it I do put a deal of thought into what I will wear out-sometimes It's just beautiful white shirt and jeans but they have both visited the tailor for a bit of tweaking-oh and a pair of the Duke of Windsor's gold cufflinks - if the mood strikes- tiny gold ovals with his and the Duchess' monogram in enamel- no one ever notices them

  11. Dear Beverley, he failed to mention where he got his lint brushes. With such enormous cats, I am sure his tails and their tails would not mix.