I started the Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day Costume Plots with Delysia back in October (I didn’t realise it was THAT long ago!) with Guinevere in March (oops) so I’ve finally got here with the men. As there are numerous male characters popping in and out of Delysia and Guinevere’s day it seemed important to look at their costumes as well.
Starting with the first male character we have Michael, the underdog you all root for. Delysia’s true love even if it takes her the whole film to realise and accept this.
We get the briefest of views of Michael here. He’s leaving prison carrying a brown paper package of any remaining belongings. That’s enough for Guinevere not to trust him and also explains a lot about his state. Prison in the ’30s isn’t quite like prison now. His suit (because everyone would be wearing a suit) would be wrinkled, probably smell and just generally be unkempt. The small view shows dark brown, black to a casual glance, because what colour would be more suited for a criminal? But also, having been in prison the dust and dirt that would have accumulated on a suit doesn’t bear thinking about.
Officially Meeting Miss Pettigrew
Now we have a close-up of Michael’s suit. We can guess that it’s the same (besides it being the same day) because of his tie – you can just see the orange tinge from the earlier photo and here we can see the tie in full. His tie is the only bright aspect of his costume. The rest is made up of dark tones. A pinstriped waistcoat worn with plain dark brown trousers (not a full-on pinstriped suit because that wouldn’t suit Michael’s character) and a khaki grey shirt. These are all the dark colours that one would associate with someone not hugely wealthy because stains and wear and tear can be much more easily hidden within dark colours.
At the Cocktail Party
Michael’s work wear. The same suit that’s worn by the entire band. This is the first time we’ve seen Michael playing the piano for his employment. The next time we see him is at Nick’s nightclub where he’s wearing a traditional black tuxedo, so wearing a purple tuxedo with a wide grey shawl lapel makes for a great alternate. It is also more suitable for the slightly more restrained cocktail party setting – none of the guests are wearing tuxedos so it would seem a little extravagant for the band to be wearing full tuxedos.
At Nick’s Nightclub
This is the important scene. Delysia makes her final important decision. She’s dressed to the nines in her gold dress so why shouldn’t Michael? They are both dressed for “work” but they also fit in with the audience and are not stuck as ‘workers’. We can just see Michael’s braces, his pocket square, classic collar dress shirt and bow tie.
Leaving for London
The final time we see Michael is with a happy ending for him and Delysia. When you contrast this suit to his first brown and grey suit you can see the lightness shining through. The light blue shirt brings out the blue tone in his eyes, and his suit has a definite blue tone to it. His hat looks the same as from the beginning, but this is also likely to be a smarter, softer shaded hat – ready for their new beginning. Everything about this costume shows Michael’s character (everything slightly dishevelled) but the colour lightness shows the hope of a fresh start in New York.
The next male character we meet is Phil. The young, spoilt child trying to impress his father but seeming to always make disastrous decisions; due to the charm of women.
Leaving Delysia’s Flat
This is the first full costume we see him wearing having been unceremoniously kicked out of Delysia/Nick’s flat. Despite its crumpled nature he is seen wearing a full three-piece suit (with a contrasting waistcoat), complete with hat and a pocket square. In comparison with Michael’s suit here are much lighter colours. There’s the white shirt (easily replaced/cleaned if soiled), a light grey waistcoat and a soft grey tie. Stereotypical “rich” costume.
At The Cocktail Party
This is when Phil comes into his own. This is his big moment – not Delysia or the Rabbit’s. This is the time for Phil to stand out from his father’s shadow. So what does he do? He wears the most respectable, mature suit he can. A double-breasted suit (we never see if it’s a three-piece suit but I would guess yes), the suit is in a heavy navy wool, a crisp white shirt, navy blue and cream diagonally striped tie (the blue playing in with the suit), a pocket square (deep royal blue) and, my favourite, a lapel chain. Nothing says grown up quite like suit accessories. Right?
At Nick’s Nightclub
A very brief appearance from Phil in this scene – he’s really in the periphery because it’s about Delysia’s decision between Michael and Nick. But we can see Phil wearing a traditional tux (complete with bow tie and wing collar shirt) but accessorised by a very large pink carnation boutonniere. He’s still celebrating his day – if with the wrong leading lady…
We hear more about Nick before we even meet him. The snake. The temptress. But very wealthy. And dangerous.
At Delysia’s Flat
Our first view of Nick is of him arriving outside Delysia’s flat but our first full view is when he enters the flat (and removes his hat). Nick wears a dark coloured suit like Michael but his dark colours are associated with shadier characters – he can slip in and out of situations and surroundings without being noticed. Unless he wants to be noticed. (Another reason I take for the dark tones of his suit are connected with his background. Generally, characters like this have worked their way up to the top and haven’t been born into wealth, like Phil, and they understand poverty.) He has a double-breasted suit (commonly worn by “bad guys”/gangsters) and all the accessories (tie and pocket square) and dark or muted. No bright warm colours like Michael’s tie. His mere presence seems to darken the wood in the flat.
At His Nightclub
This is a vast difference for Nick. We have the cream dinner jacket because he can feel safe here. This is HIS club. He doesn’t want to hide in the background; he wants to be noticed. The jacket is still double-breasted though – the only found among our lead males. He has safety and comfort in that suit style – it helps him to be recognisable. The collar on Nick’s shirt seems a little long for his bow tie…
Joe is the one character that can fully relate to Miss Pettigrew; and doesn’t judge her for anything.
At His Fashion Show
As if to show Joe’s belonging to an earlier period, he is always seen wearing a form of heavy tweed except at the nightclub. He wears the type of suit that wouldn’t be out of place at a country house gathering – the idea that wealthy mature gentlemen should be dressed like this. It is important to mark him out from the other men. Joe is different. He fits with Guinevere and never quite finds his place with the “younger” ones. The suit here (three-piece of course) manages to stick to softer, warmer shades of brown – nothing like the browns worn by Michael and Nick. His suit lapels are also very wide. Lapels in the ’30s were never “slim” but Joe’s seem to harken back to the wider lapel styles of the ’20s. It’s also worth noting that he has a white shirt on. This white shirt fits Joe more with Phil than with Michael or Nick, but, then again, he’s at a fashion show for his own range so maybe he’s just dressing himself up for the occasion! He has also fully accessorised with a light coloured pocket square and a carnation boutonniere. (There is a brilliant article here about the boutonniere – I recommend reading!)
At the Cocktail Party
Another social event, another three-piece tweed suit with a pocket square. This time, the costume has an overall blue tone to it. A tone that beautifully matches Guinevere’s blue dress *nudge nudge wink wink*. The cut of the suit matches that of his earlier suit and he is, once again, impeccably accessorised – I love the large puff/Cooper pocket square. [I’ve spent hours trying to find out the name of this style of pocket square. If anyone knows PLEASE tell me and I’ll update this!]
At Nick’s Nightclub
Finally we have Joe’s nightclub look. He has gone all out here. (Yes, I’ve pretty much said that for all of them…) Joe and Phil are the only lead males to wear wing collar shirts and here we can see Joe’s has shirt studs as well. (My poor picture of Phil doesn’t show whether he does or not…I would guess that he does because this fits with his “wealth”.) The satin lapels on Joe’s suit are again very wide, he has a perfectly crisp white pocket square and you can see a ring on his little finger – those are the accessories to look out for. This final look for Joe (still wearing it when he meets Guinevere at the train station) sums up his whole character: precise, careful, thoughtful and, above all, a consummate gentlemen.
(You can just see Joe’s hat and evening coat. For a final shot.)