A Black Tie Christmas with Nick Charles

BAMF Style’s 5 Days of Christmas

To celebrate the holidays, BAMF Style will be chronicling the finest yuletide looks from some of our favorites. If you have any suggestions that don’t make it onto the blog this week, don’t worry, there’s always next year. Or the year after. (Or, if it’s a really good one, Christmas in July?)

William Powell as Nick Charles in The Thin Man.

William Powell as Nick Charles in The Thin Man (1934).

The easiest way to begin (and to celebrate Formal Friday) is naturally…

Vitals

William Powell as Nick Charles, retired private detective

New York City, Christmas 1933

Film: The Thin Man
Release Date: May 25, 1934
Director: W.S. Van Dyke
Wardrobe Credit: Dolly Tree

Background

Following his Christmas celebrations, Nick Charles is naturally called upon by the police to solve a murder. With the two most useful tools at his disposal – a sharp wife and an infallible liver – he does so with gusto. Unlike most policemen’s standard procedure of bringing a suspect in for questioning, this would be the waste of a fine dinner party opportunity for a bon vivant like Nick. Naturally, the suspects are the guests of honor, aptly served their dinner and drinks by armed policemen.

Similar to the conception that Cary Grant was likely born wearing a suit and tie, William Powell probably exited the womb in full evening wear, including the flower in his lapel. Every part of his attire looks perfect and correct.

What’d He Wear?

Nick grandly hosts the dinner party/murder revelation and keeps the Christmas spirit lasting into the week by opting for black tie. Nick’s tuxedo was the apex in American formalwear and, in my opinion, combined the best elements of black tie into one look.

The black tuxedo coat is a well-fitting 1-button single-breasted ventless dinner jacket with peak lapels. Naturally, the fashionably wide lapels have black satin facings to match the tie. A white pocket square pokes out from the breast pocket and a white carnation shines from Nick’s left lapel. The jacket also has two jetted hip pockets. Three satin-covered buttons are on each cuff.

caption about Nick greeting guests

Your guests will feel much more at ease if you already have a drink in your hand. Since this is Nick Charles, he probably had a different drink for each guest.

The trousers are standard for black tie. Although not clearly seen, they have a black satin stripe down each leg.

Nick’s choice of waist covering is a low-fastening single-breasted off-white waistcoat with 3 small covered buttons. The wide shawl collar forms a deep V shape over the chest. This produces a long, clean look especially in conjunction with the shirt.

needs a caption

Nick’s white formal shirt has an attachable wing collar, which was the most popular choice in the United States while England preferred a turndown collar for black tie. The shirt has a plain front with no pleats or front placket. Two small mother-of-pearl studs are visible above the waistcoat. Large cuff links, square in shape, are seen in his single cuffs. The bow tie is large, symmetrical, and black satin to match the lapel facings.

how about a caption

The most gentlemanly host also ensures that his carnation literally appears to glow.

Briefly seen, Nick wears black leather shoes and socks on his feet.

The attire, as a whole, has the standard 1930s accent on width, with an emphasis on wider lapels and ties. However, this was certainly not to the excess of the 1970s (or even the 1940s) and it is a look that the lean-figured Powell was born to wear.

A party-planning tip from Nick Charles: Arming your waiters ensures that anyone accused of murder at the table will not be able to shoot the host. Just something to keep in mind.

A party-planning tip from Nick Charles: Arming your waiters ensures that anyone accused of murder at the table will not be able to shoot the host. Just something to keep in mind.

Go Big or Go Home

For a dinner party, Nick wisely avoids the topics not be discussed in polite society, namely politics, religion, and sex. Instead, he chooses murder and gives each guest their fair turn at being a suspect before revealing who the actual murderer is. A real gentleman like Nick would make sure each guest at the table gets fair and equal attention.

Only a woman like Myrna Loy could make even William Powell speechless.

Only a woman like Myrna Loy could make even William Powell speechless.

What to Imbibe

In the spirit of celebration (and because it paired well with his fish), Nick Charles serves champagne to his guests… as well as some Martinis that guests like Joe Morelli and Marion reluctantly picked up.

champagne

Nick drinks his champagne from a glass I’m unfamiliar with; definitely not a champagne coupe and too triangular to be a flute, it appears to be more like a long martini glass. Appropriate, I’d say.

The dinner itself is fish and oysters with an appetizer for nuts…er, of nuts.

How to Get the Look

Although The Thin Man is black and white, Nick’s classic black tie look leaves little room for doubt in terms of color. The only objects of speculation are items such as cuff links. In cases such as that, you should go with whatever looks best for you or lends the most personal touch anyway.

  • Black single-breasted 1-button dinner jacket with wide satin-faced peak lapels, welted breast pocket, jetted hip pockets, satin-covered 3-button cuffs, and ventless back
  • Off-white single-breasted 3-button waistcoat with satin-faced shawl collar
  • Black formal trousers with a black satin stripe down each leg
  • White formal plain front dinner shirt with mother-of-pearl studs and single cuffs, worn with detachable wing collar
  • Large square-shaped cuff links
  • Black satin bow tie
  • Black leather oxford shoes
  • Black formal socks
  • White carnation (worn in the dinner jacket’s left lapel)
  • White pocket square (worn in the dinner jacket’s breast pocket)

Do Yourself a Favor and…

Buy the entire film series.

The Quote

The murderer is right in this room… sitting at this table. You may serve the fish.

Check out more for yourself.

Merry Christmas from the Charles family.

Merry Christmas from the Charles family.

4 comments

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