Young and Innocent: A 1930s Suit and Sweater Vest

Derrick De Marney as Robert Tisdall in Young and Innocent (1937)

Derrick De Marney as Robert Tisdall in Young and Innocent (1937)

Vitals

Derrick De Marney as Robert Tisdall, wrongly accused man

Keenthorne, England, Fall 1937

Film: Young and Innocent
(American title: The Girl Was Young)
Release Date: November 1937
Director: Alfred Hitchcock
Wardrobe Credit: Marianne

WARNING! Spoilers ahead!

Background

Alfred Hitchcock explored one of his favorite sub-genres, the innocent “man on the run” thriller, throughout his career. The trope was prominent in many of his early works, including The Lodger (1927), The 39 Steps (1935), and Young and Innocent (1937, released in the United States as The Girl Was Young.)

In this latter film, Derrick De Marney stars as Robert Tisdall, a young man falsely accused of the murder of a married actress with whom he was having an affair. The evidence against him is almost laughable – the woman was strangled with a raincoat belt and Robert is unable to produce his own coat – but reflects Hitchcock’s own mistrust of the police stemming from an incident when he was five years old and his father had asked the local constabulary to lock young Hitch away for a few minutes… a strange request to which they strangely complied.

With the help of a misplaced pair of glasses and the chief constable’s idealistic young daughter Erica (Nova Pilbeam), Robert escapes from custody and sets out to find the real murderer. (Robert’s Clark Kent-like disguise of a pair of glasses would later serve Cary Grant just as ably in Hitch’s quintessential “wrongly accused man” thriller, North by Northwest.) What follows is a surprisingly quirky romp as Robert and Erica explore the almost idyllic English countryside, encountering genteel oafs like “Old Will the China-Mender” on Robert’s quest to recover his coat from the charmingly named Tom’s Hat pub. Less charming is the murderer’s tactic of hiding himself in backface as the drummer of a minstrel band, adding a jarringly racist conclusion to Hitchcock’s otherwise impressive crane shot.

What’d He Wear?

Young and Innocent‘s sole costuming credit is Marianne, with whom Hitch had previously collaborated in The 39 Steps (1935) and Sabotage (1936). I never realized how much this film’s style had stuck with me, but I always appreciated the versatility of layering a sweater vest with a suit, particularly when the suit reflects the golden age of tailored menswear in the late 1930s.

Robert escapes by donning a pair of glasses, rendering him totally unrecognizable to the police officers who had him in custody only moments earlier!

Robert escapes by donning a pair of glasses, rendering him totally unrecognizable to the police officers who had him in custody only moments earlier!

Robert Tisdall’s suit through the majority of Young and Innocent is a dark twill, possibly gabardine wool, tailored consistently with the fashionably full-chested British drape cut of the 1930s that emphasized wide shoulders and a suppressed waist.

Contemporary promotional artwork colorized the suit in brown, appropriate for the film’s bucolic setting.

Brown suit, white shirt, tan sweater vest, and green striped tie. Whether these were the actual colors worn by Derrick De Marney or not, they certainly work for this colorized promotional art.

Brown suit, white shirt, tan sweater vest, and green striped tie. Whether these were the actual colors worn by Derrick De Marney or not, they certainly work for this colorized promotional art.

“The three button single breasted suit with a high roll, peaked lapel had been a permanent staple in the wardrobes of well dressed Englishmen,” writes the Gentleman’s Gazette in their fascinatingly well-researched article on London men’s fashion in 1936. Robert’s single-breasted suit jacket checks off each of these boxes with its wide peak lapels that end high above the three-button front and have long, slanted gorges.

The ventless jacket also has a narrowly welted breast pocket, straight jetted hip pockets, and four-button cuffs. The shoulders are straight and padded.

YOUNG AND INNOCENT

The long rise of Robert’s trousers conceals the waistband under his sweater vest, but they have double forward pleats, straight pockets along the side seams, and a single back pocket on the back right. The bottoms are finished with turn-ups (cuffs).

Robert encounters a brave new world of freedom after absconding with the public defender's strong prescription specs.

Robert encounters a brave new world of freedom after absconding with the public defender’s strong prescription specs.

Robert’s shirt isn’t pure white, more likely a shade of beige or light gray. Though attached-collar shirts had been popular for nearly a decade, Robert’s shirt has a more old-fashioned detachable collar fastened at the neck with front and back collar studs. The collar, however, is a modern-looking soft turndown collar with long points that matches the shirt in color and material.

The shirt also has squared double (French) cuffs that Robert wears with plain flat disc links.

Despite being wrongly accused of murder and facing the gallows, Robert can't help but to get a few smirks in over the course of the film.

Despite being wrongly accused of murder and facing the gallows, Robert can’t help but to get a few smirks in over the course of the film.

Robert’s dark tie has a series of thick stripes consisting of a white mini-grid in the classic European “uphill” direction of left shoulder-down-to-right hip. When the tie is pulled out from his vest during a scuffle at Tom’s hat, it is revealed to be of short length with a much longer tail, coordinating with the likely high rise of his trousers.

YOUNG AND INNOCENT

Robert wears a light-to-medium v-neck sweater vest made from a soft wool, likely cashmere based on a close-up shot when Erica places some coins on his torso as he sleeps.

Robert chows down on a loaf of bread from Erica, unconcerned about getting crumbs on his cashmere.

Robert chows down on a loaf of bread from Erica, unconcerned about getting crumbs on his cashmere.

Robert’s shoes are dark leather cap-toe oxfords, worn a pair of dark ribbed socks.

Luckily for Robert, "Old Will the china-mender" isn't far away!

Luckily for Robert, “Old Will the china-mender” isn’t far away!

Robert spends most of the film hat-less, but he briefly dons a tweed wool flat cap when he goes into hiding toward the end.

Note Robert's shirt collar stud, now visible after removing his collar and tie.

Note Robert’s shirt collar stud, now visible after removing his collar and tie.

The only other suit that Robert wears is a much lighter double-breasted suit seen when he is questioned on the beach immediately after Christine’s murder.

How to Get the Look

Nova Pilbeam and Derrick De Marney in Young and Innocent (1937)

Nova Pilbeam and Derrick De Marney in Young and Innocent (1937)

Derrick De Marney’s suit in Young and Innocent is often colorized in earthy tones of brown and green for contemporary promotional art, but cooler tones in blue and gray would work just as ably for fans of his layered look.

  • Dark gabardine twill English drape cut suit:
    • Single-breasted 3-button jacket with wide peak lapels, welted breast pocket, straight jetted hip pockets, 4-button cuffs, and ventless back
    • Double forward-pleated high-rise trousers with straight/on-seam side pockets, back right pocket, and turn-ups/cuffs
  • Light cotton shirt with detachable soft turndown collar, front placket, and double/French cuffs
    • Plain flat disc cuff links
  • Dark silk tie with white mini-grid “uphill” stripes
  • Light cashmere wool v-neck sweater vest
  • Dark leather cap-toe oxfords
  • Dark ribbed socks

Do Yourself a Favor and…

Check out the movie. And if you’re ever in need of an alias, consider “Beachcroft Manningtree”.

YOUNG AND INNOCENT

3 comments

  1. Pingback: Clyde Barrow’s Brown Peak-Lapel Suit (2013 Version) | BAMF Style
  2. VR

    Thank you so much for drawing my attention to this delightful film – have just concluded watching it.
    Marvellous to see those glimpses of England and to hear the speaking voices of eighty years ago.
    And, thank you for your analysis of the clothing, meticulous as always; it brought to my mind some of the items my father wore in the early 1950s.
    Alfred Hitchcock’s cameo was an amusing surprise, I should have been expecting it!

    Liked by 1 person

    • luckystrike721

      That’s wonderful to hear! Thank you for that kind feedback, and I’m so glad you enjoyed this little-known gem of a film. I first saw it myself about 15 years ago when my mom and I caught it on TV and found ourselves very entertained; watching it still brings back fond memories of that afternoon.

      Like

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