Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow: Mastroianni’s Beige Summer Suit
Marcello Mastroianni as Augusto Rusconi, bombastic Bolognese businessman and bon vivant
Rome, Summer 1963
Film: Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow
(Italian title: Ieri, oggi, domani)
Release Date: December 19, 1963
Director: Vittorio De Sica
Costume Designer: Piero Tosi
“It is sometimes said that the French spend their money on their food, the English on their gardens, and the Italians on their clothes,” wrote Sir Hardy Amies for his seminal ABCs of Men’s Fashion in 1964. “Certainly the Italians give the impression of taking great pains with their appearance, especially in summer when we see most of them.”
As summer comes to a close, let’s heed Sir Hardy’s words by focusing on the warm-weather menswear worn by Marcello Mastroianni in Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow, which marked the fifth of his 13 collaborations with his frequent screen partner and real-life friend Sophia Loren, who celebrates her 85th birthday today.
Released in Italy as Ieri, oggi, domani, the three-part anthology starred the duo as three different sets of couples: poverty-stricken Neapolitan parents who continue having children to prevent her from going to prison, an adulterous fashionista who puts her husband’s prized Rolls-Royce before her relationship with her lover Renzo, and—in the final sequence—a comedy set across a few days in Rome as big-hearted prostitute Mara and her most frequent client, the privileged and neurotically frantic Augusto Rusconi.
Rusconi dotes on Mara as his “garden of loveliness” in between running errands for his powerful, demanding father, the Italian minister of labor, culminating in an immortalized striptease to Henry Weight’s “Abat-jour” as the eager Rusconi literally howls in anticipation for their long-awaited assignation.
The expert summoned by De Sica to help me was Jacques Ruet, choreographer at the legendary Crazy Horse cabaret in Paris. After a few “training” sessions, during which he taught me about the gestures, the rhythms, the moves, I was ready to do a striptease my own way.
Before doing the scene, I didn’t sleep for a week. I must not have been completely at ease the morning of the shoot, either, because I made a request of De Sica that was unusual for me. “Vittorio, listen, how about clearing the set for this scene?”
So Marcello and I were left alone, with just the cameraman and De Sica’s wife, who was often on the set. Marcello, lying on the bed completely dressed, was ready to enjoy the show. “Go, Sofi, full steam ahead!” he said with an encouraging smile. His sweet, amused attitude paved the way for me. As I disrobed to the notes of “Abat-jour,” the original soundtrack for the movie, Marcello was curled up with his chin in his hands, watching me like a greedy child. Every once in a while, he’d mop his brow with a handkerchief. When I removed my garter belt, he let out a coyote howl of love, which summed up all the happiness a human being is capable of. This touch of genius won Vittorio an Oscar for Best Foreign Film in 1965.
— Sophia Loren, Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow
…though the unfortunate Rusconi’s heart—and, er, spirit—is broken when Mara remembers her vow of weeklong chastity that she promised to her elderly neighbor.
While Sophia Loren turns 85 today, next Saturday would have been the 95th birthday for Marcello Mastroianni, born September 28, 1924, in the small Italian village of Fontana Liri.
What’d He Wear?
“It would be largely academic to discuss traditional Italian styling of suits with their short jackets and tight trousers. Only the latter remain in the picture, the whole silhouette having now become Anglicized,” observed Sir Hardy Amies of Italian tailoring in the volume cited above. “We owe a further debt to the tailors of Rome and Florence for showing us how to make suits in lightweight cloths, which by skillful use of thin canvases expertly cut and sewn as linings, keep the suit uncrumpled in the hottest weather.”
In Dressing the Man, Alan Flusser expands on Sir Hardy’s praise for the Italian mastery of lighter-weight suitings, writing that “while not as sumptuous as its wool confrere, the cotton gabardine two-piece offers a soothing alternative to the typically dry, firm-feeling tropical worsted. The fine Italian cotton gabardine suit will wrinkle, but its satiny freshness and cool suppleness offer the humidified epidermis a princely measure of comfort.”
To illustrate this, we present Marcello Mastroianni as Augusto Rusconi, respondent in his bespoke summer suit made from a lightweight beige gabardine that keeps the Bolognese bon vivant looking cool and collected despite his increasingly frantic desperation. Despite Flusser lauding the comfortable cotton alternative employed by the Italians for this, “the ultimate in light-colored suit fare,” the way that Mastroianni’s cloth falls and the lack of lingering wrinkles suggests that he is, indeed, wearing a two-piece suit made of the venerated tropical worsted gabardine.
The bright and colorful Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow presents Mastroianni in a marked contrast from the iconic black-and-white cinematography of his earlier works for Fellini, though La Dolce Vita (1960) and 8½ (1963) are both much-deserving of future BAMF Style treatment. Mastroianni’s fashionable characters paraded through both earlier films wearing suits by Brioni, the influential couture house credited with the mid-20th century development of Roman tailoring, which, as Andrew Craig wrote for Grailed in 2018, “drew heavily on British tailoring,” though the Italian way of life influenced the fit to develop a style “made more voluminous, body conscious, and free-flowing without losing too much of the signature Saville Row shape.”
Rusconi’s beige summer suit appears to have been tailored in the semi-structured Roman tradition that was influenced by the Brits and pioneered by Brioni, evident by the padded “Roman shoulders”, roped sleeveheads, and a lean fit that looks flattering on the 5’9″ Mastroianni, with the three-button, closely fitting jacket elongating his frame. The single-breasted suit jacket has lapels of moderate width—but large notches—that roll just slightly over the top of the three buttons. The jacket also has a welted breast pocket which Rusconi dresses with a pocket square to match his tie, straight jetted hip pockets, and long double vents.
The sleeves on Rusconi’s suit jacket are finished with functioning “surgeon’s cuff” buttons, so named for the apocryphal theory that they were developed after battlefield doctors without time to remove their jackets were staining their coat sleeves when treating soldiers wounded in battle, though there’s a more credible theory that links the history of working buttonholes to surgeons practicing in London looking to avoid the same issue, though working under considerably less time constraints than military doctors. (Alternatively, Alan Flusser dates the origins a few centuries earlier in Dressing the Man, suggesting that “they were employed on jacket cuffs so the wearer could unfasten his sleeve to permit his ruffled cuffs to be pushed through without wrinkling them.”)
The rakish Rusconi wears the lowest of the three buttons on each cuff undone, a practice famously continued by Daniel Craig’s James Bond on his Tom Ford suit jackets that hearkens to this era when surgeon cuffs were more a hallmark of custom tailoring. As having working buttonholes makes sleeve length alterations much more difficult, surgeon cuffs were once considered an indicator of higher quality tailoring.
The relative ease of obtaining surgeon cuffs today from even online suit manufacturers, coupled with the fact that a gent really should not be rolling up his suit jacket sleeves, makes them much more a cosmetic detail—albeit a fun one—than one reflective of quality.
Rusconi wears a simple and classic white cotton shirt with point collar, plain front, and squared double (French) cuffs that he wears with a set of round gold cuff links with a small ornamental stone shining from the center of each link.
In the scenes where Rusconi has his jacket removed, the thin cotton of his shirt reveals the outline of his sleeveless undershirt, which also appears to be white cotton.
While Rusconi would also appropriate the Royal Artillery’s distinctive “zigzag” regimental tie pattern with his navy blazer, he wears more subdued neckwear with this beige suit. His navy silk tie is covered in a field of small, neatly arranged polka dots in yellow, purple, and fuchsia. After Rusconi abandons his tie on Mara’s bed after she abandons her striptease, she uses it like a sash to tie around the waist of her dress.
Rusconi’s pocket square was clearly made from the same silk as his tie. In recent years, having a matching tie and pocket square is often considered gauche, dangerously suggestive that its wearer picked up a $12.99 matching “silk-like” polyester tie and pocket square from Marshalls or TJ Maxx (not that I have any snobbish opposition to shopping on a budget…) Finding a tie, let alone a matching set with a pocket square, in Mastroianni’s specific multicolor-dotted navy silk would be very difficult, but there does seem to be a dominance of red dots on a navy ground, including this 100% silk set from David Van Hagen for $89.95 as well as the inescapable but ultimately more affordable woven polyester alternative, this one from HISDERN for only $9.99.
The safest bets for a pocket square is to go classic—with white linen or silk folded into the breast pocket—or the more challenging but interesting effect of selecting colors to highlight or directly oppose the tie for a sense of coordination that avoids directly matching it.
The matching trousers of Rusconi’s suit have double forward pleats, still a fashionable style by the early 1960s—if Sean Connery’s James Bond is any indication—with on-seam side pockets and jetted button-through back pockets. The trousers have belt loops, though Mastroianni wears no belt; like the semi-buttoned surgeon cuffs, this could be an other example of the character subtly communicating that he wears clothing made just for him as the tailored trousers are evidently in no danger of falling down when worn sans belt. I believe that he also wears these trousers with his navy blazer and zigzag-patterned tie when visiting Mara’s apartment in another scene.
The Handbook of Style by Esquire calls the brown monk-strap shoe “a true chameleon”, ideal for work and play, making it the ideal footwear for the hedonist Rusconi who, his career all but guaranteed by his powerful father, can spend most of his business time at leisure… particularly the sort of leisure that finds him kicking off his monks in Mara’s bedroom.
Rusconi’s plain-toe monks are of the single-strap variety, almost certainly made of Italian calf leather with a brass single-prong saddle buckle fastening the broad strap into place on the side of each shoe. Though double monks are also popular, single-strap monk loafers remain a popular style and can be purchased from shoemakers like Allen Edmonds, Clarks, and Florsheim in the same dark tan leather as Mastroianni wore in Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow with beige socks to match his suit trouser legs.
On his left wrist, Rusconi wears a gold watch with a white dial fastened to a wide black leather strap. By the next decade, both Mastroianni and Catherine Deneuve—his partner during the early 1970s—were both known to be Rolex wearers, though it’s doubtful that the actor is wearing a Rolex in Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow.
What to Imbibe
While the increasingly hapless Rusconi doesn’t imbibe himself, Mara insists that he pour some of her Fernet-Branca for she and “Granny” Ferrario (Tina Pica) to drink while bonding over their shared desire to encourage Mara’s young, lovestruck neighbor Umberto (Gianna Ridolfi) to return to his path to priesthood.
Developed in Milan, the bitter amaro is often enjoyed neat, as illustrated by Mara and Granny during their conversation, though it has found an increasing place in mixed drinks during the recent cocktail renaissance. Since its inception in 1845, Fernet-Branca has been noted for its unusually strong bitterness, a result of its secret ingredients that include myrrh, saffron, chamomile and gentian among its 27 herbs according to Liquor.com, which also reports that the digestif’s popularity among mixologists has led to the moniker “bartender’s handshake” being applied to a shot of Fernet.
If you’re new to Fernet-Branca and not trying to impress a bartender, cure a hangover, or “[lift] yourself off the floor when you’ve mixed oysters and bananas” (according to a 1962 article in Suburbia Today, cited by Wayne Curtis for The Atlantic), then you can ease into enjoying this herbal liqueur by mixing up a Hanky-Panky.
Savoy bartender Ada Coleman developed the Hanky-Panky in the early 20th century for one of her customers, actor Sir Charles Hawtrey, by adding two dashes of Fernet-Branca into a concoction of half-gin, half-sweet Italian vermouth, and ice. After stirring the mixture together, it is stirred* into a chilled cocktail glass and may be garnished with an orange peel squeezed over the top to a customer who would ideally exclaim “By Jove! That is the real hanky-panky!” in the spirit of the cocktail’s original customer.
* Coley herself had evidently preferred shaking, but the Savoy has since chosen to champion stirring the drink.
How to Get the Look
The ever-fashionable Marcello Mastroianni portrays a Bolognese playboy making some rakish sartorial decisions such as his semi-button surgeon cuffs, matching silk tie and pocket square, and going beltless despite the loops on his trousers that add character to his timeless beige summer suit and brown monks.
- Beige lightweight gabardine worsted Brioni-style summer suit:
- Single-breasted 3-button suit jacket with notch lapels, welted breast pocket, straight jetted hip pockets, functional 3-button “surgeon’s cuffs”, long double vents
- Double forward-pleated trousers with belt loops, on-seam side pockets, jetted button-through back pockets, and turn-ups/cuffs
- White cotton shirt with point collar, plain front, and double/French cuffs
- Round gold cuff links with small center stone
- Navy multi-color dotted silk tie
- Navy multi-color dotted silk pocket square
- Brown Italian calf leather plain-toe monk-strap shoes
- Beige socks
- White ribbed cotton sleeveless undershirt
- Gold square-cased wristwatch with square white dial on dark leather strap
Do Yourself a Favor and…
Check out the movie. I also recommend reading Jeremy Carr’s fantastic feature, “De Sica and His Dynamic Duo Do What They Do Best”, published in Mubi in January 2017.
Versions of varying quality have been released for home video and streaming since the film fell into public domain, but consensus among reviewers seems to agree that the best version has been released by Kino Lorber Films, both on its own as well as in the Sophia Loren “Award Collection” box set that also includes Marriage Italian Style and Sunflower, two more of her 13 collaborations with co-star Marcello Mastroianni.
When I’m in love, I sweat.
Excellent post! Would definitely love to see La Dolce Vita and 8½ featured here in the future.