I do not like fancy dress. Any social event that insists on costume makes me quite uncomfortable, particularly if it involves novelty, rented or second-hand clothes. If the participants then embellish their outfits by acting ‘in character’ I am likely to make my excuses and leave.
Dressing fancy, on the other hand, is an absolute pleasure of mine and I will add a flower to my lapel or a diamond pin to my tie for the sheer hell of it. Occasions that require formal dress hold no fear for me either.
There is scope for both approaches at The Goodwood Revival. A three-day event that has been held every September in West Sussex since 1998, it celebrates the golden era of Goodwood motor racing through both clothes and vintage cars, the latter of which are raced flat-out on a circuit that has not changed since the 1960s. For the former, there is not a strict dress code, as there is at Royal Ascot, but visitors are very much encouraged to dress up in the spirit of the age. The Goodwood era ranged from 1948 to 1966, which was a very elegant period in British male fashion starting with the neo-Edwardians and ending with the mods. I would advise picking a certain look and sticking with it, whilst avoiding the generic ‘vintage’ look of tweed, cravats and spectator shoes.
Here are my tips for dressing for the Goodwood Revival in style:
1. Glen check suits in flannel or twist-worsted are ideal, particularly in earthy shades.
2. A charcoal or navy suit can be ‘dressed-down’ with the addition of an odd waistcoat. A wool tattersall check or camel doeskin is ideal, preferably with lapels and flap pockets.
3. Tobacco reverse-calf Oxfords or chukka boots strike the right degree of formality.
4. A separate, starched white collar on a coloured shirt is an authentic period detail.
5. A dark, slim knitted silk tie is probably the simplest way to give your contemporary suit a vintage feel.
6. A simple folded white linen handkerchief in your breast pocket is appropriate.
7. If you happen to have a suit with turn-back cuffs and/or a flap over the breast pocket, now would be a good time to wear it. It probably has a ticket pocket, too.
8. A tie-slide should not be worn with a waistcoat. Ever.
9. Hats were de rigueur in the 1950s so pick one to complement your outfit. A racing felt (or trilby) is smart and suitably sporty.
10. No gentleman would have been seen without gloves, so carry a decent pair, ideally made from unlined pigskin.
11. The English weather in September is unpredictable so it is wise to carry an umbrella. It is wiser still not to ruin your look with a cheap, branded golf umbrella.
12. As an alternative to a lounge suit, you should consider the classic pairing of a double-breasted blue blazer worn with cavalry twill trousers. Bonus points if the regimental brass buttons are ‘plugged’ and your cavalry twills have lapped seams and frogmouth pockets.
13. Consider a lightweight covert coat instead of a sports coat if the weather is cool. A velvet top collar is very John Steed.
14. Don’t neglect accessories such as your spectacles and wristwatch. Make sure they are in keeping with the era. It could be fun to wear a pocket watch on a chain, either in your waistcoat or your breast pocket.
15. I have it on good authority that Homer Simpson socks were not available until at least the 1990s. Wear good wool socks. Yellow will complement your gloves nicely.