What a 1949 US Government Guide Can Teach about Suits (Free Download)

1949 Guide to Suits Book Cover

Prepared by the US Government in September 1949, there’s some advice that’s still useful and some that’s a bit outdated (although, still fun to read), covering everything from cloths to quality of fit.  You can download your copy here. The guide starts with a section on selecting the perfect outer cloth and fabric, with advice that is still true today.

Choose the perfect cloth

One of the first things to think about in buying a suit is the outer cloth - how it looks and feels. An expert, whose fingers through long experience have become sensitive to quality, can judge cloth with more or less accuracy by feel and appearance. But for the average person feel and over-all appearance may be deceiving. Modern manufacturing can and does make cloth that feels and looks better than it is.

This ability to assess the quality of fabric is essential in the age of the mass-produced suit. The guide focuses on US wool labelling law, but its advice is clear - choose 100% wool from a tailor who knows where each of the bunches are produced. For instance, at Mullen & Mullen we pride ourselves on providing the highest quality woollen fabrics, all made of what the guide calls 'virgin wool'.

Pages 6 and 7 feature a superb overview of fabrics, which is useful if you’ve ever wondered what words such as sharkskin, serge, cheviot, and tropical worsted mean.

The 1949 Check List on Fit
The guide concludes with a fascinating checklist on fit - still accurate for those seeking an traditional conservative suit.


  • Collar sets up smooth and close to the back and sides of neck. Made so one-fourth to one-half inch of the shirt collar shows

  • Firm unbroken shoulder line from neck to shoulder point

  • Lapels and neck line hold close to the chest at all times

  • Easy, smooth fit though the body of the coat - not noticeably disturbed as you move about. No strain as coat is buttoned.

  • Coat long enough to cover the seat of the trousers

  • Armholes comfortably large, but not so deep that the coat lifts noticeably as your reach

The Trousers
  • Hang straight, with creases straight up and down front and back.

  • Comfortable seat fullness, without bagginess

  • No wrinkles that draw through the crotch below the suit or against the front of the legs as you stand or walk.

You can download the book by clicking here.