Lowe's Suit

Contributed by: Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences

Suit - Full View Detail of back pocket on trousers. Detail of fastening around trouser waist Lowes Ltd. label on the inside of the jacket Detail of buttons and pocket on jacket. Lowe's Ltd Label
  • Australian dress register ID:

    475
  • Owner:

    Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences
  • Owner registration number:

    2001/38/1
  • Date range:

    1950
  • Place of origin:

    Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
  • Gender:

    Male
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Object information

Significance statement

Part of a donation of three pinstriped wool business suits dating from 1950. Two are labelled Lowes Ltd, the third has either been copied from the Lowes suits or was made elsewhere and used as a pattern for the Lowes suits.These suits are excellent and complete examples of men's business suits from the 1950s. The menswear industry was and remains a fairly staid and traditional one with the basic shape of the business suit remaining unchanged for decades - as demonstrated by comparison with Ted Docker's Wool Suit (ID 388) from the 1930s. The emphasis has been on creating classic, functional clothing. The details of lapel size, pocket style, trouser width and number of buttons have been the major focus of any style changes. As the central garment in many men's wardrobes the suit's styling has been devised to evoke power and authority as well as confidence and stability hence the broad padded shoulders and narrow hip, the sensible no-nonsense styling, the heavy dark fabrics and the use of vertical pinstripes to elongate the male silhoette.

These suits also demonstrate how Lowe's Ltd. combined traditional tailoring with modern methods of mass production in the manufacture of clothing. In the first half of the 20th century Lowes provided the customer with a choice of suit styles which could then be tailored to measure, as this suit was produced specifically for Mr K. Smith. These suits also illustrate the close connection between manufactuing and retail in Australia during the first half of the 20th century; the product being made and sold by the same company; a rare phenomenon in the present retail environment.

These suits are also significant due to their documented provenance. A label on the inside of the jacket indicated that these suits were manufactured for Mr. K. Smith, was eventually discarded by him and came into the possession of Kendell Bamfield, who donated them to the Powerhouse Museum. Mr. Bamfield purchase of these suits in the 1990s from a second-hand clothing store also demonstrate the continuing popularity of second-hand clothing for its 'retro' status, despite the easy availability of new cheap clothing.

Author: Amy Butterfield, .

Description

Business Suit, Men's designed and made by Lowe's Ltd. Australia, 1950. Consists of two pieces: one double-breasted jacket and a pair of tailored trousers. Both pieces are brown wool with a red and white pinstrip pattern, and the jacket is lined in brown rayon.

The jacket is fitted over the waist and the hips with square padded shoulders, turned-down collar and wide lapels, falling to mid-thigh. There are two rows of three button left and right, down the front of the jacket and a flower button hole on the left lapel. There are also three buttons on each cuff. There are four pockets: two flap pockets at the hips, and an angled welt pocket on the left chest and a welt pocket to the right on the inside of the jacket.

The shape of the trousers in straight and loose-fitting, with cuffs at the hem. The waist is pleated at the front, and has adjustable tabs at the sides which fasten with a metal buckle. There are two slash pockets on each hip. The centre-front fly fastens with five dark-brown plastic buttons and extended tab at the waist fastening with two dark-brown plastic buttons.

Link to further information about this object

History and Provenance

How does this garment relate to the wider historical context?

Established in 1898 by Irish immigrant William Lowe, Lowes Menswear has been manufacturing and retailing menswear and boyswear in Australia for over 100 years. Throughout that time they have remained Australian owned and have maintained their original formula of providing clothing at an affordable price, 'Lowes sell it for less' (Lowes advertising 1920s). William Lowe was apparently a firm believer in the power of advertising and even in the early 20th century Lowes was known for its controversial and sometimes risque promotions. A 1920s ad proclaims 'William Lowe has dropped his trousers, come and see his goat.' Lowes later use of 'ordinary bloke' models drawn from top Australian Rugby League teams (including 'Fatty' Vautin and 'Blocker' Roach) continued this larrakin mode and they received several advertising awards in the 1980s.

  1. Place of origin:

    Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

  2. Owned by:

    Originally owned by 'K. Smith' as indicated by the label on the inside of the breast pocket. Purchased by the last owner, Mr. Kendell Bamfield (who donated the suit) from a second hand clothing store.

  3. Designed by:

    Lowes Ltd.

  4. Made by:

    Lowes Ltd.

Trimmings / Decoration

On the jacket each cuff has three buttons. Left lapel also has flower-buttonhole.

Trousers have turned-up cuffs.

Fibre / Weave

Jacket is worsted brown wool, with white and red stripe pattern.

Jacket body and sleeves lined with brown rayon.

Trousers are worsted brown wool, with same white and red stripe pattern. Unlined.

  1. Natural dye
  2. Synthetic dye

Manufacture

Manufactured by Lowe's Ltd. The customer would have selected the style and fabric and the suit would have been tailored to his measurements. Manufacture date: 1950.

Label

Two labels. Black and yellow fabric label located on the inside, centre back at neck: 'Lowe's Ltd/SYDNEY AND BRANCHES'. White and blue fabric label in inside pockets 'MADE BY/LOWE'S LTD/504-514 GEORGE ST/STYDNEY AND BRANCHES/MR K. SMITH/74618 12 7 50'

  1. Hand sewn
  2. Machine sewn
  3. Knitted
  4. Other

Cut

  1. Bias
  2. Straight

Fastenings

Jacket fastened with two buttons across the chest.

Trousers are fastened at front with six buttons. Adjustable tabs at the waist on the left and right side. Inside the waistband there are six buttons for attaching braces.

  1. Hook and eye
  2. Lacing
  3. Buttons
  4. Zip
  5. Drawstring

Stiffening / Lining / Padding

Shoulders are lightly padded.

Measurements

jacket trousers
Girth
Chest 1010 mm
Waist 960 mm 770 mm
Hip 1008 mm 1259 mm
Cuff 318 mm 354 mm
Hem circumference 1115 mm
Vertical
Back neck to hem 788 mm
Sleeve length 649 mm
Inside leg 818 mm
Outside leg 1127 mm
Horizontal
Neck to sleeve head 138 mm
Cross back 392 mm
Underarm to underarm 553 mm
Convert to inches

Zipper  (fly) 323mm

Dress Themes

Suit is a good example of working-class clothing. Also demonstrates how Lowe's in its manufacturing process combined both tailoring and mass production to produce items of clothing previously confined to the middle-classes, for working-class costumes.

Condition

State

  1. Excellent
  2. Good
  3. Fair
  4. Poor

Damage

  1. Discolouration
  2. Holes
  3. Mould stains

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