What To Wear To Inaugural Events (in 1969)

Plenty of Washingtonians will spend inaugural weekend re-learning how to tie a bow tie or remembering to stash comfortable shoes for late-night post-Ball hijinks.  What to wear?  It’s always a question — for those shelling out big bucks for balls and for the junior staffers whose hard work on the campaign trail will be rewarded with the expense of tuxedo rentals and Rent The Runway gowns.  Let’s take a look at some guidance on appropriate attire for 1969.

Here is a memo prepared by Clement E. Conger, Protocol Assistant to the Chairman of the Inaugural Committee for Richard Nixon. (That’s right, gentlemen.  Velvet collars were optional for your swearing-in outer wear.)

Inaugural Committee memo via Richard Nixon Presidential Library
Inaugural Committee memo via Richard Nixon Presidential Library

So… what exactly is a “Club Coat,” the required attire for gentlemen at the inaugural ceremony?  Another memo provided a definition and recommended a supplier in the District.

- click image for more -
Nixon Library
Via Richard Nixon Presidential Library

About Aaron M.

Originally from Philadelphia, Aaron Myers has lived and worked in D.C. for most of the last 15 years. He's a graduate of George Washington University and a resident of the Dupont Circle neighborhood. Follow him on Twitter at @aaronemyers.

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  • Publius Washingtoniensis

    Lewis and Thomas Saltz were the premier locally-owned Washington haberdashers for many years. Their comfortable, clubby,Tudor-style store was at 1409 G Street, N.W. the facade may still be in place. Later stores on K Street and other locations never had the same cachet as the original. they carried high quality ready-made suits — Hickey Freeman, etc. It would have been natural to recommend Saltz for gentleman’s attire appropriate for the inaugural. Attire for all inaugural ceremonies was cutaway/tail coats for gentlemen through 1953, when Ike changed to club coats. The only prior exception I know of was 1945, due to wartime expedience and FDR’s failing health. John Kennedy received plaudits for returning to tail coats in 1961, but LBJ went to business suits in 1965. Nixon returned to the club coat for 1969 and 1973, but Jimmy Carter returned to business suits in 1977. Reagan wore a club coat in 1981, but since `985, business suits have been standard attire for all presidential inaugurals. Here endeth the lesson.