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If you’ve got plans for a Halloween party, cosplay, or some other type of costume party, you can rock the house by playing the part of a prohibition-era gangster from the 1920s.
While these clothing styles might be 100 years old, they are just as popular today as they were in the roaring 20s.
How do you dress up a gangster suit so you look authentic?
We’ve got everything you need to pull off the 1920s gangster look right here.
What Did 1920 Gangsters Wear?
Anyone can put on a three-piece suit and say they are Al Capone, but if you really want to look authentic, it’s not just the suits but also the accessories pulling everything together.
Take a look at an episode of Peaky Blinders if you want to know what 1920s gangsters really looked like. There is some real inspiration there!
Notice the fedora hats? The chalk stripe suits? The gold watch chain draped across the vest? All of these details mattered to gangsters, so you should check out all the accessories that need to go along with the suit.
- Related Posts: 1920’s Men’s Outfits
Did Women Wear a Gangster Suit?
Oh no! Women in the 1920s also had their own brand of fashion (see Great Gatsby Upper Class 20s Fashion ). Think slinky, short, and sparkly!
Even the wives and lovers of 1920s gangsters (who were called “molls”) wore the most fashionable clothing of the times.
Many of these young women were called flappers ( read more on flappers in the 1920s ), who rejected their mothers’ mantra that women should be wives and mothers and should stay at home.
Women wore lots of sparkly, fringe-covered dresses that were considered quite short at the time.
Let’s not forget headwear! The cloche hat was popular, but for nighttime excursions to a party or a speakeasy, women frequently wore headbands with rhinestones and/or feathers.
You can find a large number of costume party-ready, 1920s-inspired women’s clothing here.
Costume Party 1920s Gangster Suits
Men’s suits have changed very little in the past 100 years. Vests were a staple in the 1920s, and while they are no longer popular, you’ll still find them worn occasionally even today.
It’s all about the accessories, but to pull off your gangster costume, you should start with the suit itself.
Pin-striped suits (which are very thin stripes) are more common today than in 1920s, and most people will not notice the difference.
This suit is perfect for a gangster costume. While it lacks a vest, if you leave the jacket buttoned up, no one will know you aren’t wearing one.
Perfect 1920s Gantster Attire Accessories
Don’t you love some of the accessories that you can buy to match this suit? There are so many great options you can get to add to you outfit which will ensure you stand out from the crowd at your next event!
If you want to be as authentic as possible for your cosplay performance, this is the suit for you. Known in the 1920s as chalk stripes, these suits have a wider stripe than the traditional pinstripe, and all the popular gangsters wore these suits.
This outfit has a fake shirt front and attached tie, so all you really need are shoes and a fedora hat to complete the look.
We love the double-breasted look this suit has. You might add a cigar and a fake scar to convince everyone that you are the reincarnation of old Al Capone.
Are you a plus-sized gangster? Don’t worry, you can find plenty of extra-large sizes in these gangster suits so you can play your part while looking great!
While white suits are considered to be very 1970s disco-era clothing, in the 1920s, gangsters loved their white suits!
This outfit has the jacket, pants, and tie, so all you need to add are a few accessories such as a white dress shirt and fedora hat.
You might want to think about wearing some spats for this outfit and a gold chain for extra pizzazz.
Don’t forget a fedora hat. No self-respecting gangster would wear a white suit without their fedora!
This gangster costume has it all!
If you want to look like Al Capone’s twin brother, you can’t go wrong with this fashionable outfit.
This suit has the jacket, pants, shirt, and button-on suspenders. The chalk stripe is dead-on with the 1920s fashion of the time. Add a cigar, fedora, shoes, and a toy gun and you will be rocking this gangster suit.
Ok, while women in these days wouldn’t dream of wearing a suit like this, for our modern-day costume parties, no one is going to complain.
This 3-piece ensemble would be perfect for a Bonnie-and-Clyde look or just matching gangster suits for your party.
To really go all out, you might want to put some fake money in your bra that peeks out or let the cash flow out of your pockets. Some fake cash is a daring accessory no one will expect!
You could wear two-toned shoes with this or just go with some super high heels for a sexy look.
For those of you who take your other side seriously, this is the suit for you.
This isn’t a costume for play but a true 1920s gangster 3-piece suit that you can alter to fit you perfectly.
This pinstriped brown suit is exactly what a gangster would have asked for. They loved dark colors but weren’t so fond of black.
You will love this 3-piece vested suit that will emulate your 1920s gangster vision of yourself. All you need is a matching tie, dark shirt, fedora hat, and shoes to pull it together!
Get ready for some compliments when you show up wearing this gangster classic!
Accessories to Match Your Gangster Suit
No gangster attire would be complete without the following accessories:
1. A fedora hat.
Either white with a black band or black with a white band. Both were popular. You can even pair these with matching bands, such as a white hat with a white band when wearing a white suit.
2. A collar pin.
Don’t confuse this with a tie pin. A tie pin was used to keep a tie flat and in place. It was placed near the center of the tie. A collar pin was made to hold the collar in place. It went strategically underneath the knot of the tie and pushed it forward, making it more pronounced. A collar pin looks similar to a big gold safety pin, but it can make a big difference in your appearance.
3. A square knot.
Also known as a handkerchief, this was folded up neatly and was seen poking out of the jacket pocket. While this piece is often overlooked in modern-day suits, it was a very important detail to the gangster. A silk handkerchief was used either in a contrasting color or in a matching color. It would not be uncommon to see a gangster’s suspenders, tie, and handkerchief all match.
4. A boutonniere.
If you don’t want to go with the handkerchief, a boutonniere was also acceptable, especially if it was a more formal occasion or if you were meeting with a lady. This can be a real flower pinned to the lapel of the suit or a fake flower.
5. A pocket watch or gold chain.
Nearly every gangster owned a gold pocket watch. This was before wristwatches were popular. The gold watch would be placed in a vest pocket on one side, then the chain looped through a buttonhole in the vest and attached to the opposite side of the vest.
This allowed everyone to see that you owned an expensive gold watch without the risk of losing it. If you don’t own a gold watch, a strategically placed chain will make people believe that you own a gold watch.
Other ideas include a cigar, a fake gun, suspenders, sleeve garters, and spats.
Add as many or as few accessories as you like to give yourself an authentic gangster look.
1. What were some gangster nicknames?
Many gangsters in the 1920s had nicknames that referred to the type of weapon a mobster preferred (such as Ice Pick Willie or Joe Batters) or something about their looks (Scar-Face Capone or Pretty Boy Floyd) or sometimes nicknames were earned by what a gangster bought or was known for (such as Cadillac Frank or Shacks).
2. How did gangsters behave?
Before Prohibition in 1920, most people thought of gangsters as thugs, thieves, and small-time hoodlums. Gangsters took advantage of the Prohibition’s restrictions to sell illegal alcohol. This made them rich nearly overnight.
Their newfound wealth allowed these mobsters to behave like their old-money counterparts. In public, they were charming, amusing, generous, and likable. In private, they were murdering monsters who ruled with an iron fist.
3. Who were the biggest gangsters in the 1920s?
There’s a long list of gangsters from this era. The biggest was Al “Scar Face” Capone. However, there were plenty of other notorious bad guys around, including Pretty Boy Floyd, John Dillinger, Machine Gun Kelly, Dutch Schultz, and the infamous couple, Bonnie and Clyde.
Written by Kerry Wisby – GatsbyFlapperGirl.com
Owner & Founder of GatsbyFlapperGirl.com
Kerry Wisby, a former teacher with a BA in English, is the founder of GatsbyFlapperGirl.com. With a passion for all things 1920s, including The Great Gatsby novel, her website is the ultimate source for Roaring Twenties fashion, history, and party ideas. Read more about Kerry here.