Rick Seddon wrote:
> When Virginia Woolf said was quoted by Christopher Durer in The latest
> society newsletter "Tom was very nice despite his 'four-piece suit'".
> The words "four piece suit" are Woolf's the rest Durer, what did she
> mean by the four pieces. Coat, trousers, vest okay but what is the
That was tough to find on the web but I gave it a shot (so many of my
weird combination of search terms keep coming up with hundreds of hits
on band names.)
Men's suits, previously a four piece deal with vest, jacket, and two
pairs of pants, turned into just a jacket and a pair of pants. The suits
were usually broad shouldered with wide lapels, along with jackets
sporting the double breasted look. Mixing and matching became stylish in
this era. [the 40's]
>From the following web page and the context of the Woolf quote that Rick
sent along I get a suspicion that that a man "wearing a four-piece suit"
was a way to describe a very proper, straight laced man. Marcia, you
have access to an on-line OED don't you? (BTW - An individual
subscription to the on-line OED is about $500 a year.)
THE MAN WHO WORE A FOUR-PIECE SUIT
Date: November 20, 1983, Sunday, Late City Final Edition Section 7;
Page 3, Column 1; Book Review Desk
Byline: By William Pritchard
Wallace Stevens Remembered. An Oral Biography. By Peter Brazeau.
Illustrated. 330 pp. New York: Random House. $19.95.
WHAT was Wallace Stevens really like? What sort of man was this poet who
served as vice president of the Hartford Accident and Indemnity Company
while composing lines like: Life is a bitter aspic. We are not At the
centre of a diamond. At dawn, The paratroopers fall and as they fall
They mow the lawn.
ALTOGETHER Mr. Brazeau's book is a mine of new phrases through which we
try to fix for a moment this ''very eccentric man,'' this ''crafty,
marvelous genius'' (in John Brinnin's words). ''He was a man who wore a
four-piece suit,'' says William Cole. My own favorite phrase is by
Richard Wilbur, who describes him, on one occasion, as ''behaving like
the noblest sort of traveling salesman.'' Stevens was the man who, when
a Trinity College professor called up to ask whether he could bring
Archibald MacLeish (then head of the Library of Congress) out to see
him, replied, ''Well, I don't think you'd better. Tell him when he gets
a reputation I'll be glad to see him.''
I don't think Woolf was thinking about this men's four-piece suit: