1991’s The Rocketeer is one of the few films to feature Timothy Dalton in well-tailored 20th century clothing. Since the film takes place in 1938, what Dalton wears is more costume rather than clothing. However, not all of the clothing is accurate to the late 1930s. Dalton plays movie star and Nazi villain Neville Sinclair, who wears a muted dark purple dinner jacket that is fitting for his character. Purple is quite an unusual colour for a dinner jacket, but it’s not unusual for a smoking jacket, an ancestor of the dinner jacket. I don’t know if purple dinner jackets were popular in the late 1930s, but purple had seen a rise in popularity a few years before The Rocketeer was made. Jack Nicholson famously wore a purple suit as the joker in Batman two years earlier, and Miami Vice popularised purple and lavender clothes for men. A purple dinner jacket is less formal than the traditional black or midnight blue jacket, which makes it an acceptable—but nevertheless flashy—choice for a night out as Sinclair wears his.
The purple dinner jacket is cut with straight shoulders, roped sleeveheads and a clean chest. The jacket is full-cut, but it still fits well and isn’t a size too large like the jackets in Licence to Kill are. The jacket drapes elegantly without any extra folds of cloth. The wide, dark purple silk peaked lapels elegantly roll down to the jacket’s single button. The buttons are covered in the same dark purple silk that the lapels are faced in. The jacket has no vent, jetted pockets and three buttons on the cuffs. The black trousers have double reverse pleats and the traditional black silk stripe down each leg.
The black brocade waistcoat is one of the least historically-correct parts of this outfit. The waistcoat has five buttons with the bottom left open, peaked lapels and a full collar. A proper evening waistcoat, which is low-cut with three or four buttons, would have been worn at the time rather than a high-buttoning daytime-style waistcoat in a fancy evening cloth. Sinclair’s white-on-white stripe dress shirt has a point collar, double cuffs and a placket with two black onyx studs. His bow tie is black barathea silk in a batwing shape. His shoes are patent leather.
Sinclair also wears a red boutonnière pinned to his lapel. Besides looking unsightly, pinning a boutonnière to a silk lapel can easily damage the facing. Ideally, the boutonnière’s stem should be stuck through the lapel’s buttonhole and held in place by a loop sewn on the back of the lapel. One should only resort to pinning a boutonnière when the lapel has no buttonhole. But there is a buttonhole hiding behind Sinclair’s boutonnière, so he has no excuse for pinning it to his lapel.