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The Custom Tailor Made Formal Wear And Suits


March 18th, 2002


 

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If a man’s suit ranks as the most articulate garment in the language of cloths, them his formal wear should guarantee sartorial eloquence. Due to the ritual surrounding the way it is worn and what accompanies it, formal wear’s original spirit has been relatively well preserved. The simple combination of richly textures black accented by fresh white contrasts bespeaks refinement. And so it is that this last vestige of upper-class attire continues to live on in the dinner jacket, with its comforting certainly that all men look good in it.
Acquiring high-pedigree dinner clothes represent s one of the more difficult challenges facing today’s male consumer. That is not because, as with neckwear or sportswear, its variety can overwhelm one; rather it is because truly classic dinner clothes are difference from his normal business attire the average man is prepared to accept in his dinner clothes. This not only applies to commercially produced tuxedos, but to the majority of expensively hand-tailored ones offered in fine specially stores as well. In some cases, straying from the archetype particular trimmings and therefore more labor. Often, however, its lack of pedigree is a function of simple ignorance resulting from not having been sufficiently exposed to the genuine article.
In spite of male evening clothes being highly formulaic and regimented by their very nature, opportunities to observe this particular masculine attire being worn correctly today are surprisingly rare. Men swear designers offer their alternative buttoned-up and renditions for each year’s televised awards ceremonies. Most of the innovations they concoct are motivated by the desire for individuality and comfort, and the resulting confection usually turn out to be less than classic. The fact is that many men go to considerable effort to look special in a tuxedo when to do so is simply a matter of having the right information.
I feel that before one attempts to improvise in the ceremonial world of men’s evening attire, it’s important to understand the original design’s intention and aesthetic logic. Trying to improve upon its ordered predictability in an effort to achieve a more personal expression is to be encouraged. But to create something unique and stylish, one should base such decisions on practical knowledge, rather than personal opinion or ephemeral fashion.
Since the culmination of the dinner jacket’s final format in the late 1930s, nothing has improved upon the genius of its line or the refined aesthetics of its component furnishings. This does not mean that to own a fine tuxedo, one must have it cut or even tailored like those from the tuxedo’s heyday. It does mean that its modeling and detailing must respect the exquisite relationship of form and function that were worked out through the collaboration of English tailors and shirt makers with their fastidiously dressed customers of that stylish era. No other period could have produces such a success, because each step of the new form’s evolution was being compared to and measured by the perfection of the outfit it was intended to replace, the grand daddy of male refinement, the evening tailcoat and white tie. Not only did the tuxedo’s final form end up projecting the same level of stature and class as its starched progenitor, it did so while providing considerably more comfort.
I will introduce briefly the dinner jacket’s unusual history and its relationship to the tailcoat-and-white-tie ensemble, so that we may apply its rationale to selecting proper dinner clothes today. As W.Fowler said in his 1902 book, Matter of Manners, “The man who knows what to avoid is already the owner of style.”

THE HISTORY OF THE DINNER JACKET
Black Tie, Tuxedo

As the name suggests, the original dinner jacket was to be exactly that, a less formal dining ensemble for use exclusively in the privacy of one’s home or club. The original design was created during the mid-nineteenth century for the English prince who later became Edward VII. He decides there should be a comfortable alternative to the constricting swallowtail evening coat and bone-hard white-tie getup worn at the dinner table. The consensus is that the very first model of this shortened jacket must have been a rolled collar (shawl) double-breasted lounge suit in black worsted with grosgrain facing. The same design in velvet was worn as a smoking jacket by gentlemen at home, its grosgrain facings lifted from that of the tailcoat’s lapels. Victorian ladies did not smoke and insisted any husband who did should confine this activity to his den. The smoking jacket could then be left there, in situ, so as not to radiate the noxious fumes around the rest of the house.
Edward’s dinner jacket was admired by the husband of an American houseguest visiting him at Sandringham, his country estate, and the man asked the prince if he could copy it. Edward consented and the American brought the innovation back to his millionaires’ club in Tuxedo park, New York. In 1886, one Griswald Lorillard, sporting his version to the club’s autumn ball, scandalized his hostess and hastened his departure, but forever established the jacket’s place alongside the tailcoat-and-white-tie ensemble.
From the point in the late nineteenth century up through the early days of the 1920s known as the golden age of the British gentleman, black-tie attire continued as an option at home or in a men’s club. However, for an evening in public, white-tie remained the dress of choice by polite society. The 1920s produced men wear’s first unofficial designer, the new arbiter of fashion, David, the Prince of Wales, who was later crowned as Edward VIII but is better known by the title he took after his 1936 abdication, the Duke of Windsor. Clothes-conscious and bit of a maverick, he was determined to throw off the stuff formally of his father’s generation of court-ruled attire and make clothes more comfortable for himself and his fellow aristocrats.
The prince often arrived for dinner in dinner coat and black tie when everyone else was decked out in full tails. Sometimes he would wear a lounge-coat-like double-breasted dinner jacket with silk facings on the lapels or he would take the pique dress vest from the tailcoat outfit and wear it with a single-breasted dinner jacket. Before giving up the throne, he abdicated the boiled-front evening shirt and its separate stiff wing collar, replacing them with a soft, pleated-front dinner shirt and its attached soft turndown collar. He devised a backless a waistcoat with lapels to wear in warmer climes. Although he was not the first to wear it, he helped popularize midnight blue for dinner clothes, which by artificial light looked richer than black. By the end of the 1930s, with his international coterie of friends adopting such elegant comfort in public, the dinner jacket, an amalgam of the tailcoat and lounge suit, began to replace the swallowtail dress coat and white tie.

WHITE TIE AND TAILS

The king of all male civilian garments is the evening tailcoat. Its long tails confer dignity while its starched white expanse of pique waistcoat, shirt, and tie flatter even the most rubicund of faces. The evening tailcoat has changed very little in the two hundred years since it was a riding coat. Its major alteration occurred when its double-breasted model was altered so it no longer buttoned in front. The single-breasted cutaway retained the button stance from the double-breasted model, as it does today. The outfit was, and still is, pretty straightforward, entailing very little choice in either color or detail. All that was needed was to tailor its established proportions to magic turned average men into movie stars.
The outfit consisted of white pique bow tie and matching stiff white pique-front evening shirt with attachable wing collar, worn with a single- or double-breasted pique vest, black worsted swallowtail coat, and matching trousers trimmed with two rows of braids on the outside of each leg. Black silk hose worn under patent leather oxfords or opera pumps with grosgrain bows completed the uniform. A white linen handkerchief with hand-rolled edges graces the breast pocket, while a colored carnation as boutonniere was optional. The only dressing errors egregious enough to scuttle its perfection were if the waistcoat’s points extended below those of the tailcoat’s front (a common occurrence today) or if the length of the coat’s tails were not resting exactly in line with the back of the man’s knees.

THE WHITE-TIE EVENING SHIRT

The pique-front evening shirt had a separate stiff wing collar whose shape evolves from turning down the corners of a stiff Beau Brummell fashion. The white pique bow tie was made to exact neck sizes, so that in addition to covering the exposed metal head of the front and back collar studs, the bow’s intended width was fixed.
The wing collar sat high under the chin, giving extraordinary stature and definition to the face and chin. Its high back was to show ¾” above the jacket’s collar, or ¼” higher than the black-tie’s more comfortable turndown collar. The collar’s wings helped to keep the pique bow in place by pressing it forward. The angle of the opening and height of the collar determined the style and size of the bow tie. The outer edges of the bow never finished outside the edges of the wing collar. This boilerplate guide for all bow-tie wear was established during that time and is respected even today.
Complementing the wing collar, the evening shirt’s sleeve took single, stiff cuffs that, like the collar’s height, were intended to show more than the softer French-style double cuffs of the black-tie dress shirt. The “boiled” shirtfront look took one or two studs, and the type of stud fastener determined the size and shape of the opening through which it connected with the stud’s head, thus covering any evidence of the shirt’s construction. The shirt’s bosom, a biblike design in stiff linen or pique, was to fit so that its width did not extend under the trouser’s suspenders, and its length was to stop short of the trouser’s waistband. Because of its stiff front, if you sat down without it being secured to the trouser, it would billow out like a sail in full wind. A tab with buttonhole affixed the shirt to a special button in the trouser’s waistband, keeping it in place and worry-free.
For all of this arithmetic to add up, the dress trouser needed to fit on the natural waist and not below it. This was accomplished with the help of suspenders (termed “braces” in the King’s English). Without a high-waisted fit, the vest would not cover the bottom part of the shirt’s bib and have its points finish above those of the tailcoat. With all of these studs, straps, and buttons needing to be a form of Victorian bondage. In fact, when the clothes were tailored correctly, they were both comfortable to wear and moved in graceful with the wearer.
Most of these design were transformed and worked into the classic tuxedo’s final composition. Thus the stiff white-tie and “boiled” shirtfront gave way to the black-tie’s softer lines without compromising its formal look, and so on. Let’s move on and consider this information as it applies to today’s black-tie dressing.

DINNER JACKET DOGMA – THE DETAILS
Weight

Most formal affairs are held indoors, Where central heating and air conditioning insure comfortable temperature. So most men prefer a fabric weight that provides comfort for more than a single season. Unfortunately, contrary to popular opinion, there is no such thing as a year-round weight; no cloth can both warm you in the frost of winter and cool you in the heat of summer. However, a fine worsted cloth of nine to ten ounces will get one through most climate-controlled environments rather handsomely. Since most affairs include dancing and dining, when in doubt, err on the lighter side. While your dinner jacket may never drape like the gravity-prone, fourteen-ounce ones worn in the old movies, you should not have to suffer in pursuit of elegance either. If you wear a dinner jacket frequently enough to justify owning more than one, a choice of weights will certainly expand your style and comfort quotient. You could drop to a lighter, seven-and-a-half- or eight-ounce fabric for summer wear and move up to a fuller eleven- or twelve-ounce weight for fall and winter.

Model

A man of any size, shape, or weight can look stylish in a double-breasted tuxedo; it just depends on how it is cut. Both single- and double-breasted models are equally authentic and correct. The single-breasted model in worn unbuttoned, requiring its exposed waistband to be covered by a cummerbund or dress vest, and providing more opportunities for accessories and thus versatility. The double-breasted model relieves you of this additional layer around the waist, but the jacket looks better buttoned when the wearer is standing. Men tend to unbutton it when seated, so this model ends up being fussed with more than its single-breasted counterpart. A double-breasted dinner coat is never worn with a vest or cummerbund underneath.

Color

Black is the norm, while midnight blue with black trimmings is also worn, Midnight blue comes across less green and more rich in artificial light than black; however, such a garment is rarely offered in the ready-to-wear world. In America, between the beginning of the summer season, June 1, and the end of august, an off-white or tan-colored dinner jacket may be worn. On trips to the South or warmer climates. These light-colored jacket are perfectly acceptable throughout the year.

Lapels

Only shawl or peaked lapels are used for dinner clothes. Peaked derive its heritage from the tailcoat, shawl from the smoking jacket. The shawl lapel produces a softer, old-world image and tends to be used on alternative tuxedo jackets such as the white summer dinner jacket, velvet smoking coat, or more idiosyncratic ones in wool tartan or cotton madras. Men with round faces or less muscular physiques generally look smarter in the uplifting, sharper-angles, pointed-end peaked lapel. Both lapels possess the sweep and self-importance that helps differentiate the black-tie coat from the less formal suit jacket.
A dinner jacket with notch lapels is a sartorial oxymoron, like sporting a dinner shirt with a button-down collar. (Actually, I’ve seen this done as a kind of tongue-in-cheek old-boy eccentricity.) Not only does this sportier coat lapel design lack the aesthetic logic and refinement required of formal wear, its casualness makes the rest of the ensemble look common and less dignified.
All dinner jacket lapels require a working buttonhole on the breast pocket side for a boutonniere. Many times, one finds himself in a wedding party or other official circumstances as an usher where he is asked to wear a flower. There is nothing more sophomoric-looking than having to pin one on the lapel. It makes this one flourish of tailcoat 鬡n appear clown like.
Custom-made dinner clothes pay even more attention to the buttonhole area by sewing a loop as a stem keeper under the lapel. You could ask the store if they could cut a buttonhole in the dinner jacket’s lapel, although they will probably discourage you. It takes a qualified tailor to correctly determine its proper location and to execute a well-finished buttonhole through the silk-faced lapel. It is done all the time in custom clothes, however, and even if the buttonhole is machine-made, the boutonniere will cover it up. The buttonhole should be no less than one inch in length.

Pockets

The tuxedo pocket must be dressy, yet simple. There is really only one type that should appear on the dinner jacket and that is the jetted or double besom pocket. Besom pockets can be of self fabric, as on a dressy day suit, or trimmed in the lapel’s silk facing. Flap pockets belong with notch lapel; neither were ever intended for formal clothes. While flap pockets are cheaper to make (as are notch lapels), they also add a layer of cloth to the thip, and are thus neither slimming nor simple enough for such elegant apparel. Just as you would not expect to find peaked lapel on a tweed sports jacket or cuffs on dinner trousers, you should not see pocket flabs on a dinner jacket.

Vents

The original dinner clothes were made vent less and then later offered with side vents. Vent less jackets are more slimming while side vents provide easier access to trouser pockets and are more comfortable to sit in, something one does a lot at formal occasions. Single vents are fine for horseback riding, as they open up, providing comfort while in the saddle. Unfortunately, They also open up when a man puts his hand in his coat or trouser pocket, exposing his back side as well as a patch of dress shirt. Single vents are acceptable on single-breasted coats, never on double-breasted ones, and with their sporting heritage, they compromise the intended formality of the tuxedo.



Trimmings

Because grosgrain or ribbed silk was originally used on tailcoats, this style of trimming has always been considered a bit more refined than the shinier, more theatrical satin. In the early days of off-the-peg English tuxedos, many carried satin facings, so the ribbed silk came to be identified with the Savile Row-made tuxedo. The best facing are made of pure silk, while less expensive ones contain a synthetic component. Shawl lapels look fine in satin or grosgrain. Grosgrain facings permit some contrast in textures for the bow tie, while satin facings demand the bow tie to match which, especially if not hand-tied, will produce a more contrived effect.
The dinner jacket’s buttons can be plain or covered in the lapel’s facing. Some of the more old-world custom tailor cover their dress buttons in a fine, woven silk design, which at first may look a bit fancy, but can be quite subtle and distinguished. Like the tailcoat and better lounge suit, the jacket sleeves are to be finished with four buttons, their edges touching. Forever buttons is not dressy enough, more is frivolous.

THE DINNER TROUSER

Pleated trouser are compatible with a cummerbund or waistcoat. Sitting is certainly a lot easier and more comfortable in pleated trouser than plain front. Their waistband must be covered, so they need to fit as high on the waist as is comfortable. Suspenders help to maintain their correct height, and keep their pleats lying flat under the waist covering. The side seams are trimmed with one band of facing (as opposed to white-tie, with two rows), which should confirm in texture to the lapel facings-satin for satin, braided for grosgrain.
Dinner trouser pockets are usually cut on the side seam. Vertical pockets are dressier and easier to get to, especially if their top section is partially covered by a weskit or cummerbund. Better dress vests have side slits to facilitate pocket access. Dress trousers never take cuffs. How could they with their side-seam decoration? A wonderful depiction of this tradition can be enjoyed watching the Fred Astaire classic Shall We Dance.

THE BLACK-TIE WAIST

Hardy Amies, the English tailor, would term it “naf or off,” while the legendary English fashion journalist George Frazier would certainly sigh and complain it lacked any duende (style) at all. A trimmed waistband, as a substitute for a waistcoat or cummerbund, is thoroughly “bush league,” to borrow a phrase from the days when this novelty was first introduced. Formal dress is ultimately about good form, and sometimes quick fixes that compromise such form need to be recognized as such and be avoided. The tailoring or finishing in high-class evening wear should be invisible, starting with the dress shirt’s stud hole and extending to the trouser’s waistband and side seam.
While shawl-lapel dinner jackets look elegant with either form of waistband covering, the cummerbund’s curved design harmonizes particularly well with this shape of lapel. A fine-quality cummerbund has a little pocket stitched behind its deepest pleat on the wearer’s right side. This was to provide a handy and dignified place to keep theater or opera tickets at the ready, which explains why the cummerbund is always worn with its folds pointing upwards. The single-breasted peaked-lapel jacket, like its sartorial antecedent, the evening tailcoat, synchronizes better with the dress waistcoat, as the vest’s points below the waist echo those of the coat lapels worn above the waist.

THE BLACK-TIE DRESS SHIRT
The Collar

Tow collar styles qualify as dignified enough to support the more formal design of the dinner jacket. The original, appropriated from the tailcoat ensemble, is the stiff wing collar. The second, introduced by the Duke of Windsor as a more comfortable alternative, is the attached semi spread, turndown model.
Both collars do justice to any of the classic dinner jacket models, but of all the possible permutations, the one combination that tends to look better balanced is the wing collar with the single-breasted peaked-lapel dinner jacket. Again, its dramatic points are in perfect harmony with the coat’s lapel design. Other than that particular combination, both collar styles are correct with either jacket or lapel style.
However, one of the more unfortunate casualties of the modernization of black-tie attire was the wing collar evening shirt. Its separate collar succeeded uniquely in framing and refining a man’s face because of its stiff, high, wing design presentation of the bow tie. Once attached to the shirt, it began to be lowered and softened to fit a broader range of necks, and lost not only its stature but also its function. In spite of its resurgent popularity, today’s wing-collar evening shirts make most men look like mad scientists, as with one twist of the neck, their collar points crumble and roll over the bow tie. They have little height, no snap, miniature wings, and not surprisingly, little presence, It’s no wonder that ideas such as a banded collar evening shirt with a fancy button closure is being substituted. At least it offers a modicum of interest in an area where the drama of the wing collar would have formerly have formerly upstaged all the competition.

Dinner Shirt Details

The less dressy turndown-collar dinner shirts usually have a soft pleated front. Sometimes they are made with a pique collar and matching front, called a Marcella dinner shirt. Since the wing-collar dress shirt commanded a more severe formality, it took a stiff and simple front, either in pique or starched cotton. Even though it is common to see today’s wing collar mated with a soft, pleated front, it is yet another example of mixing sartorial metaphors much like wearing a tassel loafer of patent leather. All fine dinner shirts should be made with a bib-type construction so their fronts do not billow out of the trouser tops when seated. Better dinner shirt fronts finish above the waistband and have a little tab that attaches to the trouser’s inside waist button to keep it from pilling up. The width of the shirtfront should not extend under the wearer’s suspenders. Wing collar shirts take one or two studs, turndown collars take two or three. Black-tie dinner shirts require a double to French cuff.

THE TUXEDO BOW TIE

The bow’s color and texture are governed strictly by the jacket’s lapel facing – satin for satin trimmings and a ribbed or pebble weaves variation for grosgrain facings. Its thistle or bat’s-wing shape is a matter of personal preference. The bow’s width should not extend beyond the outside edges of the collar’s wings or spread collar’s perimeter. Bow ties are always worn in front of the wing collar. The original collars were bone hard, and therefore it was impossible to place their parts over the bow.
Although the black-tie ensemble is a rather strict form dress, its bow tie and pocket-handkerchief offer some latitude for personal expression. They both look best done by hand, and a lack of perfection is desired. Humanizing the ensemble and making it appear more individual. Most men cringe at the very thought of having to knot their own bow, but it is rare to find a stylish man who has not overcome that fear. It is one element of formal wear that continues to separate the skilled dresser from those who are content to let the form wear them.

FORMAL FOOTWEAR

The most aristocratic and elegant of all evening footwear is the black calf opera pump with black grosgrain bow. The man’s pump, a word believed to derive from “pomp,” is the oldest surviving vestige of nineteenth-century court fashion still in popular use. Originally worn in concert with silk stockings and silk knee breeches, its somewhat effete image accounts for its being misunderstood by the more macho contemporary dresser. Today it can only be found at Polo Ralph Lauren or Paul Stuart in Japan. Still the favorite of the connoisseur, its slipper like club elegance bespeaks the unique character and upper-class heritage of black-tie attire. A more conventional alternative used to be correct shape; this shoe is quite classy in its own right.
The ideal ankle wrapping to augment all this polished swellegance is the black silk, over-the-calf or garter length hose with a self or contrasting clock design down either side. The silk’s dulled luster echoes the understated sheen of the trouser’s side braid while enriching the dulled matte surface of the surrounding worsted trouser and black calf shoe. The silk’s surface also repeats the texture of the opera pump’s grosgrain bow, adding the relief of illumination at the end of a long stretch of dark black worsted.

COLLECTIBLE TUXEDO ACCESSORIES

In aspiring to make your formal attire appear less penguin like, it is very easy to end up gilding the lily rather than personalizing it. The idea is to accent the composition of black and white with a single flourish of spice, a pinch of dissonance. The safest strategy is to replace one element in the arrangement with either a third color to two-color pattern, leaving the rest to keep the structure pulled together.
The best colors are those rich enough to hold their own against the severity of black and white, such as bottle green, burgundy, Vatican purple, deep gold, or dark red. If a pattern is chosen, it should be a recognizable classic such as polka dot or hounds tooth, or tatters all in two colors with black as one of them (that is, black and red, black and gold, or even just black and white) . The ideal position for this dollop of panache is where it can be surrounded by black and thus integrated more into the whole. A vest, cummerbund, dress shirt, and pocket square all have enough dark color framing them to pull an alternative design into the composition. Some men choose patterned hose as their expression of personal badinage, but that is best left to the more assured dresser.
Less recommended, but by far the more practiced, is the contrast bow tie. However, if the ensemble’s only discordant item is located directly under the chin, it ends up either distracting from or competing with the desired focal point, the wearer’s face – something to be avoided at any level of formality.
Matched sets – such as bow ties and cummerbunds – should be shunned. The introduction of more than one contrasting accessory dilutes the form’s symmetry, forcing the eye to move from one to another, thereby breaking down its whole into smaller, less important pieces. The black-tie ensemble is already regimented and predictable; adding coordinates that make you appear even more prepackages not only suggests the wearer’s lack of sophistication, but produces an effect of something more akin to gift wrapping. Proust said that elegance in never far away from simplicity, and that thought is especially applicable in accessorizing one’s black-tie attire.

BLACK-TIE ALTERNATIVES
(TO BE USED ONE AT A TIME)

Dinner Jackets

1. Single- or double-breasted velvet smoking jacket in bottle green, black, dark brown, or burgundy, with or without frog closings, with or without silk facings.
2. Black-watch tartan, printed silk foulard, madras, solid silk, in a single- or double-breasted shawl collar with self-facing.
3. For summer, off-white or Sahara tan, Panama weave, single- or double-breasted, self-faced shawl collar dinner jacket with midnight blue dress trousers.

Dinner Shirts

1. Spread-collar, pleated-front, high-count cotton or silk broadcloth in cream, medium blue, or gold/yellow.
2. Any classically styled turndown-collar dinner shirt in black and white color scheme such as gingham check, tartan, black polka dot on white ground, or striped black-and-white horizontal front.

Footwear

1. Black velvet Prince Albert slipper with embroidery or wearer’s initials.
2. Black crocodile or lizard opera pump with black bow.
3. Black velvet patent-leather-trimmed Belgian dress slipper.

ALTERNATIVE ACCESSORY
Handkerchiefs

1. The finest hand-rolled white English, French, or Swiss linen handkerchief affordable.
2. Printed foulard in black ground with white motif in design such as polka dot, tatters all, plaid, or other classic pattern. Its edges must be hand-rolled.
3. The above foulard in black/gold, black/dark green, black/red, or black/purple color combination.
4. Hand-rolled linen or cotton in white ground with simple or fancy black border, black and white, check or plaid.

Waistcoats

1. The dress vest model should be single-breasted with shawl collar, three-button, full-back or backless construction. Better ones have an elastic loop for fastening to the trouser’s front, and a longer back with vents on the sides.
2. Black ground silk foulard printed in paisley, polka dot, small plaid, or other elegant motif.
3. Small geometric Macclesfield woven design in black ground pattern. Fabric should have a slight sheen such as a dulled satin effect. Small figures, checks, paisley, repp stripe, or black moir鮍

MODERN TUXEDO FASHION

If the invitation reads black-tie, and the desire is to effect a less traditional, more contemporary look, one must move to the softer and more chic side of the fashion spectrum. This means replacing the starched high contrast of black-and-white attire with something less buttoned-up and self-consciously stiff.
The popular fashion for wearing one dark color from head to toe quickly separates one from the well-scrubbed mix-and-match crowd. Introducing softness into formal wear automatically helps to make it more casual and less authoritarian. By combining the more feminine element of shape and texture with the rich historical trimmings of male formal wear; tuxedo dressing can take on a modern mien. I will offer one example and elaborate on its potential applications.
The most important item around which to construct any ensemble is the jacket. If designed well, it affords more options to dressing up or dressing down an outfit than any other kind of garment. The most versatile model for the man is the double-breasted peaked-lapel with its six-on-two button stance. If the model is to function as the centerpiece around which touches are to be added, its silhouette can be made more contemporary, but its styling must be kept simple and classic. Its proportions should be enlarged, with a slightly wider but sloped shoulder, slight taper in the waist, no vents in the back. Its trimmings should be similar to those of its more traditional brother: grosgrain-faces lapel, properly trimmed dress trousers, and so on. For example, if the jacket is made from a black high-twist, semi textured wool, its chameleon like character will meld the swagger of today’s fashion with the suthenticity of the part.
When the jacket is worn separately, like a secondhand vintage tuxedo with blue jeans, dinner shirt, black tie, and opera pumps, it becomes hip enough for a downtown artist’s black-tie opening. With matching trousers and black silk banded-collar shirt, the ensemble’s monotone swank can be transported uptown, still keeping considerably to the left of the stereotypical black-and-white ensemble. Worn with matching of the tuxedo, taking you anywhere button-down convention beckons.
Because of its slightly old but new, classy but drapery aesthetic, the modern dinner jacket can accommodate a wide range of accessories. A simple black T-shirt or vintage H Bar C western shirt, or black jeans, or black cowboy boots (pointed-toe and angled-heel only) can be played off against its classic but modern flavor.
The American fashion designer Geoffrey Beene has adapted the Gorbusier smock jacket, in various seasonal black fabrics, for his own formal outings. Its Mao-jacket lines are as timeless as the aforementioned men’s tailored dinner jacket, and it functions as a neutral foundation to which personal elements can be added.
To dress in a modern way is to buy clothes that permit a maximum of accessorizing, clothes that convert from day to evening, dress to sport, inside to outside with the addition of one or two accessories. Develop an eye for the beyond-fashion classic. One man’s oversized black cashmere cardigan sweater can be another’s winter tuxedo jacket.

From Style and The Man by Alan Flusser

  

 

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