1907 Formal Wear II: The Tuxedo

Posted on August 7, 2012

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We continue our trip back in time to Edwardian America courtesy of The Blue Book of Men’s Tailoring with a look at the relatively new form of evening wear, the tuxedo.  (So new, in fact, that the invention was capitalized in reference to the town after which it was named.)

The dinner coat, or Tuxedo, as it is called in America, was designed first for a lounge coat for evening wear to be put on in the evening when the dress coat was taken off. In England, where large house parties are the rule, and full dress is universal, after dinner the men of the party frequently resort to the smoking or billiard room when the ladies have retired. The dinner coat was then donned, with the trousers and waistcoat of the dress clothes. From this beginning the dinner coat grew to the dignity of a distinct costume, to be worn as dress when only men are present. At clubs, men’s dinners, etc., it is correct.

Many men imagine that the Tuxedo costume may be worn interchangeably with the dress coat, and at the theatre, formal dinners, balls, etc., where ladies are present it is frequently seen.

Nothing could be in worse taste, and nothing shows more clearly how little a man knows about correct dressing than such wear of a Tuxedo.

In its proper place, among men, it is a sightly, easy garment, which is very well liked by men who like to be comfortable and at the same time well dressed.

It may be worn with a vest of the same material as the coat, which is usually black or Oxford gray, or with a fancy vest of steel gray. The shirt is white and pleated, the collar a turn over or wing, and the tie a black bow, or of a color to match the vest.

The coat may have either a shawl or notch collar, either being in good taste.

The Tuxedo being a sack coat, requires to be worn with it a soft or derby hat, never a silk or opera hat.

The commentary provided here is very much in line with other authorities of the time as described in the Guide’s Edwardian Era summary. It is indicative of the tuxedo’s Edwardian elevation from informal to semi-formal status as it evolved from a simple tailcoat substitute to a distinct dress code. However, the use of the term “notch collar” in the caption and description is clearly an error.  That that the lapel is actually peaked is evident in a number of ways beyond the obvious: (1) the accompanying tailoring pattern for said tuxedo provides options only for “peak lapels or shawl collar”, (2) the lapel shape in said pattern is identical to the lapel shape in the illustration and (3) drawings of comparitive lapel styles elsewhere in the book also use the term “peaked” for this particular shape.

Next installment: Morning Dress

Posted in: History