Reader Role Models: Doubly Debonnaire

Posted on October 28, 2013


 (Justin Lam | Three Sixty Photography)

(Justin Lam | Three Sixty Photography)

Probably the most common type of inquiry I receive from grooms-to-be is “I know it’s not technically correct to wear a tuxedo to my afternoon wedding but . . . “  But nothing.  Reader Duncan Pike of Vancouver demonstrates precisely why  traditional etiquette prescribes different time-specific attire for a daytime wedding followed by an evening reception.  On paper the requirement can seem arcane and arbitrary but in person it proves itself as an astute roadmap to  sartorial brilliance.

Duncan also dispels any notion that the rule is necessarily cost prohibitive by assembling both of his formal outfits for a fraction of the price a bride typically pays for her wedding dress.

 (Justin Lam | Three Sixty Photography)

(Justin Lam | Three Sixty Photography)

Let’s begin with Duncan’s account of his formal attire for the daytime ceremony:

I learned about the differences between morning dress and evening dress a decade ago, and I’ve wanted to own a top hat since I was six years old.  When I first learned what morning dress was, I knew immediately that it is how I would dress for my wedding.

My top hat was purchased on eBay.  It was made in Toronto and although I don’t know its age, it is silk plush which is no longer made.  I bid $125 for it, and was very surprised, not to mention pleased, when I won the auction.

My morning coat was a fantastic find on savvyrow.co.uk.  Their customer service is excellent, and their shipping is prompt and reasonably priced.  The coat itself was only $127 Canadian, including shipping, and thanks to the extensive measurements Savvy Row provides on their website, it needed no alterations at all.

My waistcoat is similar to the style I’ve seen Prince William wear, and I looked long and hard for an affordable version.  It is from mytuxedo.co.uk, and their prices and service are excellent.  I had wanted a just off-white waistcoat originally, but could not find a nice one, nor afford to have one made, but I went to a couple of formal wear rental places and tried on the traditional dove grey and buff, and found the grey looked fantastic with my coat.

For his trousers, Duncan took advantage of the wide range of black and grey patterns that are allowable in morning dress to find something that would stand apart from the usual cashmere stripes.  A pair of plaid Brooks Brothers were the end result.   The outfit was finished off with black cap-toe Oxfords that he already owned, which he had professionally cleaned and polished for the big occasion.

What I ended up with, if I say so myself, is an ensemble that is simultaneously traditionally correct, as well as unique, and representative of my own tastes and personality. Morning dress provides a great deal of opportunity for personalization, is a lot of fun to put together and most of its components (trousers other than the striped variety, shirt and tie) can be worn for all kinds of occasions, making the investment even more valuable.

(As a postscript, the weekend after the wedding, Duncan wore his morning dress rig to the British Columbia Derby and won the male side of the event’s Best Dressed contest!)

(Justin Lam | Three Sixty Photography)

(Justin Lam | Three Sixty Photography)

After the vows were exchanged and the photography session completed, it was time to dress for dinner.  “Dinner” in this case being a rollicking Black Tie Preferred 1920s speakeasy-themed reception.

Duncan’s vintage wool & mohair dinner jacket features peaked lapels with satin trim and was purchased at Lines vintage shop in Vancouver.  The 1930’s vintage U-cut wool vest was bought online from Ruby Lane.  It has silk-faced shawl revers, four horn buttons and black piping around the edges.  The marcella formal shirt came from Clermont Direct and was stiffened with a generous starching.  It is unusual in that it has five stud holes but fortunately only three of them showed above the waistcoat.  The bow tie was another inexpensive acquisition from Clermont and the vintage double-sided cuff and stud set was another vintage store find.  Duncan’s Calvin Klein patent leather opera pumps are from Zappos.com.

In total, the outfit cost about $400 CDN to purchase and another $70 for alterations to the jacket and waistcoat.  A great example of how knowledge and perseverance can be used to assemble an affordable black-tie wardrobe that rivals – or outshines – premium-priced equivalents.

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This post is part of an ongoing series showing real-life examples of how to successfully execute black tie. If you’d like to share your own success story please drop me a line.