Thursday 17 January 2008


Every now and then I get asked to write and article for a Magazine, This one was for West Essex Life in spring 2007:

The spring is here, and with it comes all those social events which require a little extra thought as to the correct attire. This summer we see the return to Berkshire, the Royal Meeting at Ascot. There is also Derby day to consider, as well as those obligatory weddings, summer balls and other social events.

So what does the modern, fashion conscious male do in the face of historic rules of etiquette? How is it possible to stamp your own inimitable style on such time honoured modes of dress?

Well first and foremost it is never a good idea to fly in the face of tradition, not many can claim to have done so with success, (with the exception of Pierre Lorillard in 1886 at Tuxedo Park, New York. Where it is claimed he invented the modern Tuxedo) Dress codes can be complicated but it is best to determine the rules and then tweak them to your own unique taste and style.

For an example Royal Ascot, the correct dress code for the Royal Enclosure is Morning Wear; this consists of top hat and tails. The term morning wear is derived from Edwardian etiquette when men were required to change clothes three or four times throughout the day. The code of dress for the royal enclosure was first laid down in 1807 when the Royal meeting originally hosted the Gold Cup. The dress code was laid down by Beau Brummell, a close friend to the Prince Regent, who decreed: those men of elegance should wear waisted black coats and white cravats with pantaloons. This eventually evolved into morning wear.

So with morning wear so firmly established as the dress code, how does one make an impression? Well, firstly you should get the basics right, a black tail coat and top hat. A black top hat rather than the standard wedding grey is far more stylish. Also why not try matching black trousers rather than the classic grey morning stripe trousers. And then impress your style onto the outfit with the accessories, this does not mean a no-dad waistcoat. Why not try a silk brocade waistcoat with matching tie, maybe a watch with a Fob chain, or even a matching shirt and tie with your waistcoat.

Weddings are a potential mine field , when considering what to wear always refer to not only the dress code stipulated on the invitation but also to the types of people who will be attending this particular wedding. For an example if an invitation stipulates: Semi-Formal, this normally means a lounge suit rather than a dinner suit is required, but this is not always the case. If in any doubt always refer to your host, (they will be the person who has addressed the invitation.) Here are a few of those dress codes explained:

  • Black Tie: This means evening wear. Dinner suits, bow-ties.

  • White Tie or Full Dress: This means evening tail suit, white-tie and tails. This outfit is exceptionally traditional, consisting of a black evening tail jacket, white Marcella shirt, bow and waistcoat.

  • Black-tie preferred: This is exactly as it sounds your host would prefer evening wear (dinner suits and bow-ties) however it is not necessary. Good manners would indicate that evening wear should be worn if possible.

  • Black-tie optional: This is the same as black-tie preferred; the only difference being, there is no preference therefore it would not be bad manners to wear a lounge suit.

  • Morning Wear: Traditional morning wear. Black herringbone jacket, morning stripe trouser, dove-grey waistcoat. Depending on the event and circumstances this dress code could mean a Tail suit or a standard length morning jacket. In the case of the Queen’s garden party it would refer to standard length morning wear. In the case of a wedding it would normally mean tail suit. Again if in any doubt always refer to your host, so as not to offend.

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