Formal wear

Informal Formal wear?

Times have changed and even the most formal occasions have become more casual. The banded collar tuxedo shirt is now seen even at the most conservative affairs. Black-tie optional affairs now can have as many dark suits as tuxedos. We are, without a doubt, becoming a less formal society.

Weddings, especially, have seen the traditional formal attire replaced by less formal suits and non-white shirts. Even if they wear the traditional white they are opting for non-traditional collar styles such as the “club” or “tab” to achieve a distinctive look.

However, if you are working in a business environment, and have attendant social obligations, the chances are you will adhere to the traditional formalwear of the past. It is for these occasions, and for those who appreciate elegance, that I have included this section in our book.

Traditional Formal wear

My friend, Marshall Dutko, owner of Baldwin Formal in New York, reminds us that “formal wear, as we now call it, was  the  everyday  dress  for  the  gentlemen  of  society. Cutaway coats were worn during the daytime, while white tie and tailcoats were worn after six o’clock in the evening. “In the late 1800’s, an upstart named Lorillard changed formal fashion forever. He had his tailor remove the tail from his full-dress coat and modify its length. He wore this outfit, with a black tie, to an evening function in Tuxedo Park, New York. The ‘tuxedo’ was born.”

A tuxedo or dinner jacket can transform any man into a Cary Grant or Fred Astaire. As he fastens his bow tie he becomes instantly debonair.

Whether you own your own tuxedo or rent one, a properly fitted shirt is indispensable for you to achieve that “look” that makes wearing formal wear an occasion.

Formal Shirts

Whether black-tie or white-tie, the formal tuxedo shirt is traditionally white, and has traditionally been French cuffed.

There are two types of collars that are acceptable — the wing or the lay-down classic collar.

The wing is the more formal of the two and is by its nature a high collar. The shorter-necked man might have trouble in the wing collar, while the long-necked man will look especially attractive. This collar is used with all types of tuxedo fronts.

The classic (straight) collar is the other acceptable collar. It is generally more comfortable than the wing. This is usually seen on pleated front shirts.

There are three basic front finishes for tuxedo shirts. The most traditional is the pleated front. The pleats can

vary in width from a 1/8" woven pin-tuck to a 1" sewn pleat. The most common is the 1/4" to 1/2" pleat. These shirts should have a button-hole front to accommodate studs. Today, most manufacturers provide four stud holes and four studs in jewelry sets. If you have older jewelry, you might only have three studs — make sure your jewelry and shirt match.

Another style that has become popular again is the fly front. It uses buttons, but they are hidden under a strip of cloth. Many men prefer this because they don’t have to fuss with studs.

The third front style, and my personal favorite, is the pique front. This shirt is made with a bib of pique on a French front (turned under with no center pleat). The collar and cuff are also made from matching pique. The wing collar is usually used to complete this most elegant look. It was meant to be worn on only the most formal occasions with the full-dress or tailcoat, but as formal wear has become less traditional, the pique is seen with every type of evening wear.

Helpful Formal Hints:

  • Do I wear the bow-tie behind or in front of my winged collar?
  • It is traditional to wear the bow tie behind the wing tips, but it is also acceptable to wear the tie in front.

Q: Is it proper to wear suspenders or a cummerbund with my tuxedo?

  • Suspenders should always be worn with your tuxedo. The trousers do not come with belt loops and the cummerbund does not act like a belt, so, even when wearing a cummerbund, you must wear suspenders. The cummerbund should not be worn with a double-breasted tuxedo because it is too bulky under the jacket designed to be worn closed. Cummerbunds should always be worn with single-breasted tuxedos if you are not wearing a vest — it is a nice finishing touch.

Q: Do I wear my pleats up or down on my cummerbund?

  • The pleats should be worn facing up! In the past, little pockets were found in the pleats to hold a coin, the theater tickets, or a key. That is why the pleats always turn up.