Have you been watching Downton Abbey and wondering why “Granny” thinks the men are too informal because they aren’t wearing a dinner jacket or a smoking jacket or whatever it is they are meant to be wearing? Well I am here to clear it up once and for all, to see what all the fuss is about and to determine the difference between all these jackets and suits! In conjunction with my last post about suit wearing, today I have chosen to fill you in on the Tuxedo and the Dinner suit.
History of the Tuxedo/Dinner Suit
So what is the difference between the Tuxedo and the Dinner Suit. Surprisingly very little… The Tuxedo is the American English version and the Dinner jacket is the British English version – which is also known as the Dinner suit (yes, it is really as simple as that!). It is formal attire worn often at black tie, very fancy, or other important events. It is characterized by the satin or grosgrain facings on the jacket lapels and buttons. It also has a similar stripe along the outer seam of the trousers (down the side leg.)
Traditionally the suit is black or midnight blue in colour and worn with a formal button- up shirt, accessories and shoes. In Britain, a Tuxedo is actually considered to be the White Dinner Jacket.
The Dinner Jacket first surfaced in 1887 in the UK and then in 1889 in the USA.( Later in the 1960’s it became associated with white or colored jackets in America). At almost the same time, the Tuxedo appeared in 1888 in the USA. It gained its name from Tuxedo Park – a Hudson valley enclave for New York’s social elite.
Characteristics of the Tuxedo/Dinner Suit
Single vs Doubled Breasted
Traditionally the most formal version of the Dinner Jacket/Tuxedo is the single breasted jacket with one button. It allows the front of the jacket to be cut into a deep V shape (the idea is that it mimics the ideal male torso). This form of jacket is often worn unbuttoned and needs the exposed trouser waistband to be covered by a cummerbund or waistcoat.(see White Tuxedo photo above)
In the 1930’s the double breasted version became an alternative to the single breasted jacket. Today, both versions are considered as formal. The double breasted jacket does however look more refined buttoned up and worn this way there is no need for a waistcoat or cummerbund. This type of jacket will also have 4 buttons.
Peaked Lapel vs Shawl Collar vs Notched Lapel
There are three types of lapel collars available on Tuxedos and Dinner Jackets. The peaked lapel was originally linked to the tailcoat and was traditionally considered the more formal design. The outward and upward sweep of the jacket is currently used to emphasize the height and shoulder width of the wearer.
The Shawl Collar was heavily influenced by the smoking jacket. It is softer in appearance and more angular and was originally considered less formal. However, it is one of the more popular choices for wearers in terms of today’s jackets .
The most popular style, nevertheless, is the Notched Lapel. It is derived from the lounge suit and originally was considered the more “fashion forward contemporary”appearance.
Traditionally the Dinner Jacket and Tuxedo had no vents but as fashion evolved, side vents subsequently appeared. This ensured the jacket was easier to move in and was therefore more versatile. Traditionally it is considered inappropriate to have a single vented jacket, yet some mass produced lines now display them.
A very distinctive trait of the Tuxedo/Dinner jacket is the decorative covering on the lapels- also known as ‘facing’. This is designed to emphasize the “v” shape and offers an elegant flair. Pure silk facings are considered the most desirable and the type of material used on the lapel will determine the material used for the bowtie and cummerbund. The suit facings are also typically black.
All dinner jackets must have a working buttonhole on the left lapel.
The hip pocket also known as the double-besomed jetted (slit) is understated to draw attention away from these pockets. Flap pockets are considered to be non-formal and inappropriate. The Jacket should also have a welt breast pocket to cater for a pocket handkerchief.
There are 4 buttons on the sleeves of the jacket with their edges just touching. Most buttons will be covered in the lapel facing.
Who would have thought there would be so much information surrounding a simple Tuxedo/ Dinner jacket! I hope this has helped clear up your key questions and provided some new information. Thus the next time you head into a suit shop you will be informed – you are ready- and you will know exactly what you are after when purchasing a classy good ol’ Tux!
Let me know your Favourite Tuxedo/Dinner Jacket Look below…