It goes without saying that every man should have at least one bespoke or at least MTM suit in his wardrobe. Men of standard silhouettes will always be able to find a suit or jacket for themselves, colloquially speaking "off the rack", only to have it altered by a good tailor. Men with a less standard bodies are left with bespoke tailoring or major alterations to the finished product, which rarely guarantees a satisfactory result. However, these situations usually only apply to suits at most - what if you want, or need, to step it up and get a proper outfit for evening wear? It gets a little bit complicated from here, but doesn't every adventure have to start somewhere?
Photo: Maciej Gajdur
Text: Poszetka Katowice
You won't find a lot of offers on the domestic market, and even fewer worthy of recommendation when it comes to evening wear. Usually, using the words evening wear, we picture a dinner jacket and its variations, so let's stick to that idea. This case is a serious one indeed - while a suit may be considered work attire for some, we must consider it in rather different terms from the dinner suit. I will make the bold claim that, in the mind of a prospective buyer of a garment such as a dinner suit, the priority is to make the outfit an impressive one. It is, after all, a garment that is worn on really special and formal occasions (especially nowadays, given what a relic most of society considers the dress code to be), and therefore the person wearing it aims to "squeeze" as much as possible out of their outfit. For this reason, the most sensible option here is to have the outfit ordered fitted to your own measures - not only so that it fits properly, but also so that you can add a bit of your own character to it. As with any outfit, evening wear can also be extravagant or conservatively classic.
It is quite normal when it comes to tailoring that the options are vast, making it rather impossible for me to go into every detail. I'll focus on the broad, general variations of the dinner suit.
The first of these would be the classic, done by the book, dark dinner suit. According to the rules, it should always be a dark shade, preferably deep black. The classic dinner jacket is usually sewn from pure wool materials (there are exceptions) - it should be a noble material, with a solid, slightly stiff but not hard grip. These qualities are, unfortunately, often difficult for the layman to grasp; advice from the tailor or specialist present can (and should) be sought during the ordering process. When deciding on a classic dinner jacket, the most important choice is the cut itself - will it be a double-breasted or a single-breasted dinner jacket? If the latter, with or without a waistcoat? Certainly less common nowadays are dinner jackets with a waistcoat - privately my favourite option, but here we must remember that the waistcoat must be suitably adapted, as it cannot be of the same construction as a usual suit waistcoat. Properly cut, with significantly lowered cleveage. When discussing the jacket further, the shape of the lapels must be chosen - peak or shawl? Forget about notch lapels found in the vast majority of ordinary jackets, they are not suitable for evening wear. Pockets - without flaps.
One of the main characteristics of the dinner jacket is the way it is finished - the lapels are trimmed in satin, grosgrain or, rarely, moire. All of these are necessarily made of silk. The other compulsory components of the suit - the bow tie and the cummerbund - should be made of the same material, and the buttons should also be faced with the same material. Focusing now on accessories, the cummerbund is only used with the single-breasted jacket without a waistcoat, and remember that it is absolutely mandatory here. Trousers should be high-waisted, no cuffs allowed, while the side pockets should be concealed in the seams. On the side, piping should make an appearance - a silk ribbon running along the side seam, often made from the same material as the lapel trims - another hallmark of evening wear. A belt is never used with such trousers, braces should be worn at all times, preferably in white silk. A dinner suit tailored according to these guidelines will be timeless and always appropriate to its occasion.
The second will be the tropical dinner suit, essentially similar to the classic, but much rarer and certainly more daring. This garment differs from its classic cousin in the jacket - here it is made of a contrasting, light-coloured fabric, usually in the shade of ivory or off-white. It is also very common here to finish the lapels with the basic fabric, like a more casual jacket. Such garments, strongly contrasting with the still black trousers, make a strong impression on bystanders. One can also find more freedom in choosing the material of the jacket - because of it's hot climate origins, we can encounter this type of jacket sewn in linen or less formal fabrics. An option for those who like unique, yet still classic solutions.
The third option, the least traditional and quite extensive in its variations, are the various variations of the smoking jacket. We mentioned this one in this post (link), here we see it in a duet with black trousers during evening events. I won't mention the trousers further - they are left as they were in the dinner suit. With the jacket, however, we have considerable wiggle room. Here it is best to use velvet - a plush and luxurious fabric. This type of textile shows off it's colour in a much different way than smooth worsteds - it would be a sin not to indulge in something other than black here. Bottle or emerald green, deep scarlet, or a sapphire blue.
The construction principles of such a jacket are very similar to those of a tropical dinner jacket, although personally I would lean more towards the double-breasted option with distinctive shawl lapels. We can also afford a bit more when it comes to the finishing touches - these types of jackets are often richly decorated with frogging or similar cord details. This is certainly an option for those who like to make an impression - but bear in mind that this is not a full-fledged dinner jacket, but a slightly less formal variant. For this reason, it may not be suitable for those most formal occasions.
There are many choices, and even more options - so if a dinner jacket is going to be your first adventure with tailoring, I would kindly advise you to plan the topic thoroughly and discuss it well with your tailor or measure taker. Keep in mind that you will not wear a dinner suitvery often - so for many it will be an outfit for life. Don't take my words in a negative way - because only when you see yourself in the mirror, wearing your tailored dinner suit for the first time, will you realise that it was well worth it.
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