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Mens Tuxedo And Tail Coats For Wedding

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Morning coat - (also called a cutaway.) This formal daytime outfit was originally designed in the 19th century for horseback riding. It was called a morning coat because riding was, of course, how a gentleman spent his mornings.

The curved front edges that slope back from the front waist at the sides were designed to leave the rider's knees free from flapping coat fronts when in the stirrups. The buttons at the waist in the back of the coat were designed to fasten the tails (or skirts) up out of the way when on horseback.

The original elements of the morning coat were a wing-collar shirt, a black or gray ascot (held together by a pin), silk top hat, gray double breasted waistcoat, striped trousers, matching gloves, a fine formal walking stick and spats!

There Are Two Types Of Morning Coats:

1. Ceremonial (very formal wedding or diplomatic) jacket in dark gray or solid black color worn with striped trousers. The waistcoat is double breasted and light colored. The wing collar can take a long tie in silver or you can wear the traditional ascot with a tiepin. Black bow tie is more appropriate for a servant. The only outside pocket (left breast) is for a pocket square.

2. Same as above but the jacket color is light gray, striped trousers with top hat worn at Ascot (actually less formal, but the most common now).

The other two coats in a gentlemen's wardrobe at that time were:

Tailcoat -- Cut in across the waist with a single or double-breasted fastening. It was originally worn through the day, but by the turn of the century it was reserved for the most formal evening wear. The established men's formal attire since the 1830s was white tie and swallow-tailed coat. (See eveningwear below.)

The Frockcoat -- This double breasted jacket, knee length in front and tails in back was originally designed around 1725 for riding, especially fox hunting.

It was the mode of dress for daytime from the end of the 18th century. But by the 1890's the Frock coat was out of favor, replaced by the "lounge suit", the forerunner of the modern business suit. The morning coat had replaced the Frock for daytime formalwear.

The evolution of acceptable daytime formalwear can be seen in the outfits that King George V wore to open the Chelsea Flower Show, an important event in the London season. In 1923 the King opened the Show in a frock coat, gray top hat and spats.

In 1926 the King shocked the public by wearing a black morning coat instead of a frock coat. This helped speed the Frock's demise (although it took ten years for its full death). Spats were another clothing accessory left off by the King in 1926, and the bushes were littered with the spats other gentlemen had discarded. Spats never seemed to return to favor after that.

In 1934 King George V opened the Chelsea Flower Show wearing a blue lounge suit.

In 1936 King Edward VIII officially abolished the Frock and made the morning coat the official day wear for Court.


All gentlemen dressed formally after 6pm during the 18th and 19th centuries.



The Tailcoat (or Swallow-tail coat) -- Cut in across the waist was popular since the first half of the 19th century. Originally it was a uniform that could be worn for any occasion, and is still the most appropriate suit for the most formal evenings.

Even if it is double breasted, the tailcoat jacket is never buttoned nor designed to be buttoned, but remains open to show a white pique bow tie and a vest of silk or white pique. Piqueis a woven fabric with a raised pattern, usually a waffle design from the French word "piquer" meaning "to pierce" (also the name for mesh polo shirts).

The vest can be either single or double-breasted with a shawl collar or without lapels.

Trousers have two satin side stripes.



The Dinner Jacket was originally designed, well, for dinner. That is, not too formal evenings at home or at the club. The "Dress lounge jacket" or later "Dinner Jacket" was probably derived from the "Smoking Jacket" (invitations that say "le smoking" mean Black Tie) which was a shawl collared, double breasted jacket slipped on when the men left the ladies for their after-dinner port, cigars, and a game of billiards. The smoking jacket replaced your dress jacket so that the smell of the tobacco would not bother the ladies when you returned to them.

King Edward VII, when he was Prince of Wales (the English Royal title for those in-waiting to be King), had his tailor (Henry Poole & Co. of Savile Row, London) make a dinner jacket minus the tails of the tailcoat in 1865.

"Bertie" as his friends called him, was the son of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert and a fashion innovator. The Edwardian period of men's clothing is named for him. He's the man who couldn't button the bottom button of his vest due to his kingly girth and set a fashion trend, still with us today, that dictates men's bottom buttons are never fastened.

Bertie's Dinner jacket retained the peaked lapels of the tailcoat and was single breasted. He wore it aboard his yacht at Cowes, England, and later at other semi-formal gatherings away from London. At first it was worn with the white pique waistcoat, but later with a black matching vest.

From the late 19th century through the early 1920's black tie attire continued as an option at home or in your club, but for a public evening, white tie and tails were de rigueur.

The blackouts and strict social measures during World War II brought about the demise of formal dressing for dinner and other nightlife. So the business suit became accepted evening dress. And the dinner jacket replaced white tie for most formal events.

Tuxedo Junction

An American and his wife, James B. and Cora Potter, were visiting the Prince of Wales (later King Edward VII) at his country estate, Sandringham and asked to copy his no-tails dinner jacket. He had Bertie's tailor, Henry Poole, of Savile Row, make one for him and brought it back to wear at his country club, the Tuxedo Club in Tuxedo Park, New York. Poole had made the "original" no-tails dinner jacket in 1860.

But Griswold ("Grizzy" to his friends) Lorillard of the tobacco family gets the history book credit for the introduction or at least the promotion of the dinner jacket into American society.

Another sighting is of Evander Berry Wall who is reported to have worn a dinner jacket in Saratoga two months before Lorillard's grand entrance.

On October 10, 1886, Griswold Lorillard wore a modified dinner jacket to the Tuxedo Park Club ball, (also called the Autumn Ball) at the Tuxedo Club in Tuxedo Park, New York (40 miles northwest of New York City).Thus the American slang word for the dinner jacket was introduced.

By the way, Tuxedo is from the American Indian word "p'tuksit" meaning "he has a round foot" and is a euphemism for wolf, an animal feared by the Indians and thus not mentioned directly in conversation.

The tail-less "lounge jacket" and black tie instead of the standard tails and white tie scandalized the up-scale country club. A society columnist at the time dubbed it more appropriate for a "royal footman'.

Actually something that isn't always noted when this historic anecdote is recounted is that (according to some accounts) Griswold's original jacket was scarlet!!! No wonder he got all the attention.

- Some new research on the history of the Tuxedo written for the Tuxedo Park Library by J. Earle Stevens, Jr. in October 1988 introduces some interesting theories about the original story:

I have condensed the article, added emphasis, and incorporated the footnotes into the commentary.

When we seek the origin of the dinner jacket or Tuxedo, we constantly come across a story about its introduction to this century by Griswold Lorillard at the first Tuxedo Autumn Ball in 1886. Nathaniel Griswold Lorillard as the fourth and youngest child of Pierre and Emily Taylor Lorillard and was named for his great grandfather Nathaniel Griswold. He died in 1889, three years after the Ball, when he was only 25.

The trouble with this story is that it is based entirely on a quotation from a society journal called Town Topics. According to an October 1886 issue of the journal, young Griswold Lorillard appeared (at the Ball) in a tailless dress coat, and waistcoat of scarlet satin, looking for all the world like a royal footman. There were several others of the abbreviated coats worn.

The story about Griswold first appeared in the Tuxedo Club membership book for 1936. As they believed it to be authentic, it was quoted by Cleveland Amory in The Last Resorts in 1948, by George M. Rushmore in The World With A Fence Around It in 1957, and by countless other writers.

Town Topics began in 1879 as Andrew's American Queen, a magazine of art, literature, music, and society. In 1885 it was bought by E.D. Mann who renamed it Town Topics and launched it on a career of scandal mongering. After many vicissitudes, it expired in the depression of 1931.


Taken literally, this quotation seems quite plausible but, unfortunately, it has been misinterpreted. A tailless dress coat has been taken to mean a dinner jacket and, as a result, we have a story, which is hard to believe. Griswold, or Grizzy as his friends called him, may very well have worn a tailless dress coat as a lark but this does not mean that he introduced the dinner jacket. Such an assumption is wrong for several reasons.


First of all, Grizzy's tailless dress coat was much too short to be a dinner jacket. A dress coat, which is a tailor's term for an evening tailcoat, is cut above the waist, open in front, and tight fitting. A dinner jacket is cut well below the waist, buttons in front, and fits more loosely.

In 1880 there were three coats which a well dressed man had to have in his wardrobe; a morning coat which was a tail coat with the front cut away, a frock coat which was a long skirted coat not cut away in the front, and a dress coat which was a swallow tailed coat for evening wear.

Grizzy's dress coat - without its tails - was so short that it resembled a mess jacket, and it is no wonder that Town Topics thought he looked for all the world like a royal footman. A mess jacket is a short military coat cut above the waist, which is worn by officers when dining at mess.

Secondly, Grizzy would have been far too young to introduce a new fashion to his elders at the Ball. He was only 22 and the second son of Pierre Lorillard, distinguished founder of Tuxedo Park. His older brother, Pierre Lorillard, Jr., was one of the governors of the Tuxedo Club. The other governors were all prominent New Yorkers, while the members of the Club and their guests were for the most part leading members of New York Society. It is hard to imagine, therefore, a young man introducing a new fashion to such a sophisticated gathering.

Finally, a formal ball would not have been the right occasion to introduce what was then an informal dinner fashion. We should remember that the dinner jacket, when it was first adopted, was worn only at informal dinner parties and it was not considered, as it is now, formal evening dress. The dinner jacket was introduced in England by Lord Dupplin in the early 1880's and adopted by the Prince of Wales. It was first called a Homburg jacket, then in 1888 a dress lounge, and in 1896 a dinner jacket.

If, therefore, Grizzy had been able to introduce the dinner jacket, he probably would have done so at a dinner party and not at a ball.

The Ball did, however, offer Griswold and his friends an opportunity to play a prank, inspired perhaps by the dinner jackets, which his elders had recently adopted. Griswold loved clothes, and as he had two dress coats, which were made by his father's tailor*, he probably took the tails off one of them. This prank must have distressed his parents very much and it is not surprising that Town Topics thought the boys (there were several others of the abbreviated coats worn) ought to have been put in straight jackets long ago.

*When Pierre Lorillard won the English Derby in 1881, he introduced Griswold, who was only 17, to his London tailor, Henry Poole & Co.

Poole still has a record of Griswold's purchases. His first order in 1881 consisted of several lounge suits, a riding jacket, a frock coat, and a hunt dress coat in the colors of the Queen's County Gill Hunt. In 1882 he ordered more lounge suits, a scarlet hunt coat and his first dress coat, and in 1883 his second dress coat and a double-breasted overcoat. His last order, in 1886, the year of the ball, was for a driving cape.

It should be apparent from this analysis that Griswold's lark has nothing to do with the dinner jacket and that we have to look elsewhere for its origin.

Fortunately, there is a reliable, although little known, source of information. Some sixty years ago, Grenville Kane, last founder of the Tuxedo Club left alive, revealed to this writer that it was James Brown Potter, one of Tuxedo's first residents, who, after staying with the Prince of Wales at Sandringham in the summer of 1886, brought back the new fashion to Tuxedo and introduced it to the members of the club.

It may be sad for some to realize that Grizzy was not the one responsible for this new fashion but it should be a consolation for them to remember that his lark will always be a legend.


In the 1920's the Prince of Wales (to be King Edward VIII, then the Duke of Windsor after his abdication in 1936) popularized the dinner jacket over the tailcoat. The Duke was the fashion innovator of the Windsor tie knot, and made popular the Glenn plaid (Glen Urquhart) suit, "fair-isle" sweaters, argyle socks, suede chukka boots, banded and tab collars.

In formalwear he created the back-less (thus cooler) formal waistcoat and replaced the stiff, wing-collared shirt with a softer, pleated-front shirt with French cuffs and a turned-down collar. He also made the double-breasted dinner jacket popular and even had a dinner jacket made in midnight blue (see "color" above).

There is also a short jacket called a Spencer, after the Earl of Spencer whose (so the story goes) tails once caught on fire! It also has some origins in Navy formalwear. This style is most suitable for young boys and servants.

"With the kind courtsey of Andy Gilchrist" - Ask Andy About Clothes
A Brief History of Clothes in Time