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The art of properly wearing a tuxedo

Discussion in 'Classic Menswear' started by JohnG, Sep 27, 2004.

  1. JohnG

    JohnG Well-Known Member

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    My apology for so many threads. I kept putting off reregistering and mostly just  lurked doing  drive by readings through the summer. I have been just letting the questions stack up.

    I have a couple of months yet before the big day. Hopefully, with your suggestions it will be ample time to "polish" my dress to the proper look.

     I was raised being taught that manners(politeness) and respect are the measure of a man. Respect for the family elders is MOST important of all. One could disagree... that is part of individualality ...  but do so MOST RESPECTFULLY to one's elders. This is why it is so important to me to make as few sartorial mistakes ( if any) as possible for the upcoming affair. Too I have a very large respect and love for the couple in whoose honor the gathering is for.

      The good news is ,,,,I can choose my own undergarments. The bad news is .... I need your saged advice for almost everything else.

     This will be the most auspicious formal gathering my wife and I have ever attended. For many of you it would probably be somewhat passe'. However since it is a celebration of respect and love it is of UTMOST importantance to me. If I get a little too overly cautious or too caught up in detail, please bear with me. Just tell me so. For one of the few times in my life I have been constantly second guessing myself.

    The scenario:


    Assume you were going to attend a formal anniversary party. It will be a gathering of 35-50 people ( It may be a bit larger. This is the number I was given as a "guestimate" ). In attendance will be the patriarch  and matriarch of your family. A greek diplomat and  also a very prominant and wealthy Greek business magnate will be there, a Lt. govenor and a semi well known media person among other dignitaries will be in attendance. What would be the proper attire please? Or how would you dress (me).

    Out of respect for family I definitely do NOT want to be attired incorrectly. ( I DO know that tails are not required and from what I understand few if anyone WILL be wearing tails. )

    I have an Oxxford Tux. It is a Gotham model peak lapel, unvented naturally. It is in such pristine condition my dry cleaner even asked if it really needed cleaning.

    Prior to this I had only a Perry Ellis (athletic fit peak lapel  with no suspenders) Tux. I have a grey silk cummberbund/tie set and a darker reddish silk tie/cumber set. Both have a bit f a pattern or print but the pattern is small and tasteful. Mostly my formal gatherings have been  weddings or similar and once a theatre/ operetta preformance of Man of La'Mancha.

    Is this Oxxford considered a proper tux? I still have some confusion over tuxes other than the shawl type.

    < special note : The buttons on the sleeve and the single button of the jacket is not covered with velvet. The buttons are all a shiny almost plasticene type of material. Should I have my tailor cover them in Velvet or is this something unique to Oxxford? >

     Too, I am still in the process of learning the different models or offerings by Oxxford. Short of an 80's style suit of suits or tux with super wide shoulder pads and exagerated peek  lapels  I dont really know what is current and what is outdated. Is the Gotham model by Oxxford contemporary enough please? Or is this model too out of date?

     My great uncle looks most dashing in a tux from the late 50's or early 60's but his wifes evening gown is from the same period. Also, they are both almost 80 years old.

    Is it most proper to wear suspenders or to just get the tux tailored to my waste please? ( I am in failry good shape. Size 34-35 waste. 44 long suit size. 6'1" . I am 44 years old if that is of relevance to anyone.)

    If suspenders are proper, does one want silk? The ones I am looking at are supposed to rival the quaility of Trafalgars offerings.They are silk with leather ends.

    For shoes- I purchased Allen Edmonds Ritz formal pumps.These have the pleated bows on them. Is this the proper formal shoe for such an occasion or does one want a lace up patent oxford,  please? ( How DOES one judge what type of formal shoes are apropriate for the occassion? When does one wear the pumps with bows.. the slip ons.... and the patent oxxfords? Should I pick up a pair of something other than the slippers/pumps for less special occasions?

    Is a cumberbund prefered? If so, does one want standard black tie and cummberbund or is it ok to put a bit of design or color into the two? ( Nothing too crazy, I realize)

    If one should  adhere strictly to the black tie and cumberbund is something such as a black on black paisley print ok? Is it most proper to have a silk tie and cummberbund or is there another material more correct?

    What type of Tuxedo shirt is considered most proper please? Pleated? Hidden button holes? Flat front requiring studs?

     In regard  to the shirt, based on my facial type, I look best in the point collar. Is this acceptable for such a gathering?

    As to the stud set ( if necessary based on proper shirt selection)- is there a preferred type of formal setting? At present I have a set of onyx on 10K gold studs/links. But is this an occasion where one strictly abides by the "Silver after 6:00" p.m. rule? Or does this rule aply only to cufflinks and not formal wear involving studs/links?

      There is a fantastic set of emerald in sterling at a Nordstrom or Sak's store I stumbled upon a while back. A gentleman ordered them in, then ,for unknown reasons never purchased them. They looked most tasteful and I can get them for about 50% of retail  ( still  almost 450.00 ) . To me they look tasteful and fantastic but I do not want to accidentally error on the gauwdy or "presumptuous" side .

     Should I wear gloves? Is gloves and cane appropriate or is this just with tails ones wears the gloves,cane and top hat? Do you wear black or white gloves if applicable?

     On a formal occasion should one make sure to wear a tank style watch with a leather ( alligator strap in my case)  band? Is a bracelet style watch acceptable? Is a pocket watch the definitive answer?

     Finally should I be sure to wash behind my ears before leaving the house?  <warm smile>

    Thank you all so much for your input. I realize I may be over analyzing some of these considerations but on this occassion it is VERY important to my wife and I that everything is as proper and correct as possible

    Respectfully,
      John G.
     


  2. Ligament

    Ligament Active Member

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    On a tangent, is there ANY occasion in modern society where gloves and, gasp, TOP HAT are required? I would LOVE to wear a top hat.
     


  3. Will

    Will Distinguished Member Dubiously Honored

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    John,

    I'll ask a couple questions and the answers will shape my advice, though only at the margin.

    a) Where are you located?
    b) does the invitation specify black tie?
    c) what time of day is the event? If daytime, you don't want to wear dinner clothes.

    The following assumes an evening event.

    Oxxford makes the finest factory produced tailored clothing in America. Your dinner suite will be the equal of anyone's.

    Wear a pleated turndown collar shirt with a black bow tie that you tie yourself. If you want some color, wear a discreetly colored pocket square, vest or waistcoat. The latter are for single breasted jackets.

    Either of the cummerbunds you describe would be fine paired with a black tie.

    If your jacket is double breasted, neither a waistcoat or a cummerbund is needed.

    There are those who wear stand-up collar shirts. Only go that way if you have the stiff English version with a detachable collar and a pique front. The attached collar versions are, as Alan Flusser writes, "a mutt of a shirt."

    Silk socks with pumps, please. And silk braces in white, or white with a subtle amount of black.

    Cuff links of course. Studs better than buttons on your shirt. Suit your taste, as long as that taste is consistent with your cummrbund.

    Definitely a pocket square. White silk always works, particularly if there's color in your cummerbund. Colored silk with a double breasted jacket.

    I would have the jacket buttons replaced with fabric covered buttons.

    Gloves and cane are usually for white tie events, not black. You can carry a stick if you have one but it's verging on costume unless you need it for support.

    Hope this helps.

    Will
     


  4. kidkim2

    kidkim2 Senior Member

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    JohnG--

    Will's advice is right on the money. One or two added comments: For the kind of occasion you describe, with its attendant overtones of multi-generational anxiety, I would counsel black accessories only. Not a colored or even textured cumberbund, for example. (Be sure to wear the cumberbund "upside down"--as if the pleats were designed to catch errant crumbs. Oh, and when positioned properly its little elastic loop will be just below your navel. Attach it to the button inside the waistband of your trousers. It will keep the cumberbund from riding up.)

    If you have matching black studs and links with gold rims you've got the classic accesories. Stick with 'em. (And be sure your shirt is well starched. Studs can pull through flimsy buttonholes.)

    If you're not used to tying a bow tie, rehearse the dressing process once or twice. Give yourself plenty of time. Nervousness and hurry can really attenuate the business of getting dressed for a back tie event.

    Following Will's guidelines should give you the confidence to forget your appearance and concentrate on charming the oldsters.

    Have a good time.

    Mike
     


  5. rws

    rws Active Member

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    A few thoughts, John, where I might diverge from Will's solid advice.

    If (as it sounds) your peak-lapelled dinner coat is single-breasted, a black (silk) waistcoat would be better worn than a cummerbund (which is suited for a shawl-collared dinner coat). With a double-breasted dinner coat -- a "tuxedo" -- neither cummerbund nor waistcoat is worn.

    Oxxford generally does things right. I'm surprised that the buttons on the coat are bone or plastic. Do have your tailor replace them with fabric-covered ones (the fabric should match the facing -- satin or grosgrain -- on the lapels of the coat).

    Suspenders? Your choice. I prefer not to wear them, though if the trousers (plain-fronted, not pleated) can't be made to hold your waist, most men would consider braces to be better than a belt (I wear a belt with one of my dinner coats, but it isn't seen).

    The pumps are ideal; laced shoes (even if in black patent leather) really shouldn't be worn with either black tie or white. And, yes, silk hose.

    A standing ("wing" or "stiff", detachable) collar (with a stiff front) is more appropriate visually and customarily for a peak-lapelled coat; the fold-down collar (with a pleated front) suits a shawl better.

    Most conservative is no color but black and white. For this dinner, just wear a black bowtie that you tie yourself -- and not a big butterfly bow.

    Stud buttons? Black-and-white (onyx and platinum, or enamel and white gold, etc.); those emerald studs may be stunning, but wearing them would be more than a little flashy for such an occasion as you describe. Of course, you could wear a shirt with hidden buttons.

    I'd not wear a pocket square, unless it be a carefully-folded white linen one. No gloves nowadays; and a stick has always (in my lifetime -- I'm about your age) been restricted to formal dress, if carried at all. If those at the gathering are very oldfashioned, don't wear or carry any watch (it shows that you're concerned about time and makes the occasion less intimate); if you must, carry a white-cased (platinum, white gold) pocket watch -- or just go ahead and wear a discrete wristwatch (but avoid noticeably consulting it.).

    Bottom line: do your best, look your best, act your best. I'm certain that those in whose honor you attend will be most pleased that you attend and will scarcely notice what you wear (which, of course, is the whole point with men's clothes).
     


  6. JohnG

    JohnG Well-Known Member

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    Mr Will,

     The event will take place the end of January.2005. It will be held on the east coast area around the  Virginia area.

      ( I apologize for my vagueness. I do not know how big an issue security is. I know there was at least a minor security check on my wife and I. I may be putting to much into the issue but I prefer safe over sorry. )

     Festivities begin at 6:30 p.m. Hence, due to the time of year and the evening start time - why I asked if the silver after 6:00 p.m. rule applis or if one considers this "rule" in regards to a stud/link set if applicable.


     I was told during a phone conversation it didnt have to be black tie and tails, but I didn't want to take a chance if you gentlemen felt it was more apropriate .

     As mentioned, it IS my understanding, few IF anyone will be wearing tails.

     My tux is an Oxxford of the Gotham style, ( Again, my apology I do not know if this dates the tux or not to some of you more familar with Oxxfords offerings.)  

    It is a single breasted, single button ventless tux. The peeks of the lapel extend  aproximately 3/4 of an inch past the collar. The pockets have flaps but also have piping on top and bottom of pocket slit so flap may be tucked inside

     The pant are flat fronted and have the buckles on the sides for minor waist adjustment. Single striped not the dual striped tailcoat pant

     As mentioned all buttons on the jacket are NOT covered in satin. They are of a shiny material that resembles a hard plastic polymer. I have no ide if the tux came this way or if for some reason the satin covering was removed.

    I assume you are saying the point collar shirt as opposed to wing collar or the Duke of Windsor semi-spread IS acceptable?
    At present I have a Jos. A. Bank signature gold flat front point collar tux shirt I fasten with the onyx/gold stud set.



    I was of the understanding one wore EITHER suspenders  OR a cummberbund? Did I misunderstand these two qoutes please sir?

    As to the gloves and cane, I felt this is getting to the point of costumish ( but it would be GREAT to attend such an event ) unless it was an event everyone wears tailcoats to.

    Btw, I have a pristine white ( winter white?) silk pocket sqaure as well. I do not even wear a jacket with dress jeans sans pocketsquare.

    Thanks again for your input Mr. Will, also to any who have yet to reply.

    Respectfully,
      John

    Added shirt type on edit.
     


  7. PHV

    PHV Senior Member

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    Hi John,

    let me tell you something, because you seem like a nice guy. I've had the (often unfortunate) "luck" of being thrown into the prep school, ivy league/north american royalty cess pool. I've been to more lavish, ostentatious, absurdly overpriced events than I can possibly think of and I can only come to one conclusion:

    If you're a man, it doesn't matter a bloody tit what you're wearing. No one cares. And I mean it. I've seen billionaires, millionaires, dumb socialites etc... make tons of faux pas in fashion. Women of course it is different, a socialite lady is quite likely to wear Valentino with enough diamonds on her fingers and neck to displace the water of a small lake, while the typical trust fund boy or publishing baron will easily get away with a Boss suit he got for $400 bucks.

    Don't worry about making a faux pas. No one cares. Just look like you want to look, and dress with taste. Little niceties are utterly trivial, go enjoy yourself... don't try and look like a stuck up prick when you really aren't one. Don't try so hard, because honestly, it damn well will look like you are, and in those cirlces, THAT is one of the biggest faux pas you can commit.
     


  8. LA Guy

    LA Guy Opposite Santa Staff Member Admin Moderator

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    Agree with PHV. As long as the tux is black, and you aren't wearing novelty bowties and cumberbunds, you're in the clear.
     


  9. kidkim2

    kidkim2 Senior Member

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    Uh, let me get this straight. We've chosen a site called The Style Forum to point out that attention to appearance is foolish. . . .Ever hear the phrase "unclear on concept"?
     


  10. Will

    Will Distinguished Member Dubiously Honored

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    John,

    One wears either braces/suspenders or self-supporting trousers.

    The other choice is either waistcoat, sash, or cummerbund with a single breasted dinner jacket.

    Will
     


  11. TomW

    TomW Senior Member

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    I hate to disagree with Will, but I must... his first statement is correct - one wears either self supporting trousers or braces - never a belt.

    The other is not a choice - one either wears a cummerbund or vest with a single breasted dinner jacket or one wears a double breasted dinner jacket which remains buttoned at all times. No well dressed man ever shows the waistband of his trousers when wearing a dinner suit - period.

    There is no either/or - one's trousers must stay up and one's waist must be covered, there are no exceptions.
     


  12. LA Guy

    LA Guy Opposite Santa Staff Member Admin Moderator

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    The poster wanted to know what would be perceived as correct and respectable for a specific occasion, to the point of wondering whether an Oxxford Gotham cut tux was acceptable, and whether silk braces must be worn. We just pointed out that it was unlikely, barring the wearing of gag ties, that the poster was in any danger of committing a sartorial faux pas.
     


  13. PHV

    PHV Senior Member

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    attention to appearance to a manical degree in many social circles is quite foolish.

    Our friend is very concerned with making sartorial mistakes, when I'd bet all of his family members to whom he wishes to project great respect don't know the difference between Banana Republic and Kiton. Is that a bad or abnormal thing? No. The Style Forum, in terms of fashion, represents probably .000000001 of the total market.

    I'll say it again, no one's gonna care. Just wear something nice and simple. A pocket watch and all other sorts of rediculous outdated doo hickies will probably just make you look like a poser. You're entering the socialite's arena... play by their rules, if you are looking to play by any rules.
     


  14. JohnG

    JohnG Well-Known Member

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    Please gentleman,

     I di not want to spark internal strife. ( I realize it is still in the debating stage but I just prefer no one gets insulted for one reason or another when you are all kind enough to help me out with viewpoints)

     I realize and even stated so in the original post I may be "overly cautious" to put it nicely.

     As far as the level of sartorial sophistication- I would guess at most only 1/4  of those in attendance SHOULD  be know what is proper and what isnt.

    I will  ALSO conceed just 'cause your a govermint official or a self made millionare that doesnt make you Alan Flusser.

     The main thing is I grew up a poor kid with a mother who was a legal dope addict do to adversities from birth. She didnt care as long as I cleaned the house, cooked her food,did the laundry and got here second husband aroud on nights he and his band played at the bars

     Few really gave a damn about me and whether I truly made anything of myself or used my god given talents. I am of an old fashioned southern family in a lot of respects but my birth mother did what she could to excomunicate herself, and as a result, me from the family so she could "do her own thing". Its easier when you arent confronted and held accountable for your actions that way.

     Well my aunt , whose aniversary this is in celebration of DID give a damn and tried to make sure I amounted to something.
    She made sure I had a least acceptable pants her sons outgrew and even would slip in a new shirt or gloves now and then.

     I made the mistake in my youth of prostituting myself for a career and to be the "golden boy" of the company I was under contract to. I made a ton of money and was invited to all the corporate" and near the end even "social gatherings" . That almost cost me my new marriage from being gone more than i was home.

    I swore never again would I go to the point of sacrificing myself or my ethics in any way for a job or to impress another
    I also learned that you can be just as big of an asshole and have just as little disregard for others when you are a C.E.O  or the son of one as the gent who lives in the trailor park and only works long enough to get beer and cigarrette money each week.

    I do not ask this for the "millionaire" or the "politico" or the wannabe "someday I will be a talk show host" media person or the other few people of assumed prominence there.

    I DO care about wanting ot get everything as perfect as possible for my aunt.

    NO sirs, getting eveything letterbox perfect will not make me a better person. No sirs, she may not realize I have a silk pocket square when perhaps it should be linen or that I didnt wash as well behind my rigth ear as i did my left.

    BUT- I enjoy "dressin up fer Saturday night on the town" - I enjoy looking as sartorially pefect as possible for my wife even if she doesnt know every little thing I am wearing or how correct for the occassion it is. And I am DAMN sure going to try to do it as correct as possible out of love and respect for my aunt and my uncle.

    Yes sir, maybe I am going overboard in my concern. But I can tell you this gentleman, BOTH the ladies in my life who will be in attendance are worth every bit of it I put forth in effort.

    Respectfully,
    John
     


  15. Leo Jay

    Leo Jay Senior Member

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    I don't think anyone is disputing paying attention to style, just warning him not to get obsessed with 'rules' and 'dressing correctly' to meet someone's expectations.  

    I think the point is to place your trust in good taste and a fine quality wardrobe, and not to get too obsessed with meeting other people's standards of 'acceptability'. To many people, that's exactly what 'style' (as opposed to 'fashion') is all about.
     


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