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The "Classic" Dinner Jacket?


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#19 jcsprowls

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Posted 04 June 2009 - 01:35 PM

The price and several elements of that brocade jacket have implications to me. I'll hold my tongue, though. Because I'm afraid it will all sound much meaner than intended.

I do agree that these styles were all spun off modern stock blocks. For the price, though, I feel the fit and styling could be better. In fact, I would wager that these two improvements might increase their revenues.
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#20 NJS

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Posted 05 June 2009 - 06:36 AM

Didn't Jack Buchanan introduce the double-breasted DJ? Here is a piece that I have done on the Tuxedo version of the DJ - and it mentions 'single-breasted lapels':

The possible origins of the Dinner Jacket or Tuxedo
By Nicholas Storey.
Begins.

These days, very few formal evening events demand full evening dress, with white tie and swallow-tail dress coat. Most often, 'black tie', or, in the USA 'tuxedo' is about as formal as it gets; this normally comprises a black or midnight blue dinner-jacket-tuxedo, waistcoat or cummerbund and trousers, soft evening shirt, black tie and patent leather or kid evening shoes or pumps.What is the nearest that we can get to the origin of this tuxedo-jacket, which has virtually supplanted full evening dress?

There are several different versions covering the origins of the first short evening coat - the dinner jacket and its American cousin the tuxedo, which, with its black tie, have largely come to replace full white tie evening dress with its swallow-tail coat. One of these versions revolves around a prominent New Yorker called Evander Berry Wall. He was a customer of Savile Row tailor Henry Poole & Co and he possessed, in his vast wardrobe, an adaptation of a blue silk smoking jacket that Henry Poole had made for Edward, Prince of Wales in 1865. This original (or a German type) might already have been taken up and adapted by the Scottish peer Lord Dupplin in the early 1880s; as well as by patrons of the casino at Monte Carlo. The story goes that Wall was one of the first audacious souls to wear such a garment in public - in fact, to a ball held in the United States Hotel in Saratoga in August 1886. The result of this outing was not auspicious - as he was asked to leave by the manager. This is an expression of the ultimate social sanction for breach of a dress code and it echoes Lady Jersey's exclusion of the Duke of Wellington from Almack's fashionable ballroom, in King Street, St James's nearly 70 years before - because the Duke had turned up in the new-fangled evening pantaloons instead of the evening breeches which were still de rigueur.

Henry Poole's order book records that, in April 1865, they had made a smoking jacket in blue (possibly midnight blue) silk, with silk lining, collar and cuffs, for the Prince of Wales to wear at informal soirees at Sandringham (where it was delivered).

During the round of entertainments held in the London summer season of 1886, an American named James Brown Potter and his beautiful southern wife, Cora (nee Urquhart), were taken up by the prince and invited to Sandringham. Potter learned that the prince favoured his short evening jacket for evening wear there and asked to have it copied by the prince's tailor. Henry Poole & Co have no record of the transaction in Potter's name but Angus Cundey, managing director of Henry Poole, thinks that this might be because the commission was paid for by the prince.

Meanwhile, Pierre Lorillard IV, a tobacco millionaire, had started a club at Tuxedo Park in the hills outside New York. His youngest child, N Griswold Lorillard's first Henry Poole commissions had been made in 1881; when he was aged 17 years and in the year that his father's horse, Iroquois, would win the Epsom Derby. None of them appears to have comprised a dinner jacket; although one is tantalizingly described as a 'fancy dress coat with single-breasted facings' - presumably meaning step lapels.

When James and Cora Potter returned to New York, in the Autumn of 1886, founder
members of the club at Tuxedo Park, including Pierre Lorillard IV and Grenville Kane,
began to adopt the jacket brought back by Potter for their informal dinners. Some club
members even dared to sport the jacket out to stag (or bachelor) dinners at Delmonico's in
New York where, according to Grenville Kane, talking in 1929, to Tuxedo Park resident J
Earle Stevens, people started saying "Oh! That's what they wear for dinner up in Tuxedo."

On 10th October 1886, N Griswold Lorillard and some friends attended the first Tuxedo
Park Club Autumn Ball in a tailless dress coat, as a prank. This was much shorter than the
dinner jackets that his elders had begun to adopt for informal occasions and a gossip
sheet, called Town Topics, said that it made Griswold look like 'a royal footman'. Before
he emigrated To England in 1888, William Waldorf Astor satisfied himself that the word
'tuxedo' derives from the Indian P'tauk-seet-tough, meaning 'home of the bear'.

Although it is often said that the Duke of Windsor (as Prince of Wales) set his seal of approval on (inky) blue dinner jackets in the first part of the 20th Century, it seems that his grandfather was there a long time before him.

Moreover, N Griswold Lorillard may not then really have introduced, at the age of 22 years, the dinner jacket (as we know it) to American society but the legend of his high-spirited prank, on 10th October 1886, has long survived his early death, aged 25, in 1889 and played a real part in the long sunset of full evening dress and the swallow-tail coat.

Nicholas Storey. This article is based on papers and records kindly made available by Angus Cundey, MD of Henry Poole & Co; including two papers by J Earle Stevens Jr: The Prince and Mrs Potter - why the dinner jacket is called a 'Tuxedo' - Grenville Kane's account (1929) (Tuxedo Park Library (1979)) and Grizzy's Lark and a Legend (1988).
Copyright: Nicholas Storey, 2009
Ends.
<b></b>NJS<b></b>

#21 Sator

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Posted 05 June 2009 - 10:06 AM

The source text saying that the double breasted dress jacket was unknown in the UK but popular in America, is written by none other than V.D.F. Vincent of the Cutter's Practical Guide. The whole CPG ran to around ten volumes, and was the most authoritative publication of its day. I would personally be more inclined to trust this published source on this subject. Perhaps Buchanan popularised the style in the UK, but Vincent can be better trusted as to the origins fo the garment.

Part of the reason for dinner jackets being single breasted was the older cutters still probaby thought of them as a "dress lounge" - rather than a double breasted "dress reefer". American cutters, on the other hand, used to call both single and double breasted jackets, "sack coats".

#22 Sator

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Posted 05 June 2009 - 10:33 AM

I did a little more research and in the 1912 edition of the Lounges, Reefers and Norfolks volume of Vincent's CPG, he writes that "there are some [dinner jackets] made with double breasted fronts for wear in the United States, but these are not worn in Great Britain". Buchanan made his West End stage debut in 1912.

#23 NJS

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Posted 05 June 2009 - 10:39 AM

That might, indeed, suggest that Buchanan popularized the DB DJ in the UK (possibly after the Charlot Revues), but if Wall or Potter did, indeed, take the DJ to the USA from the UK (allowing for the possiblility that there had been earlier German influence), there might then be the possibility that the original 1865 jacket was, itself, double-breasted (which is an unknown fact). If it had been a smoking jacket (as the order book specification suggests), then it is possible that all the American models derived from it and we do know that smoking jackets are very often double-breasted.
NJS.
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#24 Sator

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Posted 05 June 2009 - 10:49 AM

I think that it is a very intriguing theory that the original American "Tuxedo" may have been a double breasted garment with a form like a smoking jacket. I have read one account suggesting that the scandal surrounding its debut at the Tuxedo Club in New York was that it was a coloured garment (red IIRC). The scandal may have been that he was wearing a smoking jacket - which was like wearing a dressing gown in polite society. Of course, the Continentals all call it a "smoking" - which may be quite an accurate term for the origins of the garment.

#25 NJS

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Posted 05 June 2009 - 12:24 PM

It is intriguing and all the more because the actual desciptions in the records are exiguous - just enough to identify for billing purposes. Town Topics said that the youngsters were wearing red vests and it seems possible that Grizzy and his pals just chopped the tails off their dress coats - maybe in jest at their elders' sometime choice of the new-fangled jackets.
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#26 PocketTriangle

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Posted 07 June 2009 - 02:28 AM

My thoughts on dinner jacket lapels (historically uninformed, but I spent a long time trying to figure this out and articulate my thoughts, so now I'll share them with you):


The dinner jacket is of greater formality than the informal suit. Why? For the last 50-60 years or so, the suit has been for business wear, while the dinner jacket is reserved for fancy dinners. One is permitted to attend work in an informal suit (as opposed to formal morning dress) because one is doing one's job, and as long as one is presentable (virtually guaranteed if one is wearing a suit and tie) then any greater formality is unnecessary, and, indeed, might be frowned on as being too flamboyant or distracting from one's work. Indeed, an excess of formality may risk implying that one is not working very hard, as formality is often used to convey the importance of an event that is not very strenuous. For example, a lumberjack may wear jeans without reproach because he is engaged in a demanding physical activity. Getting married, however, is quite easy once the arrangements have been made (just say "I do" and kiss her), so formal dress, as a form of communication, is necessary to convey the importance of the event.

That's an important concept--clothes as a form of communication. Why do most business suits have notched lapels? Because shawl lapels, associated with the smoking jacket i.e. a form of domestic dress worn when not working, would be too relaxed, while peaked lapels, the most formal of lapels, would be too rakish (and might imply that working is a ceremonial occasion that occurs only rarely!).

So: notched lapels=everyday work clothes
shawl lapels=relaxing
peaked lapels=looking your best for a special occasion

Now, with the dinner jacket, we encounter the paradox of recreation: that it is permissible to either be more relaxed when not on the job or to devote large amounts of energy to non-work taskes, e.g. dressing up. So, therefore, it is permissible to wear a shawl lapel dinner jacket, to communicate that you are there just to relax and party, or a peaked lapel dinner jacket, to indicate that you are there to PARTY. But a notch lapel dinner jacket (especially when combined with a long tie, an aesthetically unpleasing and inappropriate deviation) implies that you are there are part of your daily routine.

If you are a waiter, or if you wear a dinner jacket more than twice a week, then I can understand having one with notch lapels (reserving your other, shawl/peak lapel dinner jacket for special occaisons). Otherwise, it's best to use the lapels of your dinner jacket to communicate that the black tie event you are attending is not just another day at the office.



#27 pvpatty

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Posted 10 June 2009 - 09:45 PM

So: notched lapels=everyday work clothes
shawl lapels=relaxing
peaked lapels=looking your best for a special occasion


I think that this is a sound, commonsense way of looking at it.
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#28 NJS

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Posted 11 June 2009 - 01:07 AM

I think that this is a sound, commonsense way of looking at it.



It is nicely spotted too.
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#29 Sator

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Posted 09 October 2009 - 03:50 PM

That might, indeed, suggest that Buchanan popularized the DB DJ in the UK (possibly after the Charlot Revues), but if Wall or Potter did, indeed, take the DJ to the USA from the UK (allowing for the possiblility that there had been earlier German influence), there might then be the <i>possibility</i> that the original 1865 jacket was, itself, double-breasted (which is an unknown fact). If it had been a smoking jacket (as the order book specification suggests), then it is possible that all the American models derived from it and we do know that smoking jackets are very often double-breasted.
NJS.


I just received shipment of a new cutting text. It is the pocket edition of the Cutters' Practical Guide in a more modern edition by F.R. Morris, with further additions by A.A. Whife. It is advertised in 1960s editions of The Tailor and Cutter, and is published by T&C. Morris is an English writer and calls a single breasted dress lounge a "dinner jacket". But, look what he calls a double breasted dinner jacket :Shocked:

Posted Image

That really does add credence to the idea that dinner jacket = single breasted dress lounge and the Tuxedo = double breasted dress reefer, based on the smoking jacket. In British English then one would have to say that Tuxedo means a double breasted dinner jacket.

#30 NJS

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Posted 09 October 2009 - 11:57 PM

This is one of those threads that has really developed into something. Moreover, Jack Buchanan brought back to the UK the 'tuxedo' that had had its origins in the smoking jacket that Potter had copied from the then PoW and taken from the UK to the USA!
NJS
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#31 J. Maclochlainn

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Posted 10 October 2009 - 12:00 AM

I personally feel the DJ is a blight upon fine dress and the work of the devil. Bring back the Dress coat!
Silly Cognoscenti, Drape is for windows!

#32 NJS

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Posted 10 October 2009 - 12:39 AM

This is undoubtedly true!!
NJS
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#33 Sator

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Posted 14 August 2011 - 12:50 AM

Here is something to add to my growing collection of images of dinner jackets with step lapels from virtually every decade of the twentieth century. It comes from The Tailor & Cutter, August 6th 1954. However, note the commentary that goes with it. The article is entitled "Unusual Features". However, they comment on everything except the step lapels (or single breasted lapels, and notched lapels to our American friends) on the dinner jacket - obviously, it was considered nothing unusual or even worth remarking on!

Posted Image

I am sure you have seen this one before:

Posted Image

This dinner jacket made by Brigden & Co in 1964 comes from a Tailor & Cutter exhibition where it won a first prize. So obviously none of the judges were aware of The Eternal Rule.

So much for The Eternal Rule of Permanent style that dictates Thou Shalt Not Wear Dinner Jackets with Step Lapels. It looks like another myth has been busted.

#34 Sator

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Posted 14 August 2011 - 01:01 AM

Oh, yes, someone forgot to tell James Bond about the Eternal Rule against step lapels on dinner jackets:

Posted Image

#35 Qirrel

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Posted 14 August 2011 - 08:35 AM

That eternal rule is ridiculous. Just as all the other rules.

#36 Sator

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Posted 13 September 2011 - 09:29 PM

From Simpsons of Picadilly in Man About Town, Winter 1961:

Posted Image




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