The cloth that you select for a tuxedo (or black tie) probably won’t get as much thought as the design, the shirt or indeed your bow tie. The options are fairly limited, and all those other things will have a greater impact.
But for those that want to think more deeply about it – as PS readers often do – there is plenty to burrow into.
The principles are simple. The cloth for a tuxedo or dinner jacket should be dark and rich, with elegant drape, and play with the reflection of light.
There have been various exceptions over the years, but they have largely been just that – exceptions. They’ve also tended to be fashions, and short lived. The ones worth mentioning are probably burgundy and green velvet, and cream for summer/tropical wear.
We will also leave out tartans or other forms of traditional dress.
With traditional black tie, there is an assumption of absence of colour, and so the cloth is black – or midnight blue, because it looks blacker than black under artificial light (one more innovation of the Duke of Windsor).
And there is an assumption of a lack of pattern, despite the fancy weaves, spots and micro-checks often included in bunches.
Without either colour or pattern to play with, the focus is on how this dark, plain material interacts with light. Woollen cloth, which was more common in the past, is very matte. Velvet visibly sucks up the light. And then there are cloths with different degrees of shine, whether generated by the fibre (eg mohair) or the weave (eg barathea).
Part of the decision as to which material you go for depends how you feel about shine. And keep in mind how specific that can be to time and place. When Sir Anthony Eden strolled out in a mohair suit it suggested sophisticated dressing, as well as a summer wardrobe. But today, shiny tailoring is more likely to indicate cheap synthetics.
Silk and mohair
Dinner jackets have been made out of various non-wool fibres over the years, most notably silk and mohair.
As a general rule though, silk is best kept to the facings of a dinner jacket, as it tends to lack body, and therefore an elegant line when tailored. If it is used in a jacket, then it should be a cream, summer one, which particularly suits silk’s lustre. Shantung can also add some unusual texture.
(Silk can also be used effectively as a minor player in a mixed-fibre cloth.)
Mohair, by contrast, has inherent sharpness and lightness, as well as natural shine. And it can be easily mixed with any proportion of wool, to get the exact amount of sharp and shine desired.
My first black tie, made by Richard Anderson (shown above and below), was in a 50:50 wool/mohair mix. It was well cut, and certainly sharp. But I’m not sure I’d choose mohair if I was to commission it over again.
I don’t especially like the shine (again, very personal and cultural) and the sharpness is a little too crisp. Today I’d prefer a cloth I could feel the body of, and that would drape and flow more.
That might be barathea. Barathea is a weave of (usually worsted) wool, just like a twill or hopsack, and is part of the satin group of weaves (see the ‘Weaves and designs’ chapter of this guide for technical details).
Satin weaves in general are dense, and so drape very nicely. In previous chapters we talked about how twill is denser than a plain weave, making it a good choice for trousers. But if you used a twill’s number of picks and ends in a satin, the satin would fall apart. It needs a lot of yarn.
Barathea retains this appealing body, but adds a rather matte look, which is what makes it look ‘blacker’ than other blacks. It basically reflects less ambient light (like velvet) which is what makes other cloths look dusty grey.
Satin weaves in general are good because of their body, and there are other variations, such as the ‘venetian’ weave. But it is rarely made any more.
Also, be aware that although barathea is strictly a weave, it can be used as a general term for any deep-black cloth with a textured weave. That doesn’t necessarily matter if you like it, and keep in mind the aims of body and depth, but it’s worth being aware of.
The evening wear I actually had made most recently was a black velvet double-breasted jacket.
Velvet appealed to me because of its versatility: I could wear it with a black roll neck and gabardine trousers, for instance, and look elegant without necessarily being in black tie.
And I liked the fact that it would be a little unusual. Menswear enthusiasts often push against tradition when it comes to black tie. On the one hand they love the idea of black tie being the most refined sartorial dress – everything stripped back to its essence. But on the other, they want to express themselves and feel they can do that better than others.
Black velvet, I think, is a nice point in between. I used to have a brown velvet (above), and other traditional colours are burgundy and bottle green; but they all seem a little too much like something you’d wear over pyjamas at home, for me. Not for going out. Black velvet doesn’t have that problem.
Velvets are either made from cotton or silk. The silk variety is superior, but it is an elusive difference, often not noticed, and as a result I don’t know anyone weaving it today. (I’ve asked a couple of mills and merchants, but please shout if you know someone.)
Interestingly, a mill told me once that they were asked to supply velvet for a replacement for HM Queen Elizabeth II’s green cape.
After much searching and enquiring with suppliers, they failed to find silk velvet in that weight. It wasn’t economical to make it any more, so no one was. And as a result, the machines and the knowledge had gone. They didn’t know whether her Majesty was ever told the replacement wasn’t silk.
Weights, colours, and other alternatives
The first thing you notice about old dinner jackets is their weight: they were often made for venues without central heating, and weaving technology limited the fineness of the yarn. I used to have a vintage dinner jacket owned by film director Michael Powell, which was phenomenally heavy.
Black tie events today are often hot and stuffy, and so it’s tempting to go for a cloth that’s as light as possible. But temper this with the need for something that drapes nicely. If you want lightness, go for a mohair mix. Otherwise, choose something substantial: certainly above 300g, ideally nearer to 400g.
On colour, it’s worth repeating that although black is standard, midnight blue can look very elegant. Just make sure it is midnight. It should be so dark that you can’t tell it’s not black until you put the two next to each other.
The trend for midnight blue has unfortunately spurred all kinds of navys and blues in evening wear, which have a tendency to look like something cheap you’d wear to the prom.
Also, if you are interested in wearing colour, it’s worth noting that this is generally best done in the tailoring, rather than the accessories.
There have been many trends with coloured evening wear over the years, including shades of brown and tan in the 1930s (below), and an array of velvets. But they all had one thing in common: the accessories remained black and white. Avoid the temptation of coloured bow ties or cummerbunds.
Finally, there are various other weaves and fibres we haven’t included. There’s nothing wrong with some of them, but mohair, velvet or barathea are usually better.
For example, cashmere is often added to the fibre mix, to make it feel softer and more luxurious. But softness is not what we’re after here: drape and sharpness are the priorities. Cashmere is just included because people think it’s expensive.
Wool gabardine can be very nice, and certainly has a luxurious feel as well as draping well. But it can look a little too much like a twill suit.
There are various fancy weaves – it’s quite standard for even a traditional bunch to include twills, herringbones and a diced weave. But they feel like they’re there to just fill out the book – or to attract the customer who wants something a little ‘fancy’. None of them has any advantage over barathea.
And of course there are cheap alternatives to everything. Any fabric that looks dark and a little like barathea is offered for black tie, including hopsack and acetate satin, while hire garments use large proportions of synthetics to make them as tough and stain resistant as possible.
It’s a big market, with a lot of options. But really only a few worth recommending.
Regarding silk velvet, I only know of one manufacturer in Italy. They make a velvet with a pure silk pile, but I do not know whether it can be made into a jacket, as it is intended for furniture.
The company in question is “l’Opificio”.
But silk velvet is not the only unusual product they offer, they also make linen and kid mohair velvets, but, once again, intended for furniture
Gucci and Tom Ford used a velvet made of 24% silk. As both brands used Zegna as a manufacturer, maybe Zegna provided the fabric also. Not sure, as Z maker and mills are separate companies and I never saw such a fabric in a Z bunch
Thanks Gonzague. Keep in mind, less than 10% of the available cloths from a big mill like Zegna is ever offered in bunches.
Thank you once again for the article. I always look forward to what you will share with us.
One question: why is velvet only done currently in cotton, and not, say wool? Given that cotton doesn’t drape so well and have no elasticity in it, I wonder why no mill have yet made a velvet wool (and if someone did, pardon my ignorance and please share with me the bunch and mill). From what I know, woll velvet wouldn’t have any disadvantage to the cotton velvet, beside a bit priver.
Cotton velvet actually drapes OK – there’s a big range of different types of cotton depending on weave etc.
I don’t know on wool velvet actually. If it’s possible, I’d imagine it would be very warm?
I believe Caccioppoli makes, or did make, a wool velvet. I had a swatch of it in burgundy a few years ago when I was looking at having a burgundy velvet dinner jacket made up. I may still do so. It was largely indistinguishable from a cotton velvet, though.
Thanks. Would have been interested to hear how it made up
Kvadrat make a mohair velvet called Haakon. It’s a beautiful upholstery fabric — not sure if there are clothing equivalents.
If one does tend to overheat and one does not want to sacrifice drape, which percentage of mohair could one add before it becomes noticeably shiny?
I’d say around 40% at the most. Go with less if you want to.be safer
Is Mr Anderson wearing brown shoes with his black tie or is that just a trick of the light in the photograph ?
He is, good spot! This was an outtake from an old shoot with The Rake, and I don’t think photos were expected to be taken to include shoes.
Funny. I noticed that right away. I am a rank amateur when it comes to men’s clothing who can barely dress presentably, but what instantly came to mind was: “Those three guys are world-class men’s style pros. If he’s wearing brown shoes — which to me seems a bit odd — with black tie, it must be a well-considered and artful form of rule breaking.” I would have not given it a second thought if I were a guest at a party and met him there, shoed thusly, socially. Although I probably would have black shoes myself just cause I don’t have the sartorial confidence (or knowledge) to artfully break any rules. LOL.
Thoughts on turn-back cuffs?
I don’t mind them on black tie, though in general I’ve erred towards simplicity and gone without
Thank you Simon. Very interesting and helpful as usual. I do need to say, though, that Her Majesty is of course HM Queen Elizabeth II, not HRH. (Sorry, it just jumps out at me.)
Not at all, thanks for the correction
Nice summary. By the way: the Queen’s titular prefix isn’t ‘HRH’ (Her Royal Highness) but ‘HM’ (Her Majesty)
Yep, noted in the comment above Richard. Thanks
How is silk velvet superior to cotton if the difference is not really noticeable? Is it in the longevity? Something else?
Do you have any specific bunch recommendations or and comments comparing different bunches?
I have a dinner suit with matching waistcoat in a black barathea from Smith Woolens – Formal and Dress Wear (16oz, I think). It’s a great go to for those late fall and winter parties. I have not had a chance to wear it during an outdoor summer party though, all the weddings were cancelled this summer. Someday I hope we’ll all be able to attend parties again.
Not really I’m afraid, sorry. It’s been a good while since I’ve been looking for black tie materials
Would be nice to add some… article felt curtailed without any especially with the warning of certain passing off
Any suggestions on mills for black barathea?
also on waistcoats – I have a low (u shaped) vintage one in black fabric (looks like a marcella). Have you come across this fabric before for waistcoat?
Also curious to hear thoughts on silk facings. Satin a bit too shiny for me, would corded be better?
I haven’t looked closely I’m afraid, though Lafayette Saltiel did have some great, heavy barathea last year when I was there
Slightly off topic, but if you had only one tuxedo, would you go for a shawl neck or peak lapel?
If I only had one, right now, I’d probably go for a double-breasted to be honest. Same style as the black velvet jacket above.
I am going to commission a DB dinner jacket the moment lockdown ends. My only concern is that most of the BT events I go to include lots of quite rigorous dancing, either reeling or rock and roll.
Does a DB hinder this? I’ve never tried and would hate to waste all that cash!
Yes, I think you might find that an issue. It will be more restrictive, and you don’t have the advantage of being able to leave the jacket unbuttoned obviously. Or indeed to take off the jacket and stay with the waistcoat, if you want to
Agree with Simon. Go double breasted.
Just noticed you are wearing a wing collared shirt with your black tie ensemble. This collar is designed to be more formally worn with white tie, made with single cuffs for cuff links.
My standard is 80/20 wool/mohair, at around 12 ozs, with silk grosgrain facings.
Thank you for an interesting article.
Thank you Robert. Actually, a wing-collared shirt has been perfectly acceptable in the past with black tie, it’s just less common these days.
I tend to wear a fold-down collar more, but I like the formality of a wing collar sometimes. I would always wear it with the more formal designs of black tie, ie single breasted, oxfords not slippers and so on.
Thanks on your details, that mix in the cloth sounds lovely.
Thank you Simon.
Yes, the wing collar was made popular by our cousins across the pond, and sort of merged here, although turn down is the more proper traditional collar.
I believe the wing collar is still the preferred style worn with a “Tux” in the US.
I was under the impression that actually it was worn in the UK with the dinner jacket universally at the start, and only later became more popular with a turndown collar. I think I’m remembering on Flusser there, but I might be wrong. Needless to say, it does come up every time I show these shots!
My research in the past indicated that the detachable wing collar worn with full dress (white tie) was initially worn with a tuxedo (black tie) when the less formal short black jacket was introduced. Wikipedia dates the debut of the tuxedo at 1865 with the Prince of Wales (later Edward VII) as the early adapter although there is also the romantic point of view that it was launched at Tuxedo Park, a posh residential enclave just west of NYC, which still exists. The stiff, detachable collar was attached to a collar band via a short collar button in the back and a longer collar button in the front.
The first shirt of this kind I needed to buy for white tie about a hundred and ten years later was purchased from J. Press and boasted a heavily starched, pique bib with an opening for a single stud and single French cuffs, also pique. The remainder of the shirt was cotton lawn. Archaically, the garment buttoned up the back so it was almost impossible to put on without assistance and required hand laundering along with the collar. I proceeded to wear it with black tie throughout the late seventies and appropriately, the decade of greed (1980s) and have retained it as a personal museum piece!
Early on, a white pique vest (now almost exclusively reserved for white tie) was also worn with black tie, which would have been considered more formal than the black vest option, typically satin, grosgrain, or barathea.
As you mentioned, Simon, the turndown collar we see most often today was introduced later in the evolution of the tuxedo and was initially the least formal option.
For those with a similar, overactive interest in this topic, there existed a comprehensive website/blog named the “Black Tie Guide”, the content of which has been acquired and expanded by a site named “Gentlemen’s Gazette”. Chronicled is the history of formal dress from the Regency Period to the present and much more.
Thank you. Great depth of information as well as nice personal experience. The best qualities in comments!
Are you not confusing styles in the top photograph? Wing collars are correct for white tie, not black I believe
See comments above Roger. Either is fine, though the turndown is far more popular today
I completely agree with your text about evening jackets. I have numerous ones in silk velvet or cotton velvet for colder months and silk ( including shantung) for warmer months. Paired with the right or proper jewelry, they provide a peasant departure from a tuxedo. Because of this article, I have renewed my search for an evening jacket in chocolate brown velvet.
One of my biggest sartorial regrets – getting a black tuxedo instead of midnight blue…and having made the investment, I am somewhat ‘out on a limb’
Ahhh first world problems…
Why do you regret it so much? Trying to decide between the two at the moment. Why do you think Midnight Blue has an advantage?
Is there actually a UK social event that a flaneur would want to go to that demands black tie ?
I ask because there used to be two or three a year but I haven’t actually worn black tie for at least 10 years and I have a more than active social life.
There certainly were before Covid put a stop to most events Jason. Whether public or private. I always particularly liked the BTBA dinner
An informative article, Simon! A good friend who lives in Stockholm has a dinner jacket and trousers made up in Fresco. I have not seen it in person, only in photographs, but the matte finish of Fresco seems to work well. The owner claims that the ensemble wears agreeably cool. But using Fresco is definitely an unusual choice.
I’ve had good experience using Dormeuil’s Amadeus bunch for a couple of things and my Burma jacket is from their Celebration bunch, which has some lovely baratheas, too. One difficulty with midnight blue is finding the right shade of silk for the facings. I found a supplier in London, but it was quite a search. I don’t think using black silk on a midnight jacket looks right.
I agree with your advice to only use black accessories with colored jackets. While it’s fun to play around with offbeat ties (and I’ve been wearing some this summer that I’m sure would appall you), if you are going out in public, black just looks better, more relaxed, somehow.
Anyway, it was enjoyable to read an article about my favorite form of menswear!
Thank you Andrew, and great information on the bunches and sources
Is it possible to get to see a picture of this fresco tux? I am also considering a high twist.
May I suggest a New Yorker cartoon style caption contest for picture #3? Winner gets a free Friday polo?
Well I don’t know about the polo, but happy to hear any caption suggestions!
I’m interested in your thoughts on how fabric choice interplays with the facings on the dinner jacket. For example, if I choose a more matte cloth, like a barathea, is that more appropriate with grosgrain facings? It seems like with a mohair/wool mix, the cloth might outshine (or outsheen, is that a word) the grosgrain facings. Likewise, would a mohair/wool mix work better with satin facings? Or does that even matter?
Also what are your thoughts on midnight blue cloth with black facings? My personal opinion is I hate any contrast that would make the midnight blue look like a navy… Thanks again.
Good point. I’d never given that too much thought to be honest, I think because I just always prefer grosgrain on the facings. Satin seems so cheap by comparison (certainly cheaper satin, anyway).
I don’t think the issue you raise is really a problem, because the different textures of the body and lapels mean they will always look rather different. And if the body has more, or rather a different, sheen to it, then that’s fine.
On black facings, I’m not sure actually, having not had midnight blue. Are midnight blue grosgrain and satin easily available?
I do not know if they are easily available but they are available. I know blogger Matt Spaiser had a dinner suit made with midnight blue facings from Bernstein and Banleys. Not a company I’m familiar with but they are out there.
And yes I agree I’m more of a grosgrain fan, although my current black tie is just a Hickey Freeman hand me down with Satin facings. I don’t attend enough events, only 1-3 a year to justify the cost of a new dinner suit at this point with other more pressing needs for my wardrobe, but I hope to in the future.
We’ve covered Bernstein quite a bit in the past – have a search
Yes! Those silk facings can look too shiny. They may be of great quality but to me they come across as awfully synthetic because the contrast between the matte of the barathea cloth and the silk is dramatic.
My tailor had an older bunch for the facings that had a duller sheen, such that its contrast with the the matte cloth was far less glaring. I think it just worked so well I had him make up two additional bow ties, cumber bun and extra button facings … next time I see him I’ll try to find out specifics from that cloth and let you know
I recall Hugo Jacomet mentioning a very deep black Drago cloth on his Instagram account, which he said was perfect for black tie. I have never seen it up close, but the images are rather impressive.
Thank you for the article, Simon. I’ve been wondering what kind of trousers you would wear with velvet jacket for a black tie event. I’ve seen pictures of everything from black tuxedo suit trousers to mid grey ones. Are there any rules/expectations in terms of color and material?
Typically you would wear something very similar to black tie trousers. And indeed those are generally fine. You might ideally want a pair without the grosgrain on the seams, perhaps, but that’s about it. I certainly wouldn’t wear a mid-grey myself
Pontoglio in Italy will make a beautiful silk, or silk/cotton velvet but unfortunately the minimums make it unfeasible for most tailors to stock. I have used it and it is on another level compared to anything available in cut lengths. Something akin to it used to be available from a company called Ruban in London but I think they went out of business a few years ago. Maybe you should bring your influence to bear on some of the London cloth merchants Simon! 😁
Great idea, thanks. Sounds like a group MTO waiting to happen. Even a whole piece wouldn’t need too many people to sign up to it.
Here’s a biggie, Simon: I own a BEAUTIFUL Dunhill velvet dinner jacket, (made in Italy by Isaia,); is it only for the winter? And when I do wear it, am I to wear a velvet bow tie to compliment it? Or is that too-too? Please advise. LOVE your site; LOVE your taste! Thank you for your commitment to an important part of being a man!!! DS.
Not at all, a velvet jacket can be worn at other times of the year, and doesn’t require a velvet bow. In fact as you say, that can be a bit too much.
Velvet may be warm, but in many countries it will be cool in the evening, or indoors.
I’m guessing that for the third photo, the three of you donned dinner jackets just for the shoot, in the expectation that your street shoes would be cropped out?
Yes, exactly – something highlighted higher up in these comments
I went with black cloth from Harrisons Cru Classe and went classic with a 1 button peak lapel. Almost went midnight blue and almost went with some mohair mix. I’m happy I didn’t and stuck with a classic, color, cloth, and cut. I’ve worn it a ton and interestingly it ends up standing out as apparently, not too many people choose classic.
Simon, apologies if this is a bit of a naff question or if it has been answered previously. I know it’s the accepted wisdom to match the lapel facings to the bow tie (and by extension, the cummerbund if worn), but are silk barathea bow ties the exception and are they able to go with both grosgrain and satin facings?
Yes. I don’t think it’s as important to directly match tie and facings
That should’ve read “daft” not “naff” and thanks for the answer Simon
Hi Michael. Just anecdotally (and not exactly on point), but when A&S made my midnight blue dinner jacket, they not only sourced matching midnight blue grosgrain facings but also very kindly offered to have Budd make up a bow tie from the exact same facing material. The resulting tie is a tad chunky due to the thickness of the material, but it ties up beautifully and looks great as part of the whole outfit.
very interesting, good job and thanks for sharing such a good information
My personal suggestion would be Smiths 7815 Midnight Blue Barathea (10-11 oz). It makes up beautifully, sucks up the ambient light like a dream, and is soft and yielding to the touch and on the body, quite unlike the Teflon-esque substance that often seems to be used on RTW dinner jackets and trousers.
When paired with midnight blue grosgrain facings and highly polished black whole-cuts, it is quite exquisite.
Wonderful, thanks Matt
The only occasions for me to wear a tuxedo are opera festivals like Munich, Bayreuth, or Salzburg. Since these take place in the hottest months (July, August) I would need a fabric that is lightweight and breathable and looks good under intense daylight, too. What would be your advice, Simon?
Go for cream lightweight breathable wool. That is perfectly fine in summer. Maybe only partially lined.
I would say single breasted ( cooler ) and shawl collar. But that is up to your taste.
Normal black dress trousers in lighter weight barathea best. If not cut too tight, they are cooler. 🙂
Couldn’t agree more on the versatility of black velvet. I had a single-breasted, one button, peak lapel jacket made 5 years ago. Initially, I imagined using it for less formal black tie events, the opera and so on. But, crucially, I opted for the lapels to not be faced with grosgrain or satin – just regular cloth. This turned out to make the jacket incredibly versatile and I never feel better than when wearing it with a black roll neck and grey flannel trousers for an elegant night out on the town.
A bit off topic… but do you have a construction you would recommend for black tie/dinner suits? What would should be considered if trying to decide between British, French, Florentine, or Neapolitan make for one’s dinner suit? Would the type of cloth need to be considered when making the decision?
Well, if black tie is meant to be more formal, then a more structured make would seem more suitable – so all those except Neapolitan. But it’s up to you how formal you want it to be.
The cut can also be more dramatic, and it is an opportunity to use something more stylised there, like a Chittleborough & Morgan for example.
No, the type of cloth shouldn’t be a factor. If it is very light, the tailor might use a lighter weight canvas, but that would be all.
Would you still wear a wing collar ?
As a change, an alternative, yes. But mostly a turn-down collar. Also, only a wing collar with the smartest of black tie – single breasted peak, with a waistcoat. No DB, no cummerbund
The question of grosgrain vs satin for the facings is itching me. Why one over the other, given both are made from top quality silk?
It’s partly the look – satin is more shiny, more showy, more obvious. And there’s less to it, no texture or surface interest.
And it’s partly cultural/social – cheap black tie is always made with satin. So it looks more like a rented one.
I am considering buying a off-white double breasted shawl collar DJ, very similar to the classic worn by Bogart. My only hiccup is this: the jacket is made up in wool barathea at 395gr. Of course, it is a beautiful fabric and probably drapes very well. But this substantial weight and cloth seems to negate the intended use for warm weather events. On the other hand, I live in Norway, meaning that those truly intense days of heat are quite rare even in summer.
What do you think? Yay or nay? Other than the weight of the cloth, the jacket looks perfect.
I think it would probably be a lovely piece, and I’d go for it.
what overcoat would you wear with your velvet jacket? or any other evening outfit?
The darkest, smartest coat I have. Probably my Sexton great coat, unless it’s too warm in which case my navy Cifonelli. I wouldn’t commission a coat especially, and it doesn’t really matter so much what you wear getting to an event. (White silk scarves being particularly impractical in that regard)
Used to have a brown velvet? What happened to it? I was rather fond of it. 🙂
I sold it I’m afraid – the brown was nice, and the embroidery was beautiful, but the style and cut were never great. My Cifonelli black velvet has replaced it
Would a DB black tie be much harder to dance in? Most black tie events I go to are balls, and I need to be able to rock & roll!
Presuming you have your SB jacket open for that, then it might be yes. But I’m afraid I can’t give much personal advice – more lounging than rocking or rolling for me
What would you think about a double breasted, shawl lapel (2 buttons)? Would it be too flash / modern? I have a v traditional crowd and would be in use for v traditional purposes
I don’t think it would be that flash, no, if it was in a fairly standard and classic material
I was hoping you could give me some advice on what kind of jacket to purchase for my first black tie ensemble.
I am a young professional of modest means and currently do not have the wallet to go bespoke. I currently use the SuitSupply MTM program as their suits tend to fit me rather well. I would recommend this MTM program to any young gentlemen starting out as they offer highly customisable options and have customizations that account for odd shoulders and other bodily “imperfections”.
After pouring through hundreds of fabric swatches, I have narrowed down my search to a dark burgundy velvet at 400gsm or a black worsted at 300gsm. My plan is to create a double breasted dinner jacket with shawl lapels and satin facings. Now the issue is…
I just can’t decide which fabric to choose for my first black tie ensemble.
Although I lean towards velvet, I worry that I will melt wearing a fully lined double breasted 400gsm velvet jacket. I worry that a jacket of this caliber might actually be bulletproof. As you know, black tie events are often hot and stuffy affairs. I want to be unique and elegant but not feel like I am wearing armour and melting from within.
The second option is going for a 300gsm worsted. I would basically go with the same jacket design. Now this ensemble could more or less be worn all year round. I don’t think I would overheat in it. The only draw back is that black worsted is so boring and uninspiring. I am reticent to spend good money on a jacket that leaves me feeling rather dull. However, I know that for someone who is just starting out, versatility is key.
So my question(s) to you is:
What would you do if you were me?
I noticed that you have a few velvet dinner jackets in your wardrobe. What is your experience with those? How insulating do you suppose 400gsm velvet would be? At what point do you think one should forgo velvet? How late can velvet be worn into the warmer months? Perhaps you could also post my question on the website as I am sure there are many who have had the same issue.
Uriel F. Martinez
Thanks for the question. I think I would come down firmly on the side of the black worsted.
Coloured velvet seems so much more exciting, but there are a couple of big risks.
One is that over time, perhaps in two or three years, you decide you don’t like the colour as much. That certainly happened to me with my brown velvet jacket. I did get another black velvet later, but only after I had a much more straightforward black dinner jacket.
The second is that at any black tie event, you will always be wearing ‘that’ jacket. It will stand out, which if you see the same people at all at these events, won’t necessarily be what you want.
Finally, remember that black tie is about looking elegant and understated. Sharp and smooth. Not exciting, at least in an obvious way.
I hope that helps
Thanks Simon. I did go ahead and purchase the black worsted jacket as you suggested. Just for the future, how warm would you estimate a 400 gsm velvet jacket to be? I certainly would not like to overheat when trying to be as elegant as possible.
I’m not sure how the describe warmth in that way, but it would certainly feel noticeably warmer indoors than a more usual worsted weight like the black one
Fantastic. Thanks for the info Simon.
What a wonderful article, Simon! Interestingly, I am seeing more midnight blue velvet jackets available, but as stand alone dinner jackets, without trousers. What sort of trousers would match? Would one need midnight blue or just wear standard black formal trousers? Perhaps something completely different?
Black formal trousers still would be best probably
I hope all is well. What is your take on studs, whether they should be worn or not, and do they always need to match cufflinks if they are worn? Would it be odd to wear cufflinks without studs? And lastly, not sure if you can, but wondering if you’d recommend any places to get cufflinks or studs.
Studs can be lovely. More formal than just a covered placket, but a lovely way to wear jewellery.
They don’t have to match the cufflinks, no, but I’d have them in the same metal at least – so either white or yellow.
Personally, if I were getting studs and links today, I’d look at a vintage dealer – antiques are amazing value for what they are often, and have more character too.
Thank you Simon. Unfortunately, I don’t know or couldn’t find online antique dealers who had what I was looking for. I’m sure I just don’t know where to look. At any rate, I wound up going with a matching mother of pearl set for an upcoming wedding from Samuel Gassmann. I think I’ll be pretty happy with them.
Hello, What cloth would you recommend for a summer cream dinner jacket? Thanks you very much!! Kind regards, Patrick
I’m afraid I’m not sure – I’ve never looked for that material myself
Is it ok to have a black velvet jacket (single breasted, peak lapels) as your only tuxedo, or is it less versatile than the wool/mohair?
If you don’t go to that many black tie events – perhaps a handful a year – then it’s fine. The only risk with the velvet is that it looks a little unusual. But not much really
I only wear black tie maybe once a year and new to men’s fashion. I’m thinking about a black, MTM, DB, peak lapel, cotton velvet dinner jacket (no facing) with matching DB, peak lapel waistcoat (I want to keep it versatile enough for casual wear). Wondering what colors for the jacket and vest and what texture are formal trousers – twill?
I think the jacket sounds great Ron, but the waistcoat is rather overkill. Because you’ll barely see it under the DB jacket, because it will be too thick if also velvet, and because the two layers of DB peak lapel are also a bit too much. Just start with the jacket and think about a waistcoat later.
Black is a great choice for the jacket, and the trousers could be any dark wool or mohair.
May check with you, where I can buy the best velvet in the UK (London or online) / fabric by metre for a bespoke dinner jacket. Your help will be much appreciated.
Hi Franck, I’d look to Scabal – they usually have the greatest range
What are your thoughts on bamboo in suits/jackets in general and for black tie in particular?
I’ve never liked the sheen it usually has myself. I’d prefer linen or wool
Simon – thanks for the great article as usual. Question for you; what are your thoughts on classic black barathea fabric dinner jacket that does NOT have a silk facing on its lapel (i.e. Same fabric as the body of the jacket)? I’m very against anything shiny and was thinking of getting the entire jacket made without any silk fabric on facing (especially lapel).
That could be nice and a little unusual William. Although grosgrain isn’t really that shiny at all. Certainly avoid satin.
I think the only danger with your proposal is that the jacket looks a little like a black suit jacket
Hi Simon, it may sound like a silly question, but I was wondering whether a navy wool/mohair suit is acceptable for a black-tie event?
Probably not Jack, it should be black or what they call midnight blue – which basically looks like black, but richer. Not a dark navy
Okay, thanks. Basically, I have been invited to a black tie event next week with such a short notice. I have an evening suit but it is too small for me, and impossible to wear it on the day. I was considering investing properly if I were to buy my next evening suit (MTM/Bespoke), but obviously, I don’t have enough time now.
Potential options I currently have in my wardrobe are navy,charcoal single breasted and charcoal double breasted prince of wales check suits.
I understand from your response that none of these are suitable, but do you think I can get away with any of these? If not, what would you suggest at this point?
I think it’s up to you and the host really Jack. You don’t have any traditional black tie there, but how much that matters to the host of the event, and to you if you’re going to be a little out of sync, is your call. Events kind of vary in how strict they would be?
It is a university event for graduates and current students. I am not sure how strict it will be. I assume it may be similar to Mayball.
Would you suggest that I wear the darkest colour possible among the options?
I see. I’m sure there will be some variation then. I would wear the charcoal suit, white shirt, black shoes and either a dark neck tie or bow tie, depending on whether you want to look almost like the dress code or simply smart and formal
Thank you, Simon, for the suggestion. Appreciate it.
The suit I am planning to wear for the event has flapped pockets. Do you think it would look a bit more formal if I put the flaps into the pockets and made them look like jetted pockets?
A little bit, yes, though it’s the kind of detail I doubt many people will notice
Hi Simon, could I ask what you think of the dinner suit without vents?
It’s traditional, but that’s not necessarily a good reason to pick them on its own. Also they don’t suit anyone curvy, or who uses their trouser pockets at all
Simon, what would be your recommendation for a high summer equivalent of the black velvet DB? I’m attending a “black tie optional” wedding (unfortunate dress code guideline), and would love to make up a jacket I could wear in non-black tie situations, without silk facings. Could something like a peak lapel SB in midnight blue linen or cotton gabardine work, worn with black tie trousers, or would that be too unusual?
I think that could be lovely Kristian. I’d go for linen, either DB or peak SB. Maybe with relatively casual things elsewhere, such as slippers and a plain shirt with a covered placket, rather than Marcella or pleated.
Mohair would be the more normal warm-weather option, or really fine worsteds. But they wouldn’t be as wearable in other situations.
I’ve been noticing men wearing more off-white dinner jackets to events this year. Curiously, the spectrum seems to span from jackets which aren’t much more formal than a standard suit (in terms of buttons, construction, etc.) to jackets that are essentially off-white versions of a tuxedo (silk facings, covered buttons, etc.).
What considerations should someone take into mind when choosing among these options?
I think there is a real range there that can work, and it’s a question of what kind of event you’re going to – some are very formal, others more just a nice dinner event. I do think they look a lot better when the event is partly outside or clearly a summer event though. Cream looks best in that situation.
I’d only wear a straight cream jacket if it was really not a black tie event, just a smart dinner. And then I might be wearing it without a tie, with just black trousers with grosgrain and so on.
If it was a black tie event, I’d want a shawl collar, a DB or an SB with covered lapels. Something that separates it from a regular cream jacket. And if not covered buttons, then something again that’s different like white mother of pearl
That all sounds rather reasonable. Thank you very much.
When wearing a velvet or cream dinner jacket can midnight trousers be worn; or is black preferred?
Black is usually better, but if it’s true midnight it should be OK, given it should look blacker than black anyway. The problem is most people don’t actually wear midnight – they wear something that’s just dark blue, hardly even dark navy
Thanks for your reply Simon. I will go with black, just to stay safe.
Good call Daniel
I just graduated and looking to buy a made to measure/bespoke (I’m not tall) black tie for an event. I am thinking Savile Row, budget around £1800. I would like this black tie to be long-lasting.
Are there any brands you recommend with these in mind?
With best wishes,
I’m assuming you mean Savile Row in terms of style? There won’t be anything Savile Row in terms of make at that price, or indeed anything bespoke at all for black tie probably.
If it is Row style, then the options are a little limited – Whitcomb & Shaftesbury offshore bespoke would be good, but I think a little more expensive. Good MTM options I’d suggest like Anglo-Italian or Saman Amel aren’t really Row style.
What do you mean by “Row Style” in the context of a black tie? I used to have Italian suits, but would prefer British styles if they would still enhance my vertical silhouette.
It is usually a little difficult for me to find a suit that fits/enhance my silhouette right off the rack, hence going for made-to-measure. My first two suits were off the rack from Emenegildo Zegna. The fabric and quality is nice but did not enhance my stature.
I will check out the brands you mentioned, I am based in London at the moment. I came across Gieves and Hawkes MTM just under £2000. Is this something you would advice me to consider or the aforementioned brands by you?
With best wishes,
By Row style, compared to Italian brands at least, I mean something with a more padded shoulder, more structure in the chest, and things like a slightly longer jacket. What do you what to achieve with flattering your figure? Do you want to appear wider but not necessarily taller?
I wouldn’t really recommend Gieves at that price, no, though I have no direct personal experience of them.
I see. I would want a black tie that makes me appear taller/slimmer within the reasonable sartorial boundaries. Perhaps, this would be Italian more than Row in that case?
Thinking around £2000 for MTM.
With best wishes,
Both could have that effect really Phillip. If that’s the aim I would just focus on which style of suit you like more, and Italian would give you better MTM options.
Perfect. I will go through the list.
I have the King’s suit style in mind, the suits/black tie worn when he was Prince of Wales. But around the same budget for MTM.
With best wishes,
I see. It will be hard to get that shape outside of bespoke, but if you can afford it then the Whitcomb offshore bespoke will be great in that regard
I was around the Savile Row this afternoon and went to several stores.
Could you comment on Richard James’ and Oliver Brown’s Made-to-Measure?
With best wishes,
No, sorry Phillip, I don’t have direct experience of either.
Thank you for the article. I have a black tie event soon and took some great pointers out of your article. However, I have 3 questions, which are hopefully short to answer for you.
Vitale Barberis Canonico 886.601/5731
here is a picture also: (https://draperiegoldtex.ma/product/vitale-barberis-canonico-ref-886-601-5731/ )
Looking forward to your reply and thanks again!
I would have thought midnight blue would be harder, not easier. I’d only wear a black or charcoal roll neck, and they would stand out against midnight blue.
For a real tuxedo, yes the stripe is a must. But decide whether you care about how much of a true tuxedo it is. If you’re wearing a roll neck then it isn’t really black tie anymore anyway.
On the material, that looks like dark navy, not even midnight blue. But it might just be the imagery online.
VBC 2255 56 800 is a good wool – mohair barathea in midnight blue. From their evening wear book.
As a separate point, do you know the fabric used for the Liverano jacket above? It’s unquestionably beautiful.
No, sorry David
Hey Simon, this was super helpful! Thanks
Given your expertise, question for you:
Given my tight budget, I was thinking about getting a midnight-blue, linen, double-breasted suit (I saw Saman Amel did a summer-style/evening-dress black linen one and I liked it, but feel like black is restrictive).
Rationale is that I can use the midnight-blue DB linen suit at summer weddings/events, and then I can also use the DB-blazer for less formal black-tie events (I have midnight-blue tuxedo / trousers already).
Do you think this could work, or would it be a case of neither fish-nor-fowl? (unfortunately my budget doesn’t allow me to buy both a nice tux + a nice linen summer suit 🙁
I think that would be lovely, and certainly work in the first example. For the latter, I think it depends how many such events you go to, and how strict they are. If everyone is playing around with versions of black tie, it could fit right in. But if people wear normal tuxes then you could stand out and not like the effect.
Thank you once again for your article. I would like to know if you would recommend a heavy high twist wool for a tuxedo? I would like a heavy fabric without sheen to wear in cooler temperaturers all year round. I am considering ordering a tuxedo in black pure wool 4Ply (420g/m) made by Vitale Barberis Canonico. I think it would combine good drape from its weight with the airiness and breathability from the high twist weaving method. However, I would appreciate your thoughts in this matter.
It would be an unusual choice – normally a tux would have more of a luxurious feel than a high-twist has. I wouldn’t immediately recommend it therefore, it would be a little alternative. Often people go for mohair mixes for something cooler
Hi Simon, great article!
I was hoping for some advice on pairings for a coloured velvet blazer (eggplant purple). I was thinking of a classic black bow-tie, but not sure about classic silk or something textured like faille or even velvet? I like faille!
Also, do you have any shirt colour advice? I worry white might be too bright, and that an ivory (or light cream?) might be more balanced.
Thanks mate, Peter
Sure. I’d go faille/grosgrain, rather than satin or velvet, unless the jacket has lapels in a particular silk, then I’d copy that.
A really pale cream shirt would be great, but white would probably be fine too
I am based in London. Any brand recommendations for pure silk socks that are sheen and slightly transparent?
Also do you happen to know any cummerbund that flatters someone of a short stature and not too wide (top to bottom of the cummerbund).
With best wishes,
I’d try Budd, New & Lingwood, Ede & Ravenscroft. One of them will have the socks, but not sure if cummerbunds will come in different widths – then again I’ve never asked!
Let me know how you get on.
I wanted to reach out to ask for your opinion as I have been following your content, and I trust your judgment. I am looking for a suit (probably a tuxedo) for my wedding, and would appreciate any advice or input you can provide.
I have been looking at different bespoke, MTM, and RTW offerings, and I am having a hard time thinking between the different options:
For bespoke, I am not sure whether it is worth the investment (especially since a tuxedo would be less usable for me, and since it would be my first bespoke garment). In addition, thinking between different houses in the UK and Italy, I find it hard to compare, and especially to figure out who has a specifically good tuxedo offering (except I understand Henry Poole’s tradition with them).
Regarding MTM, I understand that the term is in between bespoke and RTW, and that in some cases it can be worth the premium, but in others it is not. I am having a hard time deciding what MTM could be worth it, especially for a tuxedo.
In general, I am currently looking at RTW options including Tom Ford, Cifonelli, Brioni, and others, and have been talking to Huntsman and Cad and the Dandy as I have an upcoming trip to NYC. I know there are many more options in Saville Row, Naples (and elsewhere in Italy), and Paris, but I am having a hard time discerning between all the options, especially regarding a tuxedo offering.
I am sorry for the very detailed and complex question but I would appreciate any thoughts or advice you may have.
No worries, happy to help if I can.
I probably agree on the bespoke aspect – if it’s something you’re unsure of, and you haven’t had bespoke before, this might be a little risky.
MTM I would think is worth it, if there’s a make with a style that you really like. Have you seen anything you really respond to from a style point of view?
Thank you for your quick response! From a quick look I liked Tom Ford but have not had a chance to try it on yet. I am just not sure if I go for that price point if a good MTM or a slightly less expensive bespoke (like Cad and the Dandy) would be a better fit. I would love to hear your thought between these options and any other RTW or MTM brands you think I should check out. Also, if you have any thoughts on the Cad and the Dandy bespoke offering that would be great. Thanks!
I can’t really comment on the Cad bespoke or MTM I’m afraid. I would say the look would be the most important, so it depends more on how much you like the styles elsewhere. In regards to other MTM, I’d suggest Anglo-Italian, or perhaps Saman Amel but that requires being here for a trunk show
Ok thank you very much for your advice!
I would turn the thing around and ask why do you want a tuxedo for your wedding? Of course I don’t know your situation in detail but I would consider a bespoke dark navy worsted business suit. In a luxurious fabric with a bit of a lustre to it, drapers 5 star or something from Holland and Sherry or Harrisons provided you’re not living somewhere very hot. That way you get the benefits of bespoke – unprecedented comfort, appearance and durability – whilst having something you can get more usage out of over the course of life and therefore better value. It would be a shame to shell out for a bespoke tuxedo that you would rarely wear again. And in my opinion a bespoke lounge suit in a premium fabric would look a lot better than a tuxedo of interior quality. What do you think of this idea YM?
As more and more people choose to have black tie weddings in the summer in places like Spain and Italy, any additional suggestions for how to do black tie in VERY hot weather? I’m thinking of having something made unlined in a mohair blend (per your suggestion in the article) and would be grateful for any other thoughts you have on acceptable fabric choice, construction, or anything else that can help one keep cool in the heat.
Interesting. Hopefully they are at least mostly evening events, not daytime. Black tie looks so out of place in the daytime sun.
I’d go for mohair blend, yes, and a lightweight shirt, maybe a superfine. Single breasted jacket with cummerbund maybe as that’s likely to be the coolest style. And perhaps slippers on the feet with silk socks? That would be quite cool as well
Thanks, Simon. Appreciate the advice.
I am traveling to London this weekend to purchase a dinner suit for my brother who’s turning 25. Do you have any suggestions where one could get a classic dinner suit with grosgrain lapels in a heavy barathea weave/fabric?
I bought mine several years ago at a shop called Roderick Charles, which offered excellent value for the price, at that time only £600 for the trousers and jacket. Do you know any brands that might be in the same category?
Sigmund from Norway
I’m afraid not, I don’t really cover ready-made tailoring like that with any frequency. Sorry
Hi Sigmund – suggest considering Ede & Ravenscroft at that price point; here’s an example that might work: https://shop.edeandravenscroft.com/collections/formal-dress/products/shawl-collar-dinner-jacket-85896