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Formal wear from Sports wear

IT IS one of those interesting quirks of costume history that has formal morning dress largely abandoned apart from in the arena from which it originally emerged - that of the horse.

For the tailcoat's ancestry is plainly evident in its cutaway front and the practicality of its tails, which allowed a rider to sit elegantly on a horse, edeformal.jpgthe split halves of the coat divided over the horse's rump. These tails might be buttoned up at the back to protect them from being mud spattered - hence the two buttons that remain as a reminder on the back of a dress coat today.

Now, morning dress is worn for some weddings, a limited number of formal evenings, and for the high days and holidays of racing's Royal Enclosures. Despite protestations to the contrary, men do seem quite comfortable and relaxed in this ensemble, and indeed it affords an elegance and a kindness to figures that otherwise might not be considered in the best of form.

With racing attracting increasing crowds and more and more wishing to dress for the occasion, orders for morning dress have received a boost in Savile Row. Kent & Stafford report young customers opting to have a fully bespoke outfit, and Ede & Ravenscroft, who run a very successful hire service in formal wear, are also making more bespoke versions for customers who enjoy the originality and quality that bespoke offers.

Stephen Lachtor at Kent & Stafford tries to steer customers along traditional lines but with some originality. "I like to suggest something a little different for the waistcoat," he explains, showing a double breasted vest in a camel cashmere. For this Ascot, he was finishing a coat, trousers and waistcoat in a black self stripe diagonal cloth from Smith Woollens.

At Ede & Ravenscroft, Matthew Farnes has been working on an elegant black coat, rather Edwardian in styling, to go with a pale cream double breasted waistcoat that has an unusual front seam to allow for a smooth fit beneath the shawl.

Below are some guidelines for those embarking upon their first morning suit but a good tailor will always provide advice on protocol.

hackettformal.jpgCoat: Generally single-breasted, peaked lapels, sometimes with braided edges and pockets to add a dressy touch, in black or grey.

Trousers: With grey coat, the trousers must match.  With black coat, trousers may be black or grey, or striped black and grey.

Waistcoat: Grey with grey coat, black or grey with black coat, or fancier designs may give originality.

Shirt: Plain white best, turn down collars (not wing), double cuffs.

Neckwear: A straight ordinary tie is the norm now, though the Ascot in black, white or grey is also correct.

Shoes: Black, plain toed, calf preferably, but suede is acceptable, as is grey to tone with a grey suit.  Socks to match shoes.

Handkerchief:  Plain white in breast pocket.

Hat: Top Hat of course, which may be carried, though must be worn in the Ascot Royal Enclosure   It should be grey with a grey coat, but grey may be worn with a black coat.

Plain carnation boutenniere may be worn (no fern or trimmings!) flush into buttonhole.

At top, from Ede & Ravenscroft, a classic morning outfit, black coat, striped trousers, cream waistcoat, plain white shirt and straight tie, black topper. Above, outfits from Hackett's ready-to-wear collection.


  Spring 07 edition

:: SAVILE ROW Style Magazine ::


This edition focuses attention upon the London Season, with all its fixtures and the social whirl that goes with them. And the forthcoming ban on smoking in public places also prompts a look at the prospects for smokers here.

contact Home - New Non-Smoking Jacket
contact Style 1 - Dressing for the Season
contact Style 2 – Morning Dress
contact Style 3 – Dinner Jackets
contact Style 4 – Blazers
contact Grooming – Oil the Wrinkles
contact Cars Brooklands revived
contact Drink – The Season goes Pop
contact Bars - Smoke Signals
contact Sports - Racing First
  Yachts - Cowes Week
contact Travel – Gastronomic Trend
contact Culture – Culture in the Country
contact Contact
contact Companions of Savile Row – listing of top tailors and interviews
contact Archives



1 -2  JUNE    The Derby has long been an outing for Londoners, a raffish, Rabelaisian festival of racing, mixing charabancs and Rollers, fun fair and champagne, formal dress and bikinis or furs (English weather can still be unpredictable).  See further details on Sport page.

11th   The Royal Academy Summer Exhibition opens its doors. First held in 1769, and every year since , it used to be quite a grand occasion, with visitors dressing up for the Preview Day.  Now, it has come to reflect the relaxed attitude towards clothing that is expected of artists - and accepted of everyone else, for that matter – but is still an important part of the Season, and offers £70,000 in prize money to artists.

19-23    Royal Ascot  is probably the dressiest of all the events, an extravaganza of excess, notably on Ladies Day, the 21st.  See also Sport.

25-July 8    Wimbledon is more concerned with a dress code for players than visitors, who are  required to stick to white clothing. The most famous tennis championship in the world, it is the only Grand Slam played on grass courts, and has been staged in Wimbledon since 1874, and at its present site since 1922.  Over 62,000 pounds of strawberries are consumed here each year, topped by some 1,540 gallons of cream.