History of The Tuxedo - MFW 03-22-2014

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History of The Tuxedo

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In The Beginning...
It all began in 1886 when the Prince of Wales, later Edward VII, began wearing a short black jacket in place of the formal tailcoat. An American guest of the Prince, a Mr. James Brown Potter, brought the look to the states, where he made a dashing presence at the Tuxedo Club in upstate New York. Soon the new look caught on as each man had his personal tailor copy the jacket and the new style became known as, "what they're wearing to dinner in Tuxedo." And so the new jackets had a name: tuxedos!

The Roaring 20's

In the 1920's, tuxedos became the perfect match for the bright little dresses worn by flappers, the waif-like party girls of the era. New accessories became vogue at this time including wrist watches as well as new styles of studs and cufflinks. During this same era, the Prince of Wales also instituted a new shirt to go with the tuxedo - the pleated-front dress shirt with a soft, turned-down collar. The Prince was also responsible for introducing new color into the black and white of evening wear. Midnight blue, which he pronounced, "blacker than black," became popular and has remained so for over six decades. The double-breasted tuxedo jacket was another of the Prince's innovations and it did away with the need for a vest.

The Depression Era

The 1930's saw a revival of full dress. Tails on coats came back to match the longer length of ladies' dresses. Hollywood did its share to promote the tuxedo since anything black and white photographed well - especially evening clothes. The white dinner jacket (actually cream-colored) and patent leather slip-on shoes also made an appearance on the formal scene with the growing popularity of warm-weather resorts. Color made a resurgence at the end of the decade once the era of the black and white movie was over. Red suspenders and patterned silk handkerchiefs and cummerbunds had officially arrived.

World War II's Effects

Men's styles grew more practical during the war years and when the fighting was over, men stuck with a certain conservative look. Men were used to wearing uniforms and designers were used to making do with rationed materials. As a result, the only real new innovation in evening wear was the shawl collar on the single-breasted dinner jacket.

The Fabulous 50's

The beginning of color television popularized dinner jackets in new fabrics and colors. The French couturier Jacques Fath ushered in the era of plaid dinner jackets. The new silhouette for men was trim and straight-lined, a far cry from the "draped" fuller cut of the thirties.

The Youth Rebellion

During the late 60's and 70's, new fabrics including brocades, laces and embroideries emerged and lapels and trouser bottoms flared. Bow ties widened and the formal black tie look died a slow death. During the Ford Administration, Woody Allen escorted the First Lady while wearing tennis shoes with his tuxedo. And the Carter Administration began casually with the first black tie - not white tie - inauguration.

Black Tie Is Back!

The late 80's and early 90's have seen a revival of the good old days of Black Tie. We've turned back to the once great history of the tuxedo and are reliving its elegance at special occasions. With the tuxedo's resurgence in popularity, we see new accessories such as vests in virtually every color and fabric imaginable as well as matching bow tie and cummerbunds in fun prints ranging from Disney characters to polka dots. Even women are getting on the bandwagon, reviving the look of Marlene Dietrich and Judy Garland who both looked great in tuxedos. The rule today seems to be: Do it your way, but do it right: wear a tuxedo from Mike's Formal Wear!

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