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Tail coat / Tuxedo / Suit: A Short Intro

Many of our clients ask, "what is a tail coat?", or "what is a tuxedo?" and "when do I wear which one, and why?" There are so many interesting stories around each garment but we will keep it short, and give you a brief intro.

The tail coat - or the "White Tie" classic

Though rather rare today, the tail coat used to be the standard for elegant wear from the 18th century onward, constantly evolving to the version still occasionally worn today, as seen in the picture.

Today's version of the tail coat (often called a dress coat or a swallow-tail) are primarily worn at so called "White Tie" events. White tie events have become very rare, examples are state dinners and royal ceremonies, formal debutante balls or evening weddings.

Viewed through contemporary eyes a tail coat looks strange with its signature swallow tails, low button stance and functionless double breasted buttons. And it is hard to imagine that those elements where actually considered improvements on comfort at the time they were introduced - as is the case with the more contemporary classic, the tuxedo.

The tuxedo - or the "Black Tie" / gala classic

Hard to imagine, but the tuxedo (aka dinner jacket, aka the smoking) is historically a rather casual garment. It developed out of the "smoking jacket" a kind of velvety bathrobe, which was worn by gentlemen in privacy or with close friends when smoking after dinner.

In the late 19th century the dinner jacket became a more casual alternative to the formal tail coat, still relegated to more informal settings. Only in the middle of the 20th century did the so called "Black Tie dress code replace the white coat dress code and the tuxedo became the elegant classic it is today.

A tuxedo has the same length as a modern suit, but its differentiating features are:

  • Lower button stance - tuxedos are traditionally single buttoned.

  • Special lapel (usually shawl but sometimes peak), often in a different fabric than the main body of the jacket (usually satin).

  • Side and breast pocket in the same offset fabric as the lapel.

The trouser of a tuxedo is often designed with a satin stripe along the outside seam. Today people often leave off the satin stripe as it gives the outfit a more uniform appearance.

A tuxedo is always worn with a bow tie, bow tie variations or an ascot, never with a normal tie. It is often worn with a cummerbund instead of a vest. You can read more on the accessories worn with a tuxedo in "Name of the blog post here."

The suit - or the "Black Tie" / gala upstart

While being in fashion as an elegant everyday garment for almost a century now, the modern suit has only in recent years become acceptable as a formal wear for weddings or black tie events.

Most often the suits worn for weddings or galas are still closer to a tuxedo than a normal business suit in that they are usually of high quality pure wool fabrics, often with more classical lapels like the shawl lapel of a tuxedo, a peak lapel, or creative new versions like The Tailor Network's signature "elegant notch lapel".

Often times you will find suits with tuxedo features, like the elegant lapel in a different fabric, offset pockets etc. being sold as tuxedos.

For weddings and formal events, you have a large variety of options to choose from- there are many ways to express your personal style and set the tone for the event. You can choose from a wide spectrum starting at highly formal (tail coat with top hat) to rather "casual" (elegant suit). Whichever you choose - The Tailor Network will be happy to help you design a unique suit for your occasion.

Our in-person design sessions are free, and you are not committing to anything.

We will discuss your ideas and preferences, walk you through the styles, fabrics,

and all the finishing touches - and design the perfect suit for your wedding or gala.


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