“Fashions fade, style is eternal.” – Yves Saint Laurent
If there is a style that is eternal, it is the classic morning suit. Knowing when to wear a morning suit is essential to embodying the timeless morning dress style. But fashion-forward man beware, morning dress, the traditional term for formal day wear, is subject to formal etiquette that should be strictly followed to avoid any controversy or inappropriate fashion faux pas. The following guide will ensure that you find yourself donning this style of dress confidently and flocked by fashion-forward admirers.
How and When to Wear a Morning Suit
All formal morning coats should be void of any waist pockets and feature a welt breast pocket only. Though black is considered most formal, charcoal gray morning coats are a welcome variation. Formal does not have to mean plain, however, some of the most debonair morning suits feature herringbone pattern and are made from flannel or worsted wool. Every coat should be single-breasted, have peaked lapels and have one closing button or link in the front. The tail should fall behind the knees, and the cutaway should be curved.
There is some controversy about whether pairing non-matching trousers in your morning wear ensemble is acceptable. Typically, only ebony morning coats should be paired with non-matching trousers, to avoid the all-black ensemble that all formal day wear ought to avoid. Some choose tastefully patterned gray pants to offset the black tailcoat and complete their ensemble with colored accents like ties, waistcoats and shirts. When selecting a trouser to complete your ensemble, a black-striped dark gray pant with one pleat down the center is considered the most formal. A gray hound's tooth or herringbone pattern is a fine alternative.
Every Suit Has A Time and Place
Morning suits are most commonplace in the UK and Ireland. More recently, even the US has adopted this genteel tradition.
Customarily, morning dress is appropriate for morning and afternoon events. Formal day wear is decidedly different from the elegant formal wear that is characteristic of chic evening events. Tuxedos, when worn in daylight, tend to drain the wearer of their natural coloring. As such, formal evening wear should be reserved for events after six o’clock in the evening.
High Society Style Etiquette
When to wear a morning suit is going to depend not only on the time of day an event is taking place, but if the event is considered a part of the ‘social season’. The traditional social season in London is the time of year when the social elite of society and community leaders hold glamorous events. From debutante balls, formal gatherings, races, and state events, if the event is before six o’clock in the evening, it would appropriate to consider wearing a morning suit.
Is the Morning Suit and Weddings a Perfect Marriage?
There is some controversy over whether one should wear a morning suit to a wedding or not. If you are in the UK, and the wedding is distinctly formal, then you will be in good company if you choose to wear a morning suit. Any wedding taking place in a large cathedral will call for formal morning dress.
Many a well-dressed man uses these daytime weddings as an opportunity to bring their signature style to the morning suit look. Pale colors like pearl gray and creamy yellow will enliven a daytime look when chosen for a waistcoat or tie.
Though you may be tempted by the very formal and old-fashioned wing collar shirt, at wedding events we advise avoiding complicating your wardrobe, and instead suggest that you opt for a turndown collar shirt. Again, donning a pale color is preferable, and you can use this customization opportunity to choose a color and style that represents your sense of bravura.
When NOT To Wear a Morning Suit
In North America, specifically the United States however, when to wear a morning suit is a bit more difficult to discern due to the rarity of the style. At a wedding for instance, there is some stigma about showing up the groom and the wedding party.
For many weddings in the United States, traditional morning dress is reserved for the wedding party only. Showing up in morning dress would not only confuse other guests as to your relationship to the wedding party, but could draw unwanted attention at the cost of goodwill from the bride and groom.
If you are unsure when to wear a morning suit to a wedding, it is good practice to phone the mother of the bride and ask her what her thoughts may be. She will have a sense of the tone and formality of the occasion and will be able to give you a sense of their desired dress code.
When a Morning Suit is Good Manners: Mourning
In Europe, morning dress is appropriate for state funerals and memorials. Wearing a morning suit to any smaller memorials or funerals would be garish indeed. A top hat, though a bold accessory that is often considered an elegant accessory to a morning suit, may not be appropriate at funeral events, as it will draw attention.
A formal tie is essential for any funeral formal wear, but we do recommend avoiding the ascot at somber occasions. Your tie, like your shirt, should be subtle and any patterns should veer away from ostentatious.
Top Hats and Tailcoats: The Royal Ascot
The most formal version of a morning suit is reserved for any events taking place in the presence of her Majesty the Queen. At the Royal Ascot for example, a classic top hat is a required accessory. The most luxurious, yet hard to find material for such truly elegant look is black silk.
Other high-end accessories you may consider pairing with your morning suit are high-end cufflinks, a pocket watch and chain, pale gray chamois gloves, a white linen pocket square or even a walking stick.
If you are attending any event with a royal presence, it is also considered good manners to have a winged collar shirt, rather than a turndown collar. An ascot rather than a formal tie is also essential.
Your shoes should also be a testament to your polished look. These patent leather Ludwig Reiter’s named after Archduke Erzherzog Johann speak to a regal sensibility that would perfectly match the elegance of your chosen morning dress attire. Well polished, strictly black lace-ups are the only acceptable footwear for a formal daytime event.
The morning suit, when worn well, is a testament to luxury and nobility. Your formal morning wear will represent your status and manner, and should thus be chosen and executed with precision.
Knowing how and when to wear morning dress is quite simply, good manners.