With all fairness to the Bride’s Groom, I would not be doing justice to the Grooms without an official nod of appreciation to their elegant and debonair attire…the classic and timeless “tuxedo”. For that matter, any occasion that requires the man to don a jacket of distinctive style…
A “Tuxedo” in American English or a “Dinner Suit” or “Dinner Jacket” in British English is described as a Gentleman’s outfit for formal evening occasions, traditionally of black or dark color consisting of a suit with contrasting satin or grosgrain lapel facings, matching braid on the trouser out-seam, a bow tie and a cummmerbund. The classic “Tux”.
The history of the tuxedo swirls between various stories of its arrival to the world of men’s fashion. History references the tuxedo as predating the dinner jacket. In fact, the Tuxedo first appeared in 1889 while the dinner jacket made its entry in 1891. Today, the term “Tuxedo” or “Tux” is used in North America. Britain often refers to the white version of the suit jacket as a “Dinner Jacket” and in North America it is called a “Tuxedo” . In many other European languages, including French, Italian, Spanish and Portuguese this jacket is called a “Smoking Jacket”. Who knew?
There are many possibilities as to the official grand entrance of the “Tuxedo”. It is not simply black and white, however, as always, it is worth peering into the past to consider history’s admittance of this jacket that shocked the formal world…
During the 1860’s there was an increased popularity for the casual lounge suit as an alternative to the formal day wear traditionally worn. It is said that fine gentlemen also began to seek an alternative to the formal tailcoat worn every evening. The compromise became the enhancement of the the casual smoking jacket. History states that this turning point in the respectability of wearing jackets without tails, apparently became a fashion success when somewhere between 1860-1865 the British Prince of Wales (who would become King Edward IV of the UK) requested of the now infamous tailors of Saville Row, “Henry Poole & Co.”, (henrypoole.com) to design a “tailless” smoking jacket to wear at informal dinner parties. Surprisingly, the color of choice with this first royal order was not black and white, but rather blue silk! Again, who knew? By 1885, the Prince simply ordered a “tailless dinner jacket” from Henry Poole & Co. A fashion statement and trend had begun, indeed!
As for the introduction into the United States of this grand black and white classic, history states that the British prince once again had a hand in its American launch. In the Summer of 1886, the Prince invited New York millionaire, James Potter, to his Norfolk, England hunting estate. Henry Poole & Co‘s website offers an interesting tidbit of insight that perhaps it was the Prince whose wandering eye fell upon Brown’s stunning wife, Cora and perhaps brought upon royal lust that led to the invite. Alas, we shall never know! Apparently, when Potter sought guidance on proper attire for dinner dress, he arrived at none other than Saville Row’s, Poole & Co. Apparently, Brown was introduced to the new dinner suit and was smitten with it. Some say that it was the Prince himself who Potter conferred with and was directed to Poole & Co. Either way, Potter is said to have brought this tailless suit with him to the “Tuxedo Park Club” in New York, a newly established residential country club for New York’s elite. The mere mention of this very club begins the iconic status of the ‘Tuxedo’ on American soil. In addition, here is where the story is not so black and white. The introduction of another key historical reference to the ‘Tuxedo’- Pierre Lorillard.
Lorillard, a tobacco magnate of the 19th century, acquired land from his family that later became regarded as “Tuxedo Park”, a village located 40 miles outside of New York City in Orange County. The land was originally from the Algonquin Indian tribe, originally called “P’Tauk-seet-tough”, named after the tribal chief, meaning “Home of the bear”. The town’s founders, who included William Waldorf Astor, Robert Goelet, Ogden Mills and Pierre Lorillard, kept the phonetics of the name and the village was christened “Tuxedo Park”. In 1886, on six hundred acres of land, Tuxedo Park was born into a world that beckoned the high levels of social class. This elite residential walled and keyed colony , fully occupied in the Spring and Fall seasons, was built by Italian artisans brought in by Lorillard, as a series of elegant homes that included residents of only the highest social circles. A high-profile residence, indeed. In fact, it is said that Lorillard selected 700 wealthy and prominent New Yorkers and invited them to tour the new community. Selling out almost immediately, this resort for the rich and famous included a fishing and hunting destination and other amenities, a boathouse, trout pond, swimming pool, tennis courts, and of course, the infamous club house. For a time, Tuxedo Park was considered the most exclusive and first gated community in America. Who knew?
The extravagant and exclusive social scene of Tuxedo Park led the residents to originate their own private social organization called the“Tuxedo Club”. It was this very club’s first annual debutante Autumn Ball in October of 1886 that the “Tuxedo” is said to have made its official entrance. It is said that Pierre Lorillard, going against the typical long tailcoat and white tie, commissioned several modified, tailless black jackets for options to wear to the ball of this gilt-edged society. It is not known where he drew his inspiration, or if it was James Potter, a member of the Tuxedo Club who has rights to the first introduction and perhaps Lorillard simply modified it. However and whoever is credited, it was not Pierre who brazenly wore this new look, as he apparently changed his mind in wearing these seemingly revolutionary jackets, but rather, his son, Griswold Lorillard. It is said that Griswold and several of his esteemed friends wore these new designs and created a fashion shock that became an instant trend. In no time at all, the gentlemen of the “Tuxedo Club” were wearing these new shortened garments to the fashionable circles of the New York’s Metropolitan Opera in 1889, validating its debut entry as a fashionable classic. History also notes that the ascendence of the members of the “Tuxedo Club” into New York City was the “talk of the town” and New Yorkers began to refer to these garments as ‘Tuxedo’s’. Again, who knew?
No matter who introduced the ‘Tuxedo’, this timeless classic will never tire of being in the spotlight…a classic in black and white it shall always remain in a man’s wardrobe. A tuxedo that is tailored to fit a man perfectly truly is an investment piece that will stand the test of time and find ways to be worn throughout one’s lifetime. Connected with high class, society and elegance, it is no wonder that the tuxedo became the garment to pair with the bride…or any beautifully dressed woman, for that matter. It is also no wonder that in time, it would be a style that would be borrowed from the gents…
The fashion world gives credit to the legendary designer Yves Saint Laurent, who brought the “Le Smoking” tuxedo suit to the world of women’s fashion. Indeed, his suit and the image of the woman in it became iconic. Finally, a nod to the attire and adornment of women in fashion and iconic figures who have, and who continue to don this classic look….
The epitome of style, fashion and class. Whether a New Years Fete, black tie soiree or a wedding in style, the gentleman’s tuxedo will always present itself as sophisticated and refined. And the tuxedo style incorporated for the woman? Like red lipstick, an elegant and timeless statement, indeed.
“For Me, a tuxedo is a way of life”- Frank Sinatra