27 October 2011

The White Dinner Jacket

Today we take a look at a classic: The White Dinner Jacket.
 This one one of my favorite looks, but care must be taken not to violate any of the socially acceptable standards for wearing. Introduced in the 1930s, this is considered black tie apparel. Black tie is a dress code for evening social functions that is formal but not as formal and/or rigid as white tie. 
The white dinner jacket is cut exactly as its black counter-part and was formulated as a warm weather option for black tie events. Back then, formal wear was made from heavy wool and the weight and color made for a rather hot and unpleasant evening. Enter the white dinner jacket; perfect for sultry nights in the South, the Caribbean and other warm weather climates. This look began when the wealthy were off on their exotic vacations and still needing to dress formally in the heat. It also lends itself to the wealthy because great care must be taken not to dirty the garment, leaving any but the most leisure of activities out of the question.

They are available and correct in single and double breasted, have white peak or shawl collars and are worn with black bow ties and cummerbunds, but never vests (as this extra fabric would have defeated the coolness of the jacket).

Etiquette dictates that these be worn only in areas deemed tropic and subtropic climates. That includes the areas highlighted in yellow on the map:
Basically, if it's not legitimately swelteringly humid out, don't even think about it. Which is why this was the fashion statement of choice for Humphrey Bogart in Casablanca and Sean Connery in Goldfinger.

So there you have it. It's a formal, black tie appropriate look that'll set you apart from the sea of black tuxedos, but attempt only in hot, tropical weather. Otherwise you risk looking a  bit gimmicky and silly.

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