It is a classic in gentlemen’s outfitting and synonymous with British style, morning dress has the potential to make one feel elegantly refined while elevating one’s style to new heights. But what are the rules when it comes to morning dress? And what are the pitfalls to look out for? As we fast approach race and wedding season, we discuss how to nail the art of wearing this quintessentially English attire.
The main focus should be the morning coat itself. Typically made from a black or Oxford grey wool, it is the foundation upon which everything else is built, setting the tone for the entire outfit. Its name derives from the practice of 19thcentury gentlemen who would wear a single breasted, cut-away coat while partaking in their morning horse ride. Throughout the 1800’s the garment became common place and was a welcome alternative to the frock coat, eventually overtaking it in popularity in the early 20thcentury, achieving its reputation as the most formal of gentlemen’s day wear.
There are some key features that give the morning coat its unique character, the first being the cut of the body. With an emphasis on a high, nipped in waist – something that is also identifiable in the frock coat and the tail coat – it should be tailored closely to the body, creating an elegant, streamlined silhouette that is flattering to the wearer. Another notable characteristic is the cut-away skirt, defined by the sweeping lines from the waist to the tails. And finally, peak lapels. In its infancy, the morning coat was often worn with notch lapels, but as its standing in society grew, so too did the formality of its lapels.
Next to be considered is the waistcoat. Depending on which style you choose, this has the power to elevate your outfit to new heights or bring it crashing down. Single-breasted is the well-established preference for most, but for an extra sense of occasion the double-breasted is a fine alternative. Avoid garish designs and bright colours which one associates with cheap hire wear as they can often look gaudy and unflattering. Instead, stick to a pale colour palette, such as light blue, pink or fawn, in either linen or wool.
Traditionally, the trousers are grey stripe (though you can be more adventurous with a houndstooth or Glen check) and should sit high at the waist supported by braces to maintain that slimline look. A white or cream cotton shirt with a turn down collar and French cuffs brings an undeniable air of elegance. If you are feeling rather dandy and would like to heighten the sense of formality, go for light blue or pink with contrast collar and cuffs. For a final flourish, finish with a classic pair of cufflinks and classic silk tie punctuated with a tie tack and a white linen pocket square to complete the look.