Late Victorian (1880s, '90s)
History: Setting the Precedent
Fashion fades, style is forever.
Yves St. Laurent
It is impossible for
evening wear to be fully appreciated or properly executed without
being familiar with its history. Until a man understands
evening wearís original intention and aesthetic logic, he is likely
doomed to a formal wardrobe that fails to meet its most fundamental
objectives. Young men in particular tend to presume that
simply having worn a suit intrinsically qualifies them to assemble a
proper formal ensemble but this is as naive as believing that
writing a high-school essay qualifies
a person to author a novel.
A familiarity with
the dinner jacketís background is particularly important for men who wish to improvise on black
tie's century-old traditions because only an educated
dresser can discern between fleeting fads and timeless style. The
following pages provide just such an education, conveniently
condensed to the most relevant details and
generously embellished with period illustrations.
You may be surprised to find that unlike its
somber apparel, evening wearís history is a colorful one
encompassing depression and prosperity, aristocrats and hippies and ballrooms and discotheques.
So slip on your vintage smoking jacket and sit back in your
favorite armchair as we begin our story
with a tale of
rakish dandies and maverick princes . . .