Starting Off Right
A positive mindset about the formal dressing process is the difference
between a dreaded chore and a welcome pleasure. Good music
and a smart cocktail doesnít hurt either.
A Quality Cleaner
Find a dry cleaner that
specializes in formal wear to avoid
damage to your tuxedo's silk trim.
A good dry cleaner will also be able to
make minor repairs as needed.
The plastic covers
provided by dry cleaners should be removed to let the chemicals
dissipate and prevent yellowing of white fabrics.
If your shoes are not patent leather try Kiwi Parade Gloss for a
shine worthy of military parade boots.
Mineral oil is baby oil without the added
fragrance. It is a petroleum by-product commonly used to
remove make-up and treat wooden kitchen surfaces.
Although harmless to
patent leather, it wouldn't hurt to test
it on a discreet part
of the shoe before using it for the first time.
Regardless of the cleaning agent that is used,
avoid getting the fabric trim wet on
Wear & Care
Although this Guide is
almost entirely dedicated to a black-tie outfit's compilation, it is
important for novices not to overlook the role of proper
To avoid a frustrating race with the clock, make sure that plans
for a formal evening include ample preparation time. The
following tips will also help the dressing process to go smoothly:
if time will be tight on the
evening of the event, lay out clothes the day before; this practice
also allows for any last minute cleaning, repairs or replacements
that might be required
before getting into the
shower, attach suspenders to trousers and insert cufflinks and studs
(half way) into the cuffs and shirt front
remember to allow time to
shower and shave before dressing: this is going to be a big night
and a five-oíclock shadow just isnít going to cut it
if prone to overheating
after a hot shower be sure to turn up the air conditioning in
Most importantly of all, do
not wait until the evening of the event to learn how to tie a bow
tie. Book some practice time in the calendar to get the
process down pat at least a day before. And donít forget that
adjustable models can be tied in advance then attached like a
pre-tied later on, making your eveningís preparations that much more
In cold weather premium
shoemakers John Lobb recommend warming patent leather shoes slightly
before wearing as this will help to preserve the lacquered surface.
To further minimize any
unnecessary panic before the next black-tie affair Ė which may
arrive with only a few days' notice if youíre avidly looking for
opportunities Ė make sure everything is cleaned and repaired as
necessary soon after each use.
Like any suit, a tuxedo
should be dry-cleaned as little as possible. This is because
the chemicals used in the process tend to dry out the natural
moisture of a suitís fabric and consequently reduce its lifespan.
Instead, keep the suit fresh by following a few simple steps after
brush out superficial dirt
and raise the nap of the fabric with a good clothes brush
remove wrinkles with a
garment steamer at home or with professional pressing at a dry
remove minor stains with a
hang the suit up in a
washroom or laundry room to air out odors
For those times when dry
cleaning is necessary for either the jacket or trousers, The
Encyclopedia of Menís Clothes wisely recommends that both garments
be cleaned together in case the process affects their
Shirts should be
laundered only, never dry cleaned. When
laundering a stiff-front shirt, only the bib, cuffs and collar
should be heavily starched. The rest of the tunic should be
starched lightly or not at all. Since starching reduces a shirtís
life consider doing it only with every other cleaning.
Turndown collars should be hand-pressed when professionally
laundered in order to avoid unwanted sheen along the edges where the
fabric is thicker.
As for detachable collars, there
are very few cleaners left in the world who know how to properly
starch such items. A reader from London recommends Jeeves of
Belgravia, Shrewton Steam Laundries and Barker Group for expert
laundering and re-starching of collars and other full-dress
Barker offers their services to customers around the world by mail.
For do-it-yourselfers, a
reader from New York highly recommends the following instructions
from a 1912 laundry booklet posted at
Laundry starch is really
just rice starch so if you can't find boxed starch, go to the Asian
food section of your local grocer and pick up a box there. (I use
tapioca starch, to be honest. Gives
a nice finish.)
You need 1 tablespoon of
starch and 1 cup of water. [Others
suggest up to 4 tablespoons of starch based on the size of the
collar and desired stiffness.]
Mix the starch with just a
little of the water in a shallow bowl until it's smooth; then add
the rest of the water.
Take the collar (dry) and
dip it into the starch mixture two or three times, rubbing to get
the starch grains into the collar. Press
out the water between dippings.
Stretch it out evenly on a
clean towel and roll it up tightly in the towel. Let it sit (half hour
minimum). The drier the
collar is when you iron it, the less time it will take.
Unroll everything and
stretch the collar a bit (gently) then start ironing. The iron needs to be really
hot because you're actually cooking the starch! Start ironing from
the inside first. If you have extra fullness of fabric, iron it
towards the centre.
Iron the front and back
alternately, carefully pressing down the wing tips on the front.
You're technically supposed to keep ironing until it's dry.
I usually don't have enough time to let it sit for a long time
before ironing so I iron it while it's still wet and let it dry
completely over night.
Oh, for the impressive
finishing touch! You have to curl it. This is just like curling
ribbon on Christmas presents: hold one end of the collar; put the
iron down as close to your fingers as you can; press down on the
iron and pull the collar through. Do this a couple of times and
your collar will be beautifully round!
Patent Leather Shoes
Before cleaning shoes,
remove dirt particles from seams with a soft shoe brush.
mind that patent leather is leather
coated in a synthetic finish which means it should be treated like a
plastic object instead of a natural material. So forget about
shoe polishes and creams and instead wipe down the footwear with a
soft, cotton cloth and either mineral water or dishwashing detergent
and warm water. Many people also report that glass cleaners
and furniture sprays such as Windex and Pledge are equally effective
at cleaning and removing scuffs.
After cleaning, allow the shoes to dry thoroughly then shine them by
rubbing with a soft, smooth cloth.
have a shoemaker touch up scrapes on the solesí edges and replace
heels when they become worn.
Hang suit jackets on shaped
wooden hangers designed to approximate the contour of the jacket.
This will help keep the garmentís shape when it is being stored.
Cover the suit with a cloth
garment bag to keep it free from dust and moths. Donít use the
plastic cover that came with the suit because it wonít allow the
natural fibers to breathe and it wonít let harmful moisture escape.
Similarly, shoe trees should
be used to maintain the size and shape of dress shoes and to help
avoid creases. Cedar trees are preferable to plastic as they
absorb moisture that will otherwise build up in the leather after
each wearing. To be effective, trees must be placed in the
shoes immediately after wearing when the leather is still warm and
Shoes should be stored in
individual cotton shoe bags to protect the patent finish from
If traveling by car, lay the
tuxedo flat or hang it up. It can be handy to pack the
accompanying formal shirt, waist cover and accessories in the same
garment bag to help ensure that nothing is accidently left behind.
If traveling by other means,
some creasing of the dinner suit is inevitable. However, this
can usually be easily remedied by hanging the tuxedo in the bathroom
after arriving and running the hot water in the shower or bathtub
for fifteen to thirty minutes.
A valet stand is a perfect aid for setting out
formal kit. (This one is by Winsome Trading.)
A quality suit brush from
Boxed laundry starch can be used to starch your
Cleaning patent leather is actually much simpler
than cleaning and conditioning regular leather.
The ultimate suit hanger from Kirby Allison's
Canvas garment bags are preferable to plastic