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 implementation. 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 advance
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 stress-free.
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 wearing:
brush out superficial dirt and raise the nap of the fabric with a good clothes brush
remove wrinkles with an iron at home or with professional pressing at a dry cleaner (see sidebar)
remove minor stains with a damp cloth
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 coloring slightly.
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 linens. Fortunately, 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 The Fedora Lounge:
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.
Keep in 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.
When necessary, 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 pliable.
Shoes should be stored in individual cotton shoe bags to protect the patent finish from getting scratched.
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.