I sometimes suspect that traditional dressers who discover The Black Tie Guide must feel like guests showing up at the end of a legendary party. Upon arrival they are regaled with vivid descriptions of the evening’s festivities but when they attempt to partake for themselves they can find only leftover scraps. So it is that after becoming hooked by the Guide’s sumptuous examples of proper black tie many readers discover that a number of its essential components are today either unavailable or unaffordable. This is particularly true of the iconic evening waistcoat which is no longer sold outside of the UK and even there typically costs a small fortune.
I will admit that I am one of those people coveting a traditional yet affordable evening waistcoat. Thus my curiosity was piqued recently when I stumbled across a commercial sewing pattern for cummerbunds and classic waistcoats. (Regular readers will notice I spend a lot of time online stumbling across black-tie related paraphernalia.) So I bought the pattern and will be undertaking a sartorial experiment to find out the cost and quality of having the garment constructed by a local tailor. I’ll report back with the results sometime in the new year.
The McCall’s package also includes a bow tie pattern ostensibly for coloured neckwear to match the custom waist covering, a vulgar novelty generally shunned by true gentlemen. However, with a little tweaking it can instead provide a variety of shapes and widths that are perfectly correct but impossible to find in off-the-shelf models. A custom bow tie also allows for a fixed neck size which is a truly distinguished touch, particularly for those men who prefer wing collar shirts that expose the clasps and buckles of adjustable models.
If you are seeking only a custom bow tie it is not necessary to buy a pattern. Instead, check out the free illustrated instructions available online at sites such as Greg’s Blog, Pete’s Blog and Craftzine.com. The latter site also includes directions for making your own hand-sewn linen pocket square, another exquisite black-tie refinement.
May 8, 2012
I spoke to a couple of tailors about creating a wool waistcoat based on the provided pattern and their prices ranged from $300 to $350. That’s not exactly the bargain I was hoping for.