Happy Medium for Morning Dress

(AlanC)

Formerly in London it was not permissible for a man to go to a luncheon or afternoon party in anything but a black tail-coat and striped trousers – the official morning-dress.  Now he may go in a lounge-suit, but this should be of dark material or blue serge. Many men strike a happy mean by wearing a short black coat with striped trousers. 

Book of Etiquette (1931)

It seems to me that the “happy mean” put forward by the British in the late 1920s remains a perfect compromise for North Americans today.

Here in Canada and the US morning dress has become virtually extinct and most grooms blithely don evening dress for formal daytime weddings.  Other men who know better than to sport tuxedos in broad daylight are faced with the dilemma of choosing the correct but anachronistic daytime tailcoat (known here as a cutaway) or settling for the informal and relatively mundane dark suit.  Very few are aware of the happy medium known as semi-formal morning dress which replaces the cutaway coat with a modern black or dark gray suit jacket while keeping the remaining elements of formal morning dress, mainly the coloured waistcoat and striped or checked trousers.  The end result is an outfit much more modern than standard morning dress yet much more distinctive and traditional than a basic suit and tie.

Best of all, you can minimize your investment by borrowing the jacket from your existing dark gray or black suit (which, of course, you only wear to evening functions or funerals) as demonstrated by boulevardier AlanC in these photos.

For details of morning dress attire and etiquette see the Morning Dress page of the Black Tie Guide or the much more comprehensive Morning Dress Guide.

________________________________________

Postscript:

Here’s a couple of examples of a more formal interpretation of the outfit using striped trousers and uncoloured waistcoats.  Interestingly, the first example is marketed in the UK as a “masonic jacket”.

( courtesy of gentlemansgazette.com)

12 Comments

  1. A. R.

    Oh, I love strollers. I find myself looking regularly looking for excuses to wear one!

    Reply
  2. thecormac

    Thanks for commenting on this Peter. I have worn this outfit for day weddings a number of times and have long felt that this was an underexposed alternative.

    I personally think that one of the reasons it has not been promoted as well as it might be is the lack of a stable name. The dinner jacket/tuxedo/black tie accretion has nothing on this outfit, which is sometimes called a “stresemann” (especially in continental Europe), sometimes a “stroller” (in slightly archaic US usage), sometimes a “black lounge” (in the UK), and even a “demi-tight” (in Italy).

    Each of these terms are problematic. In today’s usage “black lounge” can refer to a full black lounge suit, including the matching trousers. (Victorian/Edwardian English etiquette prescribed the patterned pants, so it was not so confusing then.) “Demi-tight” is a term used promiscuously for various semi-formal outfits in Italy. “Stroller” is an overused term in fashion history, sometimes referring to very different outfits or articles. More practically, it is now the word for baby carriage in the US and many other places. (Ever look for references on this outfit by typing “stroller” or “stroller style” into Google? Not pretty or efficient.)

    Lastly there is “stresemann.” The biggest problem with this term is the variant spellings. Nevertheless, I favor it for a number of reasons:

    1. It was the phrase most commonly used when the style was gaining widespread popularity. (In this sense, it is like “tuxedo.” the look predated the term, but the term was widely used during its rise – in the US, anyway.) Stresemann was used to label the look throughout Europe in the late 19th and early 20th century – universally in central Europe, but also in France and sometimes even in the UK, and it was central European tailors who had been making it in Europe who imported the look to the U.S. where the term tended to be replaced by the jauntier imagery of “stroller.”

    2. It is less common, and therefore more brandable, than “stroller,” or “black lounge.”

    3. It has a bit more dignity than the other terms, which is an important consideration in pitching it as a formal wear style.

    Whoops – sorry for rambling on. I was just really glad to see you take up one of my personal pet causes.

    Thanks for the opportunity to opine!

    Reply
    1. Peter Marshall

      Thanks for your input. One question though: according to http://www.gentlemansgazette.com/stresemann/ Stresemann’s eponymous jacket originated in 1925 – how do you date it back to the late 1800s?

      Reply
  3. Hal

    Up until fairly recently the black blazer with matching waistcoat and striped trousers was the standard courtroom dress for the bar in the UK. You still sometimes seen it worn by some barristers. Can’t really see it catching on in Britain as a result.

    Reply
  4. The Rhetor

    Black Lounge is the perfect Sub Fusc for day time graduation ceremonies and parades. It looks very good under gowns.

    Reply
  5. Joe Zasada

    When I shoot photos at a wedding, I’ll wear semi-formal morning attire (black lounge)… or as a guest to a wedding it works well. The cool thing about morning attire is that if you get the two coats (stroller and cutaway) you can do both formal and semi-formal with the same trousers and most of other accessories. I know a few others who also wear black lounge on occasion….

    Reply
  6. A. R.

    Wore a stroller today because I felt like it. Granted, it was rather toned down and business suit-like, but I got several compliments. Perhaps we are experiencing a general swing back to better dress?

    Reply
  7. josiesgarden20@gmail.com

    Trying to figure out men’s wear for a wedding coming up in the early fall this article was very helpful. thank you

    Reply
  8. Anonymous

    would you like to talk about the stroller with Ascot?

    Reply
    1. Peter Marshall

      It would be paradoxical to pair a formal ascot with a semi-formal stroller. (I presume you’re refering to necktie and not the royal horse race.)

      Reply
      1. Anonymous

        Exactly, the tie. I was thinking about that, in a way to elevate it, as formal vest and pumps do for the tuxedo. It would make stroller less suit like and little more formal.
        I found an example of that:
        http://www.ebay.com/itm/Christian-Dior-Gray-Stroller-Tuxedo-Jacket-Package-39XL-/8260677068

        Reply
        1. Peter Marshall

          Pairing an ascot and wing-collar shirt with a semi-formal stroller would be the equivalent of wearing a full-dress waistcoat and tie with a tuxedo. Rather than making the tuxedo look more formal the combination would only make the overall outfit look disjointed. The fact that the combination is suggested by a retailer called “monkeysuits” would seem to prove my case.

          Reply

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