Reader Role Models: Doubly Debonnaire

 (Justin Lam | Three Sixty Photography)

(Justin Lam | Three Sixty Photography)

Probably the most common type of inquiry I receive from grooms-to-be is “I know it’s not technically correct to wear a tuxedo to my afternoon wedding but . . . “  But nothing.  Reader Duncan Pike of Vancouver demonstrates precisely why  traditional etiquette prescribes different time-specific attire for a daytime wedding followed by an evening reception.  On paper the requirement can seem arcane and arbitrary but in person it proves itself as an astute roadmap to  sartorial brilliance.

Duncan also dispels any notion that the rule is necessarily cost prohibitive by assembling both of his formal outfits for a fraction of the price a bride typically pays for her wedding dress.

 (Justin Lam | Three Sixty Photography)

(Justin Lam | Three Sixty Photography)

Let’s begin with Duncan’s account of his formal attire for the daytime ceremony:

I learned about the differences between morning dress and evening dress a decade ago, and I’ve wanted to own a top hat since I was six years old.  When I first learned what morning dress was, I knew immediately that it is how I would dress for my wedding.

My top hat was purchased on eBay.  It was made in Toronto and although I don’t know its age, it is silk plush which is no longer made.  I bid $125 for it, and was very surprised, not to mention pleased, when I won the auction.

My morning coat was a fantastic find on savvyrow.co.uk.  Their customer service is excellent, and their shipping is prompt and reasonably priced.  The coat itself was only $127 Canadian, including shipping, and thanks to the extensive measurements Savvy Row provides on their website, it needed no alterations at all.

My waistcoat is similar to the style I’ve seen Prince William wear, and I looked long and hard for an affordable version.  It is from mytuxedo.co.uk, and their prices and service are excellent.  I had wanted a just off-white waistcoat originally, but could not find a nice one, nor afford to have one made, but I went to a couple of formal wear rental places and tried on the traditional dove grey and buff, and found the grey looked fantastic with my coat.

For his trousers, Duncan took advantage of the wide range of black and grey patterns that are allowable in morning dress to find something that would stand apart from the usual cashmere stripes.  A pair of plaid Brooks Brothers were the end result.   The outfit was finished off with black cap-toe Oxfords that he already owned, which he had professionally cleaned and polished for the big occasion.

What I ended up with, if I say so myself, is an ensemble that is simultaneously traditionally correct, as well as unique, and representative of my own tastes and personality. Morning dress provides a great deal of opportunity for personalization, is a lot of fun to put together and most of its components (trousers other than the striped variety, shirt and tie) can be worn for all kinds of occasions, making the investment even more valuable.

(As a postscript, the weekend after the wedding, Duncan wore his morning dress rig to the British Columbia Derby and won the male side of the event’s Best Dressed contest!)

(Justin Lam | Three Sixty Photography)

(Justin Lam | Three Sixty Photography)

After the vows were exchanged and the photography session completed, it was time to dress for dinner.  “Dinner” in this case being a rollicking Black Tie Preferred 1920s speakeasy-themed reception.

Duncan’s vintage wool & mohair dinner jacket features peaked lapels with satin trim and was purchased at Lines vintage shop in Vancouver.  The 1930’s vintage U-cut wool vest was bought online from Ruby Lane.  It has silk-faced shawl revers, four horn buttons and black piping around the edges.  The marcella formal shirt came from Clermont Direct and was stiffened with a generous starching.  It is unusual in that it has five stud holes but fortunately only three of them showed above the waistcoat.  The bow tie was another inexpensive acquisition from Clermont and the vintage double-sided cuff and stud set was another vintage store find.  Duncan’s Calvin Klein patent leather opera pumps are from Zappos.com.

In total, the outfit cost about $400 CDN to purchase and another $70 for alterations to the jacket and waistcoat.  A great example of how knowledge and perseverance can be used to assemble an affordable black-tie wardrobe that rivals – or outshines – premium-priced equivalents.

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This post is part of an ongoing series showing real-life examples of how to successfully execute black tie. If you’d like to share your own success story please drop me a line.

16 Comments

  1. Hal

    I am getting married shortly and, as it happens, having separate day and evening dos (with different dress codes). For us there was a practical benefit too – the day venue was simply too small for all our guests. By having a larger, entirely separate evening reception, where people get to dress in evening wear, we hope to have a reception where no-one feels as though they are joining the party part way through.

    It also gives me an excuse to wear white tie. I too have found ebay invaluable. I have a beautiful 1960 tailcoat that, with minimal adjustment, fits and is both cheaper and better quality than modern ones I have seen.

    The dinner jacket and waistcoat look lovely and the plush silk top hat is a magnificent find – a vintage topper that would fit is one thing I’ve never been able to get off ebay.

    Reply
    1. Duncan Pike

      I’m quite lucky, in that regard, to have a small head.

      Reply
      1. Hal

        I’m cursed with a large one.

        It is beautiful – did you need to get it reconditioned at all?

        Reply
        1. Duncan

          It could use a bit of work, but I have not had any done. It was a very lucky find. The underbrim could use replacing, and the brim binding is loose in one spot. It could stand a polish, as well. But, I really didn’t know to whom to send it, and I did not want to risk damaging it when it looks this sharp with no work. It was also a low priority when considering budget. The plush itself, and the structure of the crown, are in phenomenal condition. I still can’t believe my luck!

          There are shops around here that rent hats to the film industry. Perhaps you could investigate that avenue.

          Reply
        2. Duncan Pike

          Just remembered – have you tried tophats.eu? I don’t know what your budget is, but they might have a large topper.

          Reply
  2. CharlesM

    ” …won the male side of the event’s Best Dressed contest ”
    As well he should have! Mr Pike seems to almost instinctively wear his outfits well, but with an ease that perfectly demonstrates that how an outfit is worn is just as important as what is worn.

    Reply
  3. omschiefslr

    Wow! Best Ever. Congratulations!

    Reply
  4. Matt

    Excellent! What a great outfit. Congrats!

    About the etiquette I did a sort of the same. For the wedding party I had a tux. For the wedding ceremony a stroller.

    Reply
    1. Anonymous

      it woud be better white tie at night: the same level of formality.

      Reply
      1. Peter Marshall

        Actually, White Tie is a much higher level of formality. It is typically associated with having hundreds of guests, a cathedral wedding and a very upscale reception.

        Reply
      2. Duncan Pike

        White Tie would have been inappropriate for the style of reception we had. It was a Speakeasy themed cocktail party, with passed, and buffet, hors d’oeuvres, and a live swing band. We are saving White Tie for an anniversary party – hopefully when we are wealthy enough to help out any friends with their attire, so we can make the dress code firm. Had we made the evening White Tie, we would have had one person in White Tie – me. As it was, we had about a half dozen people in Tuxedos, and most others having fun with period-style outfits.

        They were separate events, several hours apart, with separate invitations, and dress code indicated on each. The guests’ dress code for the ceremony was Lounge Suit, as, before my research on formal wear, I wanted to stand out. I also wanted to let my groomsmen spend their money on suits they would wear over and over again. I also would prefer them to be in suits that they owned, and fit them, than in rented morning coats that would have been poorly made, and poorly fitted. So, we were guilty of mixing dres codes, and dressing “above” our guests, but, had the dress code been Morning Dress or Lounge Suit, only the wedding party would have been in morning dress, anyway.

        I should also point out that TRH The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge also had a Morning Coat dress code at their wedding ceremony, with a Black Tie evening reception.

        And Matt, of course, did the semi-formal option at both of his dos.

        Reply
        1. Hal

          I think you got it right. The day and evening events can have differing levels of formality, in my view.

          Your reasons for going black tie are sound. I might be opting for white tie but I recognise that everyone else is likely to be in black tie. I’m fine with that and don’t see that it matters greatly. Our reception won’t be too different to yours (certainly not a cathedral wedding and very upscale reception) but then, given in the 20s, 30s and 40s men might have chosen to wear full fig when out nightclubbing (with others out in less formal attire), I’m hoping my suit is forgivable.

          You are also right that people wearing clothes they are comfortable in, whilst looking dapper is more important than an enforced dress code at what is, after all, your party with your friends.

          Reply
          1. Duncan Pike

            Yes – I did not mean to say that White Tie would be wrong, or that your plans were incorrect. I was more trying to say that there is nothing wrong with going from Morning Dress to Black Tie, rather than having to go to White Tie. Apologies if I sounded judgmental or heavy-handed. Your wedding sounds great, and I hope you have a marvelous day, and marvelous marriage afterward.

          2. Hal

            You didn’t sound judgmental at all. Sorry if I gave the impression I thought you were being.

          3. Duncan Pike

            You did not give that impression – but I realized my wording could be taken that way, so wanted to clarify. There is no tone of voice in online comments, so they do not always come across in the spirit they were intended. I certainly hope we will get to see your outfits posted here as well!

            On the top hat, have you tried searching various countries’ eBay sites? This is something I realized after I had already found mine. Also, be sure to try “Beaver” as a search term, since many people post silk hats incorrectly labelled as beaver hats.

  5. Duncan Pike

    Thank you, Peter, for the post, and everyone for their congrats and compliments. :)

    Reply

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