Style / July 2016

Further Altarations: The Rake's Guide to Wedding Suits, Part II

The Rake’s sartorial specialist offers several rakish alternatives to wedding tails to tailor to the modern man’s comfort and confidence wherever he chooses to exchange vows on the big day.

Having taken some time in my last column to expound the virtues of morning dress, it is perhaps worth acknowledging that tails are not for everyone, and you do not have to wear traditional formal dress at your wedding. They do not suit every location and if you are not comfortable in them you will not look good - no matter how well made and fitted they are. Or perhaps you feel that classic morning dress is just not special enough for the most important day of your life.

You may be tempted to wear a frock coat, the precursor of the morning coat and abolished at court by Edward VIII in 1936, but still occasionally seen at weddings. A proper frock coat is a wonderful thing and suits a grand ceremony at a traditional venue. The panelled back, waist seam, formed cuffs and inlaid satin lapels of the Frock will require some work, so give your tailor plenty of time (always give your tailor plenty of time). It can be worn with the same vest and trouser style as the morning coat and I would strongly recommend wearing a heavily starched detachable collar on your shirt and a vintage stickpin in your tie to complement the look authentically. Be warned that many frock coats available in wedding suit specialist shops are really just long jackets constructed without waist-seams or panelled backs. This style of coat was worn by Teddy Boy revivalists in the 1970s and New Romantics in the 1980s. If you are planning a Showaddywaddy or Spandau Ballet themed wedding, this is the perfect outfit to wear.

Beach weddings at exotic locations require a different strategy. It will be hot and you will be standing in sand. If you feel you must wear a suit, linen or linen blends are cool and complement the environment. Seersucker is also a good choice, it is exceptionally comfortable in the heat and I would suggest a tonal shade rather than the traditional Bengal stripes. I am a big fan of the Guayabera, also known as a Mexican wedding shirt, the four pockets and front pleats create the perfect degree of formality for a beach wedding and the Cuban collar requires no tie. Socks are best forgotten and footwear should be a simple slip-on like a driving loafer.

"Start your married life in style - you are a real man now."

A lounge suit is the perfect choice for the groom who wants something he will be able to wear again often. If you are a regular suit wearer, you should pick something a little more formal than your normal style. This could be in cloth, cut or detail. A three piece in mid-grey with peaked lapels and a double-breasted waistcoat always looks elegant, as does the subtle sheen of an inky blue or midnight kid mohair. Small details such as mother-of-pearl buttons or a subtle contrast lining in cream or silver-grey will give your suit a sophisticated edge. I also quite like a contrasting vest for a wedding. An off-white or buff waistcoat in linen is entirely correct with a lounge suit. Pick a shirt collar that is different to your normal style, perhaps an extreme cutaway or tab. A simple woven tie in a shepherd’s check will complete the look. Incidentally, this is good advice for any gentleman attending a wedding as a guest.

You may wish to be more adventurous in your choices and select a bolder pattern such as a tweed check or a brighter colour. In this instance, be sure to discuss with your bride to avoid disharmony. You do not need to match but you should look as if you are going to the same event.

I also have to say; it is a great shame that the gentleman’s going-away outfit has been so neglected in recent years. When I read wedding etiquette books from the 1960s and 1970s (everyone needs a hobby) I am always impressed by how dressing well for your honeymoon was considered as important as dressing for the day itself, even though the ceremonies and receptions would be considered modest by modern standards. Buck the trend. Start your married life in style. You are a real man now. Save your beachwear for the beach and travel in tailored clothing, cream or dove grey tropical worsted trousers, a baby blue shirt and lightweight cashmere blazer feels suitably uplifting and glamorous. As married life will soon teach you, getting there is half the fun.

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Christopher Modoo

Christopher Modoo is 'The Urbane Outfitter', with twenty five years of experience in classic menswear. He has conducted suit fittings in both Beckingham and Buckingham Palace. He hates short socks.