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Morning Dress Guide for Men – When and How to Wear a Morning Suit

The morning suit is the epitome of elegance and sophistication in formal daytime attire for men.

Mastering the art of selecting and styling this distinguished ensemble is paramount for gentlemen who aspire to exude an aura of wealth, accomplishment, and impeccable taste, regardless of the season or occasion.

With a rich history and nuanced details, the morning suit serves as a sartorial calling card, instantly communicating one’s adherence to tradition and appreciation for refined aesthetics.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll delve into the intricacies of the morning suit, equipping you with the knowledge to navigate the world of formal daytime dress with confidence and grace.

What is a Morning Suit?

A morning suit, also known as a morning dress, is formal daytime attire for gentlemen traditionally worn at weddings, Royal Ascot, and other prestigious daytime events.

This ensemble consists of three primary components: a morning coat (cutaway coat), striped trousers, and a waistcoat.

The morning coat is characterised by its single-breasted cut, peaked lapels, and distinctive curved front edges that sweep back into long tails.

The trousers are typically grey with black and grey stripes, known as cashmere stripes.

The waistcoat, often in contrasting colours such as buff, dove grey, or powder blue, completes the ensemble.

Morning Suit Origins

The morning suit traces its origins to the early 19th century, evolving from the frock coat as a less formal alternative for daytime wear.

In this context, the term ‘morning’ refers not to the early hours but to the daytime in general, as opposed to evening wear.

Initially popular among the aristocracy and gentry for horseback riding and other daytime activities, the morning suit gradually became the standard for formal daytime occasions.

By the late 19th century, it had been adopted as the de rigueur attire for weddings, races, and other significant daytime events.

Detailing the Morning Suit – Key Parts

The morning suit comprises several components, including a suit coat, suit trousers, waistcoat, and more.

The most crucial is the morning coat, a true menswear masterpiece with a distinctive silhouette and meticulous tailoring.

The Morning Coat

The morning coat, also known as a cutaway coat, is the defining element of morning dress, setting it apart from other formal attire.

Morning Coat Anatomy

A unique cut and design elements characterise the morning coat:

Single-Breasted Front

Unlike the double-breasted jacket of a dinner suit, the morning coat features a single-breasted front, typically fastening with a single button.

Peaked Lapels

The coat boasts sharp, peaked lapels, which contribute to its formal appearance and help create a strong shoulder line.

Curved Cutaway Front

Perhaps the most distinctive feature is the gently curved front edges that sweep back to form long tails at the rear.

Tails

The tails of the morning coat should fall to just behind the wearer’s knees, creating an elegant line when viewed from the side.

Waist Seam

A horizontal seam at the waist helps to create the coat’s shaped silhouette, emphasising the wearer’s form.

Morning Coat Fabric and Colour

The choice of fabric and colour for a morning coat is crucial to achieving the correct level of formality:

Black

Traditionally, black is the most formal choice for a morning coat, a classic option appropriate for weddings and formal daytime events.

Dark Grey (Charcoal)

Dark grey morning coats are a slightly less formal alternative to black and are chosen for their softer appearance while maintaining the requisite sophistication.

Fabric Choices

Morning coats are typically crafted from wool or a wool blend. Worsted wool is a popular choice for its smooth finish and durability.

Some tailors may offer options in barathea or herringbone weaves, which add subtle texture to the garment.

Morning Coat Fit and Tailoring

The fit of a morning coat is paramount to achieving an elegant appearance:

Shoulders

The coat should fit snugly across the shoulders with no overhang or pulling.

Chest

The chest should have enough room to button the coat comfortably without straining.

Waist

The coat should taper slightly at the waist to create a subtle hourglass silhouette.

Length

The front of the coat should reach just above the top of the thighs, while the tails should fall to just behind the knees.

Sleeves

The sleeve length should allow about 1.25 cm (½ inch) of the shirt cuff to show when the arms are resting.

Morning Coat Embellishments

Several details contribute to the overall appearance of the morning coat:

Buttons

The front and cuff buttons are usually covered in a fabric that matches the coat.

Some coats feature a link closure instead of a button, allowing for a more comfortable fit after a meal.

Pockets

Morning coats usually feature a welted breast pocket and two flapped pockets at the waist.

Vents

Unlike lounge suits, morning coats do not have vents at the rear, as this would interfere with the line of the tails.

Morning Coat Styling Tips

The way you style your morning coat impacts the garment’s overall effect:

Buttonhole

A tasteful boutonnière, such as a single carnation or rose, can be worn in the lapel buttonhole.

Pocket Square

A crisp white linen pocket square, folded into a simple square or point, adds a touch of refinement.

Waistcoat Coordination

The waistcoat should be visible below the buttoning point of the coat, creating a pleasing layered effect.

Morning Suit Trousers

While often overlooked, the trousers of a morning suit play a crucial role in completing the ensemble’s refined aesthetic.

These are not mere dress trousers but a carefully crafted garment with a rich history and specific design elements.

Morning Suit Trousers Key Hallmarks

Morning suit trousers are instantly recognizable by their distinctive striped pattern:

Cashmere Stripes

Despite the name, these trousers are not made of cashmere. The term refers to the classic black and grey striped pattern.

Varied Stripe Patterns

While the classic cashmere stripe is most common, other patterns such as houndstooth, herringbone, or subtle checks may be seen.

Morning Suit Trousers Colours

The colour scheme of morning suit trousers is typically restrained:

Grey Base

The base colour of the trousers is usually medium to dark grey.

Black Stripes

The traditionally black stripes create a sophisticated contrast against the grey base.

Morning Suit Trousers Cut and Style

The cut of morning suit trousers differs from that of a standard suit:

High-Waisted

These trousers sit higher on the natural waist, often reaching the bottom of the waistcoat.

Straight Leg

The leg is cut straight from the knee to the ankle, creating a clean line.

No Turn-Ups

Morning suit trousers never feature turn-ups (cuffs), which are considered too casual for formal wear.

Morning Suit Trousers Waistband Details

The waistband of morning suit trousers has specific features:

Adjustable Side Tabs

Instead of belt loops, these trousers often feature adjustable side tabs for a precise fit.

Braces Buttons

Interior buttons for braces (suspenders) are common, allowing for a smooth line under the waistcoat.

Morning Suit Trousers Pleats and Pockets

These elements contribute to both the style and function of the trousers:

Forward Pleats

Many morning suit trousers feature forward pleats, which add fullness to the thigh area.

Slanted Pockets

The side pockets are often slanted, a detail that originates from the trousers’ equestrian heritage.

Morning Suit Trousers Fishtail Back

A unique feature of traditional morning suit trousers:

Split Waistband

The back of the waistband is split into a distinctive ‘fishtail’ shape.

Waistcoat Coverage

This design lets the waistcoat cover the waistband completely, creating a seamless transition between garments.

Morning Suit Trousers Fabrics

The choice of fabric contributes to the trousers’ drape and appearance:

Wool

High-quality wool is the most common choice, offering a refined appearance and excellent drape.

Wool Blends

Some morning suit makers incorporate a small percentage of synthetic fibres for added durability without compromising appearance.

Morning Suit Trousers Tailoring Guidelines

Proper tailoring is crucial for morning suit trousers:

Length

The trousers should break once over the shoe, creating a slight ripple at the front of the instep.

Waist Fit

A precise waist fit is essential, as these trousers are meant to be worn with braces, not a belt.

Morning Suit Waistcoat

The waistcoat, or vest, is a crucial component of the morning suit that offers a touch of individuality within formal daytime attire.

This garment provides an opportunity for subtle personal expression while maintaining the overall elegance of the ensemble.

Morning Suit Waistcoat Types

Morning suit waistcoats come in two primary styles:

Single-Breasted

It is the most common style, featuring a single row of buttons down the front.

Double-Breasted

A more formal option, with two rows of buttons creating an overlapping front.

Morning Suit Waistcoat Colours

The colour of the waistcoat can range from traditional to more contemporary choices:

Buff

A pale yellowish beige is considered the most traditional and formal choice.

Dove Grey

A soft, light grey that pairs well with black and grey morning coats.

Powder Blue

A popular choice for weddings, offering a subtle touch of colour.

Pastels

Pale pink, mint green or lavender can be appropriate for less formal occasions or to coordinate with wedding themes.

Morning Suit Fabrics

The choice of fabric contributes to the waistcoat’s overall appearance:

Wool

Often matching the fabric of the morning coat for a cohesive look.

Linen

A lighter option, popular for summer weddings and events.

Silk

Provides a luxurious sheen, often used for more formal occasions.

Morning Suit Waistcoat Designs

Several design features distinguish morning suit waistcoats:

Lapels

While some waistcoats are collarless, others feature shawl or peaked lapels for added formality.

Bottom Edge

The bottom edge of the waistcoat is often cut straight across, though some feature a slight point at the centre.

Backside

The back of the waistcoat is typically lined with silky material, often in a matching or complementary colour.

Morning Suit Waistcoat Button Configuration

The number and arrangement of buttons on a morning suit waistcoat are significant:

Single-Breasted

These typically feature three to six buttons, with the bottom button always left undone as per tradition.

Double-Breasted

Usually adorned with six to eight buttons, arranged in two parallel columns.

Morning Suit Waistcoat Pockets

Waistcoat pockets serve both functional and aesthetic purposes:

Welted Pockets

Most morning suit waistcoats feature two to three welted pockets.

Watch Pocket

A small pocket on the lower right side, traditionally used for a pocket watch.

Morning Suit Waistcoat Fit Tips

The fit of the waistcoat is crucial to the overall appearance of the morning suit:

Length

The waistcoat should be long enough to cover the waistband of the trousers, with no shirt visible between the waistcoat and trousers.

Chest

The waistcoat should fit snugly across the chest without pulling or gaping.

Morning Suit Waistcoat Accessories

Certain accessories can enhance the waistcoat’s appearance:

Pocket Watch

A classic accessory, worn on a chain and tucked into the watch pocket.

Lapel Pin

A subtle pin on the lapel can add a touch of personal flair.

Morning Suit Shirt and Neckwear

The shirt and neckwear are essential for the morning suit, providing a crisp foundation and a focal point for the ensemble.

These elements demand careful consideration to balance tradition and personal style perfectly.

Morning Suit Shirt

The shirt worn with a morning suit is a study in understated elegance:

Colour

White is the most traditional and formal choice for a morning suit shirt.

Pale blue or subtly striped shirts may be acceptable for less formal occasions.

Collar Styles

Cutaway collar: A popular choice, offering a wide spread to accommodate larger tie knots.

Winchester collar: A white collar paired with a coloured or striped shirt body.

Wing collar: Once common but now considered old-fashioned except for the most formal occasions.

Cuffs

Double cuffs (French cuffs) are de rigueur for morning dress, providing an opportunity to showcase elegant cufflinks.

Fabric

Fine cotton poplin is the preferred fabric, offering a smooth, crisp appearance.

Marcella (piqué) bibs are occasionally seen, adding texture to the shirt front.

Morning Suit Neckwear

The choice of neckwear can significantly influence the overall appearance of the morning suit:

Cravat (Formal Ascot)

The most traditional choice for very formal occasions.

Typically made of silk in pale grey or silver, often with a subtle pattern.

Worn with a wing collar shirt and secured with a cravat pin.

Tie

A more modern and versatile option, suitable for most morning suit occasions.

Often referred to as a “wedding tie” when worn with a morning dress.

Typically in shades of grey, silver, or pale colours, possibly featuring subtle patterns.

Bow Tie

While less common, a bow tie can be worn with a morning suit for a touch of individuality.

It should be hand-tied, never pre-tied.

Neckwear Patterns and Textures

The pattern and texture of the neckwear contribute to its visual interest:

Muted Patterns

Small-scale patterns such as pin dots, tiny geometric shapes, or subtle florals are appropriate.

Textured Solids

Solid colours with interesting textures, like watered silk or grenadine, add depth without being overly busy.

Neckwear Patterns and Colours

Coordinating neckwear with other elements of the morning suit is crucial:

Complementary Colours

The neckwear should complement, not match exactly, the waistcoat colour.

Contrast

Ensure sufficient contrast between the shirt and neckwear for a crisp, defined look.

Neckwear Tying Techniques

The method of tying one’s neckwear is as important as the piece itself:

Cravat

The formal ascot should be tied in a specific manner, creating a layered effect at the throat.

Tie

A Windsor or half-Windsor knot is appropriate, creating a substantial knot that sits well with the cutaway collar.

Neckwear Accessories

Certain accessories can enhance the appearance of morning suit neckwear:

Tie Pin or Clip

A subtle tie pin or clip can add a touch of elegance while keeping the tie in place.

Cravat Pin

When wearing a formal ascot, a decorative pin is often used to secure the cravat in place.

Morning Suit Accessories

Designed to complete the look by adding sophistication and personal flair while adhering to time-honoured traditions, morning suit accessories are far from mere afterthoughts.

Morning Suit Footwear

The choice of shoes can make or break a morning suit:

Oxford Shoes

Black Oxford shoes are the quintessential choice for any morning dress attire.

Plain cap-toe or whole-cut styles are preferred for their sleek appearance.

Patent Leather

Highly polished patent leather Oxfords are the number one choice for formal occasions.

Button Boots

A traditional alternative, button boots with cloth or suede uppers harken back to the morning suit’s equestrian roots.

Morning Suit Top Hat

The top hat is the crowning glory of formal morning dress:

Silk Top Hat

The most formal option, featuring a glossy finish. Genuine silk plush top hats are now rare antiques.

Fur Felt Top Hat

A more common alternative is available in black or grey.

Collapsible Top Hat

Known as a ‘gibus’, this ingenious design allows for easy storage when not in use.

Morning Suit Gloves

Gloves add a touch of old-world elegance to the morning suit:

Colour

Though white or cream are also acceptable, grey suede or chamois gloves are traditional.

Fit

Gloves should fit snugly without constricting movement.

Morning Suit Pocket Square

A pocket square adds a dash of refinement to the breast pocket:

Material

Fine white linen is the classic choice for a morning dress.

Fold

A simple straight or puff fold is most appropriate, avoiding overly elaborate arrangements.

Morning Suit Boutonnière

A floral accent can add a touch of life to the morning coat:

Flower Choice

A single carnation or rosebud is traditional, though gardenias or stephanotis are also seen.

Placement

The boutonnière is worn in the left lapel buttonhole of the morning coat.

These small details can make a significant impact:

Material

Gold, silver, or mother-of-pearl are classic choices for cufflinks and shirt studs.

Design

Simple, elegant designs are preferred over ostentatious or novelty styles.

Morning Suit Braces (Suspenders)

Braces are a functional necessity that can also add a touch of hidden luxury:

Style

Button-on braces in a muted colour or subtle pattern are traditional.

Material

Silk or a silk blend is preferred for its strength and refined appearance.

Morning Suit Timepieces

Your choice of the timepiece can enhance the morning suit:

Pocket Watch

The traditional option is a gold or silver pocket watch on a chain.

Wristwatch

If worn, a slim dress watch with a leather strap is appropriate.

Morning Suit Walking Stick or Umbrella

These accessories harken back to the morning suit’s origins:

Walking Stick

A simple, elegant walking stick can be carried as a traditional accessory.

Umbrella

A black umbrella with a wooden handle is both practical and stylish.

Morning Suit vs Other Suits

It is crucial to distinguish the morning suit from other formal attire to avoid sartorial faux pas:

Morning Suit vs Evening Tailcoat

While both feature tails, the evening tailcoat is strictly for after-six formal events.

It is black, with a sharply cut-away front, and worn with black trousers, a white waistcoat, and a white bow tie.

Morning Suit vs Tuxedo (Dinner Jacket)

This is semi-formal evening wear consisting of a black or midnight blue jacket with satin-faced lapels, matching trousers, and a black bow tie.

It is never appropriate for daytime formal events.

Morning Suit vs Stroller (Black Lounge)

A less formal alternative to a full morning dress, the stroller consists of a black jacket (similar to a suit jacket but with peaked lapels), striped trousers, and a waistcoat.

It lacks the tails of the morning coat.

Morning Suit vs Frock Coat

The frock coat, the predecessor to the morning coat, is longer, reaching the knees, and has a straight cut rather than a curved front.

It is now rarely seen outside of period dramas.

Morning Suit Dressing Order

There’s an art to putting on a morning suit:

Base Layer

Begin with the shirt, ensuring it’s crisp and well-tucked.

Trousers

Don the trousers, adjusting for proper rise and securing braces.

Waistcoat

The waistcoat should cover the trouser waistband completely.

Neckwear

Tie your chosen neckwear with precision, whether a cravat or tie.

Coat

Finally, don the morning coat, adjusting for a smooth fit over the waistcoat.

Wearing Morning Suit by Occasion

Daytime Weddings

For grooms, groomsmen, and male guests at traditional church weddings before 6 pm:

Morning Coat: Black herringbone wool morning coat from Huntsman

Trousers: Grey cashmere-striped wool trousers from Oliver Brown

Waistcoat: Dove grey wool waistcoat from Favourbrook

Shirt: White cotton poplin shirt with double cuffs from Turnbull & Asser

Neckwear: Silver and grey patterned silk tie from Hermès

Footwear: Black calf leather Oxford shoes from Church’s

Accessories:
– Grey felt top hat from Lock & Co. Hatters
– White linen pocket square from Drake’s
– Mother-of-pearl and silver cufflinks from Deakin & Francis
– Black barathea braces from Albert Thurston

Royal Ascot

For the Royal Enclosure, where full morning dress is mandatory:

Morning Coat: Black barathea wool morning coat from Gieves & Hawkes

Trousers: Black and grey striped wool trousers from Hackett

Waistcoat: Buff yellow linen waistcoat from Oliver Brown

Shirt: White cotton poplin shirt with cutaway collar from Hilditch & Key

Neckwear: Grey silk cravat with a subtle pattern from Favourbrook

Footwear: Black patent leather Oxford shoes from John Lobb

Accessories:
– Black silk top hat from Christys’ London
– Pale grey chamois leather gloves from Dents
– Silver pocket watch and chain from Patek Philippe
– Black silk socks from Pantherella
– Black ebony wood-handled umbrella from James Smith & Sons

Royal Garden Parties

For attending a Royal Garden Party at Buckingham Palace:

Morning Coat: Charcoal grey wool morning coat from Henry Poole & Co.

Trousers: Grey wool trousers with subtle Prince of Wales check from Anderson & Sheppard

Waistcoat: Pale blue wool waistcoat from Ede & Ravenscroft

Shirt: White cotton twill shirt with double cuffs from Budd Shirtmakers

Neckwear: Silver and blue silk tie from Harvie & Hudson

Footwear: Black calf leather Oxford shoes with subtle broguing from Crockett & Jones

Accessories:
– Grey fur felt top hat from Bates Hatter
– White carnation boutonnière
– Sterling silver tie clip from Asprey
– White cotton gloves from Sermoneta Gloves

Investitures

When receiving honours at Buckingham Palace:

Morning Coat: Black wool morning coat from Dege & Skinner

Trousers: Black and grey pinstripe wool trousers from Huntsman

Waistcoat: Pale grey wool waistcoat from Gieves & Hawkes

Shirt: White cotton herringbone shirt with cutaway collar from Emma Willis

Neckwear: Silver silk tie from Drake’s

Footwear: Black calf leather whole-cut Oxford shoes from Edward Green

Accessories:
– Black felt top hat from Lock & Co. Hatters
– White linen handkerchief from Simonnot-Godard
– Mother-of-pearl and gold dress set from Benson & Clegg
– Black barathea silk braces from Albert Thurston

Morning Suit Etiquette of Wear – Do’s and Don’ts

Certain rules of etiquette apply when wearing a morning suit:

Coat Buttoning

The morning coat should remain buttoned while standing.

Hat Etiquette

Remove your top hat indoors and when speaking to ladies.

Glove Protocol

Remove gloves when shaking hands or dining.

Time of Day Considerations

Daytime Wear (Morning until 6 pm):

– All aforementioned ensembles are appropriate.

– For summer events before noon, consider a light grey morning coat from Richard. Anderson with matching trousers and a cream linen waistcoat from New & Lingwood.

Evening Transition (After 6 pm):

– Continue wearing the morning suit.

– Consider switching to a darker tie, such as a navy grenadine silk tie from Drakes.

– Add a white cotton marcella waistcoat from Favourbrook over the coloured day waistcoat for a touch of evening formality.

Morning Suits Brands

Huntsman

This Savile Row institution offers bespoke and made-to-measure morning suits, renowned for their exceptional cut and craftsmanship.

Favourbrook

Specialising in formal and occasionwear, Favourbrook provides classic and contemporary interpretations of morning dress.

Gieves & Hawkes

Another Savile Row stalwart, Gieves & Hawkes, offers ready-to-wear and bespoke morning suits, focusing on traditional British tailoring.

Oliver Brown

As the official licensee for Royal Ascot, Oliver Brown is a go-to for impeccable morning dresses, including top hats and accessories.

Ede & Ravenscroft

England’s oldest tailor, established in 1689, provides exquisite morning suits with a nod to their centuries of expertise in formal wear.

With over twenty years of front-row fashion and styling events, collabs with haute-couture houses, and a PhD in Luxury Fashion, Laurenti is an expert in crafting personalized looks that depict old-money sophistication.

With years of expertise in high-end fashion collabs and a PhD in Sustainable Fashion, Ru specializes in curating eco-luxe wardrobes for the modern gentleman seeking understated refinement.

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