The dinner jacket, as it is known in England, the tuxedo on this side of the pond, or the quaint “smoking” in continental Europe, is fraught with rules and regulations so stiff, they are seen by some as restrictive and intimidating. In contrast, the rules should make it easy to dress within a proper framework. One should purchase quality, of course, as a good tuxedo will last many years. Styling should not be too experimental, lest you be embarrassed to wear it a few years hence. While black is the default option, a midnight blue appears richer and darker under many indoor lights. I have often wondered, too, why an extremely dark charcoal might not make an exceptional substitute, showing a very subtle contrast against the black of the lapel.
On the subject of lapels, only peak or shawl should be considered acceptable, although I am now leaning towards the shawl, since it is rarely seen outside of semi-formal, while the peak has enjoyed a fashionable renaissance on business wear and even sportcoats lately. (I do approve of this recent rakish development.) The peak lapel, however, is perhaps a bit more flattering for those who cut a more robust silhouette. Both satin and grosgrain are acceptable, but grosgrain lends a more subtle and richer sheen.
The bowtie, of course is the most traditional, and best mirrors the color and texture of the lapels, (black, of course, in satin or twill, similar to grosgrain.) There has been somewhat of fashion lately for four in hand ties. Some feel that the elongating effect of the four-in-hand is more flattering, others feel unease at tying the bow tie. While somewhat less traditional, the four in hand can look quite elegant when done in a color and texture not seen in business dress, say silver satin. It also eliminates the need for studs.
(In part two, we will continue to study the rules and nuances of semi-formal. Right this minute, however, please excuse me as I dress for dinner.)