Black Tie Guide
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Morning Dress: Formal Day Wear

When a Suit Won’t Do (and a Tuxedo Shouldn’t)

Many people from around the world visit for guidance in assembling a traditional black-tie ensemble for their afternoon wedding only to discover that such attire is inappropriate for daytime functions.  This comes as a disappointing shock to fiancé(e)s who have been conditioned to believe that no wedding is truly formal unless the groomsmen are clad in tuxedos.  However, our European cousins know better.

Like most formalwear etiquette, the proscription against donning evening wear during the day is not simply an arbitrary custom but a matter of aesthetic logic.  The tuxedo and tailcoat take their black color from their after-dark surroundings and in this context, they imbue their wearer with elegance, power and even an air of mystery.  When worn in broad daylight, however, black suits look dull and lifeless and tend to make (Caucasian) men’s faces appear ashen which is what makes them so appropriate for traditional funeral director attire.

Conversely, while formal day coats are also usually black they are typically the only occurrence of ebony in morning dress (the traditional term for formal day wear).  Their somberness is offset by non-matching gray trousers – which are themselves enlivened with striped or checked patterns – and by the addition of tastefully colored ties, or silver and black wedding ties, waistcoats and even shirts.

The end result is an ensemble immensely more suitable for daylight and delightfully more open to personalization than a tuxedo is, yet at the same time significantly more formal than a regular suit.  It is no wonder this genteel tradition remains commonplace in Britain and at the same time perplexing that it became highjacked in America.

Basic Morning Wear Etiquette

Generally, morning dress is meant for formal affairs held in the morning or afternoon.  Special considerations for weddings that begin in the afternoon and continue into the evening can be found in the Formal Evening Weddings page.

Formal Morning Dress

SRS in a morning coat

SRS in a morning coat

As with evening dress, there are two categories of formal day dress.  The most formal version is by far the most popular and features a type of tailcoat known as a cutaway(morning coat in the UK).  In Britain it is worn by grooms, groomsmen and guests at formal church weddings and for formal daytime events in the presence of The Queen such as Royal Ascot and Trooping the Colour.

In America, its appearance is largely limited to formal weddings prior to 6 o’clock and even then is extremely rare – although perfectly correct.

Morning Dress Guide on different devices

Morning Dress Guide on different devices

1. coat
(cutaway / morning coat)


· black is most formal
· dark gray (“charcoal” or “oxford” gray) is also acceptable
flannel or worsted wool, plain or herringbone pattern

single-breasted, closing with one button (traditionally a link front)

curved cutaway front with tails that fall behind the knees

peaked lapels

welt breast pocket only (no waist pockets)

2. trousers


· black-striped dark gray material is most formal

· gray houndstooth or herringbone is a less formal alternate

(some authorities recommend these with gray coats)

cut for suspenders (high enough rise for waistband to be covered by the relatively short waistcoat)

one pleat down center of leg is traditional

no cuffs

3. waistcoat

color can be:

· light gray (“dove” or “pearl” gray)

· creamy yellow (“buff”)

· black (although Debrett’s says it is now only for mourning and

certain daytime London functions)

· pale colors as an alternative

model can be:

· single-breasted with or without lapels

· double-breasted usually with lapels

white slips are optional (a piece of white cloth attached underneath each rever that creates the impression of an under-waistcoat)

4. shirt

turndown collar shirt is preferred:

· white collar, preferably the stiff detachable kind

· white or pale color body (cream, blue, pink, white with blue


· French cuffs
wing collar shirt although very formal is old-fashioned and acceptable only under the following specific conditions – and even then some authorities still consider it “quite inappropriate” for weddings:

· collar must be the high, stiff, detachable variety

· must be worn with dress ascot

· white fabric

· can only be worn with black coat

5. neckwear


· wedding tie with turndown collar

· self-tie dress ascot (aka plastron, or dress cravat in the UK)

with wing collar; not to be confused with informal day cravat

(see sidebar)


· pale gray or silver in subtle patterns with black such as houndstooth or

Macclesfield are most traditional, especially for groomsmen hence also called wedding ties

· pastel colors are acceptable alternative</span >

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6.  footwear

well-polished black lace-ups, capped or plain toes
black button boots with cloth tops are old-fashioned alternative
black silk or cashmere hose is traditional, other fine fabric is acceptable
7. accessories


optional pocket watch and chain

boutonniere such as rose or carnation for wedding boutonnieres

Debrett’s suggests pale yellow chamois gloves with black coat, gray suede with gray coat; usually carried

white linen pocket square

optional walking stick or, preferably, tightly rolled umbrella

outerwearoptional top hat (obligatory at Royal Ascot):

· black silk is smarter and more formal but very hard to come by

· gray felt with black band

Morning Suit

Gentlemen-at-Royal-Ascot-in-Morning-Coats with Balmoral Boots and Button Boots

Gentlemen-at-Royal-Ascot-in-Morning-Coats with Balmoral Boots and Button Boots

In Britain the morning suit is a less formal version of morning dress appropriate for races and summer weddings.  This suit differs from formal morning dress only in that the cutaway, trousers and waistcoat are constructed from the same light or mid-gray material.  Note that the term is often used as a synonym for morning dress although technically this is incorrect as only a jacket and trouser of matching fabric are by definition a “suit”.  (The word is derived from the French suite which means “to follow” as in the trouser fabric following the precedent of the coat fabric.)

Semi-Formal Morning Dress

Stroller Suit with Contrasting Vest

Stroller Suit with Contrasting Vest

Just as the suit-like dinner jacket was an informal replacement for the evening tailcoat, the suit-like stroller (black lounge in UK) rose to popularity on both sides of the Atlantic in the 1920s as a less formal replacement for the morning tailcoat.  But whereas the dinner jacket eventually supplanted the tailcoat as formal evening attire, the stroller faded into obscurity after World War Two leaving the morning coat as standard formal day wear.  Although rarely seen today this alternative remains equally acceptable, and arguably more much more versatile.

1. jacket(stroller /
black lounge)

suit-like jacket in same colors as morning coat

single- or double-breasted, single with one, two or three buttons

usually peaked lapels but notch acceptable

no vent or two side vents

besom pockets

2. trousers
as per formal morning dress although there is more latitude for informal patterns
3. waistcoat
as per formal morning dress
4. shirt
as per formal turndown collar shirt although detachable collar is not as important
5. neckwear
as per formal four-in-hand ties
6.  footwear
as per formal morning dress
7. accessories
as per formal morning dress
8. outerwear
optional black homburg or bowler

sources: The Suit: A Machiavellian Approach to Men’s Style

Emily Post’s Etiquette (2004 edition)

A Well-Dressed Gentleman’s Pocket Guide

Debrett’s A-Z of Modern Manners

Men’s Style: The Thinking Man’s Guide to Dress

History of Men’s Fashion: What the Well-Dressed Man is Wearing

Mr. Jones’s Rules and The Indispensible Guide to Classic Men’s Clothing

The Dress Ascot

Americans should not confuse the dress ascot (dress cravat in UK) that ties outside a buttoned shirt collar with the ordinary ascot (cravat in UK) that ties inside an unbuttoned collar.  If you insist on wearing a cravat then at least make sure it’s self-tied. You can find a classic selection of formal daywear dress ascots here.  Click the image for instructions on tying a cravat the traditional way and with the modern ruche knot.

Well Suited:
Waistcoat Length

Morning attire can be worn with a range of ties, including classic wedding ties in silver and black

Morning attire can be worn with a range of ties, including classic wedding ties in silver and black

The waistcoat must be coordinated with the morning coat so that the former extends only slightly below and above the latter.

Morning Dress Around the World

Morning dress alternate accessories combination

Morning dress alternate accessories combination

Outside of the UK, morning dress is most likely to be seen in monarchies such as Luxembourg, Holland and Japan.  In Germany the stroller is known as a Stresemann after the Chancellor who first popularized it in the mid 1920s.  In some other countries it is known as a director’s jacket based on its traditional role as attire for members of corporate boards of directors.

Article Name
Morning Wear Guide
Quick rundown on the morning wear dress code, what morning coat or suit to wear, accessories and everything else you need to know
Gentleman's Gazette LLC
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