Bold, sophisticated and full of old-school tailoring cred, the velvet dinner jacket is a stylish and surprisingly versatile formal staple. Here’s what to know about getting it right.
Dress codes are, and always will be, a frustratingly ambiguous point of modern fashion - how strict are they, how many people will follow them and where are the lines drawn? For every rule, there is an exception, and for every event, there’s a different interpretation. In regards to formality, a velvet dinner jacket is equal to a traditional tuxedo, so long as you’re wearing a pleated tuxedo shirt and bow tie. Where it gets a little shadier is a black tie dress code specifically: some will contend velvet is out of bounds, some that it’s totally fine, and others that it depends on the colour of the velvet, and that black or midnight navy is fine, while loud colours are not.
We suggest this: if it’s a wedding, check with those getting married, because it’s their show. If you’re the groom, you set the rules, and do as you wish! If it’s not a wedding, think about the energy and style of the event: a rigid corporate affair, hosted at an old school private club or specifically listing out dress ‘do’s and don’ts’ would suggest playing it safe with a normal tuxedo, while anything without specific attire guidance is probably open hunting season for velvet connoisseurs. In the end, velvet is not casual or frivolous; it is a premium, formal and timeless tailoring staple with decades of sartorial history and gravitas, meant to be worn at elegant and important occasions.
One of the real benefits of opting for a velvet dinner jacket–rather than a tuxedo–is in the extra wearability and options it affords you: it will pair easily with dark wool trousers you’ve got handy for formal events, match with bold patterned or textured wool trousers for serious events that encourage personality and flair (look to the tartan Merino wool trousers we paired a navy velvet jacket with for our recent Autumn campaign) or even give you another speed for look-at-me casual lux events, working with an open-collar shirt or even tee. With a velvet jacket, you’ll have more options to dial up (or down) the colour, formality and personality, as the need or desire dictates. Just remember: that if you’re wearing the jacket for formal events, it’s got to be styled in a similar fashion to a tuxedo and worn with a proper pleated tuxedo shirt and self-tie bow tie.
When you’re designing a velvet blazer, have a good think about what you want from the garment: is it a custom-made showstopper, meant to ask questions and be unique for a specific event or milestone, or is it a more considered garment to be worn over many years, replacing your ordinary tuxedo for a range of formal events? If the latter, you're better off keeping the details timeless and classic: a sweeping shawl or peak lapels, dark buttons, welt pockets and a fitted-yet-comfortable silhouette. If you’re designing something that’s supposed to be a little ostentatious, go nuts: double-breasted shape, gold or silver buttons, and extra wide look-at-me lapels will make a stand (without playing into costumey gimmicks). Again, remember that you’re dealing with an old-world fabric, full of history and tradition: it’s not some ‘on trend’ fad that will burn out in a few months' time, so you should plan and design your custom garment with a longer view point.
Velvet can add a lot of warmth, so be wary about committing to the look without a consideration for the season, location or type of event: day time weddings in humid Bali or dance-floor heavy balls in a Queenslander summer will be tough. If you are confident donning velvet in the heat, some small custom design differences will add up: ensure there are no polyesters in the fabric (cheaper brands will blend polyesters into the cotton velvet, meaning it’s far less breathable and durable), get the fit exactly right (which isn’t an issue with made-to-measure, but a tighter fit can really trap the heat to the body) and design a blazer with less structure and canvassing. For our Autumn collection, we removed the canvas completely, retaining only the lining, putting out confidence in the thicker velvet and tailored silhouette to retain the structure.
View our latest Autumn Collection here.