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ChoralNet: All about Tuxedos

Dear Choralist,

Many thanks to all my dashing gentleman pals who have come to my
rescue on tailcoat questions!

Here's is what I am learning:

1. I had asked about trousers, and I have learned that the pants are
the same whether you have Eton jackets (short tuxes) or tailcoats.
There are choices between pleated and plain fronts, and adjustable
vs. non-adjustable waist. It is safe to mix old and new (and used)
if you are not fussy about trying to get everything exactly the same
color from the same dye lot. Eric Stark adds:

>You can safely mix pants from
>lots of different sources.

1a. Shirts always have cufflinks and studs, never buttons. Everyone
recommends cotton-poly blend for shirts.

2. On the polyester vs. wool question, I got a variety of opinions
at assorted levels of passion:

Brooks Grantier , who directs the Battle Creek
Boychoir, says:

>fabric -- poly is ok as a stage prop, looks cheap up-close, but who's
>to see it up-close? If up-close is a consideration, then look for
>wool-blend; wears better.

John Drotleff says:

>No choice - WOOL
>Holds up better...cooler (yes, cooler) looks better

B. Kinch , of the JMBC Children's Choir:

> While I prefer wool, it is hard to maintain, look for a blend, or
> seems to last longer.

John Howell advises:

>Cost vs. quality. Wrinkles hang out of wool better, and if you're on tour
>you can hang the garment in the bathroom steamy from the shower and most
>wrinkles will fall out.

Frank Albinder offers:

>Wool is better, poly is cheaper. The look about the same in a choir. You
>could even mix and match. Over time, you'll discover that styles change
>slightly and the tailcoat you bought last year won't be available anymore.
>We ran into this in Chanticleer all the time, once we started trying to
>standardize our uniforms. It was a pain. The only places that make the
>same thing, year in and year out, tend to be very expensive, like Brooks

David Daly suggests:

>Wool will be 1)more expensive, 2)a warmer, less breathable material, and
>3)you'll have a harder time matching the blacks. (This is what I was
>talking about in #1) When using polyester, I think you'll have an easier
>time finding blacks that match.

I also got some votes on the tuxes-vs.-tailcoats question:

Paul Olsen added a vote for regular tuxes

>White tie and tails is soloist attire, not for a mob of
>college tenors and basses.

I've also heard similar comments from people who feel that young men
are not entitled to wear something as dignified as white tie. My
concern is that if we are performing at upscale events, I want to be
sure the men of the choir don't match the waiters' uniforms!

B. Kinch adds:
>it's nice to
>that someone still values appearance and etiquette.

I've also learned that it is safest to have a professional person do
the measuring, and that used tailcoats are a great idea (John Howell
says to be sure we can inspect or return them if necessary). A used
tailcoat has typically been rented a just a few times, as opposed to
owned by someone for many years. Our price range of $90 to $250 is
"reasonable," everyone says -- sounds like a wide range to me!

Thanks again and best wishes. Now all we have to do is learn our music.


Nina Gilbert

| Nina Gilbert
| gilbertn(a)
| Director of Choral Activities, Lafayette College
| Easton, Pennsylvania 18042-1768
| phone 610-330-5677
| fax 610-330-5058
| Web site not yet moved from

on May 9, 2007 10:00pm
Date : 10/05/2007

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on September 9, 2007 10:00pm
Since I didn't have a big wad of cash to spend, but needed a classy wool tux and all the regulation accoutrements for my uniform, I decided to shop the secondhand market and learned firsthand that with a little time and effort a great bargain can be had "for a song." I ended up with a name-brand After Six model in 100 % wool with pleated trousers in mint condition, a cummerbund and shirt studs for $35.00! The formal shirts were already in my closet, thanks to my late grandfather who was in show business and wore my size. The silk bow tie, which I purchased new from Brooks Brothers, and the satin suspenders cost more than the tux! If you sing in a choir where there is some flexibility within the dress code, I highly recommend this option.
on September 4, 2009 2:03pm
Wool is more expensive, poly is cheaper.  Wool breaths, poly doesn't (not made of organic material).  Wool wrinkles more easily, poly is harder to wrinkle but is more difficult to get wrinkles out of once they occur.  Wool looks good up close, so if the chorus is performing in intimate settings, or if they greet audience members after a show, poly will look shabby at less than 10 feet of distance.
Coat Length:
Eton jacket equals a short tux coat that will show the white of a tux shirt underneath it.  In general, Eton jackets look like waiters jackets.  Avoid them.  A standard-length tux coat doesn't exist anymore.  They range anywhere from just at the waist, all the way to a knee-length coat.  Coats that are too long will make shorter choristers look even shorter than they are.  A tux jacket that is too short will make a tall chorister appear as if he has grown out of it.  Full dress tails look the most formal and also are the least hot to wear on stage because they breathe better than full-front tux jackets.  Proper white tie and tail tuxedos are worn with a PIQUE pattern shirt, vest, and tie, not pleated shirts and NOT cummerbunds.
The most popular lapel is the Notch.  It is also the easiest to standardize and will look uniform across most brands.  That is a simple triangular cut at the breastplate.  A peak lapel adds a bit more flair, with a "v" cut at the top which makes the shoulder look broader.  However, the size and angle of peak lapels does vary from brand to brand, so sticking with a single brand is the only way to maintain a uniform look.  A more modern look is the shawl lapel, which is a rounded satin stripe that hugs the edge of the jacket.
Buttons:  A single button tux coat is the most affordable and easy to unify look.  Single button tux coats are NEVER EVER buttoned.  They must be worn with an acessory (cummerbund/vest) inside.  Two button coats are not typically buttoned, but if they are the TOP button is the one used.  Three-button coats have a system of buttoning that goes like this, from top to bottom:  SOMETIMES, ALWAYS, and NEVER.  Double breasted coats are always buttoned shut and never worn with vests or cummerbunds.
Shirts:  Bowties are worn with either a wing-tip or laydown collar shirt.  Wing tips are more traditional, while laydown collars are tidier.  Non-pleated shirts provide a cleaner, more modern look while pleats are more traditional.  Pleats can range in width from a pin pleat size to a 1/2" pleat.  1/4" pleats are the most commonly used in tuxedos.  Mandarin collar shirts must be worn with a decorative button cover.  Some banded collar shirts have high collars that are meant to be worn with a strip of satin material around the neck, like a bowtiw minus the bow, and a decorative button cover.  White shirts against black jackets/pants provide the most formal look.
Pants:  Pleated pants will make men appear as if they have a "pooch" below the waist.  Flat front pants provide a cleaner, slimming look on most body types.  Adjustable tux pants are a great deal because they account for weight fluctuations, and if the pants are the school/chorus's property, they can be used and re-used by different-sized men.  Tux pants should be hemmed to just below the outermost point of the ankle bone.  Tux pants that are not hemmed and drag on the ground are the pinnacle of trashy.  Hemming can be had for $5.00 per garment nowadays, there really is no excuse for tuxes not to have hemmed pants.
Accessories:  Bowties used to be the accepted standard, but many think they are becoming outdated.  Traditional long ties worn with a tux shirt provide a more grown-up, classy look, and come in any color or design imaginable.  Many companies now offer pre-tied long ties that have uniform-sized knots.  Some of these have a hidden zipper inside the knot so they can be donned by simply sliding the tie knot up to the top button of the neck, and the zippered portion of the tie hides behind the long part.  Tuxedo shirt with bowties MUST be worn with studs, NOT buttons because the bowtie is not long and does not cover the button holes.  White studs are available for white tie dress.  Cummerbunds are quickly becoming an outdated/passe choice for tuxedos because they only look correct on a small percentage of bodies.  Very thin men tend to hide behind the cummerbund and with very large men the cummerbund becomes buried under their stomach.  Vests are a MUCH better choice, and come in almost any color or pattern imaginable.  Some vests are backless (they just strap over the shoulder and behind the neck).  These are great if you need to lighten the layers of a full tuxedo, but backless vests are NEVER EVER worn without a jacket.  This looks incredibly cheap and chintzty.  Full back vests can do double duty, either pairing with a jacket or standing alone.
Shoes:  The standard shoe for a traditional tux is made of patent leather.  The Army/Navy surplus stores sell patent leather marching shoes that have very thick rubber soles and are great for standing on risers for extended periods of time.  They range from $50.00-$80.00 and last much longer than the usual thin-soled, foot-warping torture devices sold at formalwear stores.  BLACK SOCKS AND ONLY BLACK SOCKS!  Thin, pantyhose-like socks look terrible and don't last long.  Thicker the better when it comes to black dress socks.