Dinner jackets are the basis of classic black-tie wear. The style of the jacket determines the formality of the rest of the ensemble. The sophisticated detail of a dinner jacket sets apart a tuxedo from a simple suit. Following traditional black tie etiquette relies on understanding which lapels, finishings, colour and fabrics to choose for your dinner jacket.
How to Wear Dinner Jackets
There are four types of acceptable dinner jackets: single-breasted peaked lapel, double-breasted peaked lapel, single-breasted shawl collar and double-breasted shawl collar. Single-breasted dinner jackets have one waist button and are worn unbuttoned. The exposed trouser waistband must be covered with either a cummerbund or a waistcoat. Double-breasted dinner jackets are worn buttoned when standing. These jackets have four buttons and you can fasten them using either just the bottom row or both rows. According to the Black Tie Guide, this jacket is considered the less-formal option.
Peaked lapels and shawl collars are equally acceptable. As per the Black Tie Guide, peaked lapels are more formal than their counterpart. Shawl collars are used particularly with warm-weather jackets. It's best to have your lapel facing made from pure silk; however, most facings are made using a synthetic element. Shinier facings are popular in North America, but less refined than matt facings. Your bow-tie and cummerbund should match the fabric of the lapel facings.
Traditional Color and Fabric Choices
Both black and midnight blue dinner jackets are popular and classic choices. The facings on a blue dinner suit should be black. The Black Tie Guide recommends that while there's not a set year-round weight for dinner jacket material, the best choice is a 255 or 283g fabric, since most dinner jackets will be worn in climate-controlled environments.
Your dinner jacket should have a buttonhole on the left lapel to hold a boutonnière, with a stem-holder on the opposite side of the lapel. If your jacket doesn't have this buttonhole, a tailor can add one. A double-besomed slit hip pocket is simple and appropriate for a formal dinner jacket. Bulky flap pockets are not acceptable. There should be four buttons on the sleeves of the jacket, with the edges touching. Buttons can be either plain or covered with the same facing as the lapel.
Dinner jackets that are white or ivory in colour are a common choice for formal events during the summer months in tropical climates and on cruises. These jackets are also acceptable at events held in country clubs or yacht clubs. Light-coloured dinner jackets are an easy way to enjoy formal attire and events without being weighed down by heavy, oppressive colours and fabrics.