Sadly, for many, Trinity Term is associated with exams; however, the modern dandy may stave off the worries and stresses of examinations by consoling himself with the promise of a Summer Ball. While forking out a large sum of precious cash just for the excuse to dress up might seem decadent (we must not pretend that the main attraction of a ball is anything else than donning evening attire), one must remember that the fashion opportunities of a ball are infrequent: where else is there such an abundance of other appreciative dandies that can bask in the splendour of your soirée raiment?
The dress codes of a summer ball realistically come in two strands, that of the black or white tie. However, there are some articles akin to both of these ensembles. A shirt is something which can (and, of course, should) readily be worn with tails or a dinner jacket. A wing collar, while not essential, lends itself to bridging the gap. The keen and ambitious boulevardier will variate in the frontage, however. While there won’t be undue complaints with a waffled or textured Marcella, there won’t be compliments, either. On the other hand, a shirt which would not fit the category of ‘dress shirt’ could invite abuse and even invective the next day on rival dandies’ web blogs. Your M&S white shirt from school should be avoided. In fact, it should probably have been thrown away quite some time ago. The man who really will pull in the flattery wears a ½’’ pleat either with a wing or semi-spread collar. I would never trust a man with a full-spread collar, and, in my personal experience, I have found chaps who front themselves with a ¾’’ pleat tend to be over-compensating for something.
I cannot more heartily recommend a dress shirt with an alternate back. I have a particularly fancy one with a pair of gilded and blanketed elephants rampant on a mauve backing, with their trunks so held above their heads as to enable a stork each to perch atop, while from their trailing ears dangle baskets of papaya and banana. De-robe yourself at about midnight and revel as onlookers queue up for selfies with your adorned back.
Trousers, regrettably, are items which cannot be doubled up. Many punters without true knowledge of evening formalwear will often cite a distinction between trousers of a white tie and black tie variety, which lies in a double or a single stripe. However, examination of vintage Saville Row white tie suits show examples both of single and double striped ribbons. The real difference comes in the length, to avoid any white showing down the flanks from shirt or waistcoat with white tie. If you can manage to fasten your trousers about where the nipples lie, you’re doing very well indeed.
The jacket, really, should be an extension of your personality, and the options are endless. With permutations ranging to include double-breasted dinner jackets or wide-lapelled tailcoats, any adept in the field of dressage ought to be well able to bedeck himself in an adventurous top-layer. My advice is to find somewhere to try on a selection.
Next week: hats