A shirt is a basic garment to complete an elegant outfit: it’s a “must” for a bridegroom and an essential piece of clothing for formal occasions and events such as gala evenings, for which one usually opts for a dinner jacket, known in Italian as a “smoking”.
But what is the origin of this timeless garment? The term “smoking” derives from the English expression “smoking jacket”, a type of clothing used in the nineteenth century by men when they spent time in rooms devoted to smokers, so that gentlemen’s clothes would avoid being saturated with the smell.
Its use as an elegant garment, however, goes back to 1865, when Edward VII, as Prince of Wales, commissioned his tailor Henry Poole to make a short evening jacket in a dark colour for informal evenings on his country estate. This was the forerunner of what we today call a “smoking”, the British call a “dinner jacket” and the Americans a “tuxedo”, because of its popularity in the city of that name.
The evening shirt, originally made of silk but widely produced also in high-quality, lightweight cottons, must be strictly white and is differentiated on the basis of the collar, which may be diplomatic or regular. The first is a great classic: a stiff-winged collar with button and points facing outwards, designed to be worn with a black silk bow-tie for a perfect “black-tie” look. For shirts with regular collar, you need to opt for a good-sized, classic collar that you can wear with a tie or an ascot, which is like a normal tie but wider and gives a more luxurious appearance; this is usually matched with a waistcoat and tied with a soft knot and an ornate tie-pin.
Other essentials for an evening shirt are the covered buttons and the double cuffs to be fastened with cufflinks, and these must be matched with the other accessories of the outfit so that they complete it in a restrained and sober manner with an additional touch of style. Another personalised item typical of the occasionwear shirt is the presence of a “dickey”, a set of decorative vertical pleats on the front of the shirt adding a vivacious, animated touch, and usually accompanied by the presence of studs – small jewelled buttons – to give a more elegant, refined appearance.
To complete your immaculate outfit, you just need a black or dark blue dinner jacket, perhaps double-breasted, with which you can combine trousers in the same colour with the classic satin band down the side and a gilet or waistcoat, to create an even more formal and elegant look.
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