Illustration of peaked lapel and shawl collar dinner jackets from 1898 English tailoring publication. Source: The Cutter's Practical Guide to Jacket Cutting and Making, Embracing Lounges, Reefers & Patrol Jackets, in all their Varieties, Also Including the Cutting and Making of Robes and Gowns, Being Part IX of The Cutter's Practical Guide to the Cutting and Making of all Kinds of Garments. The John Williamson Company Ltd., 1898. Image: Wikimedia Commons
The semi-formal dinner jacket evolved into tuxedo at the end of the 19th century, and compared of today's rigorous black or white tuxedos, - its origins have been quite strange. Equally unusual was the appearance of these tuxedo suits that were later used for social events. The tuxedo sets found in the Los Angeles County Art Museum sometimes resemble oriental leisure suits, pajamas, or even sporty costumes ...
The Historical Origins of Tuxedo
When reading the books of the 19th century etiquette, one has to conclude that in the second half of the century all the gentlemen, who went to the festive events, were required to wear a tailcoat. It was an essential formality for all ceremonial events. And yet ... more and more could be seen in the so-called dinner jacket, which was intended to be used also during a gala dinner at home, at home party or in a gentleman's club.
Already at that time, the jacket had become similar to a well-known tuxedo. It was lined up in order to achieve a warming effect, as at the rural properties there were a rooms for smokers and the billiard halls where there was usually no heating. But it was customary to wear a dinner jacket at such places.
From Monte Carlo Gambling Clubs To Smokers Rooms... And From Gentlemen Clubs To An Alternative Of Tailcoat
In the more formal circumstances, and the festive events, the dinner jacket (which was occasionally worn already during 1870's) really were invented in the late 1880's. The spread of it has been facilitated by Monte Carlo gambling lovers who have already begun to make it difficult to wear formal wear at every night's events.
And yet, until the death of King Edward VII of England in 1910, the etiquette allowed it to be worn only by English gentlemen who were spending their time at the rural properties. The tailcoat was still very popular when gentlemen were attending parties or theatrical performances. In the process of the gradual acceptance of the fashion novelty such as dinner jacket with wide silk flanges, which most often was sewn from black or dark blue fabric, was not considered to be equivalent to a tailcoat for a long time ... Still in the fashion lexis it has for some time been considered as a semi-formal jacket. The tuxedo got the American title thanks to the elite Tuxedo Club, which was opened to visitors in 1886.
The club was found at the address:
Tuxedo Park, Orange County, New Jersey, USA - once again pointing to the informal dressing habits that were born in the USA. At the same time, an analogous jacket, known as a dinner jacket, was already widespread in England and probably it inspired to create tuxedo that was also known as a smoking jacket.
The development history of the dinner jacket shows that, from the 20's of the 20th century, tuxedo turned into a dinner jacket but with a button fastening in a double rows. In France, it was always referred to as smoking jacket (or smoking room jacket), evidencing its original affiliation with smokers room, gambling halls and the club atmosphere.
...And... A Cap
Indeed, this is the most intriguing part of the smoking suit. A cap that looked quite fancy and oriental, but it was part of the informal dressing habits. That fact is, that many of the lady’s fashion publications of the 19th century devoted pages to fancy designs for at home fashions for the refined Victorian gentleman. There were mentioned and described such wardrobe items as house robes, slippers, and especially smoking caps. [2.]
Smoking caps known also as thinking caps and lounging caps were worn by men while smoking to prevent their hair from smelling of smoke. They are also worn to keep the head warm. these hats were the most prevalent in 19th-century England and usually were used by gentlemen in the privacy of their home. Of course, it was an integral part of the lounge wear, just like a pajamas, and so it was not about to show up in public places. And only the dandies, as well as creative people wore them outdoors. Indeed, it was a sign of eccentricity. Not always, but quite often they were worn with a smoking jacket.
A smoking cap or lounging cap was popular as informal gentleman’s wear from the late 1840's through the 1880's. They were originally worn to keep the head warm in drafty rooms but continued to be in style long after improvements in heating eliminated their necessity. [2.] It turns out that the smoking cap was the perfect gift for a young lady to embroider for her fiancé or for a wife to create for her husband. [2.]
As shown by the 19th century periodicals, this lounge wear clothing item was brightly colored, ornate, and often bordering on gaudy. Smoking caps were frequently made at home and therefore were uncomplicated in construction, typically made of wool, silk or velvet fabric and topped with a multicolored tassel. Interesting enough, that brightly embroidered and round shaped caps were similar to oriental head wear. Sources say, that smoking caps are probably of Chinese, Arabic, or Turkish origin as they are so similar to the fez, and the kufi. [3.] Notably, the Victorian smoking cap showcased a multiplicity of Victorian needlework skills and techniques. [2.]
References & Further Reading:
1. Parute E. Stila un modes enciklopēdija. - Rīga: Jumava, 2010.
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My name is Edīte Parute and I am a fashion historian and researcher from Latvia, association member at "The Association of Dress Historians" (UK) and author of the book "Stila un modes enciklopēdija"/"Encyclopedia of Style and Fashion" (2010) as well as author of many publications.
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