Izzy recently received the following distress call from a reader:
Lady Prisspott here again with another burning question about formal wear. It seems her Ladyship has gotten herself in a bit of a pickle. Her Ladyship has insinuated herself into an unofficial position as the fashion advisor to the Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington DC. It has been a crusade of her Ladyship to update their look. The official concert attire has been a tuxedo worn with a wing collar, bow tie and cummerbund. It is her Ladyship’s contention that the wing collar should only be worn with the more formal waistcoat and that when wearing a cummerbund the less formal turndown (sometimes called tennis collar) was the only appropriate choice. The pleas and lectures (ok, whining and bitching) have not fallen on deaf ears and for the silver anniversary concert at the Kennedy Center the chorus will make the switch to turndown collars. “Huzah and welcome to the 21st century” I say, however this change comes with the bitter sting of unintended consequences but I do plead damnum absque injuria. It seems this change is made possible by a generous donation of cravats to be worn with the new collar style. Her Ladyship is informed that the wearing of a cravat rather than a bow tie, albeit with a turndown collar, may continue. It appears that the general trend toward less formality in dress has finally caught up with formal attire. It is bad enough that the notched lapel has crept into formal attire but now it is considered acceptable to wear a cravat with a tuxedo. This cravat and tuxedo look has even been worn to the Oscars to the raves of so called fashion critics. Well fine, if that’s the way it must be her Ladyship shall not remain hidebound but shall accept the inevitable. Here then is the dilemma. How does her Ladyship advise the fine gentleman of the chorus to wear the tuxedo and cravat? Since the chorus chooses to wear a cummerbund does one tuck the end of the tie under the cummerbund or let it flop about over the cummerbund? Does one eschew the cummerbund as too formal with a cravat? If so how does one cover the unpleated portion of the pleated front tux shirt (with turndown collar of course)? Does one eschew the pleated front shirt also as too formal? If so then isn’t one left simply wearing business attire with shiny lapels? Help me dearest Izzy the repercussions are endless and as we are entering uncharted territory her Ladyship has no reference material upon which to rely and is at a loss as to how to advise her dear charges.
Alas, this news leaves Izzy utterly distraught and demoralized. When even gay men are wearing ties with tuxedos, what hope can there be for the rest of mankind?
To respond first to the issue of the choice of collar, although the original ideal was that of a wing collar paired with a waistcoat and peaked-lapel jacket, for quite some time it has been perfectly fine to wear a wing collar with a cummerbund. (Incidentally, it was the Duke of Windsor who popularized wearing a turn-down collar with a dinner jacket.)
As for wearing a tie with a tuxedo, has Lady Prisspott truly beseeched the chorus to avoid this horrendous mistake? Do they really wish to look like they’re going to the prom in Oshkosh? Do they really wish to hide their shirt studs, one of the few pieces of jewelry a gentleman is permitted to wear? Shouldn’t their patriotism spur them to do their part to improve style in Washington, DC, as opposed to reinforce the awful status quo?
If, however, they simply will not relent, then the next best solution is to have them exchange the cummerbund for a vest, which will go far better with a tie. If, perish the thought, they don’t like that idea, then they should ditch the cummerbund, and try to find a shirt whose pleats extend all the way to the waist. If they find that search too difficult, they should simply go with a plain-fronted shirt.
Izzy hopes her Ladyship will persuade the chorus to make the right decision. In the meantime, he will be praying for our country.