Royal Wedding Style

Monday, May 2, 2011
Unlike most of the press, I have little interest in ladies' hats and dresses, and my interest in military uniform is limited to the jealous admiration that is the only refuge of a man who will never have a legitimate excuse to wear a sword or that much gold piping. Instead, I shall restrict myself to looking at what a well-dressed civilian male wears to a formal wedding.

Cameron, despite (or perhaps due to?) early reports that he would wear only a lounge suit, ended up being fairly well turned-out in classic morning dress including a smart double-breasted waistcoat, and a well-chosen tie. No pocket square, buttonhole or (so far as I can see from the external shots) top hat, but that's probably not surprising for a man who is desperately trying to shake off images of him in the fancy tailcoat of the Buller. Dull but appropriate, which is probably the best we could have hoped for.

Mr Clegg went for the more unusual choice of a morning suit. That is to say, a fully matching three-piece suit with a morning tailcoat. These are technically a little less formal than morning dress, and are even less common. When they are seen, they often seem to fall in to one of two categories. Either they are bespoke and beautiful; worn by men with taste and confidence in their dress. Or else they are slightly misjudged rentals. I have a nasty feeling that Mr Clegg's fell into the latter category. The coat is too large, and makes him look like a child, while the trousers pool around his ankles. Still, at least he took the time to wear a pocket square.

And what of the less naturally conservative class of public figure? David Beckham went for a slightly fashion-forward take on morning dress with some success. I'm not a fan of the wing collar, but at least the suit fits perfectly and, unlike almost anyone else, he's got a top hat. Bravo, say I.

Fit is always key, but it seems all the more important with morning dress. An outfit that should be trim and formal looks dreadful when the constituent parts hang sloppily, or the coat tails reach your calves. An ordinary shirt and tie is vital to avoid crossing the line into costume, and novelty waistcoats are acceptable only in circumstances so specific as to be not worth mentioning here.

Above all, though, if you are given the choice between wearing a suit or wearing morning dress then be bold and choose the latter. There is no shame in hiring it, so long as you do so with sense and discernment, and you will be helping to maintain a marvelous formal dress code that is perhaps second only to evening dress for making you look your best. It is also probably the only way we civilians can ever compete with those soldiers and their swords and sashes.