Suits Vs. Tuxedoes
What are the differences between suits and tuxedoes?
The short answer is: it’s a matter of formality. Considering what type of event you’re going to, and how formal or “extra” you want to look, you’ll have to lean more towards the more traditional models of tuxedoes. That being said, nowadays the line between what was once considered inappropriate dressing for a formal event, and what is the appropriate dressing code for an evening event (AKA black tie event) has become blurry. What I mean by this is that you should not look at 2019’s Met Gala for ideas about what a tuxedo should look like unless you’re looking at Tom Ford. This, however, does not mean that it’s not helpful to know the codes and follow them.
Before delving more into the matter, the most fundamental question to be asked from oneself is: what event am I invited to? How formal is it? Even a wedding can be less formal than what is required to wear a tuxedo. For example, if the wedding is held in a family member’s garden and is meant to be casual, showing up in a black tuxedo might not match the atmosphere that the bride and groom are trying to create. In such a case you would stand out, and not in a good sense. So, again, ask yourself: how formal is the occasion? Once you’ve decided to go with either form, take a look at the list below to further enhance your knowledge of what it is exactly that sets tuxedoes apart from suits.
1. Fabric and color
Here is a rule of thumb, the darker it gets the more formal it becomes. So, considering that a tuxedo is supposed to be more formal it would be easy to deduce that the two colors that are considered to be appropriate for a tuxedo is either black or “midnight blue” (fancy name, right? To keep it simple think of it as a really dark shade of blue). The fabric for a tuxedo is usually wool, and for a suit, it’s typically worsted wool and flannel. A suit can be any color as it is less formal, but again if you pick a darker color it’ll automatically be considered more formal.
In terms of the lapel, a tuxedo would typically have a peak satin lapel or shawl collar. A notched lapel is usually seen on a suit as it is less formal. This does not mean that a suit cannot feature a peak lapel, as such a lapel can be seen on more formal suits which are double-breasted. In a tuxedo, the lapel is usually matched with stripes of the same fabric down the side of the trousers which is also known as galon. Another difference is that the lapel of a tuxedo is traditionally seen with a silk facing (which is something not seen on suits, it’s a self faced lapel).
To button, or not to button, that is the question. Unlike Shakespeare’s dilemma with the verb do, we are sure that it is nobler to button that jacket when standing up and unbutton it when sitting down (this applies to when you are wearing a cummerbund with your tuxedo), and to leave it unbuttoned when wearing a waistcoat. Keep in mind that some of the earlier version of dinner jackets were tailored in such a fashion that would make it unable to close, these jackets were worn with either waistcoats or vests. Like lapels buttons on a tuxedo are usually faced with plain silk. The jacket is usually either single-breasted, which commonly has one button or double-breasted, the number of buttons on which can be either two or four. In case of it having two buttons remember that it’s best only to button the top button and to leave the lower one as it is. A three buttoned jacket can be seen in among some suits as well, the buttoning rule for which is to button the middle one and leave the rest unbuttoned.
4. Waistcoats & Cummerbunds
For a tuxedo the waistcoat picked must be low cut and black, and the cummerbund should match the lapel (therefore would be best if it’s made of silk). Waistcoats are usually worn with single-breasted peak lapeled jackets. A waist covering is always recommended when wearing a tuxedo, but it would be essential if the jacket is single-breasted as it would provide you with a sharper look and would prevent that bit of your white shirt which is underneath your jacket’s button, from being seen.
Simply put, if it’s a tuxedo it’s not supposed to have a vent, if it does have vents, it’ll be double vents. In suits, the vents can be double or single. Double vents are more formal.
When it comes to tuxedoes you will not see belt loops on the trousers, since belts are not worn with tuxedoes. They also do not feature cuffs, as they are only an optional feature of suits. However, they do have buttons placed on the inside which are used for suspenders, these are also called braces. These suspenders are usually made of black or white silk which is in line with the lapel.
Other things you can wear with a tuxedo in order to look more stylish are stud and cufflinks depending on the occasion and your own personal taste the cufflinks could be simplistically one of the traditional and appropriate colors of black, silver, and gold or they could be made out of other precious material and even with the use of precious gems be seen as jewelry. You can also use pocket squares. Either white silk or linen is used for the traditional look, but here is another instance where you can be a bit playful. If you are more interested in a more colorful aspect to your attire you could use a boutonniere, but be careful not to overdo it as a single flower is enough and more than that would just look odd. A red or white carnation would be the traditional pick but other flowers could be just as elegant.
All in all
The most formal tuxedo look would be: silk peak lapeled, single-breasted, double jet pocketed (on hips), worn with a white tuxedo shirt (which has its own long story) and a black silk bow tie (preferably self-tied), with either pumps or oxford black shoes and black silk socks. As you can see tuxedoes are very different from your day-to-day business suits, and they have much stricter rules to follow, but this should not keep you from exploring your fashion options with an open mind as to what is acceptable and considered appropriate.