Tuxedo, Tux, About Tuxedos
What is a tuxedo?
A man's dress jacket, usually black with satin or grosgrain
lapels, worn for formal or semiformal occasions. Also called
A complete outfit including this jacket, trousers usually with a
silken stripe down the side, a bow tie, and often a cummerbund.
Men Tuxedo Background:
tuxedo is a man's tailored suit used for
semi-formal or formal wear. It may be sewn from a wide variety of
colors and fabrics; increasingly, brighter colors and unconventional
designs are pervasive in tuxedo styling. Nevertheless, most tuxedos
are produced in black. While tuxedos are available for purchase,
most men rent these fancy suits for special occasions since they are
infrequently worn and seen as an unwise investment.
Tuxedo jackets often include satin
on the lapels that are attached to the collars. Tuxedo pants
resemble men's tailored trousers except that they generally have a
satin or ribbon stripe sewn over the outside seam of the leg. Most
tuxedos are worn with specific accessories that include the slightly
stiffened, sometimes fancy, white pleated shirt that closes with
old-fashioned shirt studs rather than buttons. Another important
accessory is the cummerbund or fabric belt that encircles the
waistband of the trousers and secures in the back.
The tuxedo is, essentially, a
ready-to-wear garment made in specific, standard sizes. They may be
purchased or rented from an apparel store at a moment's notice.
Custom or couture tuxedos are available through a personal tailor
and are made to fit the wearer to his specifications. Tuxedos are
constructed just as a man's tailored, pattern-graded ready-to-wear
suit would be produced except the fabric is a bit dressier, the
lapel includes satin and a decorative stripe is sewn onto the
trousers. Companies that make men's suits may also be involved in
Interestingly, the tuxedo did not
begin as formal wear. Rather, it was seen as a less formal
men's formal wear. Until the early twentieth century, gentlemen
wore frock coats for formal wear, choosing a black frock coat with
tails and gray-striped trousers for formal wear during the day. A
black frock coat with tails, a white waistcoat (sometimes referred
to as a vest), white shirt with stiffened bosom, and black trousers
were worn with a black silk top hat and was the typical formal
evening wear for gentlemen.
About the turn-of-the-century,
legend suggests that American gentlemen in and around Tuxedo Park in
New York, an enclave of the wealthy, chose to simplify formal wear
and drop the fancy tail coats preferred for evening wear. They chose
instead to wear a black coat styled much like their work suitcoats.
The gentleman thought they could then wear these simple black
trousers for semi-formal occasions. The jackets, known as tuxedo
jackets, were often decorated with rich black silk satin on the
lapels and that detail persists in many tuxedos today. The ribbon
stripe on the outside edge of conventional tuxedo trousers may be
reminiscent of the gray-striped trousers popular for day formal wear
in the nineteenth century. By the second decade of the twentieth
century, the black tuxedo had supplanted the formal black tailcoat
as acceptable formal and semi-formal wear.
The wealthy had their fine tuxedo
jackets and matching trousers made by a personal tailor in the early
twentieth century. However, with the development and refinement of
the American ready-to-wear industry, tuxedos were available in
standard sizes by the early twentieth century. Today, few men own
such suits, instead they are frequently rented for special events.
There is no question that today we see these suits as quite formal
and do not consider them semi-formal. Colors and styles are varied
today, including bright colors, patterns,
double breasted styles, even long coats are popular again. The
design of the tuxedo is only as limited as the imagination can
create and the market can bear.
Tuxedos may be made from a great
variety of fabrics today. These include
wool, polyester, and rayon. Fancy detailing is generally an
imitation silk satin such as polyester or rayon. Linings may be
acetate or polyester. Stiffeners are an important part of the tuxedo
as they help the shoulders, collar and lapel retain their shape.
These stiffeners may be felt (underneath the collar) and buckram, a
coarsely-woven fabric used in more structured ready-to-wear outfits.
Fasteners typically include synthetic component buttons that can
hold up to the chemical bombardment they receive during endless dry
cleanings, and metal-toothed zippers in the trousers.
The design of the tuxedo may be
the most important part of a successful manufacturing process.
Popular trends in men's clothing help set the style for tuxedos. A
group of designers study
and suggest what tuxedo styles will appeal to a broad group of
consumers. This group finds illustrations and may create
illustrations of the styling they hope to reproduce within the
factory. Fabrics, new colors, interesting lapel shapes, length of
coat, or flare of the trousers may be among the new styling features
the designers manipulate to produce new products.
Pattern makers provide the tools
that will enable the manufacturer to produce these new tuxedos—the
patterns. The process for this is fairly straight-forward; the
pattern parts are sketched on paper and once there is consensus that
these parts will create the targeted design, the pieces are
digitized into a Computer-Aided Design (CAD) system. All men's
fashions are drafted in prototype pattern form in one size referred
to as 40 regular, which includes a jacket with a 40-inch chest, a
32-33 inch sleeve length, and a pair of trousers with a 33-34 inch
waist. (Generally, in standard sizing for men's suits, the waist is
6 in less than the chest size of the jacket; thus, a 48 regular
jacket would be accompanied by a pair of trousers with a 42-inch
waist.) All subsequent patterns are then graded from this standard
40 regular pattern.
The prototype pattern is used to
cut out a size 40 regular tuxedo. The company then assesses the
styling and decides whether the tuxedo will indeed be marketable as
well as the complexity and expense involved in production. Upon
approval, the pattern is graded—proportionally scaled, up or down
off of size 40 regular, lengthening or broadening the pattern as
necessary. The variety of pattern sizes produced is significant
since many tuxedo manufacturers offer the product in sizes from 36
extra short to 60 XXL. Specifications for cutting patterns is fed
into the CAD system so that the pattern pieces are devised on a
computer-generated system that produces all subsequent sizes of the
40 regular prototype.
The designers and other members of
the manufacturing team suggest the appropriate fabrics for
production of the tuxedo. Some tuxedos are produced in dozens of
fabrics and colors and utilize a variety of linings, buttons and
other notions. The designers and the pattern-makers are keenly aware
that each fabric type utilized affects other aspects of production
including how the fabric is cut, the lining and tapes that must be
used to reinforce the fabric type, the kind of needle that most
cleanly pierces the fabric, the type of thread that will ensure the
fabric will not be pulled, etc. Once these specifications for
production are established, production is ready to proceed.
The Manufacturing Process
tuxedos are worked on over a period of many days, even several
weeks. There are so many small parts or tasks to be completed before
the tuxedo is finished that much time is spent in production. If the
time it took to cut, sew and finish a single tuxedo was condensed
into one single day, it is estimated that it would take eight to 12
hours to produce one unit.
Fabric pieces may be cut out in
one of three ways depending on the manufacturer. All of the methods
described enable multiple layers of fabric to be cut out at one
time, cutting approximately 25 layers at once (this amount varies
according to the thickness of the fabric). The fabric pieces may be
cut by hand using manual shears or very sharp, heavy tailor's
scissors. A second method employs an electric round wheel much like
a circular saw that is held in the hand. A third method entails
cutting fabric using a motorized machine that is run from a computer
Each piece is tagged with special identification indicating the
specific bolt of fabric from which the piece was cut because all
tuxedo cloth must be cut from the same bolt and dye lot (or the
parts may not match precisely in color) and the size of the tuxedo
for which it is intended. Also, the tag may indicate which tuxedo
style the piece is intended if more than one style is in production
at the same time. The pieces are either carried to the operators at
sewing machines for assembly, or are stored until they are needed.
Operators sitting at individual stations generally sew the pieces
together using industrial grade sewing machines (these machines are
able to handle the heavy fabrics and linings used in
men's suits and tuxedos). At one company, the
construction of a tuxedo has been divided into 150 different sewing
operations, meaning that many different operators actually work on a
single garment. The coat generally consists of 110 operations and
the trousers 40 different operations.
Assembling the coat
The sequence of operations
includes the following general steps, each with many subcomponents.
First, the two front panels are
sewn together, which generally includes some stiffening in parts of
the bosom. The stiffening fabric is sewn to each panel so they
become a single unit. The fabrics are sewn inside out in order to
hide the stitching upon reversal.
Pockets are sewn in by the operator next. If they are patch pockets,
like a breast pocket, they are sewn on the outside of the panel.
Pockets in the seams have a lining that is sewn to the inside of the
panel along the seam opening. The pocket edges are finished off by
tucking excess fabric and stitching the seam edges to smooth and
secure the seam at its openings.
The back of the coat is constructed by sewing the two back panels
together down the center. The front panels are connected to the back
at the shoulder seams but not the side seams. Stiffening or padding
may be sewn in at this point if needed.
If the sleeves are to be lined they are juxtaposed with thin lining
and sewn down the inner arm on a sewing machine. Again, the fabric
is sewn from the interior in order to hide the seams and produce a
more polished looking garment.
The remaining lining is added to the coat body at this point. A thin
layer of satin-like fabric is usually used for the lining and is cut
to the dimensions of the front and back panels. The lining is sewn
with both finished sides facing each other, and then flipped right
side out. The sleeves, already sewn together, are attached to the
coat at the armhole.
Finally, the collar, including the lapel, is assembled. This has a
shell or top of the lapel of satin (characteristic of a tuxedo) and
an interfacing consisting of felt with a piece of canvas built into
it and buckram to give it strength. The interfacing is cut to the
shape of the collar and sewn into a "sleeve" of the outer fabric.
Contrasting fabrics, such as satin striping along the edge of the
collar are sewn onto the outer fabric as well prior to jacket
attachment. The lapel is constructed using the same process as the
collar, but in different shapes and styling. The lapel is sewn along
the front opening of the front panels. After assembling and
attaching both the lapel and collar, the coat is complete.
Assembling the trousers
Trousers are not generally sewn to a specific
length. Instead, the end is often left with a pinked edge so the
store can hem each leg up or down as needed.
If the trouser legs are to be
lined, the liner fabric is cut to match the size and shape of the
trousers. The thin lining, usually a satin-like fabric, is
juxtaposed on the interior of the leg before the legs are put
together. Once the lining has been sewn in, the trousers are sewn
together along the back inseam and along the outer side of each leg.
The characteristic satin stripe is applied along the outside of each
trouser leg with topstitching. The legs are then sewn together at
the interior curved seat seam and interior leg seams as well.
The waistband, which is generally folded at the top and stiffened
within with buckram or some other interfacing, is sewn all around
the upper edge of the raw edge of the trousers. The belt loops are
constructed of small, machine-sewn strips of self-fabric and are
attached at regular intervals onto the waistband.
The zipper is sewn to the interior of the trousers so that the
overlapping fly fabric covers the metal teeth of the fastener.
When the coat and trousers are completely assembled, the parts must
be finished. Finishing refers to closing off raw edges with closely
stitched thread, such as that seen around buttonholes. It also
includes sewing buttons onto the coat and pressing both the trousers
and the coat. The hem of the trousers may remain a raw edge. The
tuxedo is now complete.
All fabric is carefully inspected
upon arrival for any flaws or irregularities that could produce an
inferior suit with imperfections. The industry examines a length of
material in a 100-yard piece and has determined that an acceptable
bolt of yard goods can only have a specified number of flaws per
piece. Dye lots, in which yard goods are colored in the same dye vat
at the same time, are carefully marked so that the tuxedo is not
sewn from bolts colored at different times. These dyes vary widely
even when the same recipe is used for their formulation.
Seamstresses and tailors are vigilant in using fabrics from the same
dye lot. Requirements are determined for each of the sewing
operations performed on the tuxedo; thus each job is evaluated
against that specific criteria. Also, since so much of the
construction of the tuxedo is completed by human operators at sewing
machines they easily and quickly perform visual checks at each stage
of production. Garments are fully inspected after finishing as well,
especially along seams for durability and closure.
An important part of quality
control is prototyping each new design and ironing out all design
flaws carefully before production begins. Armholes that are too
small, lapels that have no body, trousers with improper flare, all
can be avoided with thoughtful feedback on the prototyped tuxedo.
There is a considerable amount of
wasted fabric resulting from cutting out the tuxedo parts. One
manufacturer estimated that perhaps as much as 12% of the fabric is
unusable after pattern pieces are cut. Most garment-makers try to
recoup losses related to this unusable fabric by selling this scrap
to companies that make reconstituted fibers. These fibers are used
in everything from other garments to floor coverings.
Tuxedo manufactures need to keep up with changing men's
fashions; men's styles change almost as frequently as women's
fashions. Couturiers with great cache greatly affect the design of
higher-style tuxedos. New styles by well-known designers seen at
very public events, such as the Academy Awards presentation,
certainly have resonance in the manufacture of tuxedos. New colors,
and occasionally new fabrics creep into tuxedo use but the days of
outrageous tuxedos are largely over. In fact, the conservative black
tuxedo with white shirt used for middle-class weddings rarely varies
from year to year. The challenges that face tuxedo manufacturers
primarily revolve around their ability to construct tuxedos
Where to Learn More
Constantino, Maria. Men's Fashion
in the Twentieth Century. New York: Fashion Press, 1997.
Hollander, Ann. Sex and Suits. New
York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1994.
Oral interview with Barry Cohen,
Vice-President of Manufacturing for Hartz and Company. Frederick,
MD. September 2001.
[Article by: Nancy E.V. Bryk]
History of the Tuxedo
All variety of fact and fiction surrounds the origin of 'Tuxedo'and
the elegant garment that bears its name. It is said, for example,
that the custom of the Algonquins was to name a place after the
chief whose tribe occupied it, and that there was a sachum named
P'tauk-Seet, 'the bear,' who, in the 17th Century, ruled over a
tract of land including what is now known as 'Tuxedo.' The name is
derived from combing P'tauk-Seet-tough - 'The Home of the Bear.'
Another version holds that the Indians called this area of lakes and
hills, P'tauk/Sepo, or so it was translated phonetically by the
Dutch in their initial land grants. Since the Indians had no written
language, these are the best records available.
It written records dating back to 1754, these are references to
Tuxedo Pond and later on, Tuxcito Pond, Tuxetough, Tucksito, Tugseto,
Tucsedo, Tuxedo, Texedo and Toxedo. The Marquis de Chastellux, in
1780, writes it as Duck Sider and Duck Seeder. And in histories of
the area dated 1857 and 1875, the name is corrupted to Duck Cedar
with the explanation that the region is overgrown with cedar trees
and is a favorite haunt of wild ducks.
The Lorillard family began acquiring land in the Tuxedo area in
1800's and by 1852, had come into possession of most of what had
been known as the Cheescock Patent. They turned it into an elite
hunting and fishing resort. With a labor force largely imported from
Italy by Pierre Lorillard, they constructed a series of homes within
the walled park in a matter of several months that stand today as a
testament to the skill of the artesans. It was known as Tuxedo Park.
As the gilt-edged society of Tuxedo Park developed its own social
schedule, some new names began to appear. For example, there was
James Brown Potter, one of the founders of Tuxedo Park, who was
elected to membership in the Tuxedo Club at the organizational
meeting held at Delmonicos, in New York City in November 1885.
According to the archives, Mr. Potter was introduced to the idea of
the Dinner Jacket by the Prince of Wales, who later became Edward
The first Autumn Ball, held at the Tuxedo Club in October 1886, is
marked as the official first appearance of the Dinner Jacket. Then,
it is said Griswold Lorillard and his friends startled the people
attending the Ball by wearing a scarlet satin lapelled Dinner
Jacket, without tails, while all others were attired in the
traditional white-tie and tails. And thus was born the elegant
garment forevermore to be know as the 'Tuxedo.'
The tuxedo was adopted by people rich and poor as the symbol of
celebration, good times and special occasion. It was designated by
the motion picture industry as its symbol for high society, class
and elegance, and the tux even became a symbol of hope for better
days during the Depression Days of the Thirties. And, it was defined
by the tastemakers and standardbearers as the appropriate garb for
those events in an individual's life when only a tradition of
elegance will do.
tuxedo, also sometimes shortened
to "tux" in North American English, is a man's semi-formal evening
dress, or outfit, conforming to black tie dress code in British
conventions of formal dress. It consists of a dinner jacket, a white
dress shirt, black trousers, a black bow tie, and either a
cummerbund or a waistcoat. The word may also refer simply to the
dinner jacket itself.
The jacket is normally black
(midnight blue is a less popular choice, but was favoured by the
Duke of Windsor, among others). In warm weather, white or cream is
acceptable. Most commonly, the tuxedo closes in the front with one
(or two) buttons (single or double breasted), and does not have
tails. The lapels are traditionally peaked lapels, although notched
or shawl lapels are now common and acceptable, and are faced with
either satin or grosgrain. The trousers almost always have a stripe
down the side, matching the material in the facings of the lapel.
The bow tie and waistcoat also match this facing. If a watch is
worn, it traditionally is supposed to be a pocket watch.
In British English the outfit is
simply called a dinner jacket and matching trousers. The term
'tuxedo' for this style of dress originates in United States. .
Elsewhere, and in the Northeastern U.S., many people prefer the
original British expressions.
The term tuxedo is sometimes
incorrectly used to denote any form of formal dress such as white
tie, morning dress, or even day time semi-formal dress.
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