Morning dress: Wikis


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Western dress codes

President Ronald Reagan with wife Nancy and Emperor Hirohito in morning dress

Morning dress is the daytime formal dress code, consisting chiefly for men of a tailcoat, waistcoat, and striped trousers, and an appropriate dress for women. Men may also wear a morning suit, a popular variant with all parts solid grey. Morning dress is now rarely worn, used generally only for weddings, some official government or Royal functions, races such as Ascot, and as uniform at some of Britain's most traditional schools such as Eton.



The name originated from the practice of gentlemen in the nineteenth century riding a horse in the morning with a cutaway front single breasted morning coat. The modern twentieth century morning dress was originally a more casual form of half dress, but as the nineteenth century progressed it gradually became acceptable to wear it in more formal situations instead of a frock coat. In the Edwardian era it took over in popularity from the frock coat as the standard daytime form of men's full dress. When it was regarded as a more casual coat, it was common to see it made with step collars (notched lapels in American English), but as it took over from the frock coat in formality it began to be made with the more formal pointed lapels (peaked lapels in American English).


Men in morning dress for a wedding (1929)

Men wear morning dress when members of a wedding party. In common with court dress, mess dress, and white tie, morning dress is for prestigious and important social occasions. Despite its name, morning dress may be worn to afternoon social events before five o'clock, but not to events beginning after seven o'clock in the evening.

White tie (evening dress) is the correct, equivalent formal dress for evening social events. The cutaway front of the morning tail coat differs from the evening tail coat (dress coat) in that the waist of former is cut obliquely while the waist of the latter is cut horizontally, and the tail is cut differently from the swallow tailcoat used for evening dress. The skirt waist construction of the coats is equestrian in origin, to ease the wearer's riding his horse. In the U.S., the morning coat is referred to as a cutaway coat.

In the U.K., morning dress is worn to certain equestrian events (such as Royal Ascot and the The Derby). It is also worn, both in the the UK and certain other Commonwealth countries such as Australia and New Zealand, by the male members of a wedding party.[1] In Europe, the groom sets the sartorial tone: the guests may wear morning dress if he does. In the U.S., morning dress is rare; it usually is worn in traditional weddings and political formal events. In the American South, morning dress is commonly worn by a governor-elect when sworn to office. No president since Ronald Reagan has worn morning dress at his swearing-in. However, the federal government's advocate and the United States Solicitor General or his deputies wear morning coats during oral argument before the United States Supreme Court.

In fiction or popular culture, it may be used to refer, possibly satirically, to a rich ruling class, for example in cartoons.[2]

Standard components

Morning dress with matching black waistcoat with a then fashionably shorter skirt length, top hat, formal gloves, contrasting top Oxford boots with punching across the toe cap, boldly striped long tie, striped shirt with contrasting white turn-down collar and cuffs, and formal striped trousers. The characteristic angle of the cutaway front of the skirt is clearly visible, as is the waist seam. (May, 1901)


Briefly, morning dress consists of:

  • a morning dress coat (the morning cut of tailcoat), now always single breasted with one (or very rarely two) buttons, and with peaked lapels
  • a waistcoat (vest in American English) usually buff (sometimes dove grey, or at a funeral black) , which may be either single-breasted or double-breasted with lapels
  • a pair of formal striped or checked trousers worn with braces (suspenders in American English)
  • a formal shirt;
    • either a turndown collar is worn (white detachable, fastened by collar studs; or attached) with a tie, in which case the shirt has double cuffs;
    • otherwise, a high detachable wing collar is worn with a single-cuffed shirt; this combination is always accompanied now by a cravat (Ascot tie in American English) often with a tie pin. This is a more formal option most commonly seen at weddings;
  • a plain or patterned silk handkerchief or pocket square may be worn; it is folded and inserted into the front breast pocket of the morning coat
  • black Oxford shoes or dress boots (caps are now worn, despite the business-like image), or boots with a horse riding connection, such as George or Chelsea boot, or galosh-top dress boots; worn with plain dark socks (or another colour if they can't been seen)

The following can optionally be worn or carried with morning dress:

  • a top hat, either black silk plush, the classic hat always appropriate, or a modern fur replacement (silk plush is no longer manufactured); alternatively, a white hat (made of grey fur) is a less formal option worn either informally with a morning suit (all grey; see below) or at more casual events such as the races (Royal Ascot being the most notable)
  • gloves of suede, chamois, or kid leather; the most traditional colour is lemon
  • grey or white spats
  • a cane or umbrella
  • a pocket watch or wrist watch
  • a boutonnière

Full description

The morning coat can be black or Oxford grey herringbone wool with the tails of knee length. The formal ('spongebag') trousers worn with it are either 'cashmere' striped, or black and white checked.

The most traditional colours for a waistcoat are grey, buff (a yellowish tan colour), or black. A black morning coat with matching black waistcoat is the most formal option, being worn for funerals, memorial services, diplomatic dress, with academic dress, or in government use in America. Sometimes a white slip is worn, which is a strip of fabric buttoned to the inside top of the waistcoat to simulate the effect of a paler under-waistcoat, though the actual wearing of two waistcoats was obsolete even for the late Victorians. Nowadays coloured and patterned waistcoats are sometimes seen.

Formal trousers should not have turn-ups (cuffs in American English), and should have one or two forward pleats to each leg. Braces (suspenders in American English) should be worn to prevent the waistband from appearing beneath the waistcoat.

A white stiff collar is traditional, with the plain turn-down cutaway variety standard since the War; in this case a normal long tie is worn. Otherwise, a wing collar may be worn; the combination of long tie and wing collar is very dated, so these are paired with a cravat, though even this has acquired negative connotations. Debrett's for example considers the cravat and wing collar inappropriate for weddings. If the shirt has turn-down collars it should have sleeves with double cuffs fastened with cufflinks. If a wing collar is worn it should be with a single cuff shirt. Contemporary shirts often do not have a detachable collar at all. The most formal colour for a shirt is white, but if a coloured or striped shirt is worn, it should have contrasting white collar (and possibly cuffs). Traditional formal colourings are Wedgwood blue, solid or in thin horizontal stripes.

Previously, a grey or (if at a funeral) a black tie was obligatory. Now all colours are worn. The original silver Macclesfield design (a small check) is still used particularly with cravats, and is often called a wedding tie.

Shoes should be of the traditional, black plain cap-toe Oxford type without brogueing, but not patent leather which is now reserved for evening formal wear. In the Victorian and Edwardian era button boots and Oxford boots were worn and these can be correctly worn with morning dress today. When worn at equestrian events, boots of equestrian origin such as jodhpur boots, George boots and Chelsea boots are also acceptable. Spats were once frequently seen with morning dress, but are now rarely worn.


Morning suit

Slightly less formally, a morning suit can be worn, which has mid-grey matching morning coat, waistcoat, and trousers (all cut the same as above); being more relaxed, this is a traditional option for events in less formal settings such as Royal Ascot, and is now often worn to weddings as well.

Scottish Highland dress

Scottish Highland dress may also be worn at events requiring morning dress:

The morning suit version of Highland dress consists of:

  • Black (or charcoal) semi-formal kilt jacket - the Argyll (or Crail or Braemar) jacket is suitable
  • Black (or charcoal) barathea waistcoat matching the jacket
  • Kilt
  • White shirt with cufflinks (collar either standard or wingtip)
  • Silver tie or a tie in a single colour matching the kilt (i.e. not a tartan tie)
  • Black Ghillie brogues
  • Kilt hose of a colour (not tartan) matching the kilt; alternatively, cream kilt hose.
  • Flashes
  • Sporran
  • Sgian dubh
  • Dirk

See also

  • The stroller is a similar, but slightly less formal, dress code, hence not interchangeable with full morning dress.


  • Apparel Arts magazine, an account of 1930s fashion and style; some issues more relevant than others, such as those reproduced with comment at The London Lounge.
  • Antongiavanni, Nicholas (2006). The Suit: A Machiavellian Approach to Men's Style. HarperCollins. ISBN 978-0-06-089186-2.  
  • Flusser, Alan (2002). Dressing the Man: Mastering the Art of Permanent Fashion. HarperCollins. ISBN 0-06-019144-9.  


  1. ^ Elsie Burch Donald (1981). Debrett's Etiquette and Modern Manners. p. 56. ISBN 0747206570.  
  2. ^ See also depictions in Puttin' on the Ritz.


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