Of all the pieces of classic men’s sartoria, the morning coat is the master of them all. Used only for a handful of the most formal occasions today – the State Opening of Parliament, Investitures, royal garden parties, weddings, memorial services and the race meetings of Epsom and Ascot – it is the emblem of heritage, history and considered luxury. Where a bride divests all of her wishes, whims and hopes into her wedding dress, the groom must place his most elegant self within the finely tailored contours of his morning coat, and while one may not appear too dissimilar to another, the morning coat’s nuances and subtle, myriad, and not to be overlooked. From the choice of fabric to the tail length and lapel width, a gentleman has many a consideration to make in order to look his most regal and elegant best.
The morning coat’s history can be traced back to around the late 19th century, where it evolved from what was then called a frock coat. Given that the gentry were generally horse riders (and were required to look as noble as their titles would suggest), the frock coat was modified in order to look elegant on horseback. Hence, the straight front edges of the coat were cut in such a way that they curved back into a sweep of cloth so as to unburden the rider’s knees from flapping coat edges. Out went the side pockets to further streamline the silhouette and by the time the Edwardian era rolled around, the younger dandies of the time made a legitimate case for the suave morning coat to take over the reins from the traditional frock coat. While George V was the last English king to wear a frock coat, it was his son Edward VIII who in 1936, instigated a sartorial change, abolishing the frock coat as court attire, requiring instead the more sophisticated morning coat.
The morning coat has remained unchanged since then, but for a marked elevation in the quality of fabrics used. Typically it is cut from a black wool cloth with a peak lapel and worn with striped grey wool trousers. At Favourbrook, we cut our morning coats in a variety of different cloths to suit the environment in which they are due to be worn. Our Black Windsor Herringbone Morning Coat for example, is a lightweight style made from wool woven in Yorkshire and is a good option for summer events. Our Black Hampton Barathea coat is cut from a midweight cloth, making it an excellent option for Spring events. Barathea wool is a very soft yarn with a hopsack twill weave giving a surface that is lightly pebbled, which gives a beautiful textural finish. Our finest style is the Black Seaton Cashmere Morning Coat, cut from recycled pure cashmere in a twill weave. The handle is wonderfully soft. Although cashmere is typically thought of as a winter fabric, it does have excellent heat-regulating properties and thus is an excellent choice for all but the warmest of days.
While black is the most common and preferred colour for the morning coat, it is by no means the only one. Indeed, charcoal and navy styles have gained in popularity over the years, with Prince Charles very much fond of wearing the former to Royal Ascot. Unlike the black coat, which is typically worn with contrasting charcoal striped trousers, charcoal and navy morning coats are best worn with matching trousers. In terms of fit, there are some important considerations to make, which our expert store staff can guide you through in person. If you prefer to purchase online, then it is important to consider the following:
Shoulder width is the most important consideration as any alterations here are next to impossible. The coat should fit snug to the contours of your torso, cinching at the waist and creating a discernible swoop out over your seat.
With regards the length of the tail, traditionally it should finish just below the fold of the knee, or an inch or two either side. Don’t be tempted to go any shorter than this. Being more ‘contemporary’ defeats the entire tradition of formalwear.
In the next installment of formalwear fundamentals, we’ll take a look at the other main component of morning dress - the trousers.
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