The Beginner’s Guide to Dinner Jackets

The Beginner’s Guide to Dinner Jackets

Dinner jackets have become synonymous with men's formalwear. Also known as a black-tie jacket, it offers an elegant and formal style that's not found in traditional coats and jackets. With a dinner jacket, you can create a highly formal outfit that's perfect for nearly all formal occasions. However, there are a few things you'll need to know when choosing a dinner jacket.

What Is a Dinner Jacket?

A dinner jacket is a jacket that's designed specifically for use in a formal outfit. It's similar to a tuxedo jacket. Both dinner jackets and tuxedo jackets are formal. With that said, there are a few subtle differences between them.

Most dinner jackets don't have a tail. In comparison, many tuxedo jackets do, in fact, have a tail. The tail is an elongated piece of material that extends from the back of a tuxedo jacket. It doesn't serve any functional purpose. Rather, the tail on a tuxedo jacket is used strictly for aesthetics.

Another difference between dinner jackets and tuxedo jackets involves the lapels. Most tuxedo jackets have satin-facing lapels, meaning the lapels are lined with a soft and velvet-like fabric. In comparison, dinner jackets may have traditional lapels without satin, or they may have similar satin-facing lapels as their tuxedo jacket counterparts.

The origins of the modern dinner jacket can be traced back to the mid-1800s. Around this time, the Prince of Wales was often spotted wearing a dinner jacket. In the years to follow, King Edward VII began wearing a dinner jacket. Dinner jackets have changed since then, but they still serve as one of the most popular and common types of formal outerwear.

When to Wear a Dinner Jacket

You can wear a dinner jacket for any formal occasion. As long as it's not a casual occasion, you can rest assured knowing that a dinner jacket is appropriate. Dinner jackets are regarded as one of the most formal styles of men's outerwear. They are more formal than blazers, sport coats and traditional suit jackets. The only style of outerwear that's more formal than a dinner jacket is a tuxedo jacket.

Here are some common occasions for which you can wear a dinner jacket:

  • Black-tie dinners
  • Weddings
  • Ballroom parties
  • Graduations
  • Formal business meetings

Features to Look for a Dinner Jacket

If you're going to buy a dinner jacket, there are some features you'll need to look for. Start by checking the fabric. Dinner jackets are available in a plethora of fabrics. Some dinner jackets are made of wool, for instance. Wool dinner jackets are typically thick and warm, making them ideal for use during the cold winter months. Other dinner jackets are made of linen. Linen is lighter and cooler than wool. As a result, linen dinner jackets are typically worn during the summer months.

You may discover some dinner jackets made of terry rayon as well. What is terry rayon exactly? It's a synthetic fabric consisting of polyester and rayon. With these two fabrics, terry rayon dinner jackets offer some unique characteristics that aren't found in other dinner jackets.

They are exceptionally strong, for example. Both polyester and rayon are strong. The combination of these fabrics, however, allows for an exceptional level of strength and durability that protects terry rayon dinner jackets from damage.

Another feature to look for in a dinner jacket is fabric-covered buttons. If you're thinking about buying a white dinner jacket, you may want to choose one that features the same white-colored fabric over the buttons. With fabric-covered buttons, your dinner jacket will have a cleaner and more uniform appearance.

Tips on Wearing a Dinner Jacket

When wearing a dinner jacket, make sure it's free of wrinkles. Because it's a form of outerwear, dinner jackets should be smooth and wrinkle free. The presence of wrinkles -- even just a few minor wrinkles -- creates a messy appearance that's not particularly formal or attractive. If your dinner jacket is wrinkled, you'll need to de-wrinkle it.

Keep in mind that many dinner jackets require dry cleaning. You can't de-wrinkle these dinner jackets by tossing them in a clothes dryer. Instead, you'll need to get them dry cleaned at a local dry cleaning business.

You should pair your dinner jacket with the right dress shirt. Most men prefer to wear their dinner jacket with the front open. In other words, they don't fasten any of the front buttons. Whether a dinner jacket has two, three or four buttons on the front, they leave them unfastened. If you leave the front of your dinner jacket open, your dress shirt will inevitably show. Therefore, it's important to choose the right dress shirt when wearing a dinner jacket.

If your dinner jacket is white, you can pair it with a white dress shirt as well. Alternatively, you can choose a dress shirt in a completely different color. As long as it flows cohesively with the color of your dinner jacket, it will help you create an attractive formal outfit.

In addition to the right dress shirt, you'll need to wear the right trousers with a dinner jacket. A good rule of thumb is to choose trousers in the same fabric, as well as color, as your dinner jacket. If you have a white terry rayon dinner jacket, you should wear trousers consisting of the same white-colored terry rayon fabric.

Don't Forget the Tie

Regardless of what dinner jacket you choose, don't forget to accessorize it with a tie. Dinner jackets are designed for use in formal outfits. You can't create a formal outfit without a tie. A tie is an invaluable accessory that will lift the formality of your outfit by defining your neckline. There are two types of ties with which you can accessorize a dinner jacket: neckties and bowties. Neckties consist of a single long and vertical piece of fabric that's draped around the collar of your dress shirt. Bowties, on the other hand, consist of a smaller piece of fabric with a bow on the front. You can accessorize your dinner jacket with either a necktie or a bowtie.