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History of the Tuxedo

All manner of fact and fiction surrounds the origin of the elegant formal garment called the "Tuxedo."

One the legends most commonly heard is that the Tuxedo was invented by Pierre Lorillard IV of New York City.

Lorillard's family were wealthy tobacco magnates and members of the highest social circles during the 1800's; they owned prime country property in Tuxedo Park located just outside of NYC that the Indians originally called Tuxedo Pond.  As the story goes, a formal ball was scheduled to take place at the Tuxedo Club in October, 1886.  Lorillard decided that he wanted to wear something other than the very formal white tie and tails that had become the accepted standard of men's formalwear throughout Europe and the United States.  He designed a tailless black jacket, shaped like the red riding jackets typically worn for fox hunts, and he named it "Tuxedo," a new fashion he was very eager to share! 

Lorillard and his friends dressed for the Ball in striking red vests and the new 'butchered tails,' a move that immediately caused a tremendous commotion, earning them enormous publicity. 

However, as the story of the tuxedo spread through the East Coast society and across the country, a new formal fashion was born!

Another story goes like this....

A resident of Tuxedo Park, James Brown Potter, along with his wife, Cora were vacationing in Sandringham, England, during the summer of 1886 when he was introduced to the Prince of Wales (later King Edward VII) at a court ball in London.  Potter asked the Prince for advice on formal dress.  The Prince sent Potter to his Saville Row tailor, Henry Poole & Co., where he was outfitted with a short black jacket and black tie,  quite unlike the formal tails with white tie that were worn throughout Europe and  the United States for formal occasions. (The tailor is said to have drawn inspiration from the British military uniforms of the time, which used short jackets with black ties.)

Quite eager to adopt this mode of formal dress, Potter made it through his Sandringham visit in style, and when he returned to Tuxedo Park and New York City, he introduced this new 'fad', which caught on quickly!  Soon, all of the fashionable young gentlemen of Tuxedo Park were lobbying their tailors to copy this smart British jacket, which eventually became known as "the Tuxedo."

Whatever history tale you believe, the tuxedo has certainly become the accepted elegant formalwear for men.


BOWTIE ... The bowtie is a men's necktie popularly worn with formal attire.  Reports indicate that this ribbon of fabric tied around the collar in a symmetrical manner originated among Croatian mercenaries during the Prussian wars of the 17th century, as the Croats used a scarf around the neck to hold together the opening of their shirts.

This method was soon adopted, under the name Cravat, by the upper classes in France, then a leading country in the fashion world, and it flourished in the 18th and 19th centuries.

CUMMERBUND ... The cummerbund is a broad waist sash, usually pleated, often worn with black tie.  It was first adopted by British military officers in colonial India and later spread to civilian use.

The name comes from Persian for "waist restraint (kamar "waist" and band "to close) and was borrowed into English from the Hindi word meaning "loinband" in 1616.

Interestingly, cummerbund is also the name of a nonsense poem by Edward Lear entitled "The Cummerbund, a poem from India,' which refers to the cummerbund as a ferocious woman-eating beast.  Let's just hope that never happens!