The Evening Dress Shirt Should Be Fitted


Flash photography can be cruel. I always smile, compassionately I might add, when friends take me through photos of “an amazing venue” they visited, only for the flash to utterly corrupt the memory by blanching the closest object and blackening the background; “Damn” my friends exclaim “it was a lot nicer than this, I swear!” The fact is, I have no doubt that it was. Flash has the capability of flattering faces, by accentuating angles and brightening eyes, but it utterly destroys everything else, including clothing.

Anyone who has been photographed with a simple point-and-shoot flash camera will attest that the results were nothing like that which they had expected; the lapels shined supernaturally, the black wool looked slightly grey and the shirt crumpled like a pillowcase. Slick? Hardly.

I recently spoke to a gentleman who wanted to dress smartly but didn’t want to have to worry about his clothing; “I don’t want to go into a meeting and be worrying about my sleeve length or anything like that. I want to look good and concentrate on the matter at hand.” His answer of course, is tailoring and it is also the answer I would supply to anyone rethinking their evening dress shirt.

Slim fit or tailored fit shirts are a better choice for evening dress because they are tauter across the torso; standard fit shirts, particularly for gentlemen not accustomed to wearing waistcoats, can often billow and bulge as the evening wears on, distracting the eye from a beautifully finished jacket or a roguishly tied bow. As uncomfortable as it sounds, a tighter fit is always to be desired in an evening shirt.

However, it is not always possible to find off-the-rack evening shirts with darts to fit one’s torso. Therefore, a gentleman should look upon a made-to-measure evening shirt as an important investment. Despite costing significantly more, a made-to-measure shirt has distinct advantages over the off-the-rack. Firstly, and most importantly, it will always fit better. A made-to-measure shirt is made to fit your singular contours; the length is exactly right, the width is exactly right, the sleeve length is faultless and the collar sits up perfectly. Crucially, the torso does not bag, sag or crumple; it is placidity itself, a mill-pond of a shirt.

Secondly, a made-to-measure shirt is much more comfortable than squeezing yourself into a slim fit for the sake of it. Gentlemen who experience a discomfort with slim fit shirts can direct the tailor where the discomfort is and how, considering that the exposed Marcella torso should be as taut as possible, any tailoring can avoid such discomfort.


  1. Kurt N said:

    “placidity itself, a mill-pond of a shirt”

    Best-turned phrase I’ve seen all week!

    August 21, 2010
  2. It is great to bring back these formal wears. Men would really look sophisticated and more decent. Men should wear them more frequently. BTW nice post.

    August 22, 2010
  3. Heath said:

    You find yourself in good company — Lord Peter Wimsey also promotes the tailored dress shirt in Sayers’s “Gaudy Night.”

    He, however, was speaking more particularly of boiled-front dress shirts and the unpleasant sights and sounds they created when purchased off-the-peg.

    August 22, 2010
  4. Stefan said:

    I need to get a new set of evening wear again, being a few stones lighter!

    I do wonder about the fitting though, given that I won’t be wearing this for formal dinners, but for choral and orchestral concerts, with the odd bit of conducting. Presuming that you perform as well as compose, perhaps you could offer your own thoughts and experience?

    August 23, 2010
  5. Stefan,

    I have worn a boiled-front (very stiff) dress shirt in performance. It doesn’t seem to hinder the way I play, but I would say that it is far from comfortable.

    I wouldn’t say the same of a fitted evening shirt. Firstly, there is no cardboard-like front to contend with or detachable collar; I certainly feel more relaxed in a fitted Marcella evening shirt. The relaxation seems to result in more enjoyment and therefore, I believe, a higher quality of performance.

    The boiled-front is charming, and a throwback, but not being used to wearing it every evening (as smart parlour musicians of the late 19th century were) means I am always conscious of it. As I said, I still perform in the same way – but without feeling totally at ease.

    If you have a shirt made for you, you can always stress how important it is to be able to move in the shirt. I know that conducting requires certain movement and that tight-tight shirts can rather strait-jacket expression, so important in the art. However, I believe the torso can still be perfectly fitted; the movement required in the conductor’s shirt seems to me to be beyond the Marcella front towards the shoulders. A good shirt maker should be able to provide ample material in this area without affecting too much the ‘mill pond’ of the torso. Just let your shirtmaker know what you need to be able to do in the shirt and they should be able to assist.



    August 23, 2010
  6. Paying two hundred dollars for a dress, which is worn only once, feels extravagant, but there are other factors which determine the worth of an evening dress, besides its price. Nice post. Keep up the good work. All the best.

    September 4, 2010

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