Tailoring, and tailored clothing as a medium, seems to demand a great deal of particularity on its wear and presentation; certainly a number of its adherents virulently declare tailoring’s totality as not just an outfit but as an all-encompassing lifestyle, to the exclusion of any other kinds of clothing. But I want to suggest that the confines of tailoring need not be as rigid a boundary as is commonly thought, and that a great deal more richness in expression can be found by the intermittent combination of tailoring with more casual pieces.
It’s a curious point that no style of dressing can claim to be so universally appropriate and yet be so frequently discarded as tailoring. All of the various tracts and tomes about tailoring invariably tread over the same ground: it is a dress code always appropriate. A suit is never out of place, nor, if one’s tailor is good, out of style.
There is unquestionably a certain truth to this. It’s not a marketing ploy to point out that a discreet and well-fitting suit is the cornerstone of elegance, grace, and forever fits any social occasion. Indeed, it’d be fairly curious to read otherwise in these pages. But it seems there is always a quiet absence – a deliberate silence – in these sorts of tracts over the point of interplay between the promise of a suited existence and the reality of life. For as much as one can appreciate the craftsmanship, the silhouette, the proportions of the suit hanging in a closet, I find myself often deliberately moving past it many mornings.
After all, why wear a suit? Certainly not merely to meet a dress code. That could be accomplished with next to no thought and a gift card to any High Street chain store. It is, instead, the pleasure of wearing a suit for its own sake. Rather, I hold a deep sense of aesthetic appreciation for the transformative power of a well-balanced suit. I enjoy the thought and care that goes into wearing tailored clothing, amplifying the sense of care about oneself and one’s public persona. I appreciate the materials and craft. As garments, I understand the connection with decades of evolving clothing, and as an outfit I enjoy the connection between the many decades of well-presented men and women with those of today. I’ll forever have a soft spot for the feeling of enhancement a dressed figure can bring to even the most benign of events. Or, for that matter, to the more romantic events as well.But these are not solitary feelings.
For as much as I enjoy tailoring, I also appreciate the simple ease of a well-worn pair of jeans, or the collegiate dishevelment of an old sweatshirt. This is not to say a thoughtless disregard for an outfit, but an acknowledgment that the pleasures of clothing do not end at the borders of the handmade or pad-stitched. My wardrobe is richer for the inclusion and mixture of more casual and varied pieces. Many are natural enhancements of tailored clothes. While a cliché, pressed flannels and an old sweatshirt shouts of an autumn Sunday with a good book in hand. A Barbour jacket thrown on top of an outfit brings a rugged practicality few of us really need. Wearing a pair of jeans heightens the appreciation for the fit, craft, and versatility of an odd jacket worn on top.
There’s a certain glory to today’s fragmentation of dress codes. The same zeal that has seen the suit as uniform banished has, almost paradoxically, allowed for its resurgence as pleasure. I – indeed, we all – are no longer limited from self-expression, whatever our sartorial preferences. Regardless of the fact that my own wardrobe skews heavily toward tailoring, I revel the ability to mix in other pieces as I see and feel fit. Doing so embodies a richer sartorial language. It broadens my aesthetic horizons. It fits a wider range of social milieus. But mixing together high and low dress is, in a word, fun. Give it a try! NWW