By Nicholas Storey
According to Lord Dupplin, his ancestor the late Victorian Lord Dupplin, was a good friend of the Prince of Wales and, after one Season, he was invited onboard the Royal Yacht. He consulted the tailor Henry Poole over what to wear and an early version of the dinner jacket resulted. Apparently, he was lightly ribbed over it - but the Prince of Wales adopted the style for informal events the next Season and so, naturally, it started to catch on.
In the London Season of 1886, an American named James Brown Potter and his beautiful wife, Cora (née Urquhart), were taken up by the Prince of Wales and invited to Sandringham. Potter learned that the Prince favoured a short evening jacket for evening wear there and asked to have one made by Henry Poole.
Meanwhile, Pierre Lorillard IV, a tobacco millionaire, had started a club at Tuxedo Park in the hills outside New York. His youngest child, N. Griswold Lorillard's first Henry Poole commissions had been made in 1881. None of his commissions appears to have comprised a dinner jacket; although one is tantalizingly described as a 'fancy dress coat with single-breasted facings' - presumably meaning step (or notch) lapels.
When James and Cora Potter returned to New York in the Autumn of 1886, founder members of the club at Tuxedo Park, including Pierre Lorillard IV and Grenville Kane, began to adopt the jacket brought back by Potter for their informal dinners. Some club members even dared to sport the jacket out to stag (or bachelor) dinners at Delmonico's in New York where, according to Grenville Kane, talking in 1929, to Tuxedo Park resident J. Earle Stevens Jr, people started saying "Oh! That's what they wear for dinner up in Tuxedo."
On 10th October 1886, N. Griswold Lorillard and some friends attended the first Tuxedo Park Club Autumn Ball in a tailless dress coat, as a prank. This was much shorter than the dinner jackets that his elders had begun to adopt for informal occasions and a gossip sheet, called Town Topics, said that it made Griswold look like 'a royal footman'.
N. Griswold Lorillard may not then (although said by popular legend), really have introduced, at the age of 22 years, the dinner jacket-Tuxedo (as we know it) to American society but the legend of his high-spirited prank has long survived his early death in 1889. In any event, when entertainer Jack Buchanan popularized the double-breasted dinner jacket-Tuxedo in the UK, in the first quarter of the 20th Century, he was bringing back, from his tours in the USA, a descendant of the jacket that James Brown Potter had taken to America in 1886.
Guest author Nicholas Storey is a former London barrister and the author of the book “History of Men’s Fashion.” He lives in Brazil.
Monday, December 7, 2009
By Nicholas Storey