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One Piece, Three Ways: The Tuxedo Shirt

4 months ago by

Everyone gets stuck in patterns, myself included, of course. In the shower or putting on your makeup each morning, you’re thinking about what you’re going to wear, and something pops to mind. Maybe it’s a look that will empower you to feel the way you want to feel, or something easy and won’t require any extra thought. Perhaps it’s a pair of trousers, or your favorite top…it could be anything. When you have your starting piece, the rest suddenly appears as a full look–probably how you’ve worn it before, and probably more than once…

That’s how it all began. In January of 2018 my best friend Swathi and I decided to break this habit. Never wear the same piece the same way. Mix it up every time. Wear your entire closet. We sent photos to each other *almost* every morning. Accountability, blah, blah, blah. At the end of the year, I posted the highlights–or our favorite looks anyway–to my Instagram story as a record of our fashion photography pen-pal correspondence. It was the first new years resolution I’ve ever kept, breaking the habit of buying something new when I felt like I don’t have anything to wear. It was so much fun looking back at the whole year, seeing how creative we could be. But, most of all, it made both of us realize just how deep a closet can go, especially one edited down through the unforgiving confines of a NYC apartment. The morning routine became a constantly evolving challenge, and I loved it. One piece, unlimited possibilities. But for the sake of time, let’s go with three for this story.

If you mention a tuxedo shirt to ten people, I would guess at least eight of them would think of a man in black tie. This. Is. Tragic. A tuxedo shirt can get you into pretty much any door. It’s the ultimate day-to-night piece and the perfect thing to throw in your suitcase. It pairs with literally everything. On my second date with the love of my life, the weather served up an absolute blizzard. The kind that shuts down the streets. I figured he would cancel, but he did not, considering it a strong Sunday night adventure. Dressing well for a second date in a snowstorm, with someone you have a crush on, is a bit more of a challenge than an adventure. Cue my trusty tuxedo short. Paired with jeans (look 2), a Sacai x Northface puffer and my snowboots. In the uber on my way to meet him, I jokingly pried if there was a dress code for the evening. His reply: “black tie, haha.” Checkmate!

Though there are so many great species of tuxedo shirts—ruffled, pique, with as many collar and cuff options to choose from, this is my favorite. It’s a men’s pleated-bib version by Tom Ford. Perfectly tailored, in a delicate fabric but not too sheer.

There are many opinions about Raf Simon’s short tenure at Calvin Klein. I happen to really love a lot of the pieces he created whilst creative director, including these trousers from one of his first collections. They’re impeccably tailored in bottle green— my absolute favorite color in the world — and the blue stripe down the outseam conjures up all kinds of references. One day a tuxedo trouser, the next a marching band, or even the uniform of a hotel lobby boy in a Wes Anderson film. Not to mention, they make your legs look about five inches longer. Never a bad thing.

One Piece, Three Ways: The Tuxedo Shirt
One Piece, Three Ways: The Tuxedo Shirt

I used to always run into the quandary of deciding the right amount of buttons to do up on a shirt, not wanting to feel too buttoned up, but never wanting to be too undone. For about ten years, I’ve saved the tiny little safety pins that some tags use to label the price when you buy a new piece of clothing. They’re incredibly tiny, which means they’re always able to be hidden, no matter how thin the blouse. Pinning a shirt this way always ensures you are showing as much or little cleavage as you’d like. Also, there was a variation of this sleeve rolled up to my elbow, which is a great way to make it way more casual in an instant.

This second look is always my favorite. You can’t see in this picture, but I’m actually wearing a cowboy boot. Quite possible the best shoe to ever be designed. I bought this necklace when Swathi got married and I needed four days of Indian outfits for her wedding. I pin it much tighter here and wear it as a bolo tie, of sorts. Super casual with jeans. Any color works, believe it or not, even paired with white jeans it’s a strong look. There is just a tailored quality to this look that only a tuxedo shirt could provide.

Years before I moved to New York, I always wished I would be invited to black tie events. I swore I would be perfectly happy going to one every night. Fast forward and I now get to the point, especially during the holidays, where I’d much rather stay home after one of two. As if fate was calling my bluff, there was a week last year where we were invited to three. I deserved it. Karma can be unkind. But, I was rescued by my tuxedo.

One Piece, Three Ways: The Tuxedo Shirt

My friend Jack got married in Tuscany two years ago. He asked me if I would read something during the wedding. As a joke I asked him if I had to wear what the groomsmen were wearing, considering I was now part of his wedding party. At the time there was a tailoring shop in New York called Miller’s Oath. They’ve since moved to LA, but still come to NY and take client appointments. I had always wanted a tuxedo, but after shopping around was so disappointed by the lack of options for women. So, I walked into Miller’s Oath and we designed it together. This one is midnight blue with black grosgrain ribbon. They did the most insane job and it fits within inches everywhere. (As a bonus, it was far less expensive than I had even prepared for. So, don’t always be intimidated by made to measure, ladies.) I have worn it to a black tie wedding in Charleston, to the Metropolitan Opera, holiday parties and everything in between and it’s always the same. In the beginning people’s stare is always a bit longer than it should be, always a bit of side eye, but after the crowd has a drink or two of them, everyone asks me where I got it. You will never regret buying a tuxedo, I promise. It takes guts to be the only woman in pants at black tie, but it’s definitely the most fun.

11 comments

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  • Lovely, and an especially nice touch is that it’s an actual person in her own clothes! Much more inspiring than a stylist putting together looks for a model.

  • Wow, beautiful and feminine looks. Those green pants are gorgeous. And the heels. Who said that tuxedos were for men?

  • Tellement classe ! ça me donnerait presque envie de me recouper les cheveux…

  • OK, help me out here. I’ve owned a true tuxedo shirt for AGES (thrifted Armani Black Label – a find!) but it requires actual cufflinks and studs.
    I see cufflinks everywhere, but where oh where can one find simple button studs? I want to wear this shirt!
    Any other readers have a resource?

  • I have some great studs that I have found at vintage stores over the years. I just checked Ebay and found interesting studs for great prices.

  • Vesna Corovic Butric February, 21 2020, 11:15 / Reply

    So nice!

  • Jennifer Laine March, 1 2020, 1:20 / Reply

    Jessica,
    I completely understand, a couple of my tuxedo shirts have studs as well and I ALWAYS loose them. J. Crew and Brooks Brothers always have a decent set for about $120, which adds up when you have to buy then more than once :/

    There is a site called blacktie.com that has a set that definitely works and they’re about $25. From a distance you can’t tell the lack of quality, when holding them, they’re a bit flimsy. Per Sheri’s comment above, I always take a look around when in vintage shops. If you live in NY there is a great little spot called Pipin’s in Chelsea on 17th. They get really cool pieces in every now and again. But, again, a little bit more special and a little pricier.

    I hope this helps! I hope you find some so you begin wearing your shirt!
    Best,
    Jennifer

  • MEUZARD April, 5 2020, 12:16 / Reply

    This woman is so daaaamn beautiful !
    Everything’s fit sexy classy and elegant on her, nice choice !
    Elise

  • So which tuxedo shirt is the model actually wearing?

  • So, Jennifer, what shirt are you wearing in the pics with those awesome green pants?

    Thanks!

  • THE TUXEDO SHIRTS Are Looking Awesome.

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