In this article, we’ll be discussing formal daytime attire, also known as “morning dress.” We’ll talk about the history of the dress code, its modern applications, and break down the individual garments included.
If you’d like to read about other dress codes for men please refer to our comprehensive guide to dress codes.
What Is Morning Dress?
Also known as “formal day dress,” morning dress is daytime’s white tie equivalent. It’s pretty rare in the United States but is still seen in England for formal weddings, formal memorial services, and official functions, particularly when in the presence of the Queen.
The most common shade of grey worn is referred to as “morning grey,” which is a shade of medium grey much lighter than an evening shade of grey, such as charcoal.
The key detail to morning dress is the “morning coat,” which bears similarity to a white tie tailcoat in that it has sloping front panels and finishes with tails in back. Its semi-formal brother is known as a “stroller.”
It is not appropriate to wear morning dress for events that start at 6pm or later. It is also obligatory dress while in the Royal Enclosure at Ascot.
History Of Morning Dress & Its Place In The Present Day
The modern morning coat was, interestingly, considered a form of “half dress” in the early 19th century, being seen as a more casual alternative to the now-defunct frock coat. Much like the lounge suit went from country wear to acceptable city wear, the morning coat replaced the more formal frock coat towards the end of the nineteenth century.
It was at the point that it took the frock coat’s place as the standard daytime form of men’s full dress that peaked lapels were added to the jacket. This gave it a more formal, regal appearance. When it was more casual, notched lapels were common on morning coats.
Morning dress is a relatively uncommon dress code in the present day, particularly in the United States as opposed to Britain. We’ll analyze that statement further below.
Breaking It Down: The Components Of Morning Dress
Black matte or grey morning coat, single-breasted with peaked lapels
Grey or grey-and-black striped. Pleated or plain-front versions are seen, though cuffs (turn-ups) aren’t appropriate.
White or light-colored shirt with French cuffs and a turndown collar are acceptable.
Buff, dove grey, or duck egg blue in single- or double-breasted, with double-breasted being more popular.
Single-breasted vests may have a notched lapel or no lapel, while double-breasted vests may have peaked lapels or a shawl collar. Single-breasted vests lowest button should remain undone while double-breasted vests should stay fully buttoned.
Vests should not be backless.
Fancy waistcoats may be worn at events like weddings but are generally limited to members of certain elite groups, such as the Eton Society.
A woven silk tie is the standard, with solids or fancy neats being preferable. Ascots are acceptable and more traditional, but neckties are far more common. Tie pins are a way to add a dandyish touch.
A grey or black top hat is worn for racing events but is generally carried otherwise. If you’re not going to wear it, you may opt to get rid of it.
Renting Versus Owning Your Morning Dress Clothes
Our guide to black tie attire has an in-depth discussion on renting versus owning. We typically advise that it’s worth buying a tuxedo, but we don’t advise owning a morning coat and its associated kit. That is, unless you attend enough daytime formal events to warrant such a purchase. This last point is largely dictated by the country in which you reside: England or the United States.
In the United States, it is extraordinarily rare to see men in morning dress. Americans have an unfortunate habit of wearing (rented) tuxedos during the day for weddings, and it doesn’t look like they will be broken of that habit anytime soon.
Britons, on the other hand, wear morning dress more often and thus should seriously consider buying the outfit if they wear it at least once a year.
Should you decide to buy one, a bespoke tailor will offer you your best bet in terms of sartorial guidance and, obviously, superior fit. Certain RTW retailers offer morning dress as well, though be wary of the details they offer on the garments. You don’t want to spend a bunch of money only to be dressed incorrectly.
If you are ever invited to an event where “morning dress” is the dress code, we strongly encourage you to attend. Rearrange your schedule if you need to! It’s not often that you’ll have such an opportunity, especially if you’re an American.
With that said, make sure you’re conscious of the right details. Dressing well in a formal dress code is just as much about looking “correct” as it is looking good.
For more information on dress codes and suiting in general, take a look at our suits home page.