Up Close: The Full-Dress Shirt

Posted on May 1, 2012

Just as with their full-dress waistcoat, Brooks Brothers’ full-dress shirt is a wondrous lesson in old school elegance.

First and foremost, it is a collar-less tunic that allows for a tall and rigid detachable collar that frames a man’s face with stately splendour. It also lets the wearer choose from a variety of wing shapes rather than being limited to the single style of an attached wing collar.

Below the collar is a piqué bosom.  This material not only makes the shirt front decorative but also retains the ample amount of stiff starch required to give the impression of a firm, flat torso.  The cuffs are the third visible aspect of a full-dress shirt and are equally distinctive.  They are constructed of the same piqué used for the bosom (and the matching waistcoat and bow tie) and are single-link style that fasten with decorative cufflinks but have a more austere look than folded-back French cuffs. Like the collar and the bib they are also meant to be starched for a crisp appearance.

Unseen by the onlooker are a number of ingenious features for maintaining a meticulous appearance throughout an elegant evening of dining and dancing:

A side vent allows the wearer to slip one hand beneath the shirt to insert the studs without wrinkling the starched bib.

Perpendicular eyelets help ensure the studs remain in place.

A loop beneath the collar on the back of the shirt holds the bow tie band and the waistcoat neckstrap in place so that neither peaks above the tailcoat’s collar.

A tab below the bib buttons to the trouser waist to keep the shirt from pulling up.

The shirt even comes with its own set of instructions to assist with the dressing process.  The most important advice is to insert the waistcoat neckstrap through the back loop and attach the back of the detachable collar before putting on the shirt.  Doing so afterwards would require a Cirque-de-Soleil-like agility that few of us possess.

Fortunately this princely garment does not have to be limited to White Tie affairs.  It is acceptable with Black Tie as long as the rest of the kit is at its most formal.  This means a one-button, peak-lapel jacket with classic evening waistcoat.  Shawl collars and cummerbunds just aren’t going to cut it in this case.

Posted in: White Tie