Although the tuxedo jacket dates back to 1860, it was on this day in 1886 that the tuxedo made its grand debut in Tuxedo Park, New York. For over a century, tuxedos have provided men with an efficient formal solution to that great question still burdening women to this day: What to wear?
The history of the tuxedo begins on London’s famous Savile Row in 1860. Queen Victoria’s son and the future King of England, Edward VII, the then Prince of Wales, commissioned his tailor Henry Poole at 37-39 Savile Row to design a short evening jacket to be worn at informal dinner parties at his Sandringham Estate. The formality and dandyism of the pre-Industrial era was no longer practical, and the Prince of Wales wanted a sort of smoking jacket that could be worn at less formal affairs. Poole was of course up to the task, and the tuxedo jacket was fashioned.
In 1886 a wealthy American socialite, Mr. James Potter and his actress wife Cora of Tuxedo Park were invited to spend a weekend at Sandringham while on a visit to England. Potter inquired about the dress code and was subsequently directed to Mr. Poole who would make the American a new smoking jacket. As fate would have it, Potter returned to America with what would soon be called the tuxedo, but without his wife. Cora would remain in England, becoming a well-known stage actress—she and James would later divorce.
Potter reportedly debuted his new smoking jacket later that year at the Tuxedo Park Club located about 35 miles northwest of New York City. The style was subsequently adopted by fellow members and has remained forever associated with the club. For the record, the word “tuxedo” is derived from “Tusceto,” the name thought to have been given to the local lake by the Lenape people who once lived there.
Over the past century, the tuxedo has solidified its position as the men’s costume de rigueur for formal events across the globe. Its slimming effect and ever-expanding set of accessories have concealed the bulging bellies of weary world leaders, aging actors and once dandy doctors alike.
Credit: Corbis 42-15495160
Caption: Frontal view of a modern tuxedo jacket.