What to wear in the evening
Roula Khalaf, Editor of the FT, selects her favourite stories in this weekly newsletter.
In October 2019, I was invited to a boat party on the River Thames. The dress code specified “eveningwear”. As a fashion peacock, I interpreted this as an opportunity to get creative: my chosen outfit was a navy silk jacquard jacket, open-collar midnight-blue linen shirt and mohair trousers, set off with navy suede slippers. In my head, I was Mick Jagger – all rock-star swagger and sex appeal.
When I arrived, though, the dancefloor was a sea of shuffling black-and-white penguin suits. In fact, I was the only man there not in a black tuxedo and bow tie. It was a painful evening spent hiding in corners, shamed, staring at my blue suede shoes.
Malick wears Stefan Cooke wool mock-neck cardigan, £659
Thankfully, times change. If the trad black dinner jacket was a safe option pre-pandemic, this season’s party dress is enjoying a flamboyant, feel-good comeback. From the maximalist velvet separates of Tom Ford, Gucci and Ralph Lauren Purple Label to Alexander McQueen’s abstract “spray paint-esque” patterned suiting, or Brioni’s teal- and toffee-coloured high-shine tuxedos, in 2022 formalwear has finally found its fun side.
Top: Malick wears The Row cotton poplin shirt, £910. Canali wool-cashmere suit jacket and trousers, £2,450. Above: Malick wears Meta Campania Collective wool twill jacket, €1,200. Zegna wool rollneck sweater, €890, and wool gabardine trousers, €790
From their Stockholm atelier, Saman Amel and Dag Granath, the 29-year-old co-founders of made-to-measure tailor Saman Amel, are seeing a record demand for their contemporary party suits. “Eveningwear sales are up 95 per cent on 2021,” Granath reports. Crucially, eveningwear doesn’t mean what it used to, according to these two forward-thinking tailors. “We’re not talking about tuxedos, but things you wear for parties, dinners out and gallery openings,” Granath continues. “We think of eveningwear simply as pieces that aren’t for the office, which feel sharper and sexier than everyday staples, and are designed to make you feel good.” To them this can be anything from an ivory slub silk jacket layered over a black knitted silk-and-cashmere shirt to a deconstructed mohair suit or a tailored cashmere blouson, paired with wide-leg trousers that swish about satisfyingly.
Moreover, this freer definition of men’s eveningwear is being driven by a changing customer base. “A new kind of client is coming to us who isn’t really accustomed to wearing tailoring,” Amel explains. “Many of our eveningwear clients are now artists, designers or musicians. They’re into fashion and they have a strong sense of style, but they haven’t felt the need to wear tailoring before.” So, why are they now? “Men are excited to get dressed again. We’re seeing that people in creative industries are wanting to look elegant. If they were wearing T-shirts pre-pandemic, now they’re in silk shirts and tailored jackets.”
In Milan, Zegna, one of the powerhouses of conceptual tailoring, is seeing this shift too. “That celebratory feeling of eveningwear isn’t restricted to traditional pieces any longer. It’s more about clothes for special moments,” says Alessandro Sartori, the brand’s artistic director. “Of course, the demand [for eveningwear] has increased. We want something special: a different colour, a different fabric. We want to represent ourselves in a new way.” Zegna’s Red Carpet Collection typifies this mood. Glitzy evening suits are styled with tonal cashmere-silk turtlenecks to be less formal. Standout pieces include a powder-blue wool and silk jacquard two-piece suit, layered with a slouchy-collared rollneck, or a dark plum jacquard three-piece suit, with a purple dress shirt and satin bow tie to match.
Crucially, though, the collection isn’t just about tuxedos. Elevated silk bomber jackets are layered over superfine-cashmere sweaters and paired with mohair tailored trousers, while reinvented chore jackets appear in featherweight tailoring fabrics. “The demand for luxury leisurewear translated into eveningwear is really increasing. Whether an overshirt, bomber jacket, or oversized blouson, we’re using special fabrics, ultra-light constructions and silk linings,” Sartori explains.
Malick wears Emporio Armani wool waistcoat, £330. Brioni cashmere and silk rollneck sweater, £840. Acne Studios wool twill trousers, POA. Church’s leather grecian slippers, £520. Miu Miu wool socks, €290
Malick wears Louis Vuitton silk shirt, £1,500, and cotton wide-leg trousers, £890. Church’s leather grecian slippers, £520. Vintage tie, stylist’s own
Evening-ready casualwear is a trend in itself. Hermès’s AW22 show featured a dark-green leather zip-through blouson paired with matching leather tailored trousers that reinvent the concept of a dinner suit. There was also a brown leather two-piece suit, styled with a pale technical poplin top – perfect for after-hours partying. Elsewhere, Saint Laurent’s black patent floor-length trench coats capture a certain evening-worthy swagger, as does Dunhill’s. Louis Vuitton’s AW22 tailoring is anything but corporate, with oversized cuts in purple satin and teal velvet, while Lemaire’s signature “dry silk” separates reference classic eveningwear with their shawl collars and flowing trousers.
Pape wears Lacoste cotton polo shirt, €100. Vintage hat, stylist’s own
Kathia (on left) wears Vivienne Westwood recycled-cotton gabardine herringbone trench, £1,060. Lacoste cotton polo shirt, €100. Michael Kors Collection flannel trousers, £730. The Row leather Derby shoes, £1,130. Ann Demeulemeester wool velour hat, €450. Pape wears Lemaire wool coat, POA. Lacoste cotton polo, €100. Ferragamo Scottish striped cloth trousers, £960. Tod’s suede shoes, £450. Ann Demeulemeester wool velour hat, €450
To menswear stylist Gareth Scourfield, whose celebrity clients include Daniel Craig and Richard Madden, the loosening up of party season style is long overdue. “It’s an invitation to dress in a way that feels good to you. Velvet and jacquard jackets are a great way to go. Stick with the classic jewellery box of colours: sapphires and emeralds, or ruby reds, which always look great with dark dress trousers. These colours break up the traditional tuxedo in a way that’s different but not completely out there.”
Left: Pape wears Hermès cashmere and silk rollneck sweater, £2,650, and leather trousers, £6,500. Miu Miu leather belt, €430. Elhadji wears Maison Margiela wool jumper, €670, and linen double-breasted blazer, €1,450. Prada cotton trousers, from £620
Malick wears Meta Campania Collective felted cashmere T-shirt, €1,100. Zegna wool gabardine trousers, €790. Church’s leather grecian slippers, £520. Miu Miu wool socks, €290. Acne Studios wool scarf, €130
On Savile Row, Edward Sexton has designed an eveningwear collection that feels unashamedly luxurious; with chocolate, navy and bottle green velvet suits, wool jacquard jackets and even graphic yellow-and-black wool blazers on show, underpinned by silk shirts with spear-point collars. “Our designs are deliberately bold this season, with lots of colour, interesting tones and textures,” says creative director Dominic Sebag-Montefiore. “We’re really pushing our designs to ensure the suit stays relevant. I think for a lot of people the suit is now quite subversive. The business suit is dead, so long live the party suit.”
Pape wears Dolce & Gabbana double-crepe blazer, POA. Vivienne Westwood cotton shirt, £305. Wales Bonner wool trousers, £585
Is it time to channel your inner Mick Jagger then? Sartori thinks so, with one important caveat. “By ‘sexy’, we mean a new kind of sexy,” he says. “Men today are not responding to the old, hyper-masculine, shirt-fully-unbuttoned kind of sexiness of the ’80s and ’90s, but a more refined sexiness that’s about tailoring and elegance.” Granath agrees: “Party season style isn’t necessarily about the rules of classic eveningwear any more, it’s about looking sexy and interesting,” he says. “That could mean a perfect dinner suit or a raw silk jacket with a rollneck and jeans. The most important thing is to feel good.” Maybe I’ll have to give the navy silk jacket another spin, after all.
Models, Malick Bodian at Success, Elhadji Fall and Kathia Ndong at Amy, and Pape Seck at RN Models. Casting, Anna Pkhakadze at Julia Lange Casting. Photographer’s assistant, Achraf Issami. Stylist’s assistant, Eyassene Diagne. Production, Gina Amama at Generation X. Special thanks to Oumou Souloy and Hotel de La Poste, Saint Louis. The Saint Louis Jazz Festival will celebrate its 31st year in June 2023