From time to time, a client gives us the unique opportunity to retrieve an idea from the dustbin of history and breathe new life into it. One of our recent commissions for a tweed morning suit has provided the perfect chance to remake a largely forgotten garment.
Pictured below, is the coat we have made for our client. The cloth is a 17-18 oz Bateman & Ogden Glenhunt tweed with a contrast blue spotted lining. It was made to wear to a country wedding where it will surely court favourable glances and comments from attendees and passers-by alike.
However, there is some dispute around whether such a garment should rightly be called a ‘morning suit’. Until well into the twentieth-century, tweed coats were made with a centre seam. This method of making jackets only changed with the growing influence of the American ‘sack suit’, a form of tailoring that made its way across the Atlantic at the turn of the century.
One can see below a very fine, early example of a tweed coat matching this description. The back of the coat, elegantly sweeping down from the cutaway front, is only perhaps a couple of inches longer than a modern suit. This was, indeed, the fashion for all Newmarket coats (the name initially given to ‘morning coats’) until the end of WWII.
At this time, a tweed suit with a centre seam and ‘tails’ would not have been referred to as a ‘morning suit’. Morning dress indicated a particular mode of dress, not a garment that was tailored in a certain way. Tweed in any form would have been reserved for country pursuits.
In the photo on the left, below, one can see the tell-tale signs of ‘casual’ country dress: a bowler hat (not a topper), a wing collar, and a pocket on the centre seam, indicative of hunting coats. Conversely, the man in the photo on the right is wearing ‘morning dress’ with a top hat, imperial collar, and a suit made of the more formal barathea cloth.
Whatever the origins of the tweed ‘morning coat’, it is a great pleasure to encounter clients who take an interest in sartorial history and allow us to remake garments that might otherwise remain the stuff to fill museums. Of course, when doing so, one always runs the risk of appearing as though one is wearing a costume. But the beauty of bespoke tailoring is that we can take instruction from history but make manifest a modern and dynamic garment, such as this one, to give ‘flight to the imagination, and charm and gaiety to life and to everything’.