For my evening wedding this past summer, in addition to my bespoke Anthony Sinclair midnight blue dinner suit from Mason & Sons I also got a Special Order Conduit Cut ivory dinner jacket from Mason & Sons. Of all types of evening menswear, my wife likes the ivory dinner jacket best and insisted that I get one. As it’s also a classic Bond garment, and most of my black tie occasions fall in the summer, I saw no reason to put off getting one.
Special Order is Mason & Sons’ made-to-measure line that allows one to chose the cloth, style and fit of a suit, but it is not nearly as flexible as bespoke, it does not have as many options as bespoke, and it might not fit quite as well as bespoke. But it is a superb value and was able to achieve what I wanted for this dinner jacket. The style is exactly what I was looking for.
The dinner jacket’s cloth is Holland & Sherry 284515 from the Classic Mohair bunch, a very lightweight 230 g / 7 1/2 oz blend of 85% super 100s worsted wool and 15% kid mohair. Holland & Sherry calls the cloth “white”, but it’s off-white or ivory, as wool is never pure white. I chose the cloth because I wanted something that felt like I wasn’t wearing anything in hot weather. The cloth had to be a plain weave and under 10 ounces. I thought that if I’m going to get a dinner jacket for warm weather I would be okay with sacrificing drape for comfort. Because the wool is a low S number and the cloth is 15% kid mohair, it is crisp and doesn’t hold wrinkles. But thanks to kid mohair it has a decent hand and does not feel scratchy. The mohair in this cloth gives it the slightest sheen, which gives the cloth a very smooth look. Sean Connery’s dinner jacket in Diamonds Are Forever may possibly be a similar wool and mohair blend.
People tend to think of low S numbers (like super 100s) as being heavier than higher S numbers (like super 150s), but the number relates to the fineness of the wool fibre and not the weight of the cloth. This cloth is made of the lowest super wool—wools with an S number below 100 are not usually called “super”—and it is a very lightweight 7.5 ounces. Higher super number cloths are usually lightweight, but that does not preclude lower super cloths from also being lightweight.
I modelled this dinner jacket primarily after Roger Moore’s dinner jacket in Octopussy, and I had Sean Connery’s dinner jackets in Goldfinger and Diamonds Are Forever in mind as well. It is single-breasted with one button and peaked lapels. I had considered copying the dinner jacket from The Man with the Golden Gun since I also got a single-breasted, peaked-lapel midnight blue dinner suit, but for warm weather I didn’t want the extra layer of a double-breased jacket. I had also considered a shawl collar jacket to get a different style from my dinner suit, but I don’t think the shawl collar is as flattering to my square head after having worn one for the past four years.
The lapels are 3 1/2 inches wide for a balanced, medium width. This is where the Diamonds Are Forever (or perhaps even Spectre) inspiration comes in, as I find the peaked lapels in Goldfinger and Octopussy a little too narrow. This dinner jacket follows tradition with self-faced lapels. Like Bond’s dinner jackets this one is trimmed with white mother-of-pearl buttons. While these buttons are good quality, they don’t look right to me. I find the rim too small and the holes too close together, but it’s only a small complaint. I may change them for other buttons, though the overall look won’t be noticeably different if I change the buttons to different mother-of-pearl buttons.
The jacket’s shoulders are softly padded with a natural shoulder line and roped sleeve heads. It is the nicest shoulder shape I have seen outside of bespoke. The jacket is detailed with straight, jetted pockets, four buttons on each cuff and double vents. All of Bond’s ivory dinner jackets except the one from Goldfinger are vented, and I wanted vents to help with drape and comfort. Purists may not like that my dinner jacket has vents, but I see no problem with double vents on a dinner jacket, especially an ivory dinner jacket. The vents nicely flare out to hang properly and cover my seat.
The edges have subtle machine pick stitching. The lapel has a straight buttonhole, and there is a loop sewn to the back of the lapel to hold a flower stem in place.
The lining is a breathable white viscose, and it’s a full lining. The full lining helps the drape in back. With such a light-coloured and lightweight jacket, a white lining is the only kind possible so the lining does not show through.
This dinner jacket had to be remade because it initially came with the button stance higher than I specified. The style of this dinner jacket is the same as Mason & Sons’ ready-to-wear Ecru Dinner Jacket (just in a different cloth), but I had the button stance lowered just as I did on my Special Order blue suit. This was a factory error and was thus remade as the button cannot be moved once the buttonhole is cut. I prefer a lower button stance like James Bond has almost always worn throughout the series as I find it more flattering, and the Special Order system is able to lower the button.
We decided on a few other changes when remaking the jacket. Originally I wanted the jacket with a half lining, inspired by some of the 1940s ivory dinner jackets I have seen, for maximum breathability. This had the unfortunate consequence of showing the dark trousers through the back, so on the remake we decided on a full lining like Bond’s dinner jackets have. The trousers showing through wasn’t such a problem indoors, but during outdoor summer events when the sun is out well into the evening the dark trousers would likely show through.
We also decided to do the jacket with a half canvas instead of a full canvas. This may sound like heresy, but the cloth is so lightweight that it did not drape well with a full floating canvas. Half canvas means the front has a light fusing to give it more body and help it drape better, and the canvas only extends halfway down the front instead of the whole way. A better drape could be achieved with a full canvas using bespoke methods, but in Special Order we thought it best to go with half canvas for this lightweight cloth. The construction still feels soft and flexible, and the lapels have an elegant roll.
What makes this jacket work as a dinner jacket?
Unlike a black or midnight blue dinner suit, which might only have silk-faced lapels to set it apart from a suit, the ivory dinner jacket can easily look like a summer sports coat with the traditional self-faced lapels. I am against the modern trend of facing the lapels on the ivory dinner jacket because I think it looks too busy with a black silk bow tie. Without facings, many people don’t think this is special enough to be a dinner jacket. Peaked lapels once could have set this apart as a dinner jacket, but they are now commonplace on sporty jackets. Single-button jackets are traditionally for more formal jackets and not sports coats, but many tailors have used the style for all sorts of jackets going back to the 1950s. Covered buttons may be able to make a jacket look more formal, but the Bondian mother-of-pearl buttons I chose for the ivory dinner jacket could be used on any kind of jacket. If I got this jacket without vents it may have looked more formal, but sports coats can also be made without vents. The jetted pockets look formal, though sports coats can also have them. Still, this jacket is still undoubtedly a dinner jacket and would not work well as a jacket in any other setting.
There are only two things that identify this jacket as a dinner jacket. The first is the cloth, which is the primary identifying factor of any garment. The cloth is smooth, crisp and has a very slight sheen, which means this jacket is a formal jacket. I had toyed with the idea of getting a dinner jacket in linen or a linen and silk blend, which have traditionally been used for ivory dinner jackets as well as suits and sports coats, but I realised it would not look crisp enough. Though in linen or a linen and silk blend this jacket could serve double duty as a dinner jacket and sports coat, it would not have been the perfect dinner jacket.
The second thing that identifies this jacket as a dinner jacket is the context. I’m wearing it with midnight blue trousers, a pleated-front shirt and a midnight blue bow tie. In a pinch, the trousers don’t need the stripe (Sean Connery’s didn’t have them in Goldfinger), and a plain white dress shirt with a spread collar and no pocket could do. A dark bow tie is the only thing that’s absolutely necessary to identify this jacket as a dinner jacket. Silk facings and covered buttons, which almost all dinner jackets made in the last few years have, are not necessary to make a white jacket into a dinner jacket, and I wanted this to be a traditional dinner jacket.
Midnight Blue Trousers
Though I wore my bespoke pleated dinner suit trousers with the ivory dinner jacket for my wedding, I also got an additional pair of Mason & Sons Special Order trousers that match the midnight blue dinner suit with a flat front. They are a slightly heavier than the jacket in a 9.5 oz wool and mohair blend.
Though black trousers are traditionally paired with an ivory dinner jacket, midnight blue is also acceptable. Under artificial light, midnight blue trousers will look richer than black. Under natural light of the summer evening sun, the trousers may look dark blue, but that’s okay. I find myself wanting to wear solid black less and less as it looks harsh against my skin, saving it only for ties and shoes, which I love in black.
The waistband has an extension with a hook and bar closure and the sides have slide-buckle adjusters on the waistband seam. The side-adjusters are well made and designed, and they work well enough that I don’t even need to wear braces with them, but there are buttons for braces so I can have the extra comfort and style of using them. The next time I wear this dinner jacket I will likely go without the braces to keep cooler.
The centre back of the waistband is split for comfort. They have the traditional stripe down the sides in midnight blue satin silk. The side pockets are on the side seam and there is a rear button-through pocket on the right with a smoke mother-of-pearl button.
I have yet to wear these trousers, and after seeing these photos they will need a little bit of shortening.
The Shirt and Accessories
With the dinner jacket I’m wearing a white cotton voile dress shirt from Frank Foster with a spread collar, double cuffs and a pleated front. I wrote about this shirt in its own article. This is the perfect shirt for an ivory dinner jacket, being breathable cotton voile, and it is almost exactly the same as the Frank Foster shirt that Roger Moore wears with his ivory dinner jacket in A View to a Kill.
The bow tie is midnight blue satin silk from Turnbull & Asser. It is quite hefty, firm and difficult to tie, but once made it looks beautiful. I especially like the large knot that it ties, which nicely fills up the height of my shirt collar. It’s overall proportions are perfect for my head, for the shirt collar and for the lapel width. The key to looking good in a bow tie is most importantly confidence, but then it is having a properly proportioned bow tie. This one frames my face perfectly. For the wedding I wore a black satin silk diamond-point bow tie from Mason & Sons, which also ties a wonderful bow.
Because I am wearing this jacket with midnight blue trousers, I can wear either a black or a midnight blue bow tie. Though the silk stripes on the trousers are midnight blue, it is not absolutely necessary to match the bow tie to the stripe. James Bond commonly wore black bow ties with his midnight blue facings, which avoids the problem some people have with being too “matchy-matchy”, though it’s okay to perfectly match one’s bow tie to one’s facings. With an ivory dinner jacket, the bow tie and midnight blue trouser stripe are so far from each other that an imperfect match would go unnoticed. This midnight blue bow tie is half a shade lighter than the stripe on the trousers, though you could never tell they are different without them being against each other.
I’m wearing white moire braces from Albert Thurston. When wearing braces with an ivory dinner jacket, the braces need to be white and plain so they don’t show through the back of the jacket. The flower in the lapel is a vintage red linen carnation made in Czechoslovakia that I purchased from Blackbird Finery. My shoes are John Lobb Tamar two-eyelet Plain-toe derbies in black calf, which are very similar to the Luffield model that Daniel Craig wears with his dinner suit in Casino Royale. My cufflinks are antique double-sided gold fill. The pocket handkerchief is white linen, and I forgot where it came from.
Photos by Janna Levin Spaiser