Buying A Vintage Tuxedo

Dress for Excellence

October 03, 1991|By Lois Fenton

Q You mentioned in a recent column that black-tie styles remain pretty much unchanged and if you are not lucky enough to inherit your father's tuxedo it is OK to buy an outfit in a secondhand store. Are there some problems to watch out for?

A: Used tuxedos are available in most vintage clothing stores and in some of the better "gently used" shops. On occasion, they can be of fine quality. But they will surely need some updating by a tailor.

If you are going to bother, be certain to get a high-quality, undamaged tuxedo in your size. From there, lapels or buttons can be changed at a reasonable price. If you start with other complications -- fading, tattered pocket edges or oversized shoulders -- you might as well hand the tailor a sheet of blank cloth (and a blank check) and have him start fresh.

You may find a great jacket, and the price is right. But equally as important as the jacket are the trousers. Frequently in garments from several years ago the pants are "pegged," that is, very narrow. Check to be certain that the pants are 18 1/2 or 19 inches at the knee. You don't want anything narrower than 18 inches.

Some advantages to be found in the older models are grace notes that would today be available only on very high-priced new clothing from the loftier stores. For example, a great deal of hand sewing instead of fused fabrics, fine horn or bone buttons, all-silk satin lapels and trim, and perhaps even all-silk linings. While such garments are likely to be 100 percent wool rather than a blend of wool and poly, their chief disadvantage is that they also may be rather a heavy weight and too warm. The delightfully comfortable tropical-weight wools of today don't show up often in secondhand shops.

Tuxedos and hats are about the only clothing items that are worn rarely enough to make it to a used-clothing shop and still be wearable -- they are also the only ones where the style remains relatively constant.

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