Friday, September 28, 2012

Em & Emmy

(The second annual "Best Dressed Man at the Emmys" award)
Chapter 86
It's time for the Emmys, and that means it's time for the Dress Like A Grown-up! critical eye to be cast once again on the Men of Fashion and Influence in tinseltown!

It's been awhile since we've played this game, so for the benefit of our newer followers, let's go over the groundrules.

There are several large Hollywoody awards presentations throughout the year, and each of them has its own shade of formality and elegance. Using the standards that each one sets for itself, we look at what people are wearing, for good or for ill.

We don't care what the women are wearing. Every other blog in the universe is covering all the gowns and dresses, fawning and drooling all over themselves and playing who-wore-it-best games. Not here! We're concerned solely with the gents' evening wear. 

We don't care who made the dinner suits and tuxedos. Cut, finish, style, and panache trumps a label and a designer's ego everytime. So we'll look purely at the execution: the cut, design, style, and wearability.

We don't care how famous these blokes are or what they won. The Emmy awards are nothing but a mutual back-slapping party for television actors, whose sole contribution to society is to be able to repeat words that other people had written for them. It is at best a show of bread and circuses to distract the somnambulent public from much more important and life-changing issues that loom darkly just over the horizon.

This is not intended to be a comprehensive view, as images of male attendees are relatively few and far between, and are covered not at all for their fashion choices. I watch the whole painful affair, so you don't have to: I take notes and pay attention to folk in the audience as well as on stage; and hopefully, some of them get enough lens-time to accommodate our analysis afterward.

We'll look at men on the Red Carpet, just as they arrive for the show. Ideally, this will show the men at their best and freshest of the evening. I will present some examples for our excoriation or exultation, as needed. If necessary, I will alter the contrast and brightness of the images to give a clearer view of the details of the article in question, and we'll conclude with my choice of the Best Dressed Man at the Emmys.

In centuries past, the host of an event set the tone for the standard of formality. Let's test this by looking at Jimmy Kimmel, the host of the evening.
Jimmy is dressed in a dinner suit with details that push it further into the casual spectrum than average. Notice the immaculate tailoring, the pagoda shoulders and roped sleeveheads, the roll of the silk lapels, the amount of waist suppression, and the length of the skirts. All very classic, and very well done. It is worn unbuttoned, with a waistcoat, exactly as it should be.

Now look at the details, that would be more at home with a business suit than a tuxedo: two buttons on the jacket, flapped pockets, and notch lapels that are a touch too insubstantial for a dinner suit. Notice, too, that his five-button waistcoat has a medium crossover, which is a further casual touch. Dinner suit waistcoats should have a lower crossover, three or four close-set buttons, that show more shirtfront. His shirt has an attached fold collar, which is perfectly acceptable for a dinner suit, and the bow tie is elegant. You may not realize this, but Kimmel is walking a razor's edge. The perfect cut of the coat is the only thing that makes this deviation into a business suit acceptable: any less, and it would be "just a black suit," and not a tuxedo. A lesser cut would demand more strict adherence to true evening wear in the details, to achieve the same level of casualness.

Men exist to make women look better at events like this, so it's important that both sides of the gender equation have a certain amount of equivalency. The womens' full-length evening gowns are enough to verify that this is indeed a semi-formal (or undress or black tie) event. The standard for semi-formal evening wear is of course the dinner suit, also called the tuxedo. And Kimmel's tuxedo sets the evening's tone within the dinner suit's spectrum. It's a shame that we have to work backwards to suss out what men need to be wearing like this nowadays -- it used to be that women gauged what they needed to wear, off of the tone that the men set for the event.

This is what happens when the equation is unequal. This is not an interchange of coequals, rather, it is a mother taking her kid to the first day of kindergarten. Nicole Kidman does herself no favors by taking the dominant role and leading Keith Urban forward by the hand, but neither does Urban do his albino amazonian dominatrix any favors by trailing meekly behind with stooped shoulders and pensive expression. His suit reflects that weakness. The small collar and long tie, the cuffs down to his knuckles, the skinny pants that crumple awkwardly over his high-laced boots, all conspire to push him strongly into the background, which rather than emphasizing Kidman, serves to diminishes her.

Compare this to Alec Baldwin, who makes a different grievous error. Apparently he has just come from Hilaria Thomas' prom. Matching your tie to her dress, Alec? Really? This sort of splash-o-color really never works with formal wear. The ill-fitting suit and a long tie just make you look like an insurance salesman. You still have a lot to learn from Jack Donaghy, apparently.

Ben Falcone comes a step closer, but demonstrates yet another error. If your wife, the Breadwinner McCarthy, is willing to go to great lengths and expense to get dresses especially made to fit her, why the hell can't you even hem your own damn pants? It's bad enough that she's married to an Edward Gorey illustration -- you really should take a little effort to make sure you augment her appearance. She's putting in the effort to look incredible; you need to back her up and harmonize with her efforts. I'll give you props for the link-front closure, the black boutonnière, and the bow tie. Well done. But next time, do us all a favor, wear a jacket that fits both your chest and your arms. Wider peak lapels wouldn't hurt. Leave the link in your pocket, hike your pants up, and wear a cummerbund. Melissa will thank you. As will we all. 

Ricky Gervais copies his Golden Globes ensemble from earlier this year, right down to the tacky you-can't-see-me shades and open-collar black shirt. At least the jacket isn't maroon this time. But formalwear, this isn't. Silk lapels on a hacking jacket do not make a Tuxedo. An Englishman should know better.

Oh, Carson, where to start? Are you attending or working as a parking valet? I don't know how you left the house thinking this looked acceptable, so I'll just start you off simple: dinner suits don't have belts.

David Benioff: ditto. It's a rare opportunity for you to be featured on this side of the lens: stop screwing it up. Unless you're trying to be some sort of ironic hipster. In which case, you're still doing it wrong.

Michael Hall has come from a funeral, apparently. An odd choice for a fun occasion. Just 'cuz it's black doesn't mean it's formal!

Kevin Costner, you are responsible for an outbreak of facepalms all over the world right now. Just wanted to let you know.

In every awards show, we're faced with a Man in Black Brigade: guys who really don't get black tie at all, and the nearest they can figure is to wear a black suit with a black long tie. Befuddling, considering what these people do for a living. 
Matthew Perry, Adam Driver, Alex Karpovsky, I can understand. But what is Tom Hanks doing in this lineup? Can this be the same man who was the best dressed at the Oscars earlier this year?

Every year, every awards show, Steve Buschemi comes close but misses the target, and I ridicule him mercilessly. But he's gotten much better. Perhaps he reads Dress Like A Grownup! for hints...but his jacket fits well this time, without his usual gap at the back of the collar. His trousers are still a tad long, pooling instead of breaking cleanly. He's still afraid of the bow tie, though. C'mon, Stevey, go for it. With a bow, this outfit would look really good on you. You're tall, you're thin, you're made to wear stuff like this. Don't fear the bow.

Not even children are immune from bad decisions. This is particularly tragic, because it's not their fault. They're young, they're stupid, and they have highly-paid consultants to make sure they're appropriately dressed. So what happened to Rico Rodriguez? He played an annoyingly large role in the awards this week, so one would think he would be dressed adequately. Nope.

This begs the question: should boys even be dressed in proper evening wear? My answer is NO. Dinner suits are grown-up clothes, and are not for children. That being said, this three-piece suit is a good one, dark grey and quite nice. The primary problem is the tailoring -- it's just far too long in the sleeves and legs. I don't even have a problem with the wingtip spectator shoes: hey, he's a kid, why not? It's cute. An adult couldn't get away with it, though. The black shirt/white tie combo is simply a terrible idea. A simple white shirt and a dark patterned bow tie, worn with the jacket open, would be just the way to go. Rico would look like a mature young man, instead of a small pudgy clown.

This is another example of too-cute-by-half misdressing. Shoes are nice, trousers a bit long, but the wee tux is too precious for a bairn. And the blue body with black sleeves makes Nolan Gould look a bit like a hobbit footman in an oversized service waistcoat.

This is what happens when otherwise well-intentioned people attempt to do things right, but don't understand the basics. Pocket-hockey-playing Evan Peters is giving it the old college try. Shiny shoes, trouser legs better than most, bow tie, even a pocket square. His waistband is what fails him, for he is ignorant of the fact that his shirt should never show below the button-point of his jacket. His hipster low-rise pants show a shocking eight inches of The White Triangle of Doom below the button. Next time, Evan -- taller pants, a low-button jacket, a cummerbund, a waistcoat, anything

Same error, Reid Scott. Another member of the pocket-hockey team, his difficulty is exacerbated by the use of a belt. Braces yes; belt no. Another simple rule.

Let's leave the pocket-hockey players, and look at some errors in fit next. Eric Stonestreet is a barrel-chested fellow, and his ill-fitting jacket is both too long in the sleeves, and too tight in the chest. This awkward off-balance train wreck is the unhappy result. It would be no trouble at all for a bespoke tailor to make a dinner jacket with broad shoulders, an athletic shape, and strong lapels that would make Eric look every inch a movie star, instead of an out-of-breath maitre d'. Why does he not? Who knows.

Now let's look at the opposite predicament. Max Greenfield is wearing a tuxedo that, in theory, fits. Everything is at least hemmed and cut to length. No, the problem here is the minisuit styling. The button-point is at his sternum, the skirts at his hips, the lapels twee and insubstantial. Max is a tall enough fellow, but this just makes him look taller and more gangly and out of proportion than he already is. The lesson here is that sometimes, fashion sucks and needs to be ignored. A true Tuxedo in classic proportions is what is called for here.

We've mentioned Peter Dinklage before, and this would seem to be the same suit he wore for the Golden Globes this year. As before, the challenge is cutting a dinner suit to fit his unique physiogomy, without drawing attention to it, as well as being an unmistakably adult suit. For a bespoke tailor, this would present no greater problem than fitting any other man.

This suit's casual characteristics would be more suited for a youth, like Nolan Gould. The excess length in the arms and legs make him appear shorter than he is, and the thin lapels don't harmonize with the shape of his chest. The long tie also shortens his shirtfront visually.

'Twere me, I would recommend a slightly taller shirtcollar with a narrower spread, a proper bow tie, and a dinner suit with generous peaked silk lapels, single-button, with a low-crossover waistcoat, all cut and tailored to within a sixteenth of an inch. That would solve all problems of "scale" that we see here.

We'll finish off with the best of the evening. First, the "worst of the best," was Andy Cohen. Andy looks smashing. It's a great dinner suit, everything fits him, is tailored well, and hits the right classic notes. It is right in line with the tone set by Host Kimmel, by playing the details ever so slightly casual: balmoral shoes, buttons that aren't silk-covered, a lapel that is ever so slightly narrowed, a dashing tie with a bit of velvet contrast, and pleated shirtfronts. And then he has to go blow the whole thing with a blue shirt. Why, Andy, why? A blue boutonniere, a blue pocket square, is all the color you ever needed to introduce. I'm so disappointed in you. Shame, for being so very, very close.

Jimmy Fallon has a long track record of doing black-tie very well, and this was no exception. He was in a very traditionally tailored dinner suit, cut well with an impeccable fit. His trousers fall with no break at all. His tie is rakishly slightly askew. So many of the clueless men who were there that night could learn how to do the basics by simply following his example.

Jim Parsons played it the same as last year's Emmys, with a midnight-blue velvet dinner jacket. It's not the same jacket though: this one is cut better, has flapped pockets, and the lapels are much improved over last year in their shape and breadth. He's sticking with a look that works for him, and he's pulling it off well, and improving over time. Good marks for the lad.

Jon Hamm has learned something from his years on Mad Men, not least of which is how to dress well. Note the proper trousers with the satin outside stripe, and the heavier cashmere that gives everything a nice drape and fall. He's wearing a two-button jacket, which we'll credit to the Tone of the Host...although I'd rather have seen this in a one-button style.

Hamm almost takes the evening for best-dressed, except for three minor --very minor-- details. At this level of perfection, it behooves one to be picky. First, the lapels are quite shiny. The silk would have worked better if it were slightly more matte. Second, the bow tie is wrong for the shape of Hamm's head: the shape of the knot and the rounded ends of the leaves are too small and weak for Jon's jaw and high forehead. I would have gone with a stronger tie, with broad square leaves and a larger knot. And the third is that he does not unfasten his jacket the entire evening. 

Which is especially tragic, because when he does, at the after-party, we find that he has been wearing a waistcoat the entire time! A low-cross four button, no less. It's too bad we didn't see this throughout the evening. It would have made him a lock for best-dressed.

 But he must give up that accolade to Damian Lewis, who hit all the notes, was completely correct, and hit it out of the park. Damian's tuxedo fit, was expertly cut and trimmed, and worn correctly. He was the sole attendee who wore a cummerbund, which was a perfect complement to his draped, shawl-collar dinner jacket. His bow tie was the perfect size and shape. Even the white pocket square was sublime. But, the characteristic that puts him over the top, is the easy, casual insouciance that he exudes. He makes his wife Helen McCrory look better just by virtue of his proximity to her. He's calm, confident, and completely at ease in his clothes, not an awkward boy being led around, buttoned up with his hands crammed in his pockets.

Let's look a little closer at the details. His shirt collar is a deep, broad spread, that matches his bow tie, which has an atypical four inch leaf, which suits him. His shawl lapels are shaped just as they should be, with a beautiful belly and curve, and very matte in sheen. The Edwardian turn-back cuffs are a nice retro nod. His shirtfront is narrowly pleated, which is a good match for the casual nature of the shawl collar. The cummerbund hides the waistband of the trousers, and sits at the jacket's button point. Pop quiz: you get 10 brownie points if you can find what he's doing wrong to accommodate the fit of the jacket. (Roll over and highlight the bars below to see the answer.)
Hint: Look at his shirt buttons. 
Answer: The cummerbund is sitting very low on Damian's waist. Notice his shirt has a blank space where his fourth shirt stud would be. The shirt was designed for either a waistcoat crossover or cummerbund to sit where that fourth button is. So, faced with a choice between a proper cummerbund placement that would appear too high, or a low-rise cummerbund that shows the missing shirt button, he opted for the latter.

But whatever you may think of the "error," (Did you figure it out without peeking?) because of the combination of the use of classic style, traditional details, adherence to the Tone of the Host, proper grooming, and old-school attitude, it gives me no end of joy to announce that 
you, Damian Lewis, win the award for the 
Second Annual Dress Like A Grownup! 

Friday, September 21, 2012

Day Cravattitude.

(Part 7 of the series, "The Secret Life of the Tie.")
Chapter 85
This week, we continue our walking-tour of the various forms of proper men's neckwear, and take a look at the unique and versatile day cravat. The first thing to learn is, don't call it an ascot. I know, most people do...but they are WRONG, and that error leads to much confusion. The ascot, as we saw last week, refers to a formal cravat worn in the daytime. Logically, you'd think that would be the thing called a "day cravat." Nope: the "day cravat" is more closely allied with the scarf, worn under the shirt against the neck. It is not a cravat at all, and it certainly was never acceptable to wear at Royal Ascot -- unlike the ascot, which was.

Confused? Don't worry, most people are. Take a deep breath, and empty your mind of your preconceived ideas and anything you think you know on the matter. 

Now, absorb this: an ascot is a formal nœud Gordien or Ruche cravat, that is to be worn only with daytime formal wear. We covered it thoroughly last week. Nothing else is an ascot. 

Next, absorb this: a day cravat is a loosely tied scarf, worn a certain way under an open-collar shirt. Nothing else is a day cravat.

Finally, absorb this:

Jeremy Piven is one of those people who are confused. He thinks this is an "ascot," and since ascots are "formal," he can wear it with a tuxedo to awards ceremonies. Wrong, wrong; oh, how horribly wrong.

A day cravat is sports wear, that has been worn since the 1920s. It was a rakish, comfortable alternative to wearing an everyday tie. It is leisure wear. It is resort, lounge, casual, day wear. It is in no way, shape, manner, or form, anything remotely related to anything close to approaching formal wear.

This is an important point, which is why I'm drilling it into your skull. Because a day cravat is not dressy, the opportunities to wear it in one's everyday life explode into endless possibility. Consider:
1. It is comfortable, more than any other mode of neckwear. It is worn loose around the neck, under an open shirt collar.
2. It is versatile. It can be worn under anything with a neck opening: button-down or dress shirts, sweaters, even tee-shirts and jackets.
3. It is easy to tie, simpler than the easiest long tie knot.
4. It is casual: no jacket or waistcoat is required, it looks just fine with shirtsleeves, and doesn't look as "studied" as a bow tie.
5. It is subtle. Unlike a dangling long tie, a day cravat affords the barest bit of color and interest at the neck.
6. It is elegant. Subtle as it is, it adds a note of insouciance to any casual outfit, without glaring out or resulting in an affected appearance.
7. It is nearly universal. Just about any scarf or square or scrap of fabric can be pressed into service as a day cravat.

It is this last point, on the universality of the day cravat, on which we'll spend some time today. 

Day cravats can be purchased as ready-made items, of course. As a rule, they look like this, rather like wide-bladed ties that are pleated in the center. (Compare this to last week's ascot, and you will see that the two items look similar, but are made completely differently.) These can be purchased for the day-cravat-inclined, and are still sold in surprisingly large numbers by any number of retailers worldwide. Day cravat wearers are on the rise, although most of them will insist that they are wearing ascots. Like the ascot, ready-to-wear day cravats are not inexpensive, nor are they required for the novice or student cravatsman. Let's look at some day cravat options:

First, we'll make a day cravat out of a simple scarf. This one is silk, tasselled on the ends, and is 12 inches wide by 40 inches long: just fine for our purposes. (I picked it up at the local secondhand shop for a couple of dollars.) For this series, I'll use a neutral-color buttondown shirt over my tailor's form, to give a sense of the finished effect.

The first thing to do is lay out the scarf and fold it lengthwise into a narrow strap. For this one, folding in thirds, and then in thirds again, did the trick. Lay the strap across the back of your neck, the right end over the left. 

Then, (using long tie notation) tie the knot with a Li Ro Li Co -- essentially, a simple Onassis finish to a four-in-hand. Spread out the end of the scarf...

...and fold it down over the knot. Straighten the cascade...

...and button your shirt to the first button. (Only cads wear day cravats with two buttons unfastened!) Adjust to show as much or as little pattern as you wish. The neckband can sit proud of the collar, with a prominant puff to the front, or it can sit low, with just a bit showing out the front.

Several previous installments have extolled the virtues of wearing an unlined jacket on the beach or at a resort, worn with a scarf in lieu of a shirt, and Bermuda shorts. Here is an example of that mode, and it is just about the most comfortable thing you can imagine.

Now let's look at another option, this one a kerchief, 26 inches square. (Same secondhand shop, one dollar.) Diagonally, it measures about 40 inches: good for our purposes! To form the neckband, lay out the square in a diamond shape. Fold in thirds by bringing the top and bottom points in. Fold in thirds twice more. Lay the strap across -- this time keep the left hand short and the right hand long. Cross the right over the left, and form the knot as before...

...but this time, "unfurl" the point before making the final Co move.

Bring the point over and down...

...button up, and adjust. 

Here's the effect with a v-neck sweater instead of a shirt. (This is as much of a day cravat as you'd want to show: it works a bit better with a crewneck.) This looks quite sporty with a jacket. I have also mentioned the combination of a jacket, tee-shirt, and day cravat in a previous installment.

As you can see, a wide variety of scarves and fabrics can be used as day cravats. Most of these can be found in the ladies' section of Your Favourite Store. No fear, scarves are unisex for our purposes here. As long as it's at least six inches wide and somewhat longer than a yard long, it can be made to work. Remember that at most only a few square inches of the pattern will be seen under a shirt -- so a scarf that looks positively garish when seen all at once, may just work well as a day cravat. Keep your eyes and your mind open, scout for patterns, and you just may find pleasant surprises in the oddest places.

There is another option, that you may have in your closet right now. Yes, a common long tie can be made into a passable day cravat...but it requires a little minor surgery.

The back seam needs to be released about four inches up the back of the wide blade, to give a suitable width to the blade. Needless to say, don't do this with your favorite tie! Remove the label and tack-stitch, and then unzip the back.

After surgery. Leave the tip in place. You'll probably uncover the woolen interlining, but that's okay -- it won't show.

Pull the right end short, and cross over the left end.

Make the knot as before, spread the end out flat...

...and fold over the front.

The narrow end of the tie will hang down low. A convenient way to deal with this is to pull the narrow end up and pin it to the wide end. This will also give some weight to the blade and keep it from pulling free.

The effect after buttoning. Many secondhand ties that would be otherwise unwearable can be given second lives by wearing them as day cravats. 

So, we've seen that nearly anything can be tied under a shirt as a day cravat. Where, then, shall you wear it? 

In short, just about anywhere that you would go in shirtsleeves. Day cravats are sporty, outdoorsey things, just the ticket for those days when we slide into Autumn. Walks, picnics, croquet, bocce, lawn-bowling, or those sorts of traditional Anglophilic pursuits, of course. But, really, when's the last time you'd played bocce? I thought so. Think of it this way: you wear a long tie most days. On some days you wear a bow tie. That leaves a lot of days when you walk around with your shirt open. Nothing wrong with that -- you can't be buttoned up every day of your life. But now you have a little something new to put under your shirt on those days you do go tie-less. It's quick, easy, effortlessly elegant, and you just might get attached to them. You owe it to yourself to give it a try!

Click here to go to Part Eight of The Secret Life of the Tie.

Click here to go to the next essay chronologically.

Click here to go back to the previous essay chronologically, Part Six of The Secret Life of the Tie.

Click here to go back to Part One of The Secret Life of the Tie.

Click here to go back to the beginning.

Friday, September 14, 2012

You Bet Your Ascot

(Part 6 of the series, "The Secret Life of the Tie.")
Chapter 84
Well, here it is -- you knew it had to happen sooner or later. Yes, this week is your introduction to the ascot, the little-known, seldom-used daytime-formal neckwear option. Long ties are universal, and bow ties are becoming common enough that you may see one everyday, and you should certainly wear one at least occasionally. But a man can live his entire life and count with the fingers on one hand the times he's seen an ascot worn, and those usually only in the sort of movies that his wife watches -- and most men will play out their span of years never, ever having worn one. 

So woebetide the humble ascot, the orphaned neckcloth, the last remaining relic relegated to a bygone era of formalwear. It uniquely functions with one foot in the present and one foot in the past, but that doesn't mean it is a mode of clothing without purpose in today's world. 

For who wears morning dress anymore? Precious few even know what "morning dress" is, or when to wear it. Many "fashion bloggers" think that daytime formalwear is dead and buried, a relic of the nineteenth century. Others think it is a rigid and proscribed thing, that must be followed exactly lest one look an uneducated and bumbling fool, or (worse,) a poseur who doesn't know what he's doing. Both, are of course wrong, in Your Humble Author's perfect and inerrant opinion. 

Let's take a quick look and review a little, to make sure we're all singin' from the same sheet of music, so to speak. We've discussed evening wear a few times before, and critiqued countless celebrities, but rarely mentioned morning formals. Simply, formalwear is formalwear: the styles to be worn are different for daylight and nighttime, but they are worn to the same sorts of events. They aren't sombre or bleak, but party clothes, meant to be worn to festive events, balls, and situations where you should be enjoying yourself. The usual demarcation line is "before six" and "after six," but practically, it's the presence of sunlight when the event ends that counts. If the sun hasn't set when you're done -- morning wear. If the stars are out -- evening wear. Simple, in theory. 

The morning dress suit, is directly equivalent to the evening dress suit. They serve the same function, and represent the same relative level of formality. The cutaway coat sweeps away from the waist button and is quite long: longer than a tailcoat. Rather than black, the morning coat is dark grey. The trousers are light grey, in stripes or patterns. The waistcoat has a high crossover. And the colors --oh, the colors! Quite unlike the military precision and stark monochromatism of the evening suit, there is a tremendous amount of latitude in cut and color and expression in the morning suit. Unlike evening wear, much more particular attention must be paid to the season, the weather, and the venue, to use colors and patterns effectively.

The stroller suit is likewise the direct equivalent to the dinner suit. It is considered "undress," and in fact the stroller was not too long ago everyday business wear. In its particulars it is identical to the morning suit, with the exception of the jacket, which is not cut long. It usually has peak lapels and a single button, and is Oxford grey.

There are some critics that will descry the use of an ascot with a stroller, claiming that as an undress suit, it needs a fold collar and simple long tie. My response to that is simple: really? You wear a long tie every day of your life, you have one opportunity to wear a stroller, and you're gonna stick with another long tie? I say paugh to the pundits and nay-sayers: if you have an opportunity to wear morning dress, for crying out loud, for the sake of all that is beautiful and good in the world, wear it with an ascot.

That being said, let's look at the ascot itself. There is nothing more piteous than a pre-tied ascot, especially now in the twenty-first century when you may only have one opportunity to wear one properly! Study this diagram until you fully understand it. It's important. We will be referring to these seven steps throughout the remainder of this post.

You'll notice that an ascot isn't made like a long tie. For one thing, both ends are wide. You can purchase ascots today; most of them look like this, with wide paddles, a thin neckstrap, and a definite "right side" and "wrong side."

This, of course, makes the ascot a single-purpose item. Factor in that they are not inexpensive pieces of neckwear, and you have a couple choices ahead of you. The first is to make one yourself, or have one made for you. This illustration should tell you everything you need to know.

The other option is to do it the old-fashioned way, with a single piece of fabric. I picked this up at my favorite secondhand store. It's a woman's scarf, (I won't tell anyone if you won't,) silk, 4" by 70", and it's absolutely perfect for this purpose. It's just what would have been used historically. Like the rest of my tie demonstrations, I'm tying right on my tailor's form, without shirt or collar or waistcoat to get in the way of a clear view. Remember these are all worn with a waistcoat -- no exceptions -- and the collar can be either stand or fold. In keeping with the day/night symmetry, I would go with a stand collar for morning dress, and fold collar for the stroller, but that's just me. There are no hard and fast rules, really, and don't believe anyone that says there are. There are only traditions, and those traditions are not nearly so ingrained in morning dress as they are in evening dress, 

The first step is to fold the scarf over twice, to make a strap of about an inch to go around your neck. In the above diagram, this is Step 1, just before the LiCo maneuver in Step 2.

This is Step 4. At this point, take the two ends and unfold them to their full width.

This is Step 6...

...and this is Step 7, with the ends crossed and ready to pin to the shirt. A stick-pin is traditional, put through the two blades just below the knot, that hold the knot in place. 

To answer your next question, (you were going to ask a question, right?) this is the same knot, made with a scarf of single-thickness. These types of scarves are readily available, so it'd be great if they would work, but they are just too diaphanous and lightweight to hold the knot. You'd really have to go with a thick silk of double-thickness to tie an ascot, short of buying a purpose-built model.

If you've done your homework and studied the cravat constructions of a few weeks ago, the ascot should seem oddly familiar to you. Yes, this same knot, with a front-to-back-to-front wrap, is none other than a Cravate à l' Anglaise -- an unstarched Nœud Gordien cravat!

You can replicate all the classic cravats with a scarf like this, like this cravat à la Paresseuse. They have limited practical use because of the high neckline, BUT, with a high standing wing collar, you could have a bit of fun with a traditional the right venue, when such a knot would be seen as a charming eccentricity, and not a gauche error in judgement. They tend to look more pleasant to modern eyes without the starch, but again that's just my opinion.

While we're talking about traditional knots, keeping the scarf folded along its length, and tying it in a simple square knot, results in the Steinkirk of yore, that we've looked at before.

The Ruche tie, which is simply an ascot tied like a four-in-hand, is sometimes used where the ascot would seem too showy, or where the personality of the wearer is not strong enough to carry off a true ascot. Some prefer the Ruche with a stroller, but as mentioned before, I don't hold with that. This example is tied with a Cross Kelvin knot, for a bit more interest.

The Ruche has roots in history, as this photo shows: it's not just a short-cut for those that don't know how to tie a proper ascot. Still, the universality of long ties makes the Ruche a bit twee as a formal option. I'd sooner wear it with an everyday suit!

The ascot can be approximated with a long tie. Although not my first option when others are available, this demonstrates that it can be done with acceptable results in a pinch. 

Why you'd find yourself at a daytime formal event with a suit but not a tie, I have no idea -- but in the interest of the acquisition of knowledge, I'll show you how it's done. 

We start inside-out and backwards, tying the thin end around the thick end. This would be Step 1. 

Step 2 would be a LoRiCo movement, like the beginning of an Oriental knot.

This is Step 4...

...and Step 6...

...and Step 7, ready to pin. As you can see, the thin end is completely covered by the thick end. With a stand collar, the neckstrap would have to be twisted so its right-side out, but it gives a very nice shape overall: the thick tie lining gives the knot some geometric interest.

The other method "normalizes" the tie ends, with the thick end tying around the thin end, also with a LoRiCo. It also starts inside-out. This is Step 1...

...Step 4...

...Step 5...

...and Step 7. The knot is large and square, and gives a much different ascot effect. This version looks nice with a fold collar.

So, to answer the rhetorical question posed earlier, who wears morning dress anymore? The answer: you can, if you go to the right venue. Full morning dress is still worn occasionally for daytime weddings in Europe and the UK, although strollers would most likely be the suit of choice for most American venues. Day outings, wine tastings, garden parties, luncheons, picnics, all hold promise for formal fun. If you want to exercise your right to formality, in most cases you'll have to be the instigator. Find a group of like-minded chums (or chums with like-minded wives, if it comes down to it,) and organize your own. You may have to blend in a few evening events to exercise those dinner suits as well. A Superbowl party with ascots and striped trousers? Why not? Why not, I say?