Trousers are of utmost importance when wearing morning dress. Forgetting a morning coat or waistcoat is nothing next to the shame of being turned away from your KBE investiture for forgetting your trousers, and making sure your legs are covered is just the first step on the exciting road to choosing the right morning dress trousers for you.
There are basically two principal areas of choice in trousers: Cloth and cut. We’ll cover cloth first as it’s a bit more interesting.
There is a tremendous variety of acceptable trousering cloth for morning dress. The most immediately recognisable is a particular kind of stripe called:
The actual pattern can vary quite significantly when inspected closely, but the effect to most onlookers remains much the same. Some sources seem to refer to any appropriate design of cloth as cashmere trousering, but for the sake of clarity we will reserve it for these kind of stripes. Here are a few examples of other interesting cashmere stripes, demonstrating the range of designs.
Cashmere stripes are the easiest style of morning dress trousers to acquire by far, being the only design offered by the majority of retailers. However , should one desire to step outside the cashmere box and explore the trousering hinterlands beyond, there are several other patterns that one could choose, though these were far easier to acquire in the past than they are today.
Black and white (or pale grey) houndstooth check trousers are the second most common style of trouser worn with morning dress and are available from a few mens clothiers that carry a specialist morning dress range. In our opinion, they are a perticularly elegant alternative and well worth considering if you can find them. Though occasionally considered to be somewhat ‘less formal’ than stripes, there is almost no such thing as a morning dress occasion where they would not be formal enough. Because of their slightly lighter appearance, they are especially recommended for wear with a dark (esp. black) waistcoat.
Herringbone cloth (or cheviot) trousers with a mixture of grey, white or black yarn seem to have been a popular choice in years gone by, though they are not often (or really ever) seen today. Sometimes hire shops will offer herringbone trousers, but these are more often than not in a plain black or oxford grey to match the coat, and ought to be steered clear of. The most useful thing you can do is put these out of your mind entirely unless you are in a position to have a pair made for you.
Grey Flannel or Twill
You may hear men’s clothing afficionados extolling the virtues of grey flannel trousers as the most versatile item of clothing that a man can own. This is demonstrably true in the case of morning dress, where there is some precedent for the wearing of plain grey trousers with a morning coat. It’s certainly not an exciting choice, and it may prove controversial among hardcore morning-dress zealots, but it can work if pulled off with a measure of with sense and humility.
Finally, and indeed probably leastly, are checked trousers. There is in fact a very long tradition of wearing checked trousers with formal wear, as this illustration from 1853 shows:
I think it is safe to say that the tradition has long since died out, but in theory, it would be ‘acceptable’ and indeed would probably look quite nice. However, it would probably be best to stick to a muted prince of wales check or similar.
The cut of one’s trousers is generally a matter of personal taste. Some people prefer flat fronted trousers, with slimmer legs, and some prefer pleated trousers with wider legs. Decisions like this are generally made for you, whether buying vintage or new, so it’s probably best to just take what comes, unless your body is of a shape incompatible with a particular cut. Most sources hold that, as with evening dress, turn ups (or cuffs) are not acceptable for morning dress. If you’re wearing a black lounge jacket, however, you may feel that turnups are a suitable option.
There is one area of trouser cut that we, among others, do have strong feelings about, and that is the height of the waist in relation to the length of the waistcoat. The waistcoat should always overlap the waistband of the trousers such that no shirt, tie, or worst of all flesh, can be seen between. The literal point of a waistcoat is that it covers the waist. This is true regardless of whether one is wearing classically-cut high waisted trousers, or more modern, lower-waisted trousers. High waisted trousers may fulfill the ideal of the golden age of morning dress, but as we’ve stated elsewhere, they simply aren’t to everybody’s taste – just make sure that wherever your waistline, you waistcoat is long enough to cover it.