In this article we focus on morning coat buttons, including the front -, cuff -, and back buttons.
Front Buttons of a Morning Coat
Single Front Button for A Classic Morning Coat
Throughout costume history, the number of buttons on the front of a man’s coat has varied considerably. The general rule nowadays stipulates that the more closing buttons a garment has, the less formal it is. A single button morning coat is normally more formal than a two button morning coat and so on. This explains why you will only see one or two buttons in the front of a morning coat with peaked lapels – a peaked lapel with 3 or 4 buttons would simply be a clash of styles.
Since the morning coat is a body coat that fits rather tightly, you will rarely see buttons below the waistline on a vintage morning coat for the purpose of creating the desired amount of waist suppression. On a single button morning coat, the closing button will usually be located at the waistline, while additional buttons are placed above, not below. Consequently, the lapel gets smaller with each additional button added.
The lapel width has always changed with fashion. In the Edwardian era, the lapels were often rather slim, while the preferred look in the 1930’s included wide shoulders, wide belly-cut lapels and a low collar in combination with drape and waist suppression.
Since the mid 1930’s, the single button, peaked lapel jacket with a high buttoning point has been the most popular morning coat.
Naturally, most modern day morning coats feature the peaked lapel silhouette, although it is not pleasing on everyone’s figure. Generally, since the 30’s, the buttoning point has lowered as the rise of the corresponding trousers has decreased.
Damask Woven Buttons
Silk Damask Button on Morning Coat
In the early 1900’s to the 1920’s, morning coat buttons were usually covered in intricately patterned damask silk. With a damask weave, the pattern is created by weaving the warp and weft in a special way rather than printing the pattern on the silk. This trend of fancy button decoration changed in the early 1930s, and morning coats often featured plain dark buttons of plastic or horn, which sometimes had decorative edges. Today, you can occasionally find plain silk covered buttons, but the majority of morning coats feature a plain, dark, four hole or two hole button.
Sometimes, the closing button is worked as a double button with a long shank. It is a nice twist on the standard button arrangement, as it keeps the front closed but leaves a gap so one can see more of the waistcoat, shirtfront and tie.
2 Cuff Buttons on Morning Coat with Piping
With regard to cuff buttons, I have seen everything from one to four buttons. Traditionally, there was a rule stipulating that 4 cuff buttons were reserved for formal garments, while 2 and3 buttons were the right choice for semi –formal and city garments, and finally, 1 button was the way to go for country clothing.
Morning Coat – A Body Coat with 2 Buttons in the Back
The rules notwithstanding, many a customer and tailor have deviated from this guideline, and I think you should wear what you like in that regard.
Traditionally, frock coats and morning coats always had two decorative buttons in the back. Historically, this detail dates back to the riding coats. Back then, it was possible to button the front quarters of a coat to the back of the coat by using these buttons. Although they do not serve any purpose today they are still a staple in every morning coat.
Single Breasted vs. Double Breasted
Unlike most 20thcentury frock coats, morning coats are generally single breasted. Interestingly, in 1898 the Duke of Marlborough was pictured wearing a mid grey, double breasted morning coat.
Jacques Laurant Agasse Self Portrait in Double Breasted Riding Coat 1790
Usually, double breasted coats that appear to be a morning coat on first sight turn out to be a tailcoat or a riding coat. In this case, however, we can clearly see the cutaway front that is so characteristic of the morning coat.
Sometimes you can find coats with monogrammed or crested metal buttons made out of pewter, brass or even gold, however most of these are livery coats or special hunting tailcoats and so it is advisable not to opt for metal buttons with formal morning wear.
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