Smart Dressing

Award worthy: Chester Barrie dresses the Oliviers

Savile Row's Chester Barrie lays on an eveningwear masterclass at the Olivier Awards 2017

The Oliviers is always a marvellous spectacle. Not only because it’s one of few genuinely glamorous occasions left in the social calendar, but because it offers a source of genuine style inspiration for those of us who, like myself, have never been able to resist dressing up.

Sunday’s award ceremony was no exception, with many stars of stage and screen dolled up to the nines in preparation for their moment of red-carpet glory. For men, this meant making the right impression in black tie – which is easier said than done, given the dress code’s murky history. Some say that the ‘dinner suit’ was created for King Edward VII by Savile Row tailor Henry Poole, when His Royal Highness commissioned an informal midnight blue evening coat to be worn to dinners at Sandringham. Some say it was originally popularised by one James Brown Potter, a patron of the Tuxedo Club in New York – hence its other name.

Call it what you will, getting black tie right requires the negotiation of more than a few sartorial rules. Did you know for example that a cummerbund should be worn only with a single-breasted dinner suit – not double-breasted – because traditionally a double-breasted dinner suit should never be unbuttoned of an evening? Or, did you know that a cummerbund should be worn with its pleats facing upwards, to take the stubs of your theatre tickets?

Fortunately, tailors like Chester Barrie are there to help. The house dressed the majority of male nominees on the night and it was exciting to see such a variety of looks on the red carpet. Alongside a number of classical black two-piece dinner suits worn by the likes of the evening’s host, Jason Manford, Chester Barrie’s clients experimented with dark velvets and jacquards. Leading theatre choreographer Matthew Bourne turned-up in an exquisite silver and black shawl-collar silk smoking jacket, while actor Charlie Stemp arrived wearing a fun navy velvet jacket, finished with royal blue mogador-faced lapels.

Tim Minchin, whose adaptation of Groundhog Day won Best New Musical, added a single-breasted evening waistcoat to his suit, which was cut with peaked lapels and jetted pockets for an art-deco look. The result was so sharp, it was even possible to forgive him for wearing a conventional tie.

This subtle art-deco quality is all-important. Chester Barrie’s look has always been contemporary, but with subtle references to the golden age of Hollywood; shoulder lines are dead-straight, ending in shapely roped shoulders, jackets are cut with a long line through the waist and chests are ‘expressed’ generously (to use the correct tailoring term) for a masculine aesthetic. The result is both polished and elegant.

To create eveningwear that makes a statement and yet is easy to wear is no mean feat, especially when it’s destined for red-carpet scrutiny. Evidently, Chester Barrie’s latest collection of black tie has more than passed muster, making it a sure-fire investment for the summer season.