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What defines a three-piece suit?

The three-piece suit owes its inception to King Charles II who wore a garment that Samuel Pepys referred to as a "vest." This garment has become known as a waistcoat, due to the fact that it ends at the waist. The next development was thanks to Beau Brummel who insisted that his suits had matching coats, waistcoats and breeches. As Beau Brummel was a huge fashion influence, his idea of the three-piece suit continued through to the present day. This article will help to define it.

Jacket

The coat or suit jacket is the first element of the three-piece suit. The suit coat can be made of wool, flannel, cotton and linen. Formal suits are made up of wool that is very thin and almost smooth. Heavier wool, woven to make men's tweed jacket, is considered less formal. However, a tweed shooting jacket that possesses a fine weave is in between casual and formal. Cotton is a summer-weight fabric for the jacket. One classic summer-weight fabric made of cotton is seersucker. This fabric can be stripped or checked. Linen is also a summer-weight fabric. One downfall of this fabric is that it wrinkles easily. The jacket can be double-breasted or single-breasted. For formal wear, the coat will need to be a tail coat or cutaway. For slightly less formal occasions, the proper coat is the morning coat which has a curved transition from the front of the coat to the tails. For less formal morning suits, the jacket can be cut like a suit jacket.

Waistcoat

The waistcoat for the suit should match the jacket. For formal wear, the waistcoat can be of different shades, such as light grey, buff, black colours (for morning or very formal occasions). For the morning three-piece suit, the waistcoat will match the coat. For the less formal morning waistcoat, the waistcoat should be of the same colour, though some leeway is acceptable.

Trousers

The three-piece suit ends with the trousers, which should be of the same colour as the vest and the waistcoat. For formal wear with tails, the trousers can be grey with black stripes, grey herringbone and houndstooth. For formal wear with a morning coat, the trousers will be of the same colour as the waistcoat and coat. For the less formal morning trousers, the pattern of the fabric could be less formal.

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