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Stressing about Oxbridge dinner jacket / suit

(36 Posts)
whichdj Tue 24-Jun-14 18:10:47

I would like to buy my DS a proper dinner suit to wear to his sixth form leavers' ball and to also see him through his next few years at Uni (Oxbridge, assuming he gets his grades in August) but am not sure how much the style matters. We are definitely not Oxbridge types at all and I don't want him to stand out like a sore thumb next year, I want him to feel comfortable in what he's wearing.

We decided we could afford up to £300 as he should get a lot of wear out of it as he's doing a degree with lots of evening dos apparently.
I've tried to read up on it all the dos and don'ts but feel really out of the loop.
How important is the type of lapel? Shawl/ peak/ notched
What about vent- none, single, double?
Number of buttons?
Stripes down trousers, or piping, or nothing?
Shirt- what style is best- pleated, marcella, studs?
It feels like a complete minefield of secret rules designed to mark him out.

I'm already imagining that he'll walk into the room at Cambridge and everyone will turn to look at him with a gasp of horror and know he isn't "one of them" and I will have ruined everything by buying the wrong outfit.

OK, I know it won't be that bad hopefully, but I do feel that he is about to enter a completely alien world to ours and I want to make things as easy as possible if I can, not worse.

Any Oxbridge types / London/ county socialites out there who can help?

boogiewoogie Tue 24-Jun-14 18:32:10

Evening dos as in formal hall? The most important part of that outfit is the robe not what you're wearing underneath. If you want him to fit in with the Old Etonian types then that is another thread which I can't contribute constructively to.

I don't ever recall ever worrying about what to wear at garden parties/ formal hall and even balls. DH bought a second hand dinner jacket as well as a college robe at Oxfam when he was in his first year at Cambridge and it lasted him well after his Phd.

polyhymnia Tue 24-Jun-14 18:35:15

I really wouldn't worry too much. There are all sorts at Cambridge - they are not all Bullingdon Club or Brideshead Revisited types. Don't think he'll be judged by anyone that matters at all except for himself and his own personality - which I bet is lovely.

I do think a DJ etc is a reasonable investment but at this stage was very happy to get DS an M and S one. They do some good styles.

He may develop his own tastes in these things later but by the he should be able to find them.

Btw, I am intrigued by what sort of degree course requires a lot of black tie events - I haven't heard of it but wish I'd done it!

polyhymnia Tue 24-Jun-14 18:37:13

PS yes having read the other post, my DS also bought a second hand one when he wanted something different from the original . Still wearing it at 29 I think.

polyhymnia Tue 24-Jun-14 18:38:12

'Fund' not 'find' !

KittiesInsane Tue 24-Jun-14 18:38:57

I very much doubt anyone will gasp at the 'wrong' DJ. The occasion that my friend Bob turned up to a black tie event in just boxers, a big grin, and, yes, a black tie sticks in the mind, but otherwise? Nah.

mummytime Tue 24-Jun-14 18:51:14

The old money all tend to be wearing "their father's old DJ". Lots of other just have them because they play in Orchestras/sing in choirs. Clothes are not really things that people are especially judged on, and some people will be very eccentric in their tastes (I went to Balls and plenty of Girls had dresses from Laura Ashley etc.).
For Formal dinners in Hall at my historic college, you had to wear a gown but under it you could get away with jeans and a T-shirt.

However the rules between Oxford and Cambridge do differ.

NeverEndingLaundry Tue 24-Jun-14 18:54:38

Don't worry. Most people at Oxbridge are in the 'definitely not Oxbridge types' category and at my college it was the Etonians who were desperately trying to conceal their backgrounds.

As far as a DJ goes, don't buy an expensive one - boys I knew called theirs' 'battle dress'... Student black tie events are quite rough on clothes

happyyonisleepyyoni Tue 24-Jun-14 18:56:00

To be honest you may be better of hiring a DJ if needed for 6th form leavers do and then waiting until he gets there to see what everyone else does. IIRC the only black tie dos as an undergraduate were May Balls. if you are near a Slaters Menswear they have vg cut price DJs or try an outlet place/Boundary Mill, if you must buy upfront.

gamescompendium Tue 24-Jun-14 19:00:10

It's 20 years since I was at Oxford but most of the men wore second hand or cheap and cheerful DJs. The scruffier the better TBH. There is no point spending a lot of money on a suit that will have beer spilt on it, be vomited on, have cigarettes put out on it, and will probably end up in the Cherwell/Cam at some point. And I was at a graduate college where we were quite a bit more civilised than the undergraduates. Just be glad you don't have a daughter, men can wear the same DJ until they get too fat for it, a daughter will want a new (to her) dress for every occasion.

Ithinkwerealonenow Tue 24-Jun-14 19:05:41

It'll be formal halls that he goes to mostly at college - only black tie do is likely to be the end of year ball.

Formal halls at Cambridge aren't black tie for undergrads, they are just gown plus smart clothes underneath, not necessarily even a full suit (although jacket pockets handy for smuggling in bottles of wine). How smart depends on the college - ring the porters lodge, they'll tell you what they usually wear.

If you need to get a black tie suit now, just get an m&s one. They are brilliant, same price as hiring but you get to keep it, and reasonable quality. Even my dh still wears an m&s one! It would give you enough left over to get him a normal dark navy suit as well. Really don't get anything too fancy, he'll feel like an idiot! Machine washable also a good idea, save on the dry cleaning bills after wine and various other spillages.

livingfree Tue 24-Jun-14 19:09:00

My DS is at Oxford, I'm glad I didn't know there were all these different kinds of lapels and things or I'm sure I would have been stressing too.

He needed black tie (also worn for 6th form prom) and a dark suit (subfusc!), so I just sent him out to get them... £150 for the black tie, £90 for the suit. All fine.

Agree that buying black tie is a good idea, He's needed it quite a few times for posh dinners and drinks, not just balls (in fact the ball he's going to this week is white tie, which he has hired).

Ithinkwerealonenow Tue 24-Jun-14 19:09:49

Ha ha (in the nicest way) at 'one of them'. We're all 'one of them', just normal (academic) people. Yes, there are a few ridiculous toffs, but you could dress them in a sackcloth and they'd still find each other. Best thing is to relax and be himself, including wearing clothes that he's comfortable in and won't stress if he ruins. He'll love it!

thesaurusgirl Tue 24-Jun-14 19:31:32

Get one from Oxfam or Ebay for his Sixth Form ball, or rent one if you must.

If/when he gets the grades for Cambridge, he can get one secondhand from the numerous outfitters, or buy new if he feels he needs one. You can't really go wrong with a classic one from Hackett or Lewin, and in the sales they will be well within your budget.

If he does buy a suit, he will get more use from a charcoal grey or deepest navy one than a black one. Black suits are a solecism in most industries.

You sound stressed about "Oxbridge types" and I promise you there is no such thing.

ISingSoprano Tue 24-Jun-14 19:37:17

Don't spend £300. The liklihood is that he will change shape between now and graduation! Ds had a few black tie events to go to last Christmas at his (non-Oxbridge) uni so we spent about £90 in M&S. Hiring is about £50 a time so it was certainly worth spending £90.

VeryDullNameChange Tue 24-Jun-14 19:40:16

There will be a disproportionate overrepresentation of Old Etonians but that's still a tiny minority in absolute terms. Unless you're from an seriously deprived background your DS will find the majority of his fellow students completely normal, and just as baffled by the antics of the Rees-Moggs as he is.

Liara Tue 24-Jun-14 19:47:18

Well, I was at Oxbridge and I have no idea what any of these things you are talking about mean.

I think dh had a dj at the time, probably m&s or suchlike. I never noticed particularly, nor do I think did anyone else.

yy to machine washable everything, though...

WallyBantersJunkBox Tue 24-Jun-14 20:00:45

Get one of those tshirts with a Tux printed on. It says I'm formal, but I'm ready to party.

aquavit Tue 24-Jun-14 20:08:24

I think it would be lovely of you to get him a dinner suit as black tie events are still very frequent in many colleges and a normal suit isn't the same thing.

Washable may well be the most useful quality...other than that, classic has most longevity, so if you really want answers: peaked lapels (shawl is legit but looks more ostentatious), satin stripes up legs, double or no vents (doesn't really matter tho), single breasted unless he really prefers double, shirt can be ordinary white one or specialist dinner shirt, either front fine, but must have a turn down collar, and ideally he should learn to tie a bow tie.

But having said all that (in the spirit of trying to answer your qs) you truly mustn't worry about Oxbridge types, as others have said there is no such (single) thing, and they will all be far too busy getting pissed to care what anyone else is wearing at black tie events.

I do think it is really nice of you to care about this thanks and he is a lucky boy! I promise he won't feel out of place and neither should you.

OneHandFlapping Tue 24-Jun-14 20:42:40

DSs have black washable suits from Next which double up as sub fusc and black tie. The washable part is essential, as even if you're prepared to shell out for dry cleaning, they won't bother to take them.

A pleated front evening shirt is quite nice, but failing that any white shirt will do.

Some May balls are white tie anyway shock so require a tail coat to be hired at £75 a pop.

joanofarchitrave Tue 24-Jun-14 20:55:19

Go second hand. It is pointless to worry about fitting in with the Etonians, they are human beings like anyone else and anyway the DJ is the least of what they might recognise in each other. Most lads his age will look good in a fairly slim fitting suit, just find him something second hand that fits reasonably well, and wait for him to do lots of sport and fill out so much that he needs another one in a year's time.

If you have money spare as a result, he will soon find a use for it grin

having said that this double breasted number is quite nice

livingfree Tue 24-Jun-14 21:20:33

I must admit I boggled a bit when DS had to sit his exams in suit, cap and gown, and have a carnation in his buttonhole

I love all the crazy Oxford shit. I love that they have subfusc and matriculation and michaelmas and hilary and trinity and gargoyles and wine cellars and high tables and May Morning and madrigals and croquet and punting and everything is a squillion years old and a little bit bonkers and in Latin. And we are not an Oxbridge family.

MarianneSolong Tue 24-Jun-14 21:28:23

Not terrifically clear what the DS wants. Some students end up wanting to 'do' formal occasions, a lot don't. My hunch - ex Oxbridge student speaking - is that some people may actually feel more confident/stylish in stuff they've chosen themselves from a vintage clothes place/eBay etc, rather than something brand new, squeaky clean that had been bought at great price by a doting parent. (It's a bit like having your Mum iron creases into your jeans for you because they want you to look smart.)

I do remember having a terrific time at a formal dinner wearing a gold lurex dress I'd got at a charity shop for a couple of quid.

In the meantime you want to give your son a present that will help him with his education, maybe a laptop would be more useful?

17leftfeet Tue 24-Jun-14 21:35:28

Has he stopped growing?

My brother grew 4 inches in the first year at uni and several inches on his chest and shoulders

There's no way I'd spend £300 on a suit for an 18 year old

WipsGlitter Tue 24-Jun-14 21:41:51

I think you need to detach with love and stop researching stuff for your son and let him get on with it.

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