AKA: smoking jacket
How to say it:
These days any jacket that is made from velvet qualifies as a Velvet Jacket. Below are the traditional features that came from the velvet smoking jacket and have survived the test of time.
- made from velvet
- shawl collar
…of the style: The origins of the modern velvet jacket dates back to the smoking jacket; a velvet or silk, hip length jacket, with a shawl collar, turn up cuffs and a single button or frog closure at the front. Smoking jackets were a popular addition to a gentlemen’s wardrobe from the 17th century to the 1950’s; they were a comfortable, lounging jacket that absorbed smoke and protected the wearer’s clothing from falling ash.
Men would don their smoking jacket when they retired to smoke and relax after dinner, but as life became less formal and people no longer ‘dressed’ for dinner, the smoking jacket fell out of vogue. Some men in the public eye (like Fred Astaire, Frank Sinatra and Cary Grant) kept the smoking jacket alive, although they seemed to wear them as a black tie option, rather than just for smoking with the boys.
Nowdays velvet jackets tend to be worn as an everyday jacket. It is a great option for events that require a certain dress code but aren’t formal enough for a full tuxedo. The jackets themselves have evolved into a much more tailored garment, taking on the features of other, more modern style jackets, but some designers choose to maintain the traditional shawl collar. The turn up cuffs have been replaced with a buttoned, suit style cuff and the frog fasteners have been replaced by less extravagant buttons.
While still more popular in menswear, the velvet jacket did make the jump into women’s wear, perhaps the most famous being Yves Saint Laurents le smoking jacket that he introduced as part of a suit in 1966. The popularity of the women’s velvet jacket has ebbed and flowed with the trends but you can almost always find a couple in the modern marketplace.
…of the name: It is called a velvet jacket because it is a jacket made from velvet. The term smoking jacket came from the velvet jackets that men used to wear when they were smoking.
- le smoking in French (and other European languages) means tuxedo
- Hugh Hefner still wears a traditional smoking jacket
21st Century Velvet Jackets
Whether inspired by the original smoking jackets, or YSL’s le smoking, as long as it is made of velvet you are good to go.
Top Row – Diana Von Furstenberg, Rag & Bone
Bottom Row – Roberto Cavalli, Ted Baker