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the clothes line

try me: miyake suit
Invitations to black-tie dinners fill me with trepidation. It is not just that they make me feel middle-aged before my time. It's the way that men dress at these events which really gets to me. By putting yourself in a uniform you are dragooned into joining a club you desperately want to avoid anything to do with. Some men - usually over the age of 50 and rather well-off - know how to wear a dinner jacket with a sense of style. But all too often men disguise their discomfort at dressing up by wearing ridiculous cummerbunds, garish waistcoats and shirts that are white at the front and richly coloured at the back.

So whenever a formal invitation arrives, I feel torn. I do not want to wear an ordinary suit, even a smart one, because that would be rude, make me stand out even more and hint of a petulant rebelliousness which would simply put out the hosts and invite patronising remarks from them. But I dread the thought of donning one of those dreadful costumes.

Issey Miyake has come to the rescue with a suit designed as a modern substitute for formal wear. It's simple and elegant. The material is a synthetic light mix, which hangs like silk. Its mandarin collar is impeccably formal but it's definitely not the standard bow-tie number. You can retain a sense of individuality in a crowd of men wearing dinner jackets without standing out.

The big drawback with this suit is the cost: all in it's about pounds 1,500. But that doesn't mean the idea is impossible to copy using cheaper materials from Hugo Boss, Yohji Yamamoto or even the cheaper but more unstructured Issey Miyake cotton range.

An even cheaper option is to stick with a traditional DJ suit but buy one of Issey Miyake's range of formal shirts which come without collars, or with flying collars, trimmed in black and decorated by his own version of the bow tie.


Jacket pounds 910, trousers pounds 385 and shirt pounds 275, all by Issey Miyake for Men at Liberty, Regent Street, London W1.