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Thursday, August 30, 2012

Smoking Jackets - A Guide To Choosing Your Own

Smoking Jackets By Le Noeud Papillon Of Sydney

For some time now we have been interested in smoking jackets. Our first one started in late 2008 / finished early 2009 using tailors in Sydney and then we cut some for private customers – maybe a total of three. At around $2500.00 AUD a jacket they are not exactly cheap which is why we now offer from Le Noeud Papillon's website. Our first formal smoking jackets were made using Holland And Sherry velvet with Mogador satin silk lapels and blood red lining. These were being worn by men as an alternative for black tie. However, there is another type of smoking jacket which has come back onto the scene and it is known more commonly as the ‘at home’ smoking jacket. The origins are oriental and it is commonly understood that the English used them after dinner when smoking cigars to avoid putting cigar ash on their dinner jackets. These days smoking has died out as a tradition after dinner and is often frowned upon in most cities other than Paris....
The ‘at home’ smoking jacket is obviously therefore a niche market product that has very few genuine manufacturers left in the world. We have been working with one of the few remaining workrooms (outside of tailoring houses such as Charvet and those of Savile Row who make bespoke versions for their esteemed clientele) for about 3 years. These workrooms provide a less expensive way to own a smoking jacket. For starters, they have rolls of quilted fabric which they produce rather than the traditional hand-stitched quilting which costs a fortune to make in terms of man hours. They keep a variety of ropes, tassels, frogging and piping on hand to make sure the client can, to an extent, design their own smoking jacket. All in all, it is a wonderful process which I thought I might elaborate on.

Quilted Silk Versus Velvet

The two most popular materials for smoking jackets are velvet and quilted silk. In my opinion, the velvet is the most popular smoking jacket material and it is best achieved by having a contrast quilted shawl lapel. The velvet is an easy fabric to wear around the house, wears rather easily and is less ‘slippery’ than a full silk jacket, providing a very relaxed homely feel. However, it is absolutely stunning to own a fully quilted smoking jacket with both body and lapel in quilted silk. The greatest example I have seen is from Colonel Klink in Hogan’s Heroes which was the inspiration for my own quilted smoking jacket.

Quilting Colours

Most tailoring houses which make ‘bespoke’ smoking jackets will hand-quilt the silk. In order to bring production costs down, some manufacturers such as the ones we work with, produce rolls of quilted silk in order to bring some economies of scale to production. In essence this is a much smarter way to make a smoking jacket. It ensures uniformity and consistency where hand-stitching fails and it makes jackets more economical to manufacture. The process of quilting is done by sewing on the bias a layer of wadding fabric to a layer of satin silk. It is a balance between the right wadding and the right satin silk. Because each manufacturer will have minimums to produce, say 100 metres per roll of quilting, the number of colours available to the consumer is often limited when not hand made. 

Belt sash versus frogging

Both have their merits. Frogging is a traditional clasp which, from my initial research, came from the orient. Frogging clasps can be somewhat cumbersome and are reserved from the more formal smoking jackets, ones which can be worn to dinner but are not necessarily for lounging around the home in. Smoking jackets with belt sashes made of quilted fabric and tassel ends or using velvet belts with tassels, are the most ‘homely’ smoking jackets because they are more like robes than jackets. My suggestion is that if you are looking for something to wear around the house, smoke in, wear slippers with, watch films in, your first purchase would be a belt sash smoking jacket or ‘robe’.

Piping or Corded Rope

Both have their place in smoking jackets. My preference is for corded rope, it adds texture and antiquity to the jacket. Piping has been used so often in mainstream fashion in the last two years that I am starting to tire of it. Piping has a place and its application is better for velvet jackets than those of satin silk. Either way, piping gives you contrast which enhances the visual appeal of a smoking jacket.

Printed Silks Versus Solid Satins

When it comes to smoking jackets, solid colours are best. However, if you are working on a silk robe as a smoking jacket, consider using a print instead.

How Long Should The Jacket Be? 

Approximately the same length that you finish your shirts + 2 cm. That is, measure where you end your shirts and add 2 centimetres. This is an approximate measurement and will change subject to how the individual wears shirts and the shape of their torso.

At Home Or Out On The Town

Some of my customers wear smoking jackets out. This is a new trend, a breaking down of rules. However, the most fun is to keep them at home for visitors. When you answer the door in a smoking jacket there is always something to initially talk about and coupled with a pair of velvet slippers, you can relax with friends whilst retaining an elegance of a bygone era. I advocate wearing a smoking jacket out only if it is made of velvet and preferably when you have frogging. If you are wearing it for any other reason it should be tongue in cheek and never with too much attitude. It is always amusing turning up to pay for your petrol on a winter’s night having ducked out in your smoking jacket. Just be prepared to laugh with those that laugh at you. 

I hope this helps. If you have any other questions, feel free to contact us at Le Noeud Papillon Of Sydney - and don't forget, we ship worldwide.


  1. Brilliant that you are producing these, and in Sydney Australia too (I hope). When I lived in Japan some years ago, the Japanese men wore, in cold weather, an indoor jacket called a "Hanten". It serves a similar function to the smoking jacket but with a Japanese bent. Check it out.

  2. Just what i've been looking high and far for, a place that makes Quilted Dinner jackets. I've collected a few from Gentleman's Emporium and Adolfo but none have sold quilted. More places should go back to the traditional design of the quilted, it's elegant and stands out from other designs.