The word lapel was first used in the mid 17th century, with ‘lap’ coming from the old English word Lappe, which means flap of a garment. The lapel, usually formed by folding over the front edges of the suit jacket or coat and sewing them to the collar, an extra piece of fabric around the back of the neck, which makes the underlying lining visible. The late 1860s was were the lapel became more relatable to what we know today. Coats were no longer butted up, but worn with flaps open and facing outside, becoming a way to personalise and decorate the garment.
The lapels of today have become a unique feature where you can choose from different styles, enhancing the style and character of the garment. Contrasting fabrics and trims can also be used for adding a bold style, standing out from the crowd.
The 3 staple lapel styles:
The notched lapel (sometimes called “step lapel” or “step collar”), is the most traditional and commonly used in suits. The rather large gorge or notch defines the setting of the lapel which assume an ideally right-angled shape that points sideways towards the outside of the chest.
The peaked collar (sometimes called “pointed” or “peak”), is typical of the double-breasted jacket, or even more formal clothes such as the morning dress or tailcoat. Unlike the classic lapel, the pointed lapel is characterized by an almost non-existent gorge or fishmouth and by a shape whose tips are pointed towards the top, emphasizing the width of the shoulders and chest.
The shawl rever is the model with a more harmonious and simple look and is used almost exclusively for tuxedos and some types of robes.
In short, what to choose between notch, peaked or shawl suit lapel? If you are looking for an everyday suit, to wear to the office, but also in your leisure time, customise it with the classic notch lapel.
If instead, you need an indisputably elegant garment for the very formal occasions (such as an interview, a business meeting, a ceremony), opt for the peaked version.
If you are buying a tuxedo? Go with a simple shawl lapel, made with the same fabric used for the cummerbund. It is best suited for black tie events, red carpet galas and weddings.
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