The pleated shirt may not be the most prominent aspect of a formal wear ensemble, but it's essential to a tuxedo's overall appearance. After all, you can't put on the black tie, the shirt studs, the cufflinks or the jacket without it. And pleats on the front of a tuxedo shirt help distinguish it from the dress shirts commonly worn with regular suits. The vertical pleats on tuxedo shirts don't have to be identical in order for them to complete a polished look.
The cut of your tuxedo determines how much the pleated front of a formal shirt is noticed. Wear shirts with pleats that rise to the throat while wearing tuxedos with high collar lines for maximum exposure. Some formal shirts are tailored so that the pleats point, form a rectangle or curve to the man's mid-section to ease and flatter the wear of one- or two-button jackets with lower and more open lapels.
Custom tuxedo shirts can be made to a man's most demanding and individualistic specifications. And pleated tuxedo shirts are appropriate for different collar styles and can be selected to suit the style and size of the tie to be worn for the formal occasion. The pleats on tuxedo shirts readily available at formal wear retailers can range from a 1/8 inch to 1 inch width. Thinner pleats (the thinnest are known as "pique") look best with narrow lapels, and tuxedo jackets with wider lapels help equal the proportion of shirts with broader pleats.
For nearly a century -- since tuxedo shirts with pleated fronts first became popular in the 1930s -- sartorial trends have bent toward thinner pleats. The price of a durable and flattering formal shirt rises according to the intricacy and amount of the pleat stitching. Currently, some pleated formal shirts are so finely tailored, particularly on the button placket, that men no longer feel obligated to wear button studs for decorative purposes.
Formal Shirt Details
Even if they don't show prominently in a man's formal wear ensemble, the pleats on a tuxedo shirt should appear freshly pressed flat to avoid snagging with the jacket, cummerbund and tie. The rule of thumb with any tuxedo that includes a cummerbund is to wear the decorative waist wrap to help hold the shirt in place with its pleats opening upward.