Style Basics

What is a marcella dress shirt? (and when to wear one)

By on December 14th, 2017

The Marcella dress shirt is one of three dress shirts commonly worn in men’s black tie attire. Also known as piqué, it’s a naturally stiff cotton cloth, that becomes even stiffer with starch. The weaving style is very unique, characterized by raised parallel cords or geometric patterns in the fabric.

The term comes in part from the French city of Marseilles, where the production of quilts with raised patterns was prevalent in the early 18th century. Then Lancashire, a county in the northwest of England, began to recreate the look at scale as a double-faced, quilted cotton. The shirt then became known as a marcella shirt due to this design.

It wasn’t long until the fabric was used almost exclusively for formal dress shirts, particularly for the front section, as the thickness of marcella cloth meant that it could hold more starch, and therefore be stiffer, a desired attribute in elegant evening wear.

In popular culture, you’ll see James Bond sporting the look quite regularly.

Does it make sense for you to own one? If you attend black tie events often, then the marcella shirt probably deserves a spot in your closet. Especially if the events require a traditional dress code.

So, what are the other two appropriate dress shirts for black tie attire? We’ll cover them in detail in subsequent blog posts, but they are the pleated and the starched dress shirt.

Further reading on black tie attire:

Where do you draw the line between a tuxedo and a suit?