Had an invite to a ‘white tie’ or ‘black tie’ event and no idea where to start? Look no further!
A short history
Dating back to the late 18th Century, White Tie was inspired by formal country attire. Men of high society began leaving their breeks and lavishly decorated evening coats for a more subtle look of white and black. White tie became popularised by fashionable dandies (trend-setters) throughout the regency era which brought about a minimalist style within formalwear standards. By 1840, the white tie dress code became what was known as standard evening wear for the upper classes.
Black tie seemed to somewhat replaced white tie as go-to event wear towards the beginning of the 20th century. The dinner jacket became popularised throughout the Victorian era and was, and still is, consider slightly less formal than white tie. During the Edwardian era the etiquette of the black tie dress code was established and remains much the same today.
‘Cravate Noir’ in French, Black Tie is most commonly worn to formal events such as balls, galas and parties and has become increasingly popular as a wedding theme over the past years. Black tie is also commonly seen on the red carpet at award ceremonies. Also referred to as ‘dinner attire’ or ‘dinner suit’.
‘Cravate Blanche’ in French, White tie has diminished in popularity over recent decades however still remains a traditional dress code for many events. Most likely to be worn at royal engagements, formal weddings, balls and galas. White tie may also be known or referred to as ‘full evening dress’, ‘full dress’, ‘evening dress’ or simply, ‘tails’.
- Single or Double breasted. Usually a Mohair or Wool/Mohair composition of fabric.
- Peak or shawl lapel- contrasting the jacket, these should be in grosgrain silk or velvet.
- Covered material buttons. With a dinner jacket it is optional to have one or two outer buttons however must always have an internal fastening button.
- Velvet ‘smoking’ jackets can also be worn for black tie events- in this scenario you could have a contrast lapel of grosgrain silk.
Many opt for the traditional black (hence the name, black tie!), however midnight blue and a dark forest green are not uncommon. White dinner suits have been popular over recent decades however take the right person to pull them off.
A waistcoat as part of a black tie is optional. Some opt for a contrasting colour. If opted for the waistcoat should have a deep ‘v’ or horseshoe front.
- Trousers for a black tie dress code should be flat fronted (without pleats).
- Of a slim fit, tapering off just below the knee.
- Trousers should have a the traditional single braid or sash of grosgrain silk or velvet- matching the jacket lapels.
- A dress shirt is required for black tie dress code.
- This should be white, and feature a turn down or cut away collar- not a wing tip.
- A dress shirt may also geature a Marcella* bib that can be fastened using shirt studs or buttons (as long as it has a concealed button gusset).
- Should also feature double (french) cuffs.
Shoes to accompany a black tie outfit should be a high-shine or patent leather shoe. Slippers and brogues are not considered appropraite footwear.
The most important accessory when it comes to black tie has to be the bowtie. to keep with traditions, many suggest it should be hand tied- however, this is harder than it looks!
Optional accessories include; silk scarf and cummerbund.
- Single or double breasted, the jacket is never intended to close so therefore can be buttonless in some cases.
- Must feature a peak lapel.
- The front of the jacket should finish just below the waist.
- Tails at the back, which finish just above the back of the calf.
- Traditionally only black would be used for a White Tie jacket however Midnight Blue is increasingly popular.
- White is the colour to be used for the waistcoat and shirt.
- A white tie waistcoat should be made of Marcella, much like the shirt worn (white should also be white!).
- Should feature either a deep horseshoe front or a deep V.
- Single or double breasted is optional however the waistcoat should stay closed at all times.
- The trousers for white tie dress should be of a higher waist than a standard suit trouser.
- Made traditionally, they should feature an inward pleat and a wide leg.
- A more contemporary fit may feature a flat front and taper just below the knee.
- A dress shirt is a must, just like black tie.
- Appropriate for the collar of a white tie shirt to feature a wingtip collar.
- High-shine or patent leather shoe is ideal for white tie.
- Slippers can be worn for white tie-with a black sock.
- The classic bowtie- which can be either white or black with this dress code.
- Optional accessories include; silk scarf, white gloves & top hat.
*Marcella, also referred to as Pique, is a weaving style used for cotton. Marcella cotton holds more starch than plain and therefore keeps stiff, perfect for a formal shirt.