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Black tie evening dress invitationFollowing on from ALEKSANDAR CVETKOVIC article on Tailoring for the party season we thought it might be wise to give you a handy guide to the dress codes for men for the party season. These days the rules are not so formal but we will give the classic definitions and the the modern Perfect Gentleman suggestions.

So if you get that invite over Christmas for the special evening event you will know what to do and what to wear. As a general rule all evening dress should be worn at night, occasionally you may be asked to attend a function where it it to be worn during the day, but that is rare.

White Tie

The Dress code will state – White Tie or Full Evening Dress

The most formal of the all the evening dress codes, sometimes called ‘Full Dress’ or as it is referred to in the song ‘Top Hat and Tails’.  It is the most strict of the dress codes and the one that can be least embellished for stylish purposes.

Though it used to be the regular for evenings out, that has faded and now it is only generally required at State Dinners, formal Balls and Banquets.

It consists of:-

  • Black (or Midnight Blue) Tail Coat (sometimes know as a dress coat)
  • Matching coloured trousers with one or two stripes down the seam either braided or silk or indeed satin, the trousers should be cut high and for suspenders.
  • White shirt that is Stiff Bosom and detachable white wing pique collar, the shirt should generally have single cuffs.
  • White Pique Waistcoat that is low cut.
  • White pique Bow Tie of either butterfly or batwing shaped. We don’t need to tell you it has to be self tied!
  • Socks should be black
  • Black (generally patent leather) court pumps or oxfords.

The Perfect Gentleman suggests that to dress it up a white silk pocket square and matching silk scarf with tassels looks lovely and some white gloves finish it off nicely. There is not much call for the Top Hat and cane these days but depending on the event it might be a delicate touch.

Black Tie

The most common of all the formal dress codes and the one that most men will have to wear at some point in his lifetime and generally more than once, so investing in a good Dinner Jacket and Trousers is better than having to purchase a cheap one or high a poor fitting one.

These days we see black tie everywhere from Red Carpets to Weddings and from Balls to dinners. A Black tie event is a special night no matter what the occasion, so do make the effort to be snazzy!

It consists of:-

  • Black (or midnight blue) Single breasted Jacket with one button and generally a Satin Lapel and no vent.
  • Trousers of matching colour with a seam stripe that matches the lapels.
  • White Shirt with turndown collar, and french (double) cuffs
  • Black Bow Tie (Self Tied, Naturally)
  • Black Socks
  • Black Patent leather Oxfords

Black Tie – Optional & Variations

There are several other options for the Black Tie brigade and some that have come about in recent times. These do not include options such as allowed Military Dress which can be worn in place of Black Tie and indeed the Scottish Variations.

Warm Weather Option –

This is for those occasions where you are going to a function in the Summer or in a warm, sunny climate. Then the Black Jacket, of the Black tie ensemble, can be swapped out for a White Jacket.

Black Tie with Decorations –

This just means that alongside formal black tie, you may wear your military honours or miniatures of your orders and official insignias.

Black Tie Optional

The word Optional is rife with confusion – lets clear it up, it is about the host thinking that all their guests might not have a Dinner Jacket and not wanting them to feel in appropriate.

So if you have a dinner jacket wear it, if you dont then a Black suit and white shirt with a dark conservative tie and black shoes are what is acceptable.

Black Tie (Festive or Creative) –

This is the fun one, wear you can express your personality and creativity. This is for coloured jackets, velvet suits and all other elements that make you stand out. Colour is good, fabric texture, coloured shirts can make a world of difference.

We would however caution, that it is still a Black Tie and therefore a formal affair and one should not go too far from some version of a Dinner Jacket/Tuxedo.

Black Tie is all about style, glamour and sophistication, so when getting dressed up keep humming as I do ‘Putting on the Ritz’!

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