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​What To Wear To Black Tie

17 days ago

What To Wear To Black Tie

When and where is it correct to wear black tie today? We’ve put together a complete guide so you can be aware of every opportunity for black tie attire.

Black tie and white tie are the two categories of men’s formal evening wear in Western cultures. The purpose of these outfits is to leave behind the daily office attire and dress uniquely for special occasions (weddings, social events, proms…). In this article we answer the most common questions about how to dress correctly for a black tie event:

  1. 1. What is black tie?
  2. 2. What does black tie mean?
  3. 3. What to wear to a black tie event for men?
  4. 4. What are the rules for a black tie dress code?


1. What is black tie dress code?

Black tie is considered one of the strictest dress codes, reserved for formal events such as weddings, parties, proms, dinners, balls, award ceremonies, and charitable affairs.

As expected with any form of dress code, one must abide by certain rules by which to wear a black tie suit. It is one of the best excuses for a man to present himself in a purely sophisticated, and unashamedly stylish attire. In terms of formality, black tie is less formal than white tie, and more elegant than business dress.


2. What does black tie mean?

Black tie refers to the formal dress code that includes either a tuxedo or a dinner jacket. This look usually includes a tuxedo jacket with satin lapels and matching dress trousers with satin side seam, a crisp white pleated or ribbed dress shirt, bow tie, black tie waistcoat, and cummerbund.

Dinner jackets became popular in the 19th century amongst the British middle and upper classes who sought a less formal alternative to the dress coat or evening tailcoat when partying at home. This fashion trend crossed the Atlantic, and it would become popular in American high-class society thanks to the The Tuxedo Club. This club will give a new name to the dinner jacket in the United States that would last to our days: tuxedo.

Hollywood and the film industry glammed up tuxedos and dinner jackets for special events and, in general, the uniform that celebrities wore. Among its most famous advocates in the 20th century were Charlie Chaplin, Fred Astaire, or Frank Sinatra.

After the Second World War black tie dress code became less rigid and today there’s room for creativity. The fashion industry opened the door to a wide range of designs in tuxedos and dinner jackets in the market. However some traditionalists recommend sticking to the black jacket and white shirt mix, and avoid too many colours in the final outfit. Generally, female dresses are the centre stage in terms of colour and splendour and men shouldn’t overshadow with their black tie attire.


3. What to wear to a black tie event for men?

If you want to know how to dress up for a black tie event, you need to remember a black tie invite requires:

  • A tuxedo or dinner jacket with matching tuxedo trousers
  • Patent leather shoes
  • A black bow tie
  • Cummerbund
  • Black tie optionals: waistcoat or silk dress scarf


The tuxedo, which is the main requirement of the dress code, should conform to certain standards. A black tuxedo has remained a staple of the evening dress code for over a hundred years, so you should be safe with this colour choice, although black tie has relaxed somewhat in recent decades.

Could you wear a blue suit to black tie event? Even if most of us may wear black tie once in a blue moon and we don’t need to suit up with regularity, you may still need to follow the fanciest dress code. The chances to wear them are seriously special for us (weddings, proms, opera, local awards…), and a tuxedo should be a piece in any man’s wardrobe to dress fancy. A black tie event requires always a tuxedo.


Photo: Dobell.


Tuxedo jacket style

The original and most formal tuxedo jacket is the single-breasted model. Unlike business suits, it usually has one button in the front. This characteristic allows the front of the jacket to be cut in a deep “V” shape, that frames a man’s body beautifully.

The double-breasted jacket became popular from the 1930s and is now accepted as an alternative form of the tuxedo jacket. This type of jacket traditionally has four buttons and fastens with either the bottom row (known as 4-on-1 style) or both rows (4-on-2) depending on the cut.


Tuxedo Jacket Colour

As a general norm in black tie attire for men, tuxedo jacket is black for its natural association with night and the impressive contrast that creates the jacket on top of a white dress shirt. While black is the norm, midnight blue is also a classic in a black tie event. The difference between black and midnight blue is easy to see in daylight, and midnight blue retains its tone under artificial light whereas black and grey can sometimes appear different under certain lights. A white dinner jacket is usually worn in warm weather and by the sea.


Photo: black is the classic colour for the tuxedo jacket, but nowadays there are an infinite variety of styles and colours – Dobell.


The definition of black tie has relaxed over the years, with an wide variety of styles and colours available. Happily, such garments and other original tuxedo jackets are offered ready-to-wear here at Dobell, and there’s no need to obtain original jackets on a made-to-measure basis. You can make a statement wearing a tuxedo with different colours and fabrics.


Type of lapels in a tuxedo jacket

  • Shawl lapel: Shawl lapels maintain one continued, smooth curved on the lapel from shoulders down to the mid chest. Shawl collars are nowadays really only ever present on tuxedo jackets.
  • Notch lapel: A notch lapel is identified by the point at which the lapel meets the jacket collar, at around 75 degrees from its original direction
  • Peak lapel: The peaked lapel is derived from the tailcoat and morning suits, and for that reason, it is considered the more formal of the two styles. A peak lapel jacket includes lapel edges that point up towards your shoulders.


    Photo: shawl lapel (left), notch lapel (centre), and peak lapel (right) – Dobell.


    Tuxedo Trousers

    The tuxedo trousers should fit but not feel tight on your legs and they differ from regular suit trousers in two details:

    • no turn-ups at the ankle or belt loops
    • there’s a braid of material, or stripe, matching that of the lapels and bow tie, continuing down the outside of your outside leg.


    Black tie Dress Shirt

    Dress shirts must be white when worn with a tuxedo at black tie events. Some tuxedo shirt designs vary in the way that the buttons are concealed (they can be replaced with studs), if they are regular or wing collars, or plain or pleated panels on the front. A rule when wearing a tuxedo is that you should wear a double cuff shirt, and then feel free to accessorise your outfit using stylish cufflinks.

    Photo: different black tie shirt versions (pleated or ribbed dress shirt with wing collar and regular collar, and regular dress shirt) – Dobell.


    Black tie Outfit Accessories

    You should wear a black bow tie and matching cummerbund. There’s nothing worse if you’re ending up seeing the band seam or shirt when wearing a tuxedo – keep this black tie tuxedo styling advice when buying a tuxedo. These days you can push the boundaries of what accessories you choose to pair with your tuxedo for black tie events.

    As single-breasted jacket models are often worn unbuttoned, they require to cover the waistband exposed of the trousers by a cummerbund or a black tie waistcoat. Unbuttoning your tuxedo jackets is recommended when seated so as not to compromise the intended shape and structure of the tuxedo. Leaving the jacket unbuttoned became trendy in imitation of the tailcoat, that sometimes doesn’t even have a button.


    Photo: waistcoats for tuxedos are slightly different from regular waistcoats – Dobell.


    You may add some style and creativity to your tuxedo with a pocket square, Try a number of different fold patterns to ensure you stand out on the big night. The firm favourite is the “Presidential” Fold, due to its simplicity, but we prefer a “Wave”. It's easy to achieve, and will be an eye catching conversation starter.


    4. What are the rules for a black tie dress code?

    There are strict rules by which you must abide when donning black tie. Sure, we all get a little excited at the idea of wearing a tuxedo, but the behaviours and choices surrounding it are more than simply a guide; they are a requirement.


    No watch and smartphone

    You cannot wear a watch when you are wearing a tuxedo. Since the beginnings of black tie events, organisers and other guests would be offended that their time was less precious to you, than that of another engagement. your social diary should be clear of other appointments that same evening as a black tie is a well planned event (prior invitation).

    Wearing a watch may suggest you are simply watching the time and chatting with people outside the party, which would not be well received by your host. Avoid this pitfall by keeping your smart phone in your breast pocket, and check it discreetly, under the table.


    Self-tied bow tie vs done bow tie

    There are even expectations regarding the bow tie you've chosen to wear. It is suggested within upper class circles that a self-tied bow tie is the done thing. Just don't leave it to the taxi ride to your event to learn, as it does take a little practice. At Dobell are happy to provide you with a pre-tied bow tie, and will keep our fingers crossed for you that no one notices.

    Whilst we're still discussing neckwear, don't ever wear a black tie to a black tie event. Make sure to keep the traditional evening dress code with a bow tie.


    Proper time to take the tuxedo jacket off

    When are you allowed to take your jacket off in a black tie event? The proper time to take your jacket off can be when the dancing starts or the night ends. It’s considered downgrading the elegance of a tuxedo if you expose your creased shirt, suspenders, and/or waistband.


    See this Guide to tuxedo for complete details.