Black Tie events dressing

Black Tie events dressing : A comprehensive Guide

Considering the number of black tie related questions MFA has gotten recently, I decided to put together a guide that would help answer most questions about black tie. The best resource for black tie information on the internet is Black Tie Guide , which contains everything you need (and don’t need) to know about Western formal wear.

Now black tie is a clothing style that has been around for 200 years, and as a result, is steeped in tradition. Black tie is not something you mess with. It is something that has guidelines, rules, and restrictions. It is the ultimate expression of classical, minimalist elegance and to attempt to ruin this with ruffled shirts and powder blue coloring is akin to defacing the Sistine Chapel. I’m not saying you can’t change a little thing here and there, but do it right. Like a panther lightly prowling on the ground, not like an elephant stampeding 

.Black tie consists of a few basic pieces: the jacket, the waist covering, the shirt, the pants, the neckwear, and the shoes. We will begin with the jacket.

The dinner jacket is the most important part of your tuxedo. It is the largest and most integral piece of your formal evening wear. If you mess this up, the whole outfit, no matter how perfect everything else is, will fail. The formal, most traditional dinner jacket is all of the following: black, single-breasted, one button, grosgain lapels 

, ventless, with slit pockets. Here is Alec Baldwin 

with a wonderful example of a traditional dinner jacket. There are many acceptable variations on this traditional idea.

  • Shawl collar as opposed to peak lapel
  • Double-breasted (either 4 on 1 

    , 4 on 2 

    , or 6 on 2 

    ) as opposed to single-breasted

  • Satin lapels 

    as opposed to grosgrain

  • Midnight blue 

    as opposed to black. Midnight blue is actually termed as “black than black” because it keeps it color under artificial light, whereas black can look grey

  • White dinner jacket 

    can be worn only in tropical or subtropical climates, such as when one is on vacation. Usually has a shawl collar lapel to further show it’s decreased formality

No notched lapels on tuxedos, EVER. No. Just, no. Notch lapels are for lounge and business suits. Not for formal wear.

There are two options for waist coverings: the waistcoat and the cummerbund. The waistcoat is the more traditional and formal option, but a proper one is much harder to find. The waistcoat 

[12] should only just peak out from the end of your jacket’s V (when it is buttoned) and should fully cover the waist of your pants. It is made of either the same material of the jacket or silk. In the case of silk, the lapels of the waistcoat should also be silk and in the case of wool, should match your jacket’s lapels. The cummerbund should be made of silk in a pattern (grosgrain or satin) to match your lapels. When wearing the cummerbund, the pleats open UPWARDS. Traditionally, the waistcoat is worn with a peak lapel jacket and the cummerbund with a shawl collar. There are a few acceptable variations on these:

  • The waistcoat can be made a different color. Stick to darker, richer colors like burgundy and plum. A white waistcoat will actually make your tuxedo more formal
  • The cummerbund can also be made a different color, and you should also stick with deeper colors here as well

The shirt is another important part of your black tie ensemble. Traditionally, the wing tip collar 

was the collar of choice for formal wear, but nowadays, the turndown collar 

is more wide-spread and popular. Either is a good choice, but the turndown is usually a better choice as it fits more faces better than the wingtip. A wingtip collar shirt is starched to the point of cardboard like texture, making the soft turndown collar shirt a much better choice for comfort as well. A turndown collar shirt should be made of a soft, breathable fabric such as poplin or broadcloth. They should always have french cuffs 

and can be either spread 

or semi-spread . The bib of the shirt 

is that piece of doubled fabric in the middle of the shirt. The bib can be decorated with either pleats (as in the previous picture) or pique 

. As a side note, the spread collar is considered more formal than the semi-spread and is a better partner to a shawl collar jacket.The pants of your black tie attire are just as important as the other parts of your formal wear and once more, the details can make or break you. They should be made of the same color and material as your jacket (except in the case of the white jacket, of course) and as well, the side seam of the pants should be covered in grosgrain or satin facing to match your lapels. If you don’t get pants that are custom-made for you, your pants will need to be cut for suspenders. There are no cuffs or back pockets on formal pants and your side pockets should be cut to be almost unnoticeable. The pants can be pleated or not pleated, that’s your own choice.

Since I’m going to assume most you do not want to own or wear opera pumps 

, I’ll stick with lace-ups. Your black tie lace-ups should be made of patent leather or highly polished calfskin. They should be closed-lacedand should be as simple as possible. No wingtips here. Like these 

. Really simple and beautifully elegant.The finishing touch on your formal wear is the bow tie. It should be black silk and match your lapels (satin lapels means satin bow tie, grosgrain mean textured bow tie). There are a couple of different shapes, such as butterfly and batwing, but those are another personal choice and depend on availability and personal taste. The bow tie should be self-tied. You are not in junior high school anymore. Wearing a clip-on bow tie is one of the greatest faux-pas that can be made. If you can tie your regular ties, you can tie a goddamn bow tie. Don’t let me see you touch that children’s shit. Capisce?

There are some additional things that can worn with your black tie clothes, such as a pocket square (usually white but if color, should follow the same deep color guideline), boutonnieres (carnations are best), formal scarves 

cufflinks, shirt studs, and a dress watch, which should be as simple as possible with a black leather strap and a steel, white gold, or platinum bezel. However, these accessories are optional.As well, I suggest you buy a tuxedo. Even if you only plan to use a couple of times, owning a tuxedo is always better than renting. You have more control over its look, material, and fit. Owning a black tie ensemble is very important for the well-dressed and well-prepared man. You may think you will be unable to afford one but even average quality tuxedos can be had for less than $500. Retailers such as Jos A. Bank can sell good, classically styled tuxedos for cheap. There are also higher-end retailers like Brooks Brothers, Ralph Lauren, Hickey Freeman, and Paul Stuart, who can offer a much wider-range of selections as well as higher quality. Made-to-measure is another good option, as sites like Indochino (ask your tailor to get rid of those flap pockets) and My Tailor can make you an MTM black tie set for under $600. If you really want quality, then I suggest you simply go all out and go bespoke. Whether one of London’s Savile Row tailors or one of the many bespoke tailors now popping up in New York City, a bespoke tuxedo will allow you control over every single detail of your black tie ensemble, right down to the very last detail. Such an item will be an heirloom that you could very well pass down to your children just as you might a watch.

Black Tie holds a very important place in male style, as the very epitome of class and elegance. The proper black tie attire will place you light years ahead of any other man and at the forefront of any party. Whether you are dressing for your own wedding or for a state dinner, follow these guidelines and you will always be the best dressed.


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