black and white tie event rules decoded

Tom Hiddleston and Zawe Ashton at the BAFTA British Academy Film Awards, 2022 (AFP via Getty Images)

Tom Hiddleston and Zawe Ashton at the BAFTA British Academy Film Awards, 2022 (AFP via Getty Images)

Dressing up for a black or white tie party can be a lot of fun, but it can also be a wardrobe minefield.

How long or length should you go with your dress? What style of jacket should you wear? What exactly is the difference between black tie and white tie?

As you will probably have gathered from watching period dramas, evening dress has been popular for centuries, but black and white tie dress codes came into force during the Edwardian era, when the practice of wearing a waistcoat and black bow tie with a tuxedo became the default look after dark.

Sienna Miller and Oli Green attend the National Gallery's Inaugural Summer Party, 2022 (Dave Benett/Getty Images for The)

Sienna Miller and Oli Green attend the National Gallery’s Inaugural Summer Party, 2022 (Dave Benett/Getty Images for The)

But what are the rules of black and white tie dress code today? To save you from turning heads for the wrong reason, we’ve put together a comprehensive guide for men and women – with some shopping ideas too.

What is a black tie dress code for men?

According to Debrett’s etiquette guide, a true black tie outfit for men will include a dress jacket in barathea (a super soft silk, wool and cotton weave) or ultra-fine herringbone.

The jacket should be single-breasted or double-breasted with silk-tipped lapels (or a shawl collar) and covered buttons.

White tuxedos have also traditionally been worn for black tie in hot climates, but not generally in Britain.

The closing gala of the BFI London Film Festival for

The BFI London Film Festival closing gala for “Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery” (Dave Benett)

The traditional black tie also includes a white dress shirt in marcella, a slightly stiffer cotton fabric, with a bib detail and double cuffs. The shirt must have a turn-down collar (not a wing collar) and must be worn with cufflinks.

Black-tie pants should be sleek with a natural taper and (if you’re a true black-tie purist) a single row of braids on the outside of each leg.

As for the black bow tie itself? Debrett’s advises men to choose one that is proportionate to the size of the head, to avoid a comedic clown look. A man’s black tie look is usually complemented by a white handkerchief in the left breast pocket and polished black shoes.

Optional pieces of black tie attire include cummerbunds and waistcoats – although the two should never be worn together.

What is a black tie dress code for women?

Women tend to have more flexibility with a black tie dress code, although Debrett advises women to avoid ‘tight red carpet dresses’ or ‘those with a dramatic slit as they can be uncomfortable or inappropriate during events. a formal event that involves both a reception and a sit-down dinner.

A dress can be long or mid-length, but not shorter, and should reveal only a small neckline. Pants are another acceptable option for women, but Debrett recommends a palazzo cut (flared from the waist), rather than something too tight.

Prince William, Duke of Cambridge and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge arrive for royal film performance

Prince William, Duke of Cambridge and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge arrive for the performance of the royal film ‘Top Gun: Maverick’ in Leicester Square on May 19, 2022 (Getty Images)

Costume jewelry or simple bracelets and necklaces are most appropriate, instead of anything too bling (which is apparently reserved for white tie).

Tiaras are also apparently a no-no for black tie (although that’s probably not a problem for most of us). Although the dress code is “black tie”, dresses need not be black unless explicitly stated on the invitation.

What is a white tie dress code for men?

White tie is known as “full dress”, “full dress”, “evening dress” or, informally, “tails”.

Before World War II, this was the usual evening wear for gentlemen. Today, a white tie dress code is typically reserved for presidential dinners, state dinners with royalty, and events like Le Bal Des Debutantes in Paris.

Blake Lively and Ryan Reynolds at the Met Gala, 2022 (AFP via Getty Images)

Blake Lively and Ryan Reynolds at the Met Gala, 2022 (AFP via Getty Images)

As one of the rarest dress codes you’ll see on an invite, even celebrities have a hard time pulling off the look. Anna Wintour has revealed that many of her male guests at the 2014 Met Gala barely made it because they had to wear white tie that year. Speaking on Late Night with Seth Meyers, she said she “had no idea the degree of panic [the dress code] would make men in New York and around the world think about their outfits.

Benedict Cumberbatch that year “made it” according to Wintour, and it helped that Cumberbatch was accompanied by designer Tom Ford. Ford, who dressed many male stars that night, reportedly told Wintour in an email that he had ‘hundreds of men coming in and asking him to explain what a white tie meant’ that year. -the.

Unlike black tie, there is very little room for style maneuvering, as a white tie dress code comes with strict guidelines. Men should ensure that their attire includes a black wool single-breasted (barathea) or ultra-fine herringbone tailcoat with silk peak lapels, which is worn unbuttoned.

Tom Ford at the Met Gala, 2022 (Getty Images)

Tom Ford at the Met Gala, 2022 (Getty Images)

The coat is shorter in the front than a jacket and is paired with black pants with a natural cut and two lines of braids on the outside of the leg.

The white tie shirt is in marcella with a removable starched wing collar and double cufflinks. The shirt will usually be closed with studs rather than buttons.

The shirt is then worn under a low-cut white marcella evening waistcoat (double or single-breasted). To complete your white tie look, wear a thin, white hand-tied bow tie.

Put your (Fred Astaire) best foot forward in black patent lace-ups, worn with black laces (but if you want something really traditional, it’s black ribbon) and black socks. And if you really want to stray into Downton Abbey territory, you can also add a black top hat, black overcoat and white silk scarf.

What is a white tie dress code for women?

White tie rules for women are less strict and comparable to black tie, but the main requirement is a ball gown or long dress. According to Debrett, a “good” prom dress design will feature a fitted bodice with a full skirt that reaches the floor. This means that the power suit will generally have to be absent from these occasions.

Lady Gaga attends the 2019 Oscars (Getty Images)

Lady Gaga attends the 2019 Oscars (Getty Images)

Traditionally, women also wore long gloves at white balls, but over time they became less mandatory. Gloves should be worn when arriving at an event or in a reception line (shaking hands with host) and dancing, but should be removed during meals and at the table – no one likes a spill of red wine .

Shop the look

black tie for men

Mr P

    (Mr Porter)

(Mr Porter)

Mr P, Shawl Collar Tuxedo Jacket, £375, mrporter.com

Mr P

    (Mr Porter)

(Mr Porter)

Mr P, Slim Fit Tuxedo Trousers, £195, mrporter.com

Ralph Lauren

    (Ralph Lauren)

(Ralph Lauren)

Ralph Lauren, Poplin Tuxedo Shirt, £380, ralphlauren.co.uk

Moss Bros.

    (Moss Bros)

(Moss Bros)

Moss Bros, Black silk bow tie, moss.co.uk

Jaeger

    (Jäger)

(Jäger)

Jaeger, Pure Silk Cummerbund, £45, marksandspencer.com

Gucci

    (Gucci)

(Gucci)

Gucci, Fluid Wool Evening Jacket, £2200, gucci.com

black tie for women

The Vampire’s Wife

    (The Vampire's Wife)

(The Vampire’s Wife)

The Vampire’s Wife, The Falconetti Dress, £1,495, thevampireswife.com

Zara

    (Zara)

(Zara)

Zara, Narciso Rodriguez Cami Dress, £179, zara.com

Coast

    (Coast)

(Coast)

Coast, Hourglass Silhouette Premium Blazer, £143.20, coastfashion.com and Premium Flare Trousers, £87.20, coastfashion.com

Kurt Geiger

    (Kurt Geiger)

(Kurt Geiger)

Kurt Geiger, Alexa Heels, £99, kurtgeiger.com

Piferi

    (Piferi)

(Piferi)

Piferi, Ursula 100 pumps, piferi.com

white tie for men

Scalpers

    (Scalpers)

(Scalpers)

Scalpers, white tie jacket, £749, scalperscompany.com

Russell & Bromley

    (Russell & Bromley)

(Russell & Bromley)

Russell & Bromley, Sinatra Patent Derby Lace Up Shoes, £225, russellandbromley.com

London Aspinal

    (London Aspinal)

(London Aspinal)

Aspinal of London, Engraved Sterling Silver Double Dome Cufflinks, £150, aspinaloflondon.com

Moss Bros.

    (Moss brothers)

(Moss brothers)

Moss Bros, White Marcella self-tie bow tie, £20, moss.co.uk

And we

    (And we)

(And we)

Eton, White Pique Tie Shirt, £170, etonshirts.com

white tie for women

Jenny Yoo

    (Jenny Yoo)

(Jenny Yoo)

Jenny Yoo, Logan V-Neck Velvet Dress, £330, selfridges.com

Needle and Thread

    (needle and thread)

(needle and thread)

Needle & Thread, Lisette off-the-shoulder ruffled dress, £500, needleandthread.com

jimmy choo

    (Jimmy Choo)

(Jimmy Choo)

Jimmy Choo, Sacora 100 faux pearl tulle sandals, £650, matchesfashion.com

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