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Men's Apparel: What to Wear to a White-Tie Event

White tie, also known as “full evening dress,” is the most formal dress code and was the standard dress code before WWII for formal evening dress. Unlike black-tie and other dress code events, you are not allowed to deviate from the set dressing guidelines of the white tie.

A white-tie event is widely considered the epitome of elegance. It has a long list of strict dress codes to abide by and demands the perfect assemble and attention to detail. It is the ultimate look of sophistication.

White-Tie Events

  • State dinners

  • Theatre or Opera

  • Royal ceremonies

  • Formal weddings, balls or other formal gatherings

What to Wear

Photo source:

  • Tailcoat ~ This is the one item that sets white tie apart from black-tie apparel. A tailcoat is a stylized version of a tuxedo and features an extended tail on the back of the jacket. Your tailcoat should be black and match the cloth in your trousers.

  • Formal Dress Trousers ~ Your slacks should be formal and should be in black, perfectly matching the color and material of your tailcoat. They should also be perfectly tailored to you.

  • Formal Shirt ~ During a white-tie event, you should wear a formal white shirt, not a sport or dress shirt. These shirts are typically worn with a tuxedo. Your shirt should be stark white. Creams and off whites can make you look “out of place”. A white pique is recommended.

  • Cufflinks & Studs ~ Studs are worn down the front of the shirt’s placket and match the cuff link to be worn in the turn-up French cuffs. Common selections are silver with a white mother-of-pearl stone, black onyx, or solid sterling.

  • Waistcoats ~ A waistcoat is an essential part of a white-tie affair. You should wear a waistcoat that is stark white and matches the shade of white and cloth of your shirt.

  • Bow Tie ~ There is a reason it is called a “white-tie” event. A white bow tie is an essential component of your white tie assemble. When selecting a white bow tie, please remember to keep it simple and classic. Avoid purchasing a pattern or another color. It is highly recommended to wear a bow tie in a solid white color that matches your shirt and waistcoat.

  • Shoes and Socks ~ The shoes say it all! The most formal dress code DEMANDS the most formal degree of footwear. Patent black leather lace-up dress shoes are recommended for a white-tie event. Avoid wearing embellishments, perforations, or any other bold designs. To pair with your formal patent leather shoes, it is recommended to wear over-the-calf formal socks in black to match your slacks. Choose socks made from silk or a silk blend such as wool or cotton.

  • Other optional accessories for a white-tie event include a top hat, white gloves, a white lapel blossom or boutonniere, and a formal walking cane.

Photo source: Getty Images.

What Not to Wear

  • Neckties

  • Business suit

  • Sport coat

  • T-shirts

  • Standard tuxedo without tails

  • Blazers

  • Shorts

  • Open-collared shirts

  • Polo shirts

  • Loafers

  • White dinner jackets

  • Opened-toed shoes

  • Black shirts

  • Embellished shoes

  • Bright-colored socks

  • No socks

  • Bright-colored / patterned shoes

Remember, the best thing you can wear to your white-tie affair is your smile and your confidence.

Actors Bradley Cooper and Idris Elba at a White Tie Event. Photo source: Getty images.

*Please read my article "Dining With Proper Etiquette and Good Manners" for your White-Tie Event.

Author Bio

Isabella Boston

Isabella Boston is a multi-talented writer and the Founder of Bella’s Attic Studio. She has several years of experience in content writing, copywriting, and social media strategies. She is the author of the romantic and rare memoir, Passion of Flames. Isabella is currently working to spread awareness on the dangers and inhumanity of human sex trafficking. She has special interests in fashion and beauty, health and wellness, and natural healing as it pertains to the body, mind and soul. When Isabella is not writing, she enjoys playing the violin, learning new languages (currently Italian), and reading books of substance.

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