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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.


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