You're invited to your first white-tie event, and now you’re wondering about white tie vs. black tie: dress for the occasion you are attending. You might be experiencing a little panic or anxiety about the difference between white tie vs. black tie dress codes. After all, they're both formal wear, which can make it quite difficult in situations where the dress code says "evening wear" or "formal wear."
White Tie VS Black Tie:
Dress for the Occasion
So what's the difference between white tie vs. black tie, and, more importantly, what should you wear? Luckily there are some very strict (and therefore easy-to-follow) rules in place that govern what to wear at white tie vs. black tie events.
First of all, let's talk about the difference between white tie vs. black tie dress codes.
Really, it all comes down to formality. While Black Tie is definitely a formal dress code, White Tie is a step even above that.
White Tie is from a bygone era that is very rarely seen today. The exceptions are things like awards ceremonies or royal weddings -- you know, the very exclusive events that come along once in a lifetime.
Black Tie, on the other hand, is much more common. You will likely find yourself invited to a few black-tie events in your life
What to Wear
The difference between white tie vs. black-tie attire is in the level of formality. However, the dress code requirements are subtly different. White tie events historically were things like the opening of the opera season, so when you're thinking of white tie, you're likely imagining a very Victorian aesthetic. Think tails and top hat.
It's important to note that if your event is a black-tie affair, you could choose to dress in white tie attire instead, though you might be the most formally dressed person at the event. It is not, however, acceptable to wear black tie attire to a white tie event.
So, what exactly is a white tie dress code? It is a very stringent set of rules.
First of all, as the name suggests, you'll have to get yourself a white tie. However, there's more to it than that.
A white tie dress code begins with a stiff white shirt with a wing collar. You'll have studs instead of buttons, and you must wear cufflinks.
The pants should be high-waisted, with a fairly slim cut. Baggy trousers detract from the elegance of the look. There will be a thin stripe on the outside of each pant leg.
Next, you'll have a white, evening waistcoat. There is a subtle difference in the cuts of morning waistcoats and evening waistcoats. With a white tie event, it's also important that the waistcoat be low-cut since the shirt needs to be visible.
The white tie must be a bow tie, and you really should tie it by hand. Pre-tied bow ties will get you some looks.
You'll need your patent leather shoes and black dress socks. It's preferable for the shoes to tie with a black ribbon, but laces are also perfectly acceptable.
The final requirement is an evening tailcoat. Like the waistcoat, the evening version has a different cut than the morning version. The tailcoat must have peaked lapels, and the waistcoat must not peek out from under the tailcoat. You should always wear your tailcoat unbuttoned.
And then we come to the fun part: accessories. White tie events are so rare that you really want to go all out for them. Top hats are optional, as are white gloves, but you should go for them because when else are you going to get to wear them?
Black tie is much more common than white tie, so you're likely more familiar with it.
You're still going to start with the stiff white shirt. For black-tie, you can use buttons rather than studs if you want; however, cufflinks are still required.
The pants have a bit more leniency in requirements than the white tie ensemble. They don't have to be high-waisted; however, they should still be fitted.
With black tie events, you have the choice between a waistcoat and a cumberbund. These two clothing items give the appearance of the quintessential masculine V body shape. In other words, the shoulders appear broader while the waist appears thinner.
Obviously, you need your black bowtie. Again, it's preferable to tie it yourself. But with black tie events, it's a little more acceptable to go with a pre-tied one if you need to.
You'll need your patent leather shoes again here. Remember that every day, nice black shoes are not quite the level of formality you're going for here. And you'll want your black dress socks.
And last, but definitely not least, you need your tuxedo jacket. You have a few more options here than you do with white tie events. There are different lapel styles, the more versatile double-breasted jacket, and even the option of a white jacket instead of black.
As for accessories, you should have a nice wristwatch, which is a departure from white tie attire, in which you should forego your watch. And if you so choose, you can include a pocket square.
No matter which style of formal wear you choose, you can look your best and avoid any panic by following these guidelines. Dressing for formal occasions doesn't have to be stressful as long as you know the difference between white tie vs. black tie and dress accordingly.
Just make sure to take lots of pictures to show how well you clean up!
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