Ten Tips for Dressing for a Black Tie Event
When you are invited to a black tie event, you have to look your absolute best. When wearing your tuxedo, you need to know how to ensure that you have the perfect fit and the perfect look. Let’s take a closer look at how you can dress properly for your black tie event.
When you receive an invitation with the appearance of a Black Tie on it, it clearly indicates that the host expects tuxedos to be worn. Black Tie Required or Black Tie Only means the same thing but can come across as heavy-handed. Hosts should avoid the latter unless they are certain that there will be guests too naïve or inconsiderate to infer the mandatory nature of the former.
Eveningwear has been essentially unchanged for many years; it evolves subtly over time, but if you stick with certain rules that will make all the difference. The good thing about black tie is you only wear it a handful of times a year but it will last for a decade or more. If you invest in something that is well made and fits you properly you'll always look good. With a dinner jacket, it's the small details that make the difference: the facing material on the lapels should match the braiding on the trousers.
For ladies, a smart dress (such as a cocktail dress) is appropriate. It can be long or short, as long as it's not too short. It need not be black. Over the years, the description has also become somewhat further muddled. It stems from the men's outfit - a dinner jacket and a black tie, literally - and the idea is your meant to compliment that look.
Ideally, you should have a peak lapel. You can wear a shawl lapel, but that's one of those things that can look great if you do it right but can look awful if you get the proportions wrong. A notch lapel should never be worn on black tie. If you go buy or hire a really cheap dinner jacket it's probably going to have a notch lapel because it's come from a factory where they churn them out with the same block for business suits and dinner suits.
A peak lapel looks a bit more special and if you're not the most naturally athletic person, it will draw the eyes out to the shoulders and will accentuate that V-shape you want from a well-fitting suit.
Double Breasted Suits
You can wear a double-breasted dinner suit. You have to be prepared to have it done-up all evening, because if you undo a double-breasted jacket, it hangs and looks dreadful. Wearing a waistcoat can look really nice and is a good alternative to the cummerbund. A black tie waistcoat is also a different shape: scooped, like a horseshoe, to show off the Marcela front or the pleats of your shirt.
It should always be a turn down collar - a wing collar is for white tie. The front part (the bib) should be pleated or Marcela (that textured fabric made up of little diamond shapes). With pleats, be careful to not veer down the Seventies ruffled look, but these days nice tight pleats look great. We do a fly front on our shirts where a front placket covers the buttons and of course it's a double-cuff. It's worn best with some simple elegant cufflinks - silver, black or white.
Choosing the Accessories
You can wear a cummerbund, but they're not very popular at the moment. Braces are great - they ensure the trousers stay put and not slip down throughout the evening. The traditional accompaniment to a dinner suit is evening shoes - pumps with a satin or silk bow on the top. You have to be quite something to pull those off but if you can find some well-shined patent leather shoes - very simple, no broguing - that's ideal. Wear black socks - nothing too woolly, preferably silk or cashmere.
You can wear a pocket square with evening wear but it should be silk and coordinate with the rest of the outfit. Also, personally I think a nice thing to do is wear a silk scarf. It stands out as not everyone will be wearing one and is a bit more special. White is great, but why not black silk with white polka dots or something more adventurous?
When everyone looks the same, you can always notice when someone has done it properly and when someone hasn't. That’s why you should buy only the best. So, plan ahead and make sure that you choose the right designer for your unique needs.