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Perfect Black Tie: The 8 Things You Need to Know to Pull It Off

You may have received an invitation to a gala dinner. Or you may be the one sending the invitation---as the groom of a grand wedding dinner. You may even be the father of the groom or bride. Maybe it’s an awards night for your industry and you’re going on stage to receive an award, either for yourself or on behalf of your company. To pull off a convincing black tie, here are the 8 things you need to know about the classical---or canonical---black tie. It is the black tie worn on the Titanic; it is the black tie F. Scott Fitzgerald had in mind when he wrote The Great Gatsby.

1. Cloth

There are really only two colours for a tuxedo. Either midnight blue, or black. Midnight blue is the darkest shade of blue before you get to a solid black. Many prefer it over a black for no other reason than it is somewhat unexpected and yet perfectly correct. But not just any black or midnight blue cloth---there are only two kinds of weaves which have the legitimacy that comes from long tradition: barathea, or faille. Each give a distinctive luster not shared by the other more common weaves like plain weave or twill.

2. Cut

The dinner jacket can have either peak or shawl lapels. These are covered with a cloth that has a textural contrast to the cloth of the jacket. Pick satin for a flash of gloss, or grosgrain for a cool ribbed texture. To be correct, the jacket cannot have more than a single button on the front. On the back, it is commonly ventless. Unlike lounge jackets, dinner jackets use buttons which are covered in cloth.

3. Waist dressing

Some form of waist dressing is expected. A cummerbund is most traditional, but anyone who has tried one may have found themselves constantly adjusting the position of it, adding to their anxiety levels. An alternative is a horseshoe vest. It has the advantage of a invariable position.

4. Shirt

The dinner shirt is far from being a regular white shirt. Pick the wing collar for a bit of extravagance, or go for the more muted turndown collar. Cuffs are always in the French style so you may wear onyx-black cufflinks. There is a textured bib on the front of the shirt. This bib can be either pleated, or have a waffle texture (known as a marcella front). For maximum elegance, the front of the shirt is fastened not with regular buttons but with onyx-black studs.

5. Trousers

The trousers have a satin strip of about three quarters of an inch width running along the outseam. When it catches the light, it gives the trousers maximum drama. Never opt for cuffs on dinner trousers.

6. Shoes

Patent leather shoes are the most correct, but if you find yourself hesitating to make the investment, a well-shined pair of black oxfords is unlikely to be met with derision.

7. Neckwear

Bowtie. Just that. Since it’s probably the smallest item in the ensemble, you may want to go the full monty on this and opt for the inefficiency, the impracticality, but the indulgence and luxury of a self-tied bowtie.

8. Context

Lastly, the sheer and utter elegance of the black tie may cause you to look for every opportunity to wear it. Remind yourself that it is evening wear. The native habitat of the tux is a hotel ballroom. You should not be photographed wearing it on the beaches of Bali in full daylight with your bride.

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