You receive an invitation to a formal event. You see on the invite is says ‘Black Tie’ and all the questions begin running through your mind. Do I need to buy a new suit? How do I wear my hair? What will everyone else be wearing? What does Black Tie actually mean? It is perfectly normal to react this way, especially if you have never been to a Black Tie event before. We are here to put your mind at rest. Keep reading to find out exactly what Black Tie is and what you should be wearing when you get invited to such a lavish occasion.
What is ‘Black Tie’?
When you see the words ‘Black Tie’, it usually indicates that the event is going to be an important one. Whether that be an awards evening, a wedding or a work ball, it basically means you need to look your best. However, this doesn’t mean throwing on a suit and a tie. Black tie is so much more than that. There are a set of rules to follow that will ensure you nail the black tie look and it is easy to turn up to your event looking like a prince. A Black Tie outfit is made up of a dinner jacket, a dress shirt, trousers, a bow tie and accessories of course. Your regular 9-5 office suit just won’t cut it!
The Dinner Jacket
A dinner jacket is the iconic piece that differentiate an everyday jacket to a Black Tie jacket. The lapels of a dinner jacket are silk lined not only to give your suit an air of elegance but also to accentuate the V shape of peaked lapels. Dinner jackets are often worn in midnight blue or black to keep the look sophisticated and classic. However, if you prefer a more youthful, trend-driven aesthetic, you can go for a white dinner jacket with black lapels. Although this is not often common, it is certainly a fashionable way to redefine the traditional black tie guidelines.
Leonardo Dicaprio knows what Black Tie means wearing his black tuxedo
The Dress Shirt
There is a distinct characteristic of a black tie shirt. A dress shirt is pleated down the front of the shirt with the buttons running through the middle. The collar is winged and the shirt is to be worn with cuff-links to keep the cuffs together and to add a bit of glamour to your outfit. There are other options alongside a pleated, winged collar dress shirt. A Marcella Piqué shirt, also known as Bosom or Bib shirt is an alternative. The bib on the front of the shirt is typically made from a thick layer of linen or cotton that has been heavily starched. This makes the fabric tough which gives the illusion of a firm, flat torso when it is worn on the body.
This is most definitely the easiest and most simple component of a Black Tie outfit. You will be safe with a pair of black or blue tailored trousers that match the colour of your jacket. The key thing here to be aware of is the fit. You want to ensure that your trouser is not loose fitting on the leg or waist as this will look messy. Any suit store of tailor will be able to taper your trouser legs or take in the waist for you. On the flip side, you should also check that the trouser isn’t too tightly fitted as a Black Tie event is a formal occasion and you do not want to risk any seam ripping because they were too tight. The final point to check is the length. Traditionally, the length of the trouser should be long enough so that you have a singular break at the hem. However, in more recent times, this has been adapted so there are no breaks and you can see a slight amount of your sock. This is something that comes down to personal preference and if you want the length taken up, your tailor can definitely help you with this.
A Bow tie
At a Black Tie event, a bow tie is a must. Ideally, you should wear a self-tied bow tie but ensure that you practise a few days before hand as it can often be tricky to get it right the first time. There are many videos and articles all over the internet that can help you learn and be sure to leave plenty of time on the night as well. You can buy a clip on bow tie but these do not look as sharp and clean. Bow tie’s are typically black but you can experiment with other colours to give your outfit a fashionable flair.
Although you may think that shoes are not so important to consider because who is going to be looking at your feet? Shoes can actually make or break an outfit. As Christian Dior once said, “You can never take too much care over the choice of your shoes.” Shoes for a Black Tie event must be flawless. This means that they should be polished and free from any scuffs or marks. A black, patent shoe is the best choice. They are simple yet if effective especially if you managed to get a shine on them. Velvet shoes are an alternative if you want something a little different however, it is recommended that you stay away from suede. Not only will it get marked if it raining on your way to the event, suede actually looks dusty under artificial light.
There are not many accessories that need to be worn to a black tie event however, there are some to think about. Firstly, cuff-links are a must and there are no restrictions about what cuff-links you wear. This is a great way to bring out your personality. Whether you like diamond cuff-links, simple shapes or something more fun, the choice really is yours here. Secondly, a pocket square is another option that is entirely up to if wear one or not. Furthermore, a smart watch will help to tie your whole outfit together and give you some glamour. Finally, a few sprays of aftershave and your hair either swept back or to the side will ensure you are Black Tie ready!