BLACK TIE 101
If you are going for a formal wedding, ready yourself for the swirl of confusing terms and styles. Dipping your toe in the dressed-up waters will swiftly get you swept up in black tie, white tie, tux, dinner jacket and dinner suit jargon. And, just when you think you’re coming up for air, notch collars, shawl collars, waistcoats, cummerbunds and more will have you wishing for a beachside wedding in shorts!
Of course we are joking. There is nothing more classic than a black tie wedding, and to help you make that possible for you, here is the 101, to help you avoid a 911, on formal wedding attire.
WHITE TIE: This is the most formal of formalwear and actually very rare, nowadays, unless you’re going for a Downton Abbey theme for your big day. But, just so you know, white tie or full evening dress as the British gents call it, is for men a black tailcoat (tails) worn over a waistcoat (vest), sharp white shirt with detachable collar and, of course, a white tie. All of this is worn over black or charcoal trousers and black patent shoes.
TUXEDO or DINNER JACKET: First things first, these are one and the same. Tuxedo is what we Americans call what our British brothers call a dinner jacket. This is a black suit that has contrasting silk or satin lapels and trim down the side of the pant. It is often worn with a vest or cummerbund. And, you guessed it: a black bow tie.
WHITE DINNER JACKET: Also known as the warm weather tuxedo, this look is exactly the same as a tuxedo but with a white jacket. Fashion sticklers will hold you to only wearing one in warm weather and following the “laws” of only wearing white between Memorial and Labor Day. We, however, are happy to let you break these rules.
Now, onto the nuances of each of the above. Well, specifically the tuxedo. If you want the 411 on the white tie, we’d be happy to discuss with you directly!
CUT: If you are going full on classic, your jacket should be single breasted, one button and shawl collar.
COLLAR: Tuxedos come with peak and shawl collars. The former has a cut out – or notch – roughly at the top of the chest creating a point in the collar. The latter is rounded and continuous the length of the lapel like the example below. Squint in the upper left corner and you'll see a peak collar.
COLLAR: The typical tuxedo shirt has either a wing collar or a turndown collar (shown below). Think of the wing collar as a priest’s collar with two “ears” poking up off the front. The turndown collar is like that of any other shirt you own.
FRONT: Tuxedo shirts often feature a contrasting texture or pleats on the front. And, they should always feature buttonholes for studs and French cuffs.
CUMMERBUND and WAISTCOAT
The cummerbund is a wide satin sash that is belted over the pants’ waistband. The waistcoat is a vest worn under the tuxedo jacket to do the same as the cummerbund - cover up your waist band. These are never to be worn together. Here’s where we let you in on a little secret about all the details of formalwear: the cummerbund, vest, studs, cufflinks, satin trim are all meant to cover up the “mechanics” of your evening attire and help turn out one smooth gent.
Bow. Period, the end. Yes, the trends are all about wearing a traditional tie, but classic is as classic does and classic wears a bowtie. OK, now that we’ve gotten the gospel out of the way, go for it. Wear the long tie in a white, black or sliver. But, if you’re going long tie, don’t go cummerbund.
COLOR: While the classicists in the room will say there is only one color for a tuxedo – black – there is a wide range of options for you to consider. White, as you know. Navy is a very popular choice, which wears especially well during the day. Charcoal gray gets you from day to night.. And, if you want to go “there” with the jewel-toned dinner jackets, then “there” will make for a very chic look.
SHOES: Your choices include: black patent leather lace-up, black patent or velvet slipper, black velvet slipper or a lace-up Oxford. Those of you who are too cool for school, we celebrate your choice of a sneaker or sandal!
SOCKS: We sorta can’t believe we are dedicating column pixels to socks, but just to make sure you don’t commit a serious formal wear gaffe your socks should always, always, always match the color of your shoe. And, much as we hate it, when you’re talking formal socks, you’re talking men’s hosiery! Man up and wear it. Or, for a touch of some serious swagger, avoid the sock altogether.
Now remember, your swagger is your swagger, so use our advice as guidance and make your black tie your black tie. Oh, but make sure it fits perfectly!