Have you ever had the opportunity of being invited to a white tie event? If yes, you’re pretty lucky then. A white tie dress code reflects the highly formal nature of the event and is usually worn to occasions of immense value. Presidential dinners, state dinners, formal balls and royal affairs are some of the gatherings where a white tie dress code is mandatory. It is thus clearly evident that only an individual of high social class and a wide social circle would have the chance to attend any such event in his lifetime.
CHOOSING THE RIGHT ATTIRE
When you’re required to wear a white tie dress code, it is imperative that you stick to the dress guidelines because there is possibly no margin for personal interpretation. Via this article, we’ve brought all the important points regarding a white tie dress code together at one place so you don’t have to struggle while shopping and your outfit is up to par.
A white tie attire is an amalgamation of several components, each of which are discussed in detail below. A black tailcoat jacket along with a wing-tipped collared dress shirt, white waistcoat, white bow tie and leather shoes complete the entire outfit. The purpose of explaining each item of clothing in detail is to help you learn the different style variations you can opt for. We’ve also mentioned some tips that aggravate the overall look of your dressing. In the end, a brief review of different accessories is mentioned which play a significant role in boosting your ensemble several folds. So without wasting any more time, let’s get started!
WHITE TIE JACKET
This formal dress code requires men to be dressed in a tailcoat jacket that is also referred to as the evening dress coat or a claw hammer coat.
ACCEPTABLE COLORS
The range of acceptable colors is pretty narrow and it’s appropriate to wear either solid black or midnight blue jacket. Any other color incorporated into the jacket would look immensely odd and you’d end up feeling like the black sheep of the gathering.
CUTS & STYLES
Such a jacket usually has a double breasted cut with the only exception that its unique tailoring technique makes it impossible to button it. The classical style usually has notched lapels with six buttons, both of them faced in finest satin. A classical tailcoat would almost never have a breast pocket.
FABRICS
A classic tailcoat is made out of the finest worsted wool. Natural fibers are given preference over synthetic ones because they are low maintenance, easy to carry and more comfortable. Go for a tailcoat whose label reads Super 100 wool or higher. This number is the measure of the length of each wool fiber. The longer the fiber, the more would be its worth and exclusiveness.
THE PERFECT FIT
The key to excellence is the perfect fit thus it’s wise to make a trip to your tailor beforehand so you don’t have to compromise on the fit later on. A well tailored tailcoat jacket fits well around the shoulders, goes down to snugly hug your torso, has a front that is long enough to cover the waistline and finally has two tails that reach down to the knee level. The sleeves are long enough to conceal all but one-fourth inch of the dress shirt’s sleeves while the front does not reach below the waistline. The fabric around the neck hides the band of the bow tie while at the same time shows enough of the dress shirt’s collar for a sophisticated appearance.
RENT VS. BUY
A white tie event is usually once in a lifetime occurring so it’s only wise to not spend hundreds of dollars for just one night. Rental services are the best alternative as you’ll get an enormous variety to choose from. The only thing to keep in mind is to choose the one with the perfect fit thus keep some time margin for you might want to get it altered.
TROUSERS
A white tie event would require trousers that are made up of the same fabric as the tailcoat. A silk trim is present which matches the lapel and button facings of the tailcoat. This trim consists of either one or two stripes that run along the outside to the seam of the trousers. These trousers never have belt loops because belts are not worn to such formal events. The trousers are simply held in place by suspenders, an adjustable concealed waistband and above all, a perfectly tailored fit. Also, formal trousers do not have cuffs as well.
CUTS and STYLES
As you’d notice, the front of the tailcoat has a higher rise thus it is imperative to choose trousers that are cut with a high waistline. Formal trousers may have a straight cut or pleated front – the choice is a matter of personal preference. However it is advisable that men with larger waistline opt for pleated style because it is more flattering according to their body type.
DRESS SHIRT
Classically, a white tie dress shirt is white in color and made up of broadcloth fabric. It has minimal decorative aura contrary to the black tie dress shirt and may execute a bib-like front (also known as bosom) that has a stiffened cotton pique or fine linen facing.
COLLAR STYLES
The traditional collar is a detachable wing-tip with a rise ranging from one and a quarter to one and three-quarter inches. There may also be a loop sewn to the back of the collar. The purpose of this loop is to keep the bow tie loop in place.
CUFF STYLES
The most commonly practiced is the formal barrel cuff that is secured with cufflinks made out of mother of pearl. These cufflinks are supposed to match the button studs at the front of the dress shirt.
WAISTCOATS
Although there is little room for personal choices when it comes to a white tie ensemble, the waistcoat does allow you a little leniency to add your own personal touch of style. Of course, proper fit is of utmost significance and is something that comes to attention at one glance. So make sure that your waistcoat is long enough to cover the trouser’s waistline but shouldn’t reach below the tailcoat. It’s preferable to have a waistcoat with a deep V opening on the front to reveal ample area of the dress shirt worn underneath while the back is almost always open.
A formal waistcoat is solid white in color and is made up of cotton pique. Off-white shades such as ivory and cream are also acceptable colors as they’re equally elegant as white. You may choose the cut according to your own desire. A single breasted waistcoat has two buttons while a double breasted one is secured with four buttons.  The fabric of the buttons may be same as that of the waistcoat or they may be made up of mother of pearl.
WHITE TIE NECKWEAR
The classical neckwear for a white tie function is a white bow tie that is self-tied. The fabric of the bow tie should match the fabric of the waistcoat which is preferably cotton pique. Pre-tied bow ties are considered an amateur approach and ruin the formal nature of the event, thus self-tied bow ties are the only acceptable choice. Most common tying styles include butterfly and batwing and the point of consideration here is that the bow tie is worn outside the wings of the collar. You may navigate through this website to check our article on ‘How to tie a bow tie’.
FOOTWEAR
Just as your clothing is important in a formal situation, so are your shoes that are a great reflection of your personality. Your footwear must be elegant and in accordance with the formal nature of a white tie event. Pumps made from fine and shiny patent leather are the best choice. Some formal shoes even have silk grosgrain bows for decorative purpose. Patent leather oxford lace-ups are also an acceptable alternative.
ACCESSORIES
Accessories are to an outfit what jewels are to a crown. Thus special attention should be given to choose the best ones that flaunt your attire. The accessories worn to a white tie event must be as formal as the event itself and thus it is better to work according to the guidelines rather than following your own fashion sense.
CUFFLINKS & STUDS
Do not consider this component of your attire as an optional choice. It’s a must have accessory when going to a white tie event. Your cufflinks, studs of the dress shirt and waistcoat buttons should all match and the best choice for facing is genuine mother of pearl. Other metals like sterling silver, white gold and platinum are also noble options that impart an aura of elegance. Yellow gold accessories are an absolute contraindication in a white tie ensemble.
SUSPENDERS
Suspenders are worn under the waistcoat to keep it in place. Traditionally, white tie suspenders are made from white silk and there are almost no or very few options available in this class of accessories.
TOP HAT
A top hat is probably a reflection of nobility and elite class. It is usually made up of black silk or polished black beaver fur. You have the flexibility to choose from either a fixed or collapsible hat because both are acceptable in accordance with the event. Some are even decorated with a silk grosgrain band running along the bottom of the brim to impart a royal look.
BOUTONNIERE
A boutonniere is a floral decoration worn by men and is an optional accessory when following the white tie dress code. It is worn in place of a pocket square. Both the boutonniere and pocket square are never worn together on one outfit. Classical boutonniere for a white tie event should be white in color. Possible options are carnations and gardenias. A boutonniere is an epitome of grace and sophistication and it’s recommended to never miss this element in your outfit.
POCKET SQUARE
Another optional accessory is a pocket square but many tailcoat jackets do not have a breast pocket so it’s not a suitable option after all. For those who are insistent on wearing a pocket square, make sure that it is made up of white linen and folded intricately.
DRESS WATCH
A dress watch is another popular formal accessory that is usually attached to the waistcoat. Wearing a wrist watch and checking time during such a formal event is considered a Faux Pas but some individuals feel incomplete without a time piece. Therefore, it’s acceptable to wear silver, platinum or white gold pocket watch.
EVENING GLOVES
White evening gloves were once a mandatory part of a white tie ensemble but now they’ve lost their charm in modern gatherings. It’s a rare finding to see someone wear evening gloves in white tie functions these days but if you choose to adopt this style, go for plain white color gloves that are made from fine kidskin leather.
EVENING SCARF
This part of a white tie dress code is the same as that for a black tie dress code. It is usually white or ivory in color with tassels that are about five inches long. Silk and fine cashmere are the most extravagant materials to choose from. It is worn loosely around the shoulders and the purpose of wearing an opera scarf is to offer it to your date during the opera’s intermission.
THE FINAL WORD ON THE MATTER
White tie is the most formal evening dress code in the Western fashion which was inspired by country gentlemen in the early nineteenth century and thus special consideration should be given when preparing an attire for yourself. A well thought outfit can do wonders in making you an icon of vogue in the eyes of the audience. It’s highly recommended that you follow the above guidelines step by step, shop carefully and dress perfectly so you can flaunt around in style. Good luck!