True black tie outfit – etiquette guide

Formal dress code for a social function

Getting dressed up for a black or white tie party can be a lot of fun, but it can also be a wardrobe minefield.

As you will probably have gathered from watching period dramas, dressing up in the evening has been popular for centuries, but black and white tie dress codes first came into force in the Edwardian era, when the practice of wearing a waistcoat and a black bow tie with a dinner jacket became the default after-dark look.

But what are the black and white tie dress code rules?
What is a black tie dress code?
Black tie is a formal dress code for a social function that starts after 6pm. The dress code will mean different things for men and women. According to etiquette guide, a true black tie outfit for a man will feature a black wool or ultra-fine herringbone dinner jacket.


The jacket should be single-breasted or double-breasted with no vents, silk peaked lapels and covered buttons. White dinner jackets have also been traditionally worn for black tie in hot climates.
The shirt should have a turn-down collar and should be worn with cufflinks.

Black tie trousers should be smart with a natural taper, and a single row of braid down the outside of each leg. As for the black bow tie itself? advis for men is to select one that’s proportionate to head size, and one you make up yourself rather than a ‘ready tied’ bow tie.


A man’s black tie look is usually finished off with a white handkerchief in the left breast pocket and polished black shoes. Optional pieces of black tie attire include cummerbunds and waistcoats – though the two should never be worn together.

Women tend to have more flexibility with a black tie dress code, though advis for ladies is a avoid ‘tight ‘red-carpet’ dresses’ or ‘those with a dramatic split as they can be uncomfortable or inappropriate at a formal event that involves both a reception and a sit-down dinner. A dress can be full length or knee-length, but no shorter, and should only reveal a little décolletage. Trousers are another acceptable option for women.

Youtube/Gentleman’s Gazette

Costume jewellery or simple bracelets and necklaces are most appropriate, instead of anything too bling.

Tiaras are also apparently a no-no for black tie. Although the dress code is ‘black tie’, dresses do not need to be black, unless explicitly stated on the invitation.

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Source: ES Magazine
Photo:, Pixabay