So you’ve been invited for a black tie event and you’re wondering what it entails in the sartorial department? This isn’t uncommon. Over the years, dressing for a ‘Black Tie’ event has witnessed a gradual transition, and is now manifested differently by different people.
Typically perceived as an elegant evening dress code, dressing for a black tie event can be perceived as an awkward necessity by some men.
A good dinner suit, however, can take a lot of the pressure of you in such situations. These suits are meant to be worn on special events; special to the extent that they need their own uniform.
While business suits may look good, they continue to be garments that can be worn only to work. When going to formal dinner parties, a dinner suit makes for the perfect ally to up your style quotient.
The dinner suit for men is the superhero of every gentleman’s wardrobe. It is often undermined or overlooked for different reasons. It may not be meant for regular use, but is perfect for the significant occasions in your life. For this reason, it is necessary for every man to own a decent dinner suit that fits him to a T.
Did you know that the dinner suit was initially conceived as a more casual alternative to the original evening garment? It was meant to be worn in smaller, more relaxed social settings, and to this day, it is very much perceived as an evening suit.
It is very interesting, then, that what is considered today as one of the most formal attires was originally meant to be the least formal in a man’s wardrobe.
The term ‘black tie suit’ came from ‘white tie suit,’ which was the certified garment for evening formal wear. It then went on to be called a ‘tuxedo’ in the Atlantic. So yes, dinner suits, black tie suits, and tuxedos are the same.
Picking the Right Dinner Suit
The Dinner Jacket
A dinner jacket (or a tuxedo jacket) should not be confused with a suit coat. A single-breasted jacket is the most popular style. At its most formal, it should be devoid of vents, which implies that there should be no slits up the back of the jacket.
Apart from that, an unadorned shawl lapel, wherein the lapel runs in a simple ribbon from the button around the back of the neck, is a timeless style that a lot of people prefer.
Peaked lapels are also a popular option. They’re appropriate and preferred by several men for the added flair, but it is important to bear in mind that the black tie is supposed to be understated and elegant.
Between the two, the simple shawl collar is usually considered a better option, unless there is a special reason for a man to wear a more flamboyant garment.
Certain suit makers also offer suits with notched lapels. These are, however, considered inappropriate for formalwear and are best avoided.
While wearing black dinner jackets with either satin or grosgrain on the front of the lapels has almost always been the norm, white dinner jackets are also making their presence felt in a big way in modern times.
Slightly unconventional no doubt, but a well-fitted men’s white dinner suit can work exceptionally well for a formal evening get-together. White suits are fabulous as formal wear, but they come with style etiquette of their own and should not be worn to events designated as black tie.
Of course, the white dinner jacket is never pure white in color, but a creamier shade. It should be teamed with a crisp and a pristine pure white shirt and a pair of either black or white trousers. If the jacket is double-breasted, you probably won’t need a cummerbund. If it is single-breasted, however, a black cummerbund and a black bowtie would look chic.
Midnight blue is equally acceptable, but maybe not as common as the black variant. Unless you’re comfortable with standing out in a crowd, avoid wearing this one.
It is best to match the color of your trousers with that of the jacket to create a formal look. Apart from that, the fabric they’re made of should be matching too. The fabric on the seams and the lapel fronts should also be the same.
Go for a single braid seam if you’re looking to achieve an air of formality and tradition. For a modern touch, a simple, narrow band of fabric should hold you in good stead. Of course, keep the cuffs away as they would only impede the seam adornment.
Traditionally speaking, most formal trousers should have pleated fronts. In modern times, however, trousers with flat fronts are also worn as they lend a sleek look. They can be worn with a waist coat or a cummerbund and suspenders.
Shirts and Neckwear
A white dress shirt with a turned-down collar makes for the typical tuxedo shirt. Winged collars are also acceptable, but they’re better paired with white tie suits. Dress shirts, typically, come in a somewhat thicker material and have a Marcella (frilly front). They can be fastened with buttons or studs and are double-cuffed. Avoid button-down collars at all costs.
Black bow ties complete the black tie ensemble with panache. Avoid wearing pre-tied bow ties and try to tie it yourself. This art can take a little practice before you master it, but the flaws from tying your own bow can add depth and character to a polished look.
Traditionally, black tie suits were worn with classic formal footwear i.e. a pair of black patent leather pumps with a black ribbon bow on the front. Today, such footwear may be considered either effeminate or like slippers. Back in the heyday, however, such footwear defined luxury, sophistication, uniqueness and lent certain exclusivity to the formal style.
For modern men, who aren’t used to attending many black tie events, spending on a pair of shoes dedicated exclusively to such events may seem like an unnecessary expense. Contemporary black tie standards permit any black, patent leather shoes in a formal style. Even the regular black leather shoes are okay provided they look squeaky-clean, shiny and in excellent condition. Plain-toe oxfords are considered ideal.
Demure cufflinks and studs work well when it comes to adding a little bit of glamour to your look. Silver cufflinks with an onyx inlay is a good choice. Gold and mother of pearl will amp up your style quotient like nothing else. To finish your look, add a puffed or a folded white pocket square to your jacket pocket and you’re done.
When dressing to impress, you can always count on the dinner suit to ensure that you look effortlessly suave for your special/black tie event. The above tips should help you understand what such events are all about, which in turn, should help you ace the ceremonial look at formal dinner parties and similar occasions.